For the past number of months Toto’s pop-rock anthem “Africa” has been the subject of a major resurgence in pop culture. So much so that the song has received innumerable covers in all types of arrangements, including what Lonely Planet has said to be the “song of the summer” from Ernie Ball artist, Weezer.
Weezer image c/o Billboard Magazine
Ernie Ball’s Casey Ball was able to sit down and ask Ernie Ball and Ernie Ball Music Man signature artist, Steve Lukather what his thoughts are about Weezer’s recently released covers of his Toto hits, “Africa” and “Rosanna”, as well as his thoughtful bird’s eye view of the ongoing saga that is “Africa.”
Africa’s lasting popularity with older fans, coupled with the exposure to a new generation, has given the song a whole new set of legs, and a whole new lens to experience it through. All at once Africa is equally accepted as: a meme, a no-longer-guilty-pleasure, a song that is earnestly enjoyed for its musical or poetic qualities, or a song you could only like ironically because you’re too cool. Africa seems to be one thing that keeps us all in unison.
CB: Africa Fever has been going on for the last few months, and you’ve seen it firsthand. In an era where music and media are more disposable than ever how does it make you feel to have kids and adults latch on to a song you worked on and love it with so much unbroken attention? Aside from the meme/humor aspect this Africa thing has grown into kind of an evergreen Bohemian Rhapsody status.
Steve Lukather: No one is laughing harder than ME! And nobody appreciates it more than all of us at Toto. But, on the other hand, this one is really hard to do. Harder than it sounds. I am out with Ringo right now and we play Africa live and I go for a lot harder edge guitar on the choruses in Weezer’s honor for making this a #1 hit again.
This whole Africa meme thing has been astounding. The streaming numbers and radio play are insane. Maybe some kids will come check out the old guys play the original music. Us! We have found the hip hop and EDM guys using our music has brought a whole new younger audience and the old school hipster press is dead, and kids like what kids like and we all win! Again MOST grateful to all the Weezer guys and their fans..
I joked about this song when we cut it in 1981. Last cut on Toto IV. I loved the track but the lyrics were cringe-worthy to me. I still laugh BUT David Paich really captured a vibe with the song and we worked REALLY hard on it back then, and to see this all blow up again when we are 60 years old is remarkable, funny, and awesome.
It is a blessing and we thank Weezer and everyone else that has cut this, made fun of it etc. Hell, we are gonna be characters on a ‘Yacht Rock’ episode that Family Guy (my favorite show!) has coming this new season, then being a South Park character, then American Dad etc I LOVE it all! We laugh harder than anyone, but again Weezer is killing it for us and we are blown away at the success!
CB: Would you like to return the favor and cover something by Weezer?
Steve Lukather: YES! It might take a little time, as we are all so busy. We owe them the play back and we will be serious about it! No jokes. Most of Their fans have been VERY kind to us. Honestly, I was afraid to look at social media for a while there. I am sure neither of our bands expected THIS to happen!
CB: If the internet suddenly latched onto a different Toto or Lukather deep cut, which one would make you happiest? Personally I think Georgy Porgy and Hate Everything About U deserve more love.
Steve Lukather: Ahh thanks man. Really, ANY of MY songs or co-written songs would be great so *I* get to make all the money [superfluous laughter]! [Toto member David] Paich is making a killing on this. We don’t make a dime except for: Catalogue sales and live ticket sales. but the amazing press and attention only helps our band and that helps us ALL out!
Casey Ball: Toto is inseparable from the Porcaro family and especially Jeff. When you heard Weezer’s take of Rosanna were you surprised at all the homework their drummer put in to hit Jeff’s signature ghost notes and funky patterns?
Steve Lukather: First off: We [Toto] are still in STUN mode that these guys DID this and that it has blown UP. We are most grateful for them for continuing our sort-of re-birth in the USA, and this thing is wailing worldwide. Unreal. Thank you, Weezer! Our records are back on the charts and streaming huge and our name is mentioned overtime whenever they play it. So, win-win! Cross promotion at work!
Jeff [Porcaro] is pure magic…almost 26 years since he left us and 2 years since we lost Mike… I miss them SO much! BUT, I gotta give it to these guys for giving it a real go! Perhaps after sitting down and practicing these tracks they realized we can play a little, and they WENT for it! I mean, Jeff came up with that Rosanna part on the spot and we NEVER rehearse for records. Never have!
[Weezer] tried to do the record close to ours, but with their stamp on it. Every musician has their own touch and style and our music is a little out of their wheelhouse. They ‘Weezered’ it so to speak, as they should! Still, I was really surprised they went for the solos and all that! Their version has a harder edge but retains the original vibe. Our stuff is much harder to see from the outside… Or, maybe quirky is the better word. It isn’t what it seems when you sit down and actually play it!
A nice fan of theirs, a 14 year old girl named Mary , started a twitter campaign for a year for them to do these covers. When I first heard about the covers and campaign, I thought: “For sure it’s gonna be a total piss take.” I could not imagine they liked us at all! I wasn’t sure at the time but their manager reassured me and said YES!
They even asked to use our Toto IV album cover! I said YES (acting in my role as Toto’s manager) but Sony said that it was ‘a little too close.’ So you can see on their “Rosanna” video’s image they have a nice mixture of their Weezer “=W=” logo and the Toto IV album cover art! The best part of all: Now they have to play our shit live forever!
And there you have it! Steve Lukather or “Luke” as he’s known by his fans has been shaping the sound of popular music from in front of, and behind the scenes for 40+ years. He’s most widely associated as Toto’s lead guitarist, singer, writer, composer, producer, and heart of the group. In addition, Luke is revered for his decades long career as a session guitarist, having worked with practically any musician you can name. Stay up to date with Luke on his Twitter.