Clowning Around With Larry Gowan

GowanThis article first appeared in the September issue of 519 Magazine which is available online or at more than 300 locations throughout Southwestern Ontario.

After 20 years of performing with the classic rock band Styx, frontman Lawrence Gowan is heading out on the road once again to perform some of his solo hits from the 80s and 90s. These songs are the anthems for Canadian teens of the era – (You’re A) Strange Animal, Moonlight Desires, All the Lovers in the World, Dancing on My Own Ground and the essential 1985 masterpiece A Criminal Mind. He heads to The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor on Friday September 7.

Interviews with Gowan are never boring. He always takes the time to give polite and honest answers, and more often than not, he’s got a neat little tidbit up his sleeve. This time out he surpassed all my usual expectations and spoke of an odd stint he had as a clown on Canada Day.

We actually had a chat this last Canada Day and the interview felt very Canadian throughout. He’s a very proud Canuck who can’t wait to get out there and perform those hits for his fans.

You’re an iconic 80s and 90s Canadian. Do you have any great Canada Day memories?
One of my favorite stories is about Canada Day. When I was 17 years old, I was hired at Queen’s Park in Toronto to be a clown. It was a full clown make-up – you know the creepy looking clown with the red nose and the white face. The Queen Mother was visiting on that day and she got her out of her limo. I was able to walk right up to her and basically do some kind of clowny Hello. And she smiled, laughed and was amused for a half a second and then went on with her day. I spent the rest of the afternoon as a clown. I was just thinking that would never now, and it could never happen again. To get that kind of access, to someone that high up in the government or the Royal Family, would never happen. And that was really quite astounding just how convivial the whole affair was. Also, in 1999 I was playinga Gowan show in Quebec and it was the last show I did as Gowan before joining Styx 20 years ago.

Joining Styx must’ve been a little different for you because you’re a very personal musician. You’ll go out and you’ll chat with your fans. Does being a member of Styx mean there’s a bit more security wall put out?
Umm, funny enough I treat it exactly the same way that I did in my solo days. I still enjoy meeting people who are usually congregated by the bus or something like that after shows and I try to make myself accessible. Honest to God, Dan, I came into it with a Canadian attitude. I make it that way today. There are sometimes like the winter months in particular that I can’t spend too much time standing outside chatting with people in case I get sick and can’t do the show the next day, but generally speaking I try not to be a dick when I meet people.

20 years in Styx – and that’s longer than the original Styx.

Correct. That’s right.

That’s cool because you’ve created another era.
That is true this is an era when classic Rock bands of the last half of the 20th century were part of the great musical statement of those 50 years. I try to attempt to exceed and go beyond what the band was doing back then. They had intense recording and touring years, but to attempt to elevate the show beyond that and to play over a hundred shows a year. We carry that logo all around the world and we made a new record “The Mission” last year. I think I came to the band at a great time because the guys have a great deal of gratitude and a great deal of pride in what the band has been able to accomplish. You know it’s closing in on five decades of existence at this point.

I remember when you joined the band. You were so excited. Is there still some of that magic, there? After 20 years it can’t feel the same.
You know what’s exciting to me is being able to play rock music every single day that I get up and having the day end with several thousand people on their feet with big smiles on their faces and their arms up in the air. That’s really what the goal was at the beginning and by 1999 I had 14 years of playing my Gowan shows. Just because of the way my record contract was structured, it was not incumbent upon them to release the albums in the States. I had come to a point where, especially with the Internet emerging, we began to notice people around the world discovering Gowan records. But I still felt like nothing was really connecting with me in the United States. They’re our closest neighbor and the biggest rock market that exists, and to be so suddenly given an entrance into that world was exciting. I kinda figured it was a two-pronged opportunity. One, to be part of this legendary band, obviously, and the second was all those years that were put in making those Gowan records. I’m very proud of the Gowan material and to this day I love playing it.

Gowan heads to Caesars Windsor on September 7 and returns to the 519 in March to play the Chatham Capitol Theatre.