Interview: Jeff Scott Soto

This is home.

Yeah, this is cool.
Extra deluxe bunk, the size of the bunks. Each one has a DVD player in it with screens.

Are you serious? Every bunk?
Every bunk.

Wow, this is like a hotel, a roving hotel.
Yeah, this is our Wi-Fi (points to internet hub on bench), so we've got one of those Wi-Fi cards or the internet cards they put in that so then the whole bus can log on wireless.

Yeah, that's awesome. Bit better than the last bus I was on.
(JSS cell phone rings) Ignore. Let's just turn this ringer off.

Absolutely, this is very cool, very comfy. All right, sorry. (both laugh)
It's time to be serious.

Time to turn off the stupidity. (more laughs)
Or even just the normalcy and go into the business mode.

Yeah, how has it been for you, from your prospective, I mean just thrown right in?
It sounds cliché but of course, there're no words to describe it of course, not only to be with the best musicians I think that are out there, in the sense of individually and collectively.
I mean you really can't touch somebody like Neal Schon as far as he's in a class by himself as far as the guitar players, as far as being ranked one of the highest musicians in the book. Same goes for Jonathan, I mean he's beyond just a keyboard player, he's an amazing songwriter, he's an amazing pianist, and everything above.
And of course Deen, I mean, I'm going down the line because you can't just say playing with this band as a band. You really have to look at them individually and just be in awe of what they contribute to make this band. That's one of the things that made me love Journey as a youngster. I mean Deen is just... I've never played with a drummer that's more versatile and just more solid. He can give you the straight ahead groove and he can give you all the chops and then he's got that Goddamn voice.

It just floors everyone.
What's amazing about that is we compliment each other as opposed to compete against each other and that's the best part about this gig. In the sense that we can back each other up if we need to. But instead we get to trade off and make this band even stronger than it ever was in the past.

I loved what you did with Dead or Alive.
Yeah, yeah.

Jumping up behind there.
Yeah, and that's what I meant by compliment each other, I show people that we are more of a driving force vocally than if we were competing with each other.

And then of course there's Ross who, I think he gets the least attention from our peers and people within the industry as a bass player. But that guy, in playing with him…. I've never really paid attention as much to his playing on records or paid attention even to him live because obviously the focal point is usually the singer or the guitar player. But playing with him has made me realize what and amazing player he really is.
Such a versatile musician overall. And then you put the collective group together as Journey. Something that as a kid just inspired me as a singer, inspired me as a songwriter, inspired me as a performer, and all the above. I mean you put every thing I just said and try to put that in perspective of how it's going for me. I'm, I'm jumping out of my skin every day.

You famously thanked Steve Perry in your liner notes of the Eyes album, which was what, 1990?
1990, yeah.

So I mean…
Yeah, and that's exactly that. I mean Perry was such and inspiration for me vocally and I've got so many of the “isms” if you want to call it that from his voice that it's actually been something that I've kinda had to duck or hide when I was writing my own material with either Eyes or any of the other bands in the past so I didn't try to sound like I was trying to rip off Steve Perry or Journey. I mean even of my solo records, even on Prism for instance that's a strong indication of where I got a lot of my influence from.
There were times when I was in bands or in situations where they would say “You can't do that” or “It sounds too much like Perry”, “It sounds too much like Journey”, and now working with these guys and even possibly writing with them it's amazing that I now can do that.

Yeah, absolutely. How do you feel about some of the reviews saying that a few of the songs in particular have been performed even better in this live setting than Perry? You know with more energy or with the rock edge or whatever factor it is that leads people to say that.
Well, it's flattering. I mean it's beyond flattering because I think what it is, is it's been so long since they've seen Perry do it.

Yeah, OK.
That it's almost like they're remembering what it was supposed to be like when he did it. I guess even my stage antics are also inspired by his movements and by his energy that they're now remembering what it was and they're comparing and saying its higher energy or its higher performance. But quite honestly if it was 1981 and I was doing exactly what I'm doing now but back then, he would probably, or I wouldn't say probably, he would just bowl me right over. (both laugh)
So I mean I give high regard, I give high kudos to the guy in every sense of the word. He's one of my all time hero singers, one of my all time hero performers and he will forever be that. You know, whether I get to meet him and get to know him any better than I do now down the road he will always be that for me.

Absolutely. Is it nice to, I mean your stage craft is second to none as far as I'm concerned. You're infectious whether it's a room of 80 people or 300 or 2000. Is it nice to play to an even bigger audience and at least let them know what you can do?
Well as you say that and you've seen me you know the numerous times on from the smaller stages to even some of the medium stages you obviously see how my moves and what I do are so larger than life. Now I guess that was sort of my training for something like this. Because you don't usually start this big. You don't usually get to start this big, and in a way I kinda did……

With Yngwie...
Having the Yngwie background and all I started on bigger stages and I learned the hard way, especially looking back at old video how ridiculous some of the things I was doing back then (laughs) and I kinda needed to get back to the ground level to build it to what it is now so of course I was born to be on the bigger stages because of what I do and how I do it. So absolutely it's almost like everything I've been doing up to now, I've just been kind of in training for this.

Yeah, yeah absolutely. And the bigger the stage, the bigger the better?
Oh ffffftt, absolutely (laughs) I mean the bigger the stages are and the further the people are away that bums me out because I love the contact, I love the energy of the crowd. It's basically why I do what I do. I'm trying to feed them so they feed me back and when I get that trade off it makes me just go even further. But the further back they get from me I feel like I'm losing that connection so I'm hoping somewhere down the road you know especially because I have energy for days, the energy of a twelve year old I'm hoping somewhere along the way as we are playing bigger stages that we can build a secondary stage so to speak that puts me in the back with the rest of the crowd.
You know the way David Lee Roth and Bon Jovi have done certain little tricks to get to the back of the stage or the back of the arena. I'd love to incorporate that someday. Just because the people that pay for the higher price tickets they get to enjoy right up front but I'd love to be able to share that with the people in the back as well.

I think even watching you last night, you try to put on a show for everyone.
Yeah, It's so important to me to not exclude the people in the back just because they couldn't afford the ones, the tickets up front or maybe they got there late and that' what they were stuck with, So I do my best to try and incorporate them as much as possible even though I can't really see them.

And you're pretty excited about the future?
Absolutely, I'm extremely excited about what I'm gonna be able to bring to this band. What I'll be able to contribute into hopefully, not necessarily reinventing Journey, but kind of reopening what once was: because obviously they haven't had any real major radio hits or major video play, that type of thing. People have basically come to know Journey as seeing them on tour and playing the classics and playing the "Dirty Dozen" as they call it [fans coined the phrase to describe their favourite 12 classic Journey hits].
I'm hoping to help turn it around the same way Sammy Hagar turned Van Halen around. That people are just as excited to see new stuff.

Yeah, exactly. Something new, something old…a good mixture.

Bring it on, very cool. And at this very busy time in your life you also have the new Talisman album hitting the street. Amazing album - how do you feel about this new album from your "other" band?!
I am so proud of it, it turned out far better than I expected when receiving the demos from Marcel last year on my European solo tour. I think at the time I got the instrumental ruffs, I was going through a period of second guessing...second guessing my motives, my intents, my career, things I had been working so hard & long for to end with little or slight results. With this, I listened to the songs with distracted attention.
Once I got into the groove of doing it, it was to the point where the vocals had to be done so they could turn the masters in on time to meet the deadlines so again, I was in the studio in between my weekend gigs which didn't lend for much rest between songs. I usually excel in pressure situations but not ones where my voice is too tired to perform up to par.
With that, I am quite pleased with the mixes, my performance, the performance of the band & the songwriting...probably more than any other Talisman since Humanimal!

I see it as perfect timing as the interest in you right now is huge and here we have a killer album ready to album that features the other side of your musical personality. Do you agree and what do you think Journey fans will make of Talisman and this album?
Absolutely, 100%. No one could have ever planned anything like this, as you said, so many eyes & ears are on me now because of my current involvement with Journey. I hate anyone thinking we are using this timing to gain attention for the new Talisman album but every step from the recording to mixing to the release date was set back earlier this year, far before I got the call to hit the road with Journey.
As well, there are so many directions we've all gone in Talisman lately, Jamie reuniting with Treat, me concentrating on my solo career, Fredrik joining Arch Enemy, we decided last year in making the decision of this album that it would be our swan song release. Talisman has run it's course as far as Marcel & I are concerned & we went into this decision agreeing it would be a farewell album for us...who knew the timing, again, would meet my request to the join Journey on tour.

As things go right now - are there some live dates planned to give the album and the band a bit more exposure?
We are looking at the possibilities of rebooking the dates/cities that were cancelled in Oct for April 2007. As of now, I am confirmed with Journey in March throughout the UK with dates being added to Europe till the beginning of April. If things work out as planned, I will remain in Europe & meet up with the T-man guys for a 3 week romp of the countries we cancelled on...we hope to make the official announcement & confirmation of dates in the next weeks.

How will it feel hitting the stage going into Talisman mode after all these months in Journey mode?
Absolutely natural! I am not spoiled by the large stages & huge productions I have come to get used to the past 5 months, I can easily adapt to the different levels I know so well. I have so much history with Talisman, it always falls right into place. There have been times we were grounded for years but every time we kicked back in, it was an immediate return to our expectations without fail. I've been come to be known as quite the chameleon to situations & whether it be Journey, Talisman or my solo career, I find my stride very comfortably, easily & quickly.

What else? Have we covered it?
You're the questioner. (laughs) and the shit one at that…

(laughs) that's going on record.

And that is that…as Jeff and I fall back into our usual shtick…

c. 2006 / Andrew McNeice &