Neal Schon interview
| They are the Kings of rock,the gods of AOR and the rulers of majestic melodies,Journey are to many like the bible is to christians?a way of life! Still rocking as good as ever, Mr.Neal Schon leads the way towards new frontiers and when he called me up,he was in a real good mood talking about everything from Journey to Planet Us,Steve Perry to Hardline and his dedicated work on his solo albums as well as the life of a father!
|Hi there Neal,I?ve been waiting for this call for some time now but I know you have been busy!
Neal Schon: Yeah,I?ve had a lot on the plate,working on a lot of different projects ?and boy,for some time I did like about a months work of interviews,most of them in Europe and then I needed to take a break from it because I was tired of talking.
I can imagine you were but anyway,I would like to say congratulations on your birthday Feb.27th maybe a little late now?..
Neal Schon: Thank you,I appreciate it??I?m not celebrating my birthdays anymore. I?m getting too old?..
The next year it will be the big 5 0.
Neal Schon: Another ten years?.
How are those magic fingers of yours holding up these days?
Neal Schon: Actually,they are working very well,I did a live radiobroadcast last night (March 12). on Rockline and it was with Joe Satriani,Sammy Hagar,Michael Anthony and Dean Castronovo
About Planet Us now ?.to me it sounds like the supergroup of the Millenium with Journey and Vanhalen folks spiced with Satch,I mean 2 axemasters in the same band,will you have room for eachother?
Neal Schon: We?re gonna make room for eachother?I mean,I?ve known Joe for a long time, and bottomline I love when Joe?s playing and he feels the same about my playing and we really do sound completely different. You know I think it would be a problem if we both played exactly the same but we don?t and when I and Satch play together,we?re two completely different personalities there so I mean to listen to someone like him play,I?m not opposed to let him shred because I love the way he plays. And I have been playing by myself for so many years,the last guitarplayer that I?ve played with in a band was Carlos Santana
That?s a long time ago!
Neal Schon: I really enjoyed that when I was playing with Carlos,it?s nice to hear somebody else take on something once in a while and it refreshes the way you?re gonna look at things and the way you?re gonna approach things
Yes,Joe Satriani is a very different guitarplayer from you!
Neal Schon: Well,Joe is like the teacher,he was a guitar teacher so he knows everything about what he?s doing where myself was taught by ear and I know nothing about what I?m doing (Neal laughs)
But nobody calls him the magic fingers,we call you the magic fingers!
Neal Schon: (laughs more)All I can say is that it?s gonna be a very exciting project,it?s gonna be sometime before we all can get to it because we?re all commited for another year right now like I?m doing a tour with Journey and then I?m going back into the studio with Journey for A full length CD and Joe is commited through out the year and so is Sammy. We?re gonna get to this but I?m sort of glad that it didn?t push back a bit more because now that Joe is in the picture with us,I wanna have more time to actually sit down with him and write,we wanna write a lot and I think that?s gonna be the key aspect in this project to make it successful as we absolutely want to have the right type of material and I think that we need to experiment a bit. I mean,anytime you bring a new member into the band it radically changes things, It takes sometime to settle in for Joe
So when will the recordings take place?
Neal Schon: After the Journey tour this summer I?m going in the studio with Journey and Joe is busy and Sam is busy through September and so it would have to be sometime after that,I say it?s about a year away. Well like I said,in the meantime when we are available to get together,we?re gonna hang out and we?re gonna write,we?re individually gonna write and I have already written. I have been working in my studio here at the house and I wrote 3 CD?s full of material for Planet Us,I wrote a shitload of stuff for Journey and in the midst of it,I ended up recording a bunch of instrumental stuff and I listened to it yesterday and I?ve got one brand new instrumental record that is coming out on Higher Rocks as soon as it?s mixed that?s been done for a couple of years already so that?s not even out but I have two more in the can that are completely different from eachother. It?s been great being home and working in the house.
I read sometime ago that everybody who has been working with you like to call you a workaholic!
Neal Schon: I don?t know if I?m so much of a workaholic but I definitely feel like I was put on this planet to play music and to make people feel good and that?s what I get off the most on like I love performing live more than anything. I like making records but I love playing live and I think I never get tired of that,believe me I am completely burned out on travelling. I mean,I take a bus over an airplane anyday now. We have numerous airplanes that have problems because they?re old and it?s kind of freaky to fly anymore
And I was freaked out to fly even when it was kinda safe before Sept.11th!
Neal Schon: I went to Atlanta,Gibson and I are working together again on a guitar and I went to Atlanta to demonstrate a new digital guitar that they have on CNN.
So is there one in your collection now?
Neal Schon: No,they?ve got ways to go on it,I?m actually trying to get them to hire me on the side to help them develop this thing because they definitely got ways to go but the idea is very cool but what I was gonna say is that when I was coming back from Atlanta and I got on this airplane and we go up for about half an hour and all of a sudden smoke started coming in the airplane from below and so the pilot turns around,he goes to Atlanta and there was something about the landing gear too,it was a really rough landing. I?m getting off and I told one of the representative for the airline?I said,-it smells like rubber burning off the wire and it was an electrical problem
It must have been a pretty scary experience?
Neal Schon: Yeah,and then they were like?..hang out here for a while and we?ll check it out and we?ll get you back on the plane and I went ?No fxxking way!!! I booked down and took the next flight out on a different airplane and they were flying me first class and I just went cold and said ?I don?t give a shit,I won?t get back on that plane
So when you will be out touring with Journey,there will be less flying from you guys?
Neal Schon: I take a bus,you know I take a private bus,they?ve got some really great buses these days and I take my family out with me so it?s pretty much like I?m moving home. We have a bed so we?re sleeping in the back and there?s a shower,the set up is very cool.
Yeah,and I read about you have a baby daughter now and her name is Aja,was she born last April or?
Neal Schon: Her birthday is April 29th,I love kids and this is my fourth kid
Does that make any difference for you being a rockstar when everything changes having a baby?
Neal Schon: Well you know what,the last couple of months has been kinda rough on sleep. She?s been teasing and stuff when we had a crib up here in our master bedroom, so we don?t have to get up so much in the middle of the night, but last week we?re both like reached the end of the rope so we needed some sleep so I wanted the crib downstairs in the baby room,so I broke it down,resetted it up down there and now she?s like she?s sleeping through the night,I don?t know what difference it makes but you know?
The thing about little kids and babies is that they teach you to be patient!
Neal Schon: Ohyeah
About this digital guitar,it was like 20 years ago when you played on a synthesizer guitar on the H.S.A.S album!
Neal Schon: I still uses synth guitars,most of my guitars are all set up with Hex pick ups so I could use it or not use it,I haven?t used it with Journey for years when I am playing live. I just prefer to have more of a true guitar sound with not anyother things following because we have a keyboardplayer,so I don?t like to step on his shoes with synthsound. My guitars are set up to where I can use the regular guitar,I have both sounds seperately.
I have always thought that Jonathan Cain were more of a pianoplayer and uses mostly strings in the arrangements
Neal Schon: It?s sort of going there in the past years because I think that he?s feeling that the synthesizers always had a dated sound. There?s so many cool new synthesizers out there,like I have been recording with a Korg aTriton I love this keyboard,I?m sitting at home and I am playing keyboard and I?m writing on it and I?m recording with it,it?s sounds amazing I mean there?s some really cool stuff in there like backward sounding loops.
How many guitars do you have in your collection?
Neal Schon: I must have like about 60??.I had about 150,I ended up selling a lot of the stuff that I just wasn?t using even though I was really collecting for a while.
Where do you keep them all?
Neal Schon: I got like a warehouse
How many do you play on?
Neal Schon: Well,I play on them all from time to time,I pick ?em up for different projects. They all are completely different and I have a lot of really unusual pieces and some of them are not so unusual. I have a lot of Les Paul?s,a lot of Stratocaster?s,a lot of Telecaster?s??.some of them are varied custom guitars and stuff made for me that I?ve modified so they all really do sound different.
There?s not too many pictures of you with a Stratocaster on!
Neal Schon: Actually there are quite a few,you know I?ve been playing a Strat in Journey sets for a long time,there?s a few songs that I prefer the Strat on,I love stratocasters but I like all guitars?.in my studio yesterday I recorded with a Telecaster and I loved it.
I think that Gibson is more fat sounding!
Neal Schon: Absolutely,the Telecaster is very bright but if you play something funky like I was yesterday it sounded awesome.
About yesterday when you played with Joe,Sammy,Michael and Dean,How was it?
Neal Schon: I got to tell you,one of the coolest things about the band beside the musicianship is the singing ability,oh my god! You know our drummer Dean who?s playing with us has an amazing voice,he?s a lead vocalist in his own rights and he actually sounds more like Perry than anyone I have ever heard,he?s got an amazing range. Sammy still has it,he?s never lost his chops and Michael Anthony is completely incredible, he is far the highest singer I?ve ever heard in my life and his voice is so strong and so loud that last night ?and we were playing very loud in this studio that they were broadcasting from,because the bass and drums were playing so loud,Dean is a very loud drummer! So I had to turn up to hear myself and so did Satriani and we must have been playing about 150 db?s in there but I could still hear Michael when he walks up to the microphone and I could hear his voice over all that noice and all the music it was like?. I heard him clear as the bell
He?s got a very high pitched voice!
Neal Schon: And perfect pitch,he?s like a synthesizer
All those times when Eddie Vanhalen didn?t bother to go to the microphone and David Lee Roth were doing the jumps,Michael Anthony would still stand strong at the microphone doing his thing!
Neal Schon: I?m sure a lot of people know it but I tell you what man,he was a big part of the sound of Vanhalen,I mean it wouldn?t be the same without Ed or anyone of the guys but Michael meant a lot to that band
I?ve seen them twice,I?ve seen them both with David and Sammy but the saddest thing is that I haven?t seen my favorite group Journey once!
Neal Schon: Well,you know what,I have been trying to provoke promoters over there and in every Interview that I?ve been doing in Europe lately everybody?s going ?are you guys trying to come or are you ever gonna come? And I?m like,we need to get an offer from somebody,we have never got an offer to go over there and we?re absolutely gonna lose our asses,you know what I mean. We wanna play and we don?t wanna hold up anybody because we haven?t travelled over there for a lot of money or anything like that but if we can just like get over there and get paid for our expenses,everybody?s happy with that but we need to get an offer from a promoter otherwise I mean,we just can?t show up and say ?we wanna play!
Have you heard about Sweden Rock Festival?
Neal Schon: I read about it on the internet
It?s a pretty respectable festival these days,they?ve got Whitesnake,Yes,Jethro Tull and Queensryche among the performances this summer and I think if they could offer Journey to come over here and play next summer,you would surely play in front of 30,000 screaming fans from all over Europe because everyone who loves Journey would come!
Neal Schon: You see this is what I would like to do to ya,I would like to play a sort of festival thing because you know we haven?t played in Europe forever,last time I think was when we released Infinity with Steve Perry and before that we went on tour with Santana but that was really it and I would like to get in front of a lot of people even if it?s only a few shows,to go over there and play for a massive crowd. We would love to play,we just need to get an offer,I?ve been really pushing the envelope there for journalists and people like yourself to try to help and provoke promoters to call us
Well if we?re getting back to Planet Us,you recorded two tracks last year called ?Vertigo? and ?Peeping through a hole? and one of them was supposed to be featured on the Spiderman Soundtrack but didn?t get there,what happened?
Neal Schon: I still think that a song would?ve been perfect for that movie but what happened is that we were trying to get the song basically placed in the movie,you know like when the credits go out,it would be like the main song and the guy that was in control of the music of the movie said that it was not gonna be any rock music at all in this movie. We were like,-that?s stupid and then they had already had about 20 songs on the Soundtrack and they thought our song was too heavy
That?s the problem with Soundtracks these days because in the 80?s,the songs were really in the movies but nowadays they aren?t!
Neal Schon: You know nowadays it it?s all usually crap for soundtracks,there are very few soundtracks that go out that are even successful
I read that Hagar said in an interview that the Planet Us album will be a concept album but will the music be heavier than we?re used to hear from you guys?
Neal Schon: It?s gonna be heavy,I can tell you that but I think it also gonna be very diversified. We have the musicianship to be able to play any type of music that we want so I think we?re gonna experiment a lot and there?s gonna be many bashes of this band musically, I don?t think it?s just gonna be one thing,it?s definitely gonna rock. Anything that we have ever done so far rocks very hard but I don?t think that Sammy Hagar is quite the balladeer vocalist,he?s very much of a rocker. Joe and I were talking about it and we?re gonna try to take him to some new areas
I?m really looking forward to that album when it?s done!
Neal Schon: So am I,if we ever get to it?.(Neal laughs)
Well if you?re looking for songtitles,I?d like to give you a cool suggestion,why not do a song called ?Crime stompers? like the first band you were in?
Neal Schon: Christ!?..(laughs a lot)?.where did you get that from?
When I got into Journey Fan Club,I got this biography of you and there it said that your first band was Crime Stompers
Neal Schon: That was it,we had like this little logo on the drum with a couple of bats flying Around,somewhere between Batman and I don?t know what.
So that was before Santana then?
Neal Schon: I think I was playing guitar there one year when we had that band and we were terrible??..
If we get back to Journey now,I would like to congratulate you about the honorable Event of getting a commemorative plaque in the rock?n?roll walk of fame at the California music awards April 25th,how does it feel?
Neal Schon: It feels really awesome since we?re a San Fransisco band and there?s less than a handful of people that has been inducted infront of the Bill Graham Civic and about Bill Graham,I was very close to him??.he was like a second father to me and I met him when I was about 12 years old when I first played with BB King at the Filmore in San Fransisco and ever since then we had a relationship and so to be next to Bill on a plaque you know?.I think Santana,The Grateful Dead,Metallica and John Lee Hooker was also a friend of mine who was there,so it?s an honor
I think it?s about time,it must have been something you have been waiting for?
Neal Schon: It?s gonna be interesting who shows up,we?ve absolutely invited everybody from the past, present and the future there to show up
Well,Journey will be a part of the ?Rocking the arena? summer tour with Styx and REO Speedwagon,will Journey headline or will there be a different headline from town to town?
Neal Schon: You know Kevin Cronin from REO,I?ve just read something that he had said on the internet that we said that we?re gonna be?.each band will be flip flopping and changing positions from night to night which is completely untrue. Our manager came to us?.it?s so weird,I?ve turned out to be this big malicious devil, that has a tremendous ego and all I will do is close shows,people are saying on the Styx site, the REO site??.but we?re completely the opposite,I don?t have a problem to ever opening up for anyone and I even said in an interview that I would love to go to Europe and open up for Bon Jovi because they?re big over there,or Toto or whoever?.. This is the management call,where they say ?No,Journey is always the headliner and you guys will never do anything but close and we say ?Ok,because youre my manager and you tell me what to do so it?s not a Neal Schon call,it?s the manager call and we are closing the show everynight and REO and Styx are gonna be flip flopping,opening positions everynight
How many shows will there be?
Neal Schon: I believe it?s gonna be like 50 and depending on how the shows go,we can add more
Will you play a greatest hits set including new stuff or will there be any surprises like Songs you don?t usually play live?
Neal Schon: We?re gonna mix it up again because I?m gonna be recording every show live every night and we?re actually thinking about doing this a?.you know how they set it up now where you can record every night and you can actually sell that performance right after the show on a CD
Yeah,because you haven?t released a live album with Augeri yet,there?s only a live DVD concert available
Neal Schon: Actually I only wish that we only made DVD?s again because that DVD sold very well because people dont have that many duplicates,they can?t burn it yet. There are DVD burners but not that many people own them. I?m thinking to myself that we should just always do DVD?s
This year will be 30 year of history with Journey since the start ?73,are you planning On doing something special for an anniversary,like releasing unreleased stuff?
Neal Schon: To tell you the truth,there?s not a lot of stuff in the can,there isn?t. We got a tremendous amount of video?s from live performances,everything from me playing with the band with Albert King,from me playing with Buddy Guy in a blues club in Chicago and tremendous amount of footage from the beginning to now and we?re getting ready to take a look at all that stuff. I would love to actually put together a double DVD set with the whole history of the band!
It would be awesome to put fill up a whole DVD or like you said in 2 parts with 30 years of history!
Neal Schon: You might even need 3 disc?s,there?s so much stuff?.
One for each decade?!
Neal Schon: Yeah
I think it would be supercool if you could rerecord old classics from the 3 first albums with songs like ?On a saturday nite? and ?She makes me feel alright? because the production on those albums doesn?t sound too good these days?
Neal Schon: Oh,I know?actually I was going back to listen to any of our old stuff for a long time and I was like?..God!,these records reek,they sound terrible,they?re fxxking awful. Like no wonder we never sold any records?(Neal laughs)
But there are still some good songs like ?On a saturday nite!
Neal Schon: I didn?t really think about ?Saturday nite?,I haven?t gone back that far. We?re bringing out some other songs that we haven?t played in a while,some more Augeri songs that we really never played a lot in concert and from night to night,we?re gonna slide them in different slots because I wanna get a live DVD out and I don?t want it to be the 2001 DVD. Ofcourse there will be different performances of some of the same songs but I wanna add a lot of different stuff to it.
Something that I miss with Journey?s sound since Gregg Rolie left are the duets on songs like ?Feeling that way? and ?Just the same way?,haven?t you thought about doing something like that with Augeri?
Neal Schon: We have been playing those songs where Jonathan does an admirable job of singing those songs
So you don?t wanna take that part?
Neal Schon: Well,I do wanna sing and we?re talking about the next record because I haven?t opened my mouth for quite some time,a sort of like I have been making some demo?s at home and I?ve sung on it ,my voice is sounding I think as good as it ever did or better but I don?t have an amazing voice by any means. I listen to the radio today and I?m like?.I can sing half as good as half these people here or as good as these people
Your voice is like a piece of a puzzle thinking of the song ?People and Places? that you sang on ?Departure?,that is Journey?the sound I wanna hear!
Neal Schon: We?re talking about it,to use some different voices a bit more. I was talking to Gregg Rolie,what I?m trying to do is put together something a year after next And make it like a Journey Festival where we play outside venues. I?m trying to get Gregg Rolie involved,the original Santana percussion section and get Planet Us to play and Journey and we just mix it all up. We can play some early stuff from the Rolie era and then we can play the Santana stuff that I was involved with those guys.
Yeah,and you did this thing with Rolie called Abraxas a few years ago!
Neal Schon: It never quite got off the ground,we had a record that was made at my studio.
I think you were a bit too early because now Santana is bigger than ever so you should?ve done that album now instead
Neal Schon: We were about a year early?..(Neal laughs),it?s like the case with a lot of stuff that I do sometimes,I don?t know?..my timing is way off!
When can we expect a new Journey record then?
Neal Schon: We?re gonna do one probably next year,when we get off tour this summer we?re probably gonna head right into the studio and continue writing and recording
So this time It?s gonna be a full length album?
Neal Schon: We messed around with the EP idea and said about,let?s just keep doing EP?s but I read too many posts by people they want a full length CD
How are the sales going with Red 13?
Neal Schon: I have no idea what the sales are in Europe but Frontiers seems to be happy, they want us to do more so you know,we have Red distribution here in the United States. They have been doing a great job to get this record out,from what I hear the biggest problem with Red 13 is keeping it in the store. Because your big store is like your Wall Mart and Best Buying and all these bigger stores that sells big chunks of records. They only order what they wanna order,it?s not like the old days where you put out a record and everybody?s gonna have it,you know what I mean. They just buy the Top 10 records from the Billboard magazine or whatever it is but the good news is when it?s in the store?.it doesn?t last long. But if people can?t see it,they can?t buy it.
At first you planned on only selling it on the concerts?.
Neal Schon: We were just gonna sell it through our website and I wish that we had just done that because that?s what we?re trying to get people to do right now. We?re trying to get more people to our website!
I think Todd Rundgren is only selling his records through the net and it?s kinda the new thing now when you have to go to the website to order the album
Neal Schon: It?s the only time that the artist is really taking care of moneywise. Unless you get a huge singer or Mariah Carey or whoever you wanna bring up, they?re gonna get millions and millions of dollars to front that will be recouped if you sell records but they cannot get it back out of you if it doesn?t sell so it?s not worth it to do a major deal anymore because frankly it?s got worse and worse and worse how huge companies take care of their artists
Those who got major deals,if they aren?t selling millions of records they will be dropped!
Neal Schon: You know what I see going on anymore,well we had a long relationship with Columbia and actually for me,much longer ?coz I was with Santana as well from 1970,so from 1970 to 72 I was with Columbia Records while Clive Davies was still there and when Journey started we got our deal with them so I?ve been there forever. They were really great to us for many many years but industry just change so Dramatically and sales are down and they don?t know quite what to do anymore. They don?t share long terms relationships with artists anymore because they just go for the flavor of the month whatever is hot like right now. I mean,that?s why you see so many bands pop out of nowhere and then they?re gone because they move on to the next person
In these days bands do not last long,they last for a year or two and then they?re gone
Neal Schon: That?s what I mean
You have found a new sound with Steve Augeri even though the major part is still classic Journey sounding but I think you could never have done a ballad like ?Walking away from the edge? with Steve Perry,do you agree?
Neal Schon: Steve Perry was an amazing singer and I hope to hear from him again. I hope that he puts out a solo record because I know a lot of people miss his vocals and everybody blames me for him not being in this band but I just gotta laugh at it because it really wasn?t my decision for him not to be in this band. He did not wanna do it and there has been a lot of people that have speculated and said well it?s because I couldn?t stand a competition with Perry and this and that and all this bullshit but we have just travelled to different places. He never really liked to play that much rock?n?roll even when we did our double live record ?Captured? in Detroit,that?s probably the hardest this band has rocked even if I think it sounds dated when I listen to it now. Progressively we got softer and softer and great music is great music but I still like to rock and it was very hard to get it going
One of Steve Perry?s biggest influences were Sam Cooke and I have never Heard Cooke until a year ago when I borrowed this Greatest Hits collection
Neal Schon: Were you amazed of how much stuff that he actually kept in his pocket
I just sat there and didn?t know what to think because I thought I heard Steve
Neal Schon: (sings)Oooohh,my my my?..I?m telling you what,if Sam Cooke was alive (Neal laughs)?.I know that he will be rolling in his grave,it?s so funny. I got to stop going to these websites ?coz it makes me crazy but I?m sort of addicted to it because people were always talking such crap about me and the band right,so I read the stuff and sort of laugh at it,how Steve Augeri is stealing Steve Perry?s moves and I?m thinking to myself?they don?t even know what they are talking about because they?re not really Perry?s,they?re Sam Cooke?s!
I have always liked the more odd songs with Journey like ?La raza del sol?, ?Rubicon? and ?Can?t tame the lion? more than the others and it?s a bit of your trademark but unfortunately not good in the commercial aspects
Neal Schon: I love playing this stuff too more than the other stuff but when we play it live and people look at us like we have 4 heads,they just don?t get it
They?re kinda like the greatest songs you have ever done
Neal Schon: If we ever get to Europe and we get to play there,I think that a lot of that stuff is more based on an European audience,the European adience will get it
I think too, when we?re talking Journey here,lots of people want to hear ?Mother, Father? and ?Rubicon?
Neal Schon: We?re gonna be playing Mother Father in this year,we played it a few times, not the last tour but the tour before that and I love playing that song and actually we pulled out Rubicon and we tried to play it but Steve was having some problem with it so we?ll give him another try at it
I read that in your younger age you were a big Clapton fan but what do you like to listen to today?
Neal Schon: Oh,god?what have I listened to lately? To tell you the truth,I have been recording myself so much and when I?m recording and writing I don?t like to listen to anything because I?m sort of in a mood of trying holding in on what I?m holding in on and I don?t like to be influenced by something else and all of a sudden I will be playing something that somebody else wrote or something similar. But I turn on the radio from day to day and turn it off?..(laughs)?it?s like ever since Clear Channel here in the states has bought all the radio stations,they have all the venues and now I hear they are going for the record industry where they actually are going to make records and signing bands. That?s why you hear the same crap on every radio station.
Are you aware of that there are so many bands doing your thing like tribute bands and Hugo and Frontline and I can mention a dozen bands!
Neal Schon: Yeah and they just keeps on coming,I think it?s flattering. Hugo was actually a singer that?..when we were looking for a new vocalist,we considered checking him out and then I saw pictures of the guy that completely freaked me out. I heard that he was pretty talented but it was just too weird,he looked exactly like Steve Perry and I just thought that it was too weird. The guy didn?t get a fair chance to even try out with us since I hear he?s very good but I just thought if we get somebody new it?s gonna be hard enough for people to accept him no matter who he is but I said that look exactly like him. For people that didn?t know that we got a new singer,I mean I don?t know what the guy sounds like live, I heard he?s very good but it was a little too strange.
Hugo is better when he?s not tryin to sound like Steve Perry,like on this album called Open Skyz that is pretty far away from Journey and he sings really great on that album But when he does this Journey sounding stuff,it doesn?t sound as good
Neal Schon: John Kalodner was our A & R guy at Sony for the Arrival record,when he came up and told us about Hugo,he played me a couple of tracks and I don?t even know from what record they are from but I didn?t think that he sounded that strong. It was pretty Journeyesque material and I didn?t feel,well I just didn?t hear it?.
Well if you think about that you have had Steve Perry in the band with a really fat sounding voice like on the ?Frontiers? album,nobody has that kinda voice
Neal Schon: No doubt he?s an incredible vocalist. I look back at stuff that we try to do now and him and I always argued and fought a lot about what type of material that we?re gonna do but you know,we came from different roots musically,I was keen on blues and all the whole English movements when they first came out with Jeff Beck and Clapton and Hendrix and The Who and all those great bands. That?s where I was always coming from and that wasn?t necessarily where he came from and now I look back at it,I felt like well we should have just stayed more in the room of Separate ways for Steve Perry. He likes the R & B thing and that?s where he really sounds better on. I go back and listen to all the records and I think that he sounds much better on,ofcourse the ballads but I think he sounds more better on the R & B based stuff
The best albums in my opinion are the early ones from Infinity up to Escape
Neal Schon: Infinity is still one of my favorite albums that we did
I really love the Trial by fire album too even if it had too many ballads on it
Neal Schon: I tried to listen to it the other day again and I was like falling asleep?.(Neal laughs), I take that one into my baby?s room when she?s getting tired
Yeah,you can play it to your baby daughter and then she will sleep tight
Neal Schon: Actually I?ve got this solo record that mother?s have come up to me and told me that the only thing that keeps her child to go to sleep is my ?Beyond the thunder? record and I don?t know if that?s a compliment but I?ll take it
It?s kinda more laid back but looking at all your solo albums,they all go in different Directions like the Schon/Hammer albums were pretty riff based rock and ?Late Nite? was more of a progressive record,are you experimenting a lot?
Neal Schon: Wait til you hear this new stuff that I did,I just did like a Miles Davis wacked,like techno electronic but wacked,it sounds like Witches Brew only really electric. When I finish that,I?m gonna probably have Dean to come on and play some real drums but I played everything else like the trumpets through my synth,and I play the Sax and I play the bass,I play the keyboard and I had like a lot of fun. Completely just screwin off and going with the flow,I haven?t had anything in mind at all and there?s another one in the can that sounds completely different than the one I?m speaking about,it?s very melodic but it?s rocking too,it?s got a mixture of Santana and some techno stuff ,there?s some really good music on there and jammin? stuff too like heavier guitar stuff but melodic at the same moment. I?ve got like about 3 different records that sounds completely different and I keep searching you know,I like to feel like a painter and I?m actually starting to paint again
When can we see the light of day of one of those albums?
Neal Schon: I wanna get this other one out that?s been done for a while and right after that one comes out,I?m just gonna keep coming with them,I got like 2 more in the can right now and I have been talking to Jan Hammer,I?m trying to get him off his butt ?coz he?s been so freakin lazy. Jeff Beck can?t get him to go out on tour and I?ve been trying to get him to do a record with me and he?s so discouraged with the state of the music industry but I would love to work with him again to do another record like what we?ve done in the past
Untold Passion is a classic record
Neal Schon: I love Jan Hammer,I think he?s one of the most brilliant musicians that I have ever played with,he was just an incredible talent
When you listen to that record,it feels like Jan Hammer is bringing all those guitar riffs out from your body that you have held inside for many years
Neal Schon: It was really funny,way back before Steve Perry was in Journey. We were opening some shows before Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer and I?ve known Beck from before but I had always listened to Jan Hammer before I knew Jeff Beck. With the Mahavishnu Orchestra,I never missed one of those concerts if it was somewhere close by or I could fly to go to see that,I just love that band! It completely messed me up,It was like a spiritual experience to see those guys and listen to them. I loved Jan Hammer and John Mclaughlin and everybody else who was in that band but I started really watching when Jan was doing solowise. The first seven days,the record that he put out by himself and I was like glue to that. He had such brilliant melodic sense,it was very classical but very unique
He has done this album called Black Sheep where he uses no guitars and plays on only keyboards and drums and the synth sounds just like a distorted guitar
Neal Schon: Oh I know,he is such a wailing player and I gave him one of my Hiwatt Amps that has been modified when I did this album with him and he sounded more like a guitar. What a guy to work with,I mean both albums that I did with him was because I had a 2 weeks break inbetween a Journey tour and instead of taking those 2 weeks off and go on a vacation or some thing,I was like?.I got the time,I?m going to Jan?s house because I loved working with him. So I was flying to New York and just sit in that studio all day,we?d like do a song a day, he was playing drums and we had Colin playing bass. We sort of organized and arranged it and he got on the drumset,sometimes just guitar And drums,sometimes Colin were playing the bass too and we did the basic tracks. Then Colin would be off in the other room,writing lyrics and Jan and I would be overdubbing,by the end of the day I?d be singing?.something that I don?t even know what it is,you know both projects I walked in with absolutely no songs. Jan had some instrumental ideas but there was nothing for me to sing,so everything was kinda written on the spot and those albums like Untold Passion was written, recorded and finished in 2 weeks. The same way with ?Here to stay?,on the 2nd record we had a lot of disagreements at the time I was playing a lot of commercially oriented music so I felt like?-If I?m gonna do this I?m wanna do something that I?m not doing in the other camp and that was the reason I did that. I never did it to try to get on radio or anything like that,it was more of an artistic Thing and I wanted it to keep it like that. Jan wanted to have commercial success so that?s why the 2nd record sounds different to the new one,it?s still alright but I prefer the first record more.
There?s a great ballad on ?Here to stay? titled ?Don?t stay away? that I would love to hear you play live!
Neal Schon: I should?ve gone out on tour with him,I had a break when Steve Perry wanted to take a hide and take off for 10 years,I thought it was gonnna be like for a year but we ended up not playing for 10 years.
Did you ever do a show with Jan Hammer?
Neal Schon: No,I would love to get on stage with him,he?s such a maniac,he makes me play.
Well have you heard the new Hardline album titled 2?
Neal Schon: I haven?t listened to the whole thing,I just listened to a few clips that were on Melodicrock.com and I thought it sounded decent. I didn?t think that it had the edge like on the first record though
There are some guitars missing,maybe it?s because of you
Neal Schon: Josh Ramos,it?s so funny with the history of this guy,he always ends up where I?ve been! Everybody calls him like a Neal clone. So when I listen to him play I think he?s an excellent guitarplayer,he?s more of a shredder,he tries to play the melodic stuff but I don?t think he?s got the ?feel?. To play a simple melody and really make it talk is not so easy. That was what Joe Satriani was talking to me about?..he said,your style of guitarplaying sounds so very simple but it?s not so simple to make it have soul and feeling
There?s a lot of difference between the productions of those two albums too, ?Double eclipse? has a major rocking sound that is missing on the 2nd!
Neal Schon: I?m not sure where they?ve recorded the record but I?m sure it was not in the facility that I had that I was able to use for the first record. A & M,one of the best studios with the biggest room for drums,I got an amazing guitar sound in that room and first of all just soundwise it sounded completely amazing as it went in to tape. So when you?re getting a sound like that you could do no wrong unless you have crap for songs. It?s too bad ?coz I think that record could have done very well but right after it was released Nirvana was a hit,then it was just nothing but grunge on the radio. That was like bad timing again,I?m either early or late?(Neal laughs) Some of these days I?m gonna get it straight
Are you still in contact with Johnny Gioeli?
Neal Schon: No we had some falling out on personal issues. I read a lot of stuff that he said about me in European magazines where he basically was saying that I ripped off his songs and used them on Arrival and you know,it was so far from the truth and we got into legal matters. He was saying that he was gonna sue me,yati yati yata,this and that but he didn?t have much to stand on because none of it was true
It?s a pity when it happens
Neal Schon: We went out on tour,and you know I have probably played every freaking place you can imagine in the United States in my career,every little club to working your way up to the bigger places. I think every building that I go back in and I go..-Oh,I remember this place in 1983 or 1979 or I remember who I was playing with and we played a lot of places with Hardline which was really hard on my ears because it was a loud band and Dean Castronovo was our drummer that I have been playing with forever and one of the loudest drummers I have ever played with. So you have to bring the volume up so you can hear yourself over the drums and my hearing took a beating playing in those small places. And about Johnny,we had a good relationship but when we got on stage he didn?t wanna take any advice,he was running out of gas a bit and I said..-I think you need stand still a little more so you got some air left to sing He was like fxxk,-don?t tell me what to do! It was not a working relationship,he just felt like he knew everything,he would do what he wanted to do and it didn?t work for me,it felt like I was in a different league and I was! I was a lot older,I had played with a lot more people and it was sort of a joke when we got out there Live
Thank you for this interview and for being a part of the greatest band on earth-Journey!
Neal Schon: Oh,thank you,that?s unbelievable?..bye Kaj