Journey’s Neal Schon talks new album, Eclipse, The Sopranos, guitars and gear

Last year, I spoke with Kevin, who said that there were “opposing forces in Journey.” He claimed that “some members want it to be a heavy rock band, while others want to have big hit ballads.”

[laughs] “Well, that’s no secret to anyone. I like playing it all. But if I were given my choice, I’d pick eight rock songs and two power ballads. That’s the way I’ve always been.

“Ever since Jonathan joined the band, he’s tended to bring in the big ballads, and I bring the rock. What’s different about this record is that I finally stood my ground and said, ‘No. We’re not doing the same fucking thing. I’m not interested in the same record over and over and over.’ We have so many ways to go – grooves, cool tempos, heavier songs that aren’t three minutes long. That’s what I’m interested in exploring. I want to take some chances.”

You say that Jonathan brings in the ballads, but yet you’re both listed as co-writers on all the songs. In what ways do you two collaborate?

“It varies. With some songs, I’ll bring in the full musical bed, but Jonathan will work on the lyrics. Then there’s songs that Jon brings in and I’ll rearrange them – change the bridges, put in a different solo section, a different outro. It goes all kinds of ways, but we definitely collaborate.”

Several years ago, you found your current singer, Arnel, on YouTube. Did that feel strange to be surfing the web and looking for somebody to join a huge band like Journey?

“No, it didn’t feel weird. We needed a singer, and I didn’t want to go through the normal audition process where you get a package with a CD and a photo – but you don’t really know what the guy might look like on stage; you don’t know how he is at fronting a band. It’s so time-consuming, opening hundreds of folders and popping in CDs, listening to half and song and going, ‘Uh-uh… Next!’ Believe me, you do this for a week straight and you’re insane. So I didn’t want to deal with that whole thing.

“I turned to YouTube because I liked the concept of watching raw footage and seeing guys on stage being totally real. Still, YouTube can be sort of an endless void. I looked up rock and soul singers, and after two days of not coming up with much – and believe me, I was at the point of giving up, like, ‘Is there even a guy out there?’ – I finally stumbled across a link to a video of Arnel singing a Survivor song. Out of frustration, I punched it, and suddenly, this guy’s voice came out… ‘Wow! Who is that?’ [laughs] I followed the link back to Arnel’s site, and there were all of these videos of him singing everything from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin to Journey to Sting to you name it. The guy did everything!

“I didn’t believe it at first. I was like, ‘No way. This guy can’t be that good.’ I went out and took a motorcycle ride and came back to the computer and watched him again. ‘Goddammit, the guy really is that good! He’s for real.’ [laughs] It was amazing.

“I’m glad I had YouTube as a means for discovering him. Actually tracking him down and getting ahold of him in Manila in the Philippines was a major ordeal. And getting him out of the country was even harder. But we managed to put him on a flight to audition for us, and we were blown away. We worked with him for several days, and each day he sounded better and better. The guy’s amazing. No one deserves this gig like Arnel. He’s so talented and is such a nice person. We’ve become great friends.”

What about the interview he gave to Rolling Stone a couple of years ago in which he apparently said how unhappy and disillusioned he was on tour? Was that really the case, or were his comments taken out of context, as he and the band quickly tried to clarify?

“Here’s the deal, it’s journalism, you know? He’s not used to American journalism, and especially anybody from Rolling Stone. [laughs] You’re a journalist, so hopefully you know what I’m talking about. What he said and how he meant it and the way they took it were totally different things. He wasn’t used to being on tour, he was very tired… We definitely put him to the test on the road, no doubt. But if he were unhappy, he would’ve been gone by now. Or he would’ve left the tour right then and there – we didn’t have anything other than a handshake deal with him.”

So everything’s fine with Arnel and the band? He’s fully integrated?

“He’s here. He’s 100 percent. I couldn’t see doing this thing without him now.”

via Journey’s Neal Schon talks new album, Eclipse, The Sopranos, guitars and gear | Page 2 |


One Response

  1. Bring back the real STEVE PERRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then you will have a band again.

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