Journey: The 2005 Generations Interviews.

Part 2 - Neal Schon. Guitarist and founding member Neal Schon had a lot to say about the band's last album Arrival. So how about Generations then?

Neal Schon - evil overlord of Journey 2005 or just the guitarist dude? The man has his finger in many pies, such as the recently released Soul SirkUS debut. What's on Neal's plate besides a bloody long setlist each night?

Hey Neal.
Man, I mean don't you ever fucking give any rest to the wicked? It's fucking insane.

No, I'll haunt you and stalk you.
You are like one of these groupie journalists that has to have the first scoop before anyone gets it. What is it?

Well, you don't call me the National Enquirer for nothing.
Haha….oh my God, I have been on the phone all fucking day and I just got done eating and they say 'you got another interview'. I'm like 'oh my God'.

So how are you.
Doing good man. We're still messing around with this set…having fun with it. We're just going to start doing different things with it each night.

That's cool. People come to 3 or 4 shows…they want to see something different.
We're going to switch out a few songs every night. We're going to add one more new song tonight…add Keep On Running. We've got to switch songs out though as we only have so much time.
3 hours is not long enough.

5 hour show? Watch the fans faces when you try that.
They'll bring sleeping bags.

Jonathan yesterday was a little upset that some fans weren't getting into the show.
I'm not upset. It was a ballsy move. It was my idea to put so many new songs in it. I'm not upset at all. It's like what the fuck. I want fans to know we were willing to go there and if they don't respond to it, this is why we can't play it all the time.
I'm up against the wall you know, but I wanted to go out there doing it and we did. And it's real mixed reviews.
The people that didn't know us before Steve Perry didn't know what the fuck was going on. They were like – 'is this an opening band?' They didn't even know it was Journey!
But that's so much of how I get recognized in this band. I've been faceless all these years.

That must give you a laugh – I hope!
There is a reason I'm doing so many different things.
I'm trying to bring some awareness to my guitar playing. Journey for so many years has been based around the song, which is fine…but at sometime in my career I want my name to be a household name – not just when they affiliate it with Journey and have people go – 'oh, that guy'.
You know I've never done a solo tour – I feel like getting out there and doing that, I want to do more Soul SirkUS dates, but I have a platter in front of me now that is quite full.

All the reviews I have read have at least said that you are really turning it on as far as guitar playing.
Well I haven't stopped playing. If you play all the time then your chops are up and you tend to grow.
I've been all over the place…

You are everywhere…you are worse than that Jeff Scott Soto!
Yeah, I think I am at this point! Haha.

Another couple of comments from the first shows suggest Steve Augeri was still doing it tough in places. Is he ok?
He's doing alright. He's definitely got something going on. I'm not sure what it is, but he's working on it. Last night was much better than the couple of nights before so I think he'll get it together. He's definitely a fucking trooper, he goes out there and tries his hardest, you know.
Luckily enough there is a lot of breathing time in the set with Deen singing and the rest of us singing. I think it's going to be fine.
Like I said he did sound much stronger last night. He's struggling with some mid-area stuff. I don't know that it's so much the high stuff, but his mid-range – something is bugging him right there.
He's got his vocal coach coming out here and he'll be working with him, I'm sure he'll get back on path.

Jon seemed to think the same thing.
If he doesn't get back on path, it's going to be a long tour.

What do you guys do in that scenario? Do you ride with it?
You have to ride with it…yeah, absolutely. Pick up the pieces what ever way we have to.

You have Deen there – he's a bit of a legend isn't he?
Deen could sing the whole set….he could sing for 3 hours - he's insane.
He could sing and play for 3 hours…I've never seen anything like it.

He's a freak!
Yeah, he's a freak. He's a good freak – he's my freak!

He couldn't give you enough praise the other day. You have always been there for him haven't you?
Yeah, I mean I have always believed in him ever since I met him – he's a monster talent and continues to inspire and get better.

And you helped him through some rough times obviously – we talked about that.
You know…that's what friendship is about. Nobody's perfect and everyone slides here and there and they have their ups and downs and when they are down that is not the time to step all over them.

That's cool….so Generations. You happy with the result. You had some criticisms of Arrival when it came out – is this album a better fit for you?
Yeah I do…I think first of all that it is a better record song wise and I think it sounds better as well as it's not over-produced.
I found that Arrival had too many overdubs on it. Everything became meshy and you don't hear the air in the tracks anymore.
The only thing I am disappointed at all with on this record – is somewhat - the room drum sound from the Metallica room where we recorded…I imagined it was going to be a much bigger room sound. It ended up not sounding that big to me. I was in the room with Deen cutting the tracks, playing live and they sounded enormous.
I don't know what happened. We went to analog tape, so they should have sounded even bigger. Pro-tools can make it sound real tiny.
Had I known what Mike Fraser's studio was like in Vancouver, where he did Back In Black with AC/DC, we would have recorded there. That room was enormous and was actually cheaper than were we went – the Record Plant.

All in all I have no complaints at all and think it's a monster record and it sounds great.

I like the live feel.
I did a lot of live playing. I had very little time to finish it. So it was basically go in and play like I did in Soul SirkUS.
Some songs have more overdubs on them because they were more produced. But Out Of Harms Way was one take, one live guitar track no overdubs.

That's one of my favourite tracks.
One of mine too.

A little bit of Soul SirkUS in there?
Haha…well you know, it's funny – that track, without the vocals on it was from the same writing period when I was writing everything for Sammy.
I threw that track at Jeff and he didn't really hear it. I threw it at Jonathan one day when we were on tour and he had all these lyrics and started writing to it immediately.

What do you like on the album best?
You know, I like them all. I like Faith In The Heartland, I like Place In Your Heart – that's complete radio. That is an AOR radio tune for us. That's definitely recognizable for us.
A Better Life I think could be AC as well as Butterfly.
I like Ross' track Gone Crazy, that track just smokes.

Different for Journey, that's for sure. Do you think fans are going to it?
They loved it the other night. When we played it the other night they went off – it's an energy tune.

I love It's Never Too Late also.
Yeah, I don't know why they chose to yank that one out of everything. I was on tour at the time with Soul SirkUS and a lot of decisions were being made just because I was gone.
I'm not sure I agree with that one but I just went along with it because I wasn't there so I didn't feel it was fair of me to at the last minute go no, wait a minute, you can't do that.

You did the Walk Of Fame a little while back and I talked to Jonathan about that, so I won't go over it too much with you. But there was one quote you gave someone in the UK I must ask you about.
You said the door is always open for Steve Perry to rejoin the band.
No, I said what I've been saying and I'm just trying to clear the air from all this happy horseshit that has been on the internet about me and why Steve Perry is not in the band and it's all Neal Schon's fault.
I'm mean, there has always been an open door – I invited him in front of TV, I invited him on the radio to be there, I said you need to be there and I'm really glad he showed up.
And I'd be glad if he turned up tonight and wanted to sit in on two songs. Or whatever…you know what I mean?

Do you think you will ever be forgiven for Steve leaving the band, even though it was his decision?
I don't know….but I don't care….haha. It wasn't my fault. If he wanted to be here he would be here.
I have to feel that by this point, we are now seven years in here with not such a new line-up. It's the longest configuration Journey has even been together with anybody – with the line-up we have now.
I have to figure that he's retired unless he comes out with something soon.

How does Steve Augeri feel about this though? He seems like a really understanding guy.
He's a team player so I'm not afraid to say anything. That's completely honest like that and I know he would feel the same way.

So he would stand aside for Steve if Perry wanted to come back.
I think he's actually even said that in interviews.

I'll ask Steve that when I talk to him. I can't imagine Perry coming back though do you?
No. It would be great if he showed his face once and a while and sat in, that'd be cool, but I don't think he would want to go through three hours of torture….haha
For me it's easy – I'm playing on strings, you know.

What about Soul SirkUS. Are you happy with how things stand? Things didn't go as smoothly as possible with the album release and the tour organization in the US.
The thing I don't understand at this point with Frontiers is that every time they printed that limited edition CD it flew out the door. It was sold out.
I'm like, well, keep on pressing! They stopped and I'm like 'what's up with that'?
I think our tour was very successful in Europe for the most part.

A smaller scale than the US normally is for you…
Had I known that everything was going to be so sleepy in America, nobody would even know who we were; I would have just done two months in Europe and forgotten about America right now.
I got Herbie Herbert on the phone with us working with some really cool stuff with XM for Soul SirkUS right now for The States.

You changed management because you felt it wasn't…
I just felt like it was a conflict of interest…changed booking agent also.

The American dates were not publicized very well were they?
No, and I wasn't allowed to affiliate my name with Journey in any way, shape or form on radio.

Yeah, I signed a contract. I went back to management at that point and they said no…there is a bit of foul play there that left a bad taste in my mouth and I'm gone.
You know…so…

Ok…So you will definitely give it a second shot? A new album and tour?
Absolutely. They way I look at it our new record hasn't even been released in the United States. Even though it's going to be like 2 years old to us by the time it comes out in the US, we'll have a new live DVD that maybe we are planning on shooting in New York.
There is already on in the can, but I think we're just going to hold on to that because we are planning something else.
We are going to do somewhat of a package like what Frontiers did with the initial limited edition and that'll be coming out in The States.

The some fresh dates and a new studio album sometime?
Yeah, I need to start writing out here, but I need to get going first. I can't bite off too much and I have my hands full right now.

So next year you imagine?
Sometime next year I know we are going to try and get back over to Europe, you know Jeff was talking to me about trying to go to Japan sometime before Christmas, but I really don't know about that at this point man.
I have a feeling that I'm going to be really tired after this tour. I haven't taken a break in two years and I want to go take a vacation and just start fresh after the first of the New Year and maybe do a couple of months with the guys.
I know that we are working on dates right now that look very promising – almost for sure – that Journey will be coming and headlining festivals in Europe and Soul SirkUS will be on the bill as well, just earlier in the day.

That's a cool idea. You have to hit Europe next year surely?
Yeah, I want to hit those festivals.

That's great – what else you got lined up?
That's it! I have zero lined up right now, just trying to finish the business with Soul SirkUS, get it off the ground in The United States.
I have plenty in front of me that I need to do right now, so you know, so we are getting it together more and more every night, last night was a great show and I think tonight will be that much better.
We just started clicking you know. We had very little rehearsal. Ross Valory was really ill during the whole time we were rehearsing; so he wasn't able to make rehearsal. We ended up doing a cram session like probably the last three days – that's all we rehearsed for all of this material.
So it was pretty all over the place and flying by the seat of your pants when we first got on stage.

One last thing – a while back John Kalodner was working on a Neal Schon Best Of – what happened to that?
I know they are planning on putting out this Live At Houston DVD, from '81 I believe.
With a MTV special – they are working on the packaging right now.

The solo best of though?
It never happened. Kalodner was at the head of that and as everyone knows he's not at Sony any more. So right now I'm just working on getting my masters back from Sony and then I'll do it myself.

Cool. Do you see Generations being released in American officially? Into stores etc?
Oh yeah…we've already got some heavy offers on the table, from Universal and a few other people.
We just don't want to do it – we want to stick to our guns and do what we are doing right now and that's hand it out at our shows. We realize that people are going to be selling it on eBay and downloading it, but you know what – they're going to fucking do it anyway, so why worry about it?

But you would still like to see it in stores?
We'll do something different when we release it in America. We'll probably go back in the studio and re-record the music, maybe do three new songs or something like that and add it to the CD.

That's an idea. Later this year?

Anything you want to add Neal?
No, I'm just thankful that so many people have shown up at the shows.
This is something I have wanted to do for a long time. It wasn't an easy situation. Management weren't totally into it, our agent was not totally into it and I think a lot of promoters were not into it.
They finally came around and is said I think this is going to be really good.
We have about 11,000 people the other night in Irvine, and we did 7 or 8 last night and we have 8 here tonight and we are doing great numbers playing by our self.
There was so much speculation when we did that three bill show a couple of years back with Styx and REO. REO fans were saying that Journey aren't selling any tickets, Styx management were saying they were selling all the tickets and Journey wouldn't be anything with out them. So I'm happy to be standing on our own ground here and doing well.

Absolutely. Proven wrong.

Ok Neal…you must be sick of talking.
I gotta go on stage here in about an hour here.

Have fun.
Ok Andrew.

Thanks man.
See ya man.

c. 2005 / Interview By Andrew McNeice
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