Jeff Scott Soto: Time To Testify

Special Feature: Exclusive Interview / Track By Track

Artists launch new albums all the time, but at certain points in any artist's career, there comes a time when a particular release marks an important milestone in that career. A statement of intent. A rebirth. A defining new chapter. This is all of the above for artist we have all come to know as JSS... is very proud to present an exclusive JSS feature - a brand new interview in which JSS talks in depth for the very first time about his upcoming new solo album Beautiful Mess. And online today - the world premiere of an advance preview track from the album. The song Testify is available for full length download right now.
And finally, JSS has also delivered a Track By Track commentary on the songs that Beautiful Mess is comprised of.

Lets start with the exclusive interview -

Jeff – this is an important album for you. This is one of those heart and soul releases. The kind of album that has the ability to really speak to your fans and break some new ground.
You are an artist who has covered so many styles over the years, both under your own name and for others. Beautiful Mess has been a long time in the making, and will be a surprise for many.
Well, I find it kind of funny that it's hard to find fans of artists like Madonna, Rhianna, Seal, Sting - that genre of music - who actually like or admit to liking hard rock music or heavy metal but the funny thing is, I know so many hard rock artists who proudly admit they like those type of artists; the Madonna's, and Seals, James Brown and that kind of stuff.
And sometimes they even like it better than their own genre of music. So I have no fear of entering the world of contemporary music as I don't think it will alienate most of my fans. I think that because I know a lot of my fans, not only my own personal fans come into my music with an open mind but I know a lot of them openly enjoy more than just the genre of hard rock music.
So therefore, I can go into something a little more contemporary. I can go into something I've been dreaming of doing for a long time I just didn't have the tools and the team to do it so to speak. But more importantly it's the idea of finding a new and different audience who don't know who I am.
This is an album for people who never heard of Jeff Scott Soto and for the most part, I think I've said it in a few blogs and interviews before, most of my fans will follow me in what I do. They've been pretty open to what I've done from Love Parade onward, but this is a whole other chapter of what I'm about.
And instead of taking just one genre of what they know me as and another genre of what they know me as of I'm kinda putting it all into just one big stew and mixing it up this time. It's hard to really talk about a new album and categorize it or separate it from your entire career, but this really does sound and feel like a separation from everything I've already done.

From your career to the point of your first solo album, Love Parade was really fairly left of center album for a rock artist to do in the first place, so people know you're diverse. People know that you have roots and influences in other areas. I see this album as encompassing everything you've done before with the individual track here and there, but most of the album is really something fresh and new.
That's how I look at it too. I'm not trying to reinvent myself here. I've tried the reinvention of myself but the reality of it is I've never really invented myself yet.
It's kind of hard to invent yourself unless you've sold ten or fifteen million albums already and you have a big slew of audience under your belt who expect you to follow up with that sound, with that feel, with that whole genre that you've kind of set the standard to. With that in mind I still pretty much have the open canvas to do pretty much what I want and I love the fact that I have done so much diverse music and I guess challenging my self would be a good way to put it because I get bored really easy just doing one thing in one genre. I really like going into the depths of what I'm influenced by and what inspires me in music and that's why I do it today. Like I said before, this is just an extension of who I've always been and I just didn't have these songs and these tools to do it with until I met somebody like Paulo Mendonca.

People who have followed you will understand that and you know that some others will be less willing to deviate. You know you're not the only artist with that problem but all that said, your strongest fanbase, probably of all the bands out there are pretty willing to move wherever you go.
What do you do with the ones that won't, the ones that want 'Rocker Jeff'?

I know that those who know and like me for my heavier past will probably hate this album so there's really no point in them wasting their time with all the hate mail and all the comments and references to 'what has he turned into?, where is he going now?, what is he thinking?'.
The bottom line is, I did a lot of those records and a lot of those projects and albums because they are part of who I am. I'm not completely letting that go and that'll always be a part of who I am, but it's not all of who I am.
That's one thing they have to keep in mind. If they don't like something I'm doing currently or they don't like something I did in the past it doesn't mean that I've changed. It just means that's an extension of who I am. It's kind of like when you have an application for your computer with all those plug-ins and it's all those plug-ins that make that application work the way it does. That's basically what I am. I'm an application with a bunch of plug-ins. (laughter)

We could take the conversation south with that but we won't. (laughter)
Look, there have been rockers who have turned more introspective singer/songwriters, and stunned a fanbase in doing so, but on reflection later, there are people who go back to that and say that probably was their finest moment.
I find myself listening to this album thinking today this is your finest moment.
Thank you, I appreciate that man.

The honesty in the lyrics is one thing, but the vocal is probably what caught me first and foremost because that's what you're really listening for in a JSS record. You're listening for the vocal and the vocal here is really emotionally raw and very soulful, I thought.
I appreciate that man and I'm glad you actually see that because that's what we were going for in these songs. These really are singer songs.
I've stripped all the guitar riffs, all the guitar solos, all the high notes, let's see how high of a note I can sing, how long of a note I can hold.
It's really about the emotion of the song and the lyric on this. This is what people who I know are gonna be fans of this album are gonna reflect on the most.
They're not gonna talk about what a great guitar solo or great guitar sound and all the factors in songs which are all great and dandy but I've already lived those moments. I've already got tons of those post cards in my album.
Now I want a full CD of music that just emotes you from the very first note to the last. And when I talk about notes I'm talking about vocals, I'm talking about lyrics, I'm talking about emotion, about the soul, the spirit that lie between all those notes, everything that comes with building a song.
Ironically, to add to that I just listened to, I was one of the lucky ones that picked up this new Guns 'n Roses leak that was just out there today and I have to be honest with you. I've never even been a fan of this band. In fact I actually loathed a lot of the Guns 'n Roses earlier material because, partly because it was just always in your face everywhere you turned. Everywhere you turned you were hearing this song and that song and it's like 'oh God if I hear this again I'm gonna scream'.
Ironically enough I'm actually a G 'n R fan now hearing what Axel has had under his belt now for however many years with this new album. I really like the sound of this, the way he's singing. It's contemporary but its cutting edge.
It sounds like Guns 'n Roses in the 2000s not in the '80s. That's something that's really difficult, almost traumatic for an artist to go through in doing music. You start your career in a certain phase and a certain genre and it's a reflection of where you're at, at that time, but 10 years, 20 years, 30 years down the road you just grow man.
You go through different parts and points of your life and you don't necessarily agree with what you did back then. It doesn't mean you should forget about it, but you gotta find what makes you happy, makes you feel good now.
You can't always just repeat the past. I guess that's my biggest thing. I really want this to reflect a growth in showing that I'm actually taking it to another level, taking it to another point in my life.

A lot of what makes this album work, first and foremost are those vocals, you're singing in a lower range this time aren't you, for most of the record?
Oh very much so.

It's a very low, a raspy sort of, almost within yourself, but with an absolute passion that perhaps you don't get time to reflect on with the faster rock material.
Well part of that is Paulo's writing style as a singer/songwriter he writes that way and when we're writing songs together he'll write stuff that when we're coming up with melodies that fit the range and tonality of his own voice, but it's also so emotional that to me it sounds better if we keep it in that male vocal level because we tried raising some of it up to a higher level and we'd just look at each other and go no, no, no, no, this isn't right or it might actually, which in my case is the worst thing, it might date it.
I don't want to put a time stamp on this stuff before it actually hits the street. I want to make it sound like its part of what's fitting in contemporary music today because everybody knows that in the '80s it was about who was singing the highest and who was hitting the highest notes the longest. It was great. It was fun to do all those vocal gymnastics.
Now it's all about what works best for the songs and honestly the male baritone that I'm doing on this album works the best for these songs and it's actually great for me because I can do two shows a night seven days a week with this stuff and always be on top of my game 110% every night. So that's another part. I'm really looking forward to taking this stuff on the road and just really being able to emote every note of these songs and give you exactly what you hear and even then some because I never just do exactly what's on the records anyway.

Yeah, we know that. (laughter) We love that.
Like at Melodicrock Fest you started out with I'll Be Waiting and it wasn't working with thsat audience, so you called out “Plan B” and went right into Separate Ways. I love the improvisation of that.

That's one of the beautiful things about live stuff especially with my live band and the guys I've worked with in the past. I mean it's always about spontaneity. If it ain't workin' instead of trying to win them over, trying to force it down their throats, just go into something else. Why not?

Well let's talk about your partner in crime on this record. You've got drum loops, you've got samples, you've probably got as much programming on here as you have traditional instrumentation.
They're real instruments. They're just looped and programmed instead of actually being performed live.

Yeah, exactly, well tell us about Paulo.
Well my introduction to Paulo's material was back in '94 actually when ironically is when I did the promotion for Love Parade. I was doing a promotional tour in Germany for Long Island records at the time and when the actual interviews and stuff like that were done they basically had the store closed for the artist and the guys that they'd flown out and just let us loose in the store and it was a regular record shop.
It wasn't just stuff on their label, it was a regular record store and they said guys, have at it. Whatever you like take it, it's yours. My God, Christmas in July. So I was picking out my usual stack of things that I was being given there as a little gift and the president of the label came over and said 'Jeff I know you like the funky rock style as per the Love Parade album, you might want to check this guy out. His name is Paulo Mendonca, he's from Sweden, this is his second album'. He was very big in, I think it was in Germany and Switzerland at the time. He had a big hit album in those two countries.
And he said 'I think you'll really like this stuff. It was co-produced with the keyboardist from Europe and it's got that kind of funky vibe that you like'. I said yeah, ok I'll check it out whenever. It was just one of those days that before I was just gonna toss it in the bin I popped it in and said 'Holy Shit'. (laughter)
My God it had every element of everything that I ever wanted to do musically and I was so glued to that album for years and here we are now eleven years later in 2005 I was on my tour with my solo band just after the Soul Sirkus tour I did another solo run of Europe. Listening to the album one night I just had one of those depressing moments that the crowd was kinda small and musically I was just kind of repeating the same humdrum stuff. I was listening to Paulo and thinking this is where I want to be. Ten years later and this stuff still stood the test of time and it sounded so good and I thought I wonder what this guy is doing. I wonder if he would be willing to write with me.

I ended up making a few phone calls, first to Mic Michaeli from Europe and asked if he had any contact information on Paulo and he said no he hadn't talked to the guy in years. I ended up calling the president of Warner Chappell in Scandinavia who's actually a really good friend of mine because he was the publisher of all the Talisman albums. He's very well connected so I said please can you find me a contact for Paulo Mendonca.
Within a day he gave me his mobile number. So I was sitting there with this mobile number and thinking 'How do I approach this, this guy doesn't know me from Adam and I want to call him and ask to work with him'.
As luck would have it, as soon as I texted him five minutes later I got a reply. I said I'm Jeff Scott Soto and I worked with Talisman and Yngwie and I've been doing my own thing, blah, blah, blah, and I tried to keep it as short as possible but bottom line I'd love to work with you, I've really loved your stuff for many years and I think we could make a great album together or even just collaborate on a few songs.
And his reply was very simply, 'anytime, anywhere'.
I thought, whoa, this is kinda cool. So I ended up speaking to the guy for a good hour and if course he'd heard of me through Talisman and the whole Yngwie thing having lived in Sweden for so long, but that's so not his world. His world is obviously more on the pop, R&B, rock vibe. We started setting a focus on when we're gonna get together and meet and seeing what we could do.
In the meantime he started sending me tracks. The first song he ever sent me was 21st Century and I though 'oh my God this is exactly where I'm going. I know this is where I'm gonna be. This is exactly where I'm gonna be.'
And here we're talking the end of 2005 and here it is the middle of 2008. That's how long this process has taken to finally get to the perfect album that I've been wanting and waiting for. So I finally met the guy and we already had three or four songs under out belt that he had sent me from Sweden and I had put my voice to and within the first 10 minutes we sat down together we wrote another song that's now on the album. It's Wherever You Want to Go. The chemistry is just ridiculous with this guy. He's got so much melody. The only other person I've ever met that has as much melody and creativity out of just sheer picking up a guitar and just going is Neal Schon. I've never met anybody besides him who just sits down and within 5 minutes he has an entire song written. It's just been finding the right songs, demoing up songs, trying this, trying that, blah, blah, blah, and as we speak now we finally got the little masterpiece ready to fly.

And it is a masterpiece, it really is and I know some fans are gonna get it, some are going to accept it, some won't get and won't accept it.
But I really do believe that it's your best work, you're best solo album ever.
It may not suit the style of everybody. It's not Lost in the Translation, it's not Prism, it's not Love Parade, but the honesty and the musical integrity of the album is just fantastic. It's so well produced.

Thanks mate. You know I've got a huge catalog of interests in my head and my heart and I refuse to just stay on one road with the blinders on. I need to challenge myself and express myself honestly otherwise I just can't do this anymore. That's the only thing that really interests me anymore, to be able to continue to challenge myself and say hey I've always wanted to do this and now I'm gonna do it.

I like the fact that you've got a track in there midway through the album that is almost Lost In The Translation but updated. You've got one in there that sort of ties together the musical path of JSS.
Well yeah, I'm not gonna completely alienate everything that I've done but I'm also not gonna just continue on the same path. I also wanted to tap on exactly that because it's no offense to any of the fans that like that genre of music and no offense to Frontiers Records because they've been great with me from the beginning.
But obviously this is not something that really suits their genre and I know it's not that they're upset about the fact that I'm doing an album like this but I know they would rather me not do an album like this and just continue to do the kind of records that fit along their genre, but on the same token they realize that I need to express myself in a different way and it's one of the reasons I'm going at this on my own.
I've got a great team of people that are helping me launch this thing the way I need to do it and do it on it's own terms. And I'll continue to work with Frontiers. I've got a long standing relationship with them and I'm actually doing an album collaboration with Eric Martinson from Eclipse and another member of Work of Art.
I believe the working title of the project is called Lost In The Shadows. We got an AOR, Melodic Rock kind of thing that's more suiting to the kind of thing that Frontiers wants me to do which is great. It's kinda have your cake and eat it too.

I think that's great.
And that sort of leads me to the subject of, I've decided that I want to keep Jeff Scott Soto and the 25 year plus career, melodic rock, hard rock, whatever you want to call or categorize it for that music.
For this new album, for this new style and everything I'm going forward with, I'm basically just gonna use my initials. We're dropping the whole Jeff Scott Soto moniker and I'm gonna go with what the fans categorize me as anyway which is JSS.

That's interesting.
I can't go anywhere on line on any reviews or anywhere that people are talking about me and see the name Jeff or even Soto anymore. It's always JSS so anybody who does know who I am already they've already kind of renamed me anyway and for those who don't know who I am it's not gonna make any difference to them because to them it's a whole new artist without categorizing me as 'hey wasn't that guy in Yngwie's band?'.
I'd rather the people who haven't really followed my career not really compare it or even care about it at this time. I'd rather just take along the people who are interested in what I'm doing and the people who know who I am and kinda bring them along with the whole JSS moniker on this new album.

I think it's a great bit of branding if you want to be honest. I think it's a smart branding move. Like you said, it separates it. It creates a break.
That's the thing. Branding is exactly the key word to it. It's something that I've been battling with back and forth, should I or shouldn't I?
But the bottom line is exactly what you said, that's the key word, the Brand. I mean when you say the British Broadcasting Company you call it the BBC.
When you talk about Bavarian Motor Works you talk about BMW. You don't ever say the full names of these companies. You don't ever say the full names of these companies, you say the initials. If you were to say 'I got myself a Bavarian Motor Works car' everybody would look at you like you like 'what kind of car is that?' but if you say BMW they know exactly what you're talking about.
That's kinda what I want to do to my name. I wanna brand the new sound, the new look, the new vibe, the new direction with the initials, just as JSS.

Well on this album you get JSS with all the plug-ins included.
(laughter) Exactly, it's Jeff Scott Soto version 2.0.

Tell me, new look, does that mean you personally? I mean I haven't seen you for a while. What have you done to yourself this time?
Well, just new look in logos, and fashion. I mean I've always just been into fashion. I've always been into changing and doing things a little differently than the norm. I mean there's obviously a categorical dress code when you're doing hard rock music and I've never really fit that category. I've never really dressed like other rockers in the genre.
So with that, I've always been interested in trying new fashions and new things that suit me. I don't wanna do things that are gonna make me like silly or make me look like somebody else just for the sake of trying to be different.
You know like with everything with this album I'm just gonna make everything more suitable to how it looks, how it sounds, how it tastes, how it smells, you know everything has to be fitting to the whole game plan of what I've been going for the last three years.

So you're not wearing a hoodie on the cover then?
No, no that's not gonna happen. (laughter)
No, you know its taken three years for a reason so everything behind it has got to be right. It's a whole new start, a whole fresh new start. Again, without re-invention but it's just a new me. The past few years have been tumultuous. They've been up and down as most people who know my career realize and I just kinda want to put a blanket over that and just kind of walk away from it for a little bit.

I'm gonna come back to that in a bit.
You keep talking about wanting to do this yourself so how will the record be available? How are you gonna reach the masses and hopefully some new people as well? What's the game plan?

Well it's becoming the industry standard nowadays that artists are kind of bypassing record companies and I don't believe that record companies and labels need to be abolished and bypassed. I think there's still a very important need for them but they're in the process of restructuring a lot of the things, a lot of the ways that they've done mainly because they have to because there are a lot of artists who are taking things into their own hands and doing their own things now.
I want to be one of those. I want to be in control of what I'm doing at all times but I also realize that you can't run the whole entire thing by yourself. You'll forget about being an artist, you'll become more of a business man. I don't want to try to be a businessman as well as worrying about what I'm gonna wear to tonight's show and how the hair looks and have to worry about cutting a check for somebody for the publishing royalty.
I've got a very strong team of people behind me. It's gonna start out on digital download initially.

The whole brand new album first availability will be digital only?
Digital only and the whole idea behind that is to hit the iTunes and the MySpace and Snocaps and all the markets where people are basically getting their music from this day and age and start with that format and try to make enough noise with that that I can get a major label or even a strong indy label to come in later and maybe do a stronger distribution deal for a hardcopy CD.
When it finally does go to hardcopy the idea is to actually package it with the Firefest show that we're shooting in October and actually release a live DVD with the CD included. I don't want people who actually bought it on download to have to go on and buy it again on CD that's actually gonna be a part of that package. Included with that are also gonna be a lot of videos. I'm shooting tons of videos left and right. I'm not just gonna be doing one or two.
I've got all these things set up and I'm gonna be doing at least 5 or 6 videos for this thing.

Yeah I've got a lot of work ahead of me and all this stuff is gonna be available in one big bonus package when this thing comes out I believe in January so the start is in September we're gonna be launching it just digital download.

Ok, great, and I guess you've got the same eye on the promotional tools such as YouTube and the rest of it.
Oh absolutely. It's become the media standard these days to access those tools.
The internet is the biggest thing to get music out there. You can't do anything without the internet nowadays and we might as well take advantage of the media standards because someday soon they're gonna become the media taboos.
I know it's gonna turn into oh God you're actually using that resource or that one to break your band, oh that's so old school so you might as well jump on it now while it's actually the new school and it's actually the way people are doing it this day and age. And see how much noise I can actually make.
There are a lot of people making noise that don't have the kind of background and experience that I have going for me so hopefully I'll be able to make it work for me just as powerfully.

Well MTV worked the trick for a lot of people over a lot of years before they turned into a D-grade reality whorefest so yeah, YouTube is an international way to get videos seen.
And let's face it, a video is still a very powerful, promotional tool.

You need people this day and age to get the visual of who you are.
It's a very here today, gone today society and you give them something to look at something to expect. You can spin an album until the cows go flying to the next field, but you give people a visual and you give them an idea of what an artist is about.
With a 3 or 4 minute clip you're basically selling a book to them in the course of 3 or 4 minutes. And like you said, the video is still such a powerful tool that even though you're not getting it out there on massive rotation like with VH1 you're still able to get it out there for people to see it and get it and use it for selling music and selling records and selling interest in who you are.

Now I won't ask you about each song because you've given me a nice breakdown to use on the site anyway but 21st Century is obviously a special track for you because it's the first track that you guys sort of wrote together but what else stands out for you? What means the most to you?
Man, it's always a difficult thing for me to, well in the past it's been a little easier because I've always known where the stronger tracks lie and obviously you put those at the top of the album and usually the not so strong ones are the ones that you, I don't want to say throwaways but the ones that you, kind of the red headed step-children of the album.
On this one it was really difficult especially one I started giving a few to people within my circle to kind of check out. Obviously, favorites were so different for different people.
It was this one should be here instead of there and this one should be there instead of here and this one sort of gets lost here, so I don't know. All I know is how it feels when I listen to each of the songs and I tried to do my best at sequencing it accordingly but it's just a difficult process.
I can't really say there's one on there that really stands out more than the next. If you're asking me my favorite song on the record it's gotta be Gin and Tonic Sky. From the first time I heard it, from the first note to the last, I absolutely love this song. The first time I heard it…it was Paulo singing because he wrote it with a long time collaborator of his and I said man, please tell me nobody else is doing this song or you're not releasing it, I have to have this song.
And when I finally got dibs on it I was the happiest camper. If I never did another song or another album in my life I was so happy to get this song and so proud of it on this album.

Yeah, I can't wait for people to hear this because this is the one that got me as well. Just the emotions in the vocals and oh, yeah it really flattens the demo.
The demo's just doesn't even compare to it.

I've had the song for a couple years or for a year at least from you and this finished version just knocks it out of the park. It's like listening to an old mono 45, compared to a master Hi-Fi wav straight out of last week.
That means a lot to me coming from you because I know your personal musical taste and as much as you have a little more diversity than most heavy metal or hard rock listeners I know where your tastes lie and what you really enjoy in the sense of melodic music and so to even be able to pull on your heartstrings on your personal genre it's cool to hear you really like this stuff.

Oh yeah and I'm straight up with you. Some of this was a stretch but it just warms on you. It just warms on you and it just keeps drawing you back in to the point where, and this is why I hope people don't just jump on the message boards after the first listen and go “What the Fuck” (laughter)
Because this really does just draw you in and while it may not be a record to play at every hour of the day everyday, it might for some people be a mood record because it's just that kind of emotional thing and it really does draw you back in
I guess I can say you've gone on record to say that as close friends as we are you don't just give me highly regard and high marks.
I still have to impress you which is very important to me for our working relationship side. I'm not afraid of you telling me something sucks or telling me you absolutely loathe it. That's always been the strongest factor in our relationship and how long I've known you.

Absolutely, and people can take it or leave it, or take it for what it is, but you know it's, no bullshit, it's great, great music and I don't think anybody can knock the quality at all. It may not be to their taste but they cannot knock the quality.
Cool man.

And you know what I like? It's that you throw everything but the kitchen sink at everybody on the opening track. The loops, the drums, the sequencing
Subtle is one thing I'm not.

It's like Holy Shit, who's this, but then like you mellow out.
You go through a sort of mellow patch at the start of the album then it revs up halfway through and I thought that was a really unusual way to flow an album, but gee, it works.
You get personal up front and then you its more Glen Hughes and Love Parade funkism, plus that traditional rocker mid-album.
It's a really interesting album that doesn't fire off out of the gate over three or four tracks and then mellow out. It's different. It's something different and I really think that works in your favor.
Cool man, thank you so much. I appreciate that.

And here I am, I'm supposed to be doing an interview but I'm giving you a review, but anyway.
Well hopefully you can do a more textural one at some time.

Not at five past eleven at night, no (laughter)
I'll write one when I can make more sense.

[Phone cuts off….and call has to be re-connected]

The good old Tasmanian Telephone Company?
Yeah, ass end of the world and services to match. (laughter)

All right, so where were we? I've sucked up enough about the album. (laughter) Where do we go from here? Where do you go from here?
There ya go, there's a question.
Well like I said I've got a lot of promotional work coming up.
Especially going at it alone it's double the work now because normally I finish an album and then it's up to the promotional team to, whether the label or the record company or whatever you want to call it to take over from that point. So outside of all the interviews and all of the things that are gonna be set up I've got a couple shows coming up next week in California.
One's a festival in San Francisco. It's a progressive rock festival of all things. I don't know what I'm doing on that but I'm headlining it. In fact it's gonna be fun because probably for the last time in a long time I'm gonna be mixing up more of the rock set and putting in more of the heavy stuff and especially stuff that I haven't done in the last few years musically and from my past.
And of course, as it's been promoted I've got Eric Martin and Dave and Phil from Y&T coming up to do maybe some Y&T and some Mr Big stuff coming and jam with the band so it's gonna be a fun thing in California and I'm probably gonna be shooting some live footage from that and some exterior stuff and some piecing together some videos with Gary since he's done a lot of my videos in the past.
And then from there I've got to come back to Europe and finish off this album for Frontiers. And then from there I've got some stuff I'm gonna be doing, as far as the video's concerned I'm gonna be doing different parts of Europe.
I've got a good friend of mine that was with Universal Pictures in New York and he ended up being transferred overseas and I didn't even know he was here until this tour last year and we caught up and we told him what was going on with this album and he basically begged to be my video director and we're gonna be piecing together some storylines with a few of the videos and kinda tying them together like a trilogy of videos with a storyline.
Even though all three songs will be different the storylines will be a sort of 'to be continued' type of thing going into the next one and we're gonna tie it all up in the last one kind of thing. It's gonna be really cool.

I like that.
But with that there's a lot of work that goes into it with the shooting and whatever storyline treatments he's coming up with. From there I think I've got some stuff with the SAS band which is Spike Edney's band before they start the Queen tour. Then I've got a lot of stuff going on from October on thru the rest of the year that I could discuss with you in more detail once I can discuss it.

Yes sir, absolutely.
It's just basically some touring possibilities I'm looking at.

Good, great stuff, great to hear, I'll definitely follow up on that.
Of course the album's coming out in September so there are a lot of things that have to be done and we're basically just gonna be swamped to the wall for the next few months.

Now your Firefest set list is gonna reflect the album?
It's gonna reflect a lot of the album and that's one of the reasons why we set when we did because we want people who are gonna be seeing me at the shows to already have a month of the album out and being familiarized with some of the songs especially because the DVD I'm gonna be shooting from it is gonna be a promotional tool for the album and it should reflect the fact that I have a new album. So I'm definitely gonna be doing a bunch of songs off of there and I'm retooling the set so everything fits together. It's not gonna be the confusing set it could be if you look at the scope of my career and this doesn't work with that new sound and that new sound and I've really tooled together a very strong set list that I think is gonna please a lot of people.

OK, and you can control Howie? (laughter)
I don't think anybody can control Howie. You just kinda look the other way and let him do his thing. No, Howie's a great guy and I'm glad to have him and the other guys aboard with me and doing what we're doing.

Yeah, Howie's awesome and he'll have to pay me for saying that.
I'm sure he's not as happy that most of these songs don't have guitar solos but he's got Alcatraz for all the soloing he wants to do.

Exactly, exactly great, could we, I know there's not a lot to report as yet, but you and Mr. Lukather...
Yeah, we've actually since the actual thought of us doing something together before I joined up with Journey we never let that go. Even when I got the Journey gig he said man you're gonna be busy for the next few years but we never let the idea go that we wanted to do something together and it's resurfaced obviously because I have a little more free time now even though I don't.
I'm busier now than I ever was or ever could be with Journey. It's almost a blessing in disguise that I'm not with them anymore because I'm able to do all the things I want to do now. But it's resurfaced and we're not into serious talks about it.
We kind of just dropped it and said we gotta do something, we gotta do something and I'm gonna go hand with him in Amsterdam next month and just chill with an old bud, watch his set and I'm really looking forward to it and I'm sure even more will come from hanging and discussing things there so there's nothing concrete that I can really say about it except that we will eventually do something once he's freed up and once I'm freed up and we can actually put a strong effort behind it.
We don't want to do something that half-assed and say hey look we can just piece together some piece of shit and just put our name and labels on it and just throw it out there. By no means would we want to do something like that. It's gotta be right. It's gotta be something that addresses who we are and what we could be together.

You two will have to impress!
Yeah, well I mean that's one of the guys out there that you'd never have to worry about that with. If you're working with Lukather you know you're gonna come up with quality and it's always quality more than quantity with that guy and that's what I love about him as a musician and as a friend.
And as a personality how can you not love him. (laughter)

He's one of a kind as are you, but with the two of you together you're gonna have to lock the liquor cabinet.
That's for sure! He can drink me under the table that's for damn sure. I wouldn't even go head to head with that guy. (laughter)

I know where you're going.

Of course you do.
You've already given Mr. Neal Schon a compliment in an interview earlier, but seriously, what the fuck went wrong?

Man, you know, if I knew at least I could have a little more peace of mind and even come up with a story or come up with a, um, a recount to even tell people what happened. I honestly don't know.
If it were a matter of musical differences and such and they just needed to go somewhere else it could have been handled differently of course.
What killed me is through the years I've seen so many little blurbs and so many hurtful comments it seems like when Neal talks about his time with Santana it's almost like his time with them has just been removed and forgotten about. From re-releases to albums to even original albums where his name wasn't recognized or his talent wasn't recognized and I know it hurts him.
I know deep down he'd really like to be recognized a little more by Carlos. Everyone else in the world recognizes him and knows he worked on that stuff but the one important person that he'd really like to get that final approval and that validation from is Carlos himself and I can see that pain in some of the things he says and talks about sometimes. But yet I went through the same kind of feelings and emotions with that whole situation.

For months after and even up to recently I still had anxiety dreams that I'm about to go on stage and not really in the band any more, I'm kinda just there to finish off the last date. It's kind of like there was no real closure there. And I guess, I'm able to put it past me now.
I'm able to kind of move forward with it and in fact I've come to the final terms of it was a blessing in disguise because the last thing I want in my career is just to be known for singing somebody else's songs. Even though this is not the case for Arnel, he's coming out like a storm.
People are now knowing who he is and the new Journey album's doing great and you know, good for him and good for them. The bottom line is, to me and to most of the people who know Journey, Journey is Steve Perry and Steve Perry is Journey and to think anything otherwise is ridiculous.
I'd rather play to a hundred people a night and sell a fraction of the records those guys do and do it on my own terms than just be paid a very big paycheck to sing someone else's legacy. And that's the bottom line.
It's something that might have hit me a couple years down the line and force me to say 'guys I can't do this any further' myself. So it's a blessing in disguise in one format and a nightmare in another because of how it was done and that's all I can really say about it. Even with everything I went through, even with all the initial grieving inside, I'm really ridiculously joyful about what's happened to them. I've seen that they're able to get chart success again without having Perry on board is an amazing achievement.
I think Arnel's an amazing singer and he's fitting very well with the guys and I can't wish him anything but the best.

Yeah, but the bottom line is you're still not sure who had the problem with you and where it broke down.
Well, you know, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that part out and that's why I brought up the comment of how I could see that same pain in Neal's words.
You're probably gonna hear that same pain coming out in these words and obviously you see who I'm talking about here. It's pretty black and white how it started and where it ended. So again, I can't really say a whole hell of a lot.
I will go on record as saying I do have a confidentiality agreement with the guys and with that I'm not gonna talk smack, I don't wanna talk smack, I don't wish any ill will upon anybody. If anything I would have loved to walk away from this thing with proper handshakes and hugs and say best of luck but unfortunately that wasn't the case and with that life goes on and I have to more on.

One last thing on that, the fanbase certainly rioted in reaction to how it went down so obviously in hindsight things could have been handled better. They were very much in your corner.
Yes and no because it's obvious their fanbase is really more about the music. Especially because the album is doing so well and it seems even the ones that were attacking them the most have turned around and just kind of rediscovered the fact that it really is about the music and they've left it by the wayside and they're giving them the proper chance. You know they've obviously came out with a strong album and people are enjoying it. They're not looking at what they've done. They're not looking at their past choices and endeavors. They're looking at the fact that they're liking what they hear.
And I knew that would be the case all along. Their fanbase is based on the music. If the came out with something that wasn't strong then it would have bit them in the ass as well. Luckily they came up with something everyone is enjoying and there you go.

Well, the fanbase has been very patient and has been through many things as we see it played out daily on some of the message boards.
Well, yeah and I try to remove myself from that whole thing. To me it seems like that might have been a factor on my letting go. Maybe it was the fact that I was too close to the fans or maybe the fact that I was a little too revealing of the band's infrastructure but I thought that was something we were gonna do together. I thought that was something they wanted to do.
They wanted to get more connected with the fans because they knew I was already that type of artist, that type of personality. With my own career and my other bands and such I've always been somebody to get involved with the fans with what they're thinking and what they're saying and I've always liked that connection.
But it seems like Journey had their own people and that was a territory I should have stayed out of and it could have been one of the reasons for my exiting. So with that I decided to just remove myself from that whole side of things altogether and not really be a part of even my own threads and message boards and what people are saying and posts and stuff.
It was time for me to just kind of lay low and just get back to work and not really care or think about what people thinking and talking about.

Well you've got a lot of really positive, great things, you've got this album to talk about so you really need to get on at least the JSS board.
That's why I wish nothing but the best for those guys. I had an amazing opportunity. I got to sing songs that were part of my influence, part of my style, part of my life and part of my everything being an artist growing up. And it was fun while it lasted. I got to put a little coin in my pocket for it and got to sing in front of some of the best fans in the world. But now it's time to get back to what I do best and let's concentrate on what's gonna be the best thing for me.

Well, like Journey, you've put your money where your mouth is as far as I'm concerned.
Thanks mate. I know it's not gonna be an easy road and I wish I could say I'm right behind those guys' or any of the bigger bands' footsteps but I know it's gonna be a long hard road regardless. I'm not an idiot to think my time with Journey is an automatic that I played to so many fans that all those fans are gonna be right along side me.
I know that those are their fans and especially the fact that I never got to record or release anything with those guys. For the most part I was just a touring singer that was just kinda there for the moment and my true, everything that happens from this day forward is all about me and everything that I'm putting into it.

Sounds great to me. I can't wait for people to hear this album. I suppose that's stating the obvious for yourself.
Well yeah, absolutely, as much as I dying to get it out there I'm nervous as hell to get it out there because you know, once it's out that's when the true test begins. That's when it's either make or break.

Yeah, I hear you, I hear you but I think it speaks for itself so I'm really looking forward to watching people have the same reaction that I did and that was like “Whoa” and then you know, letting it grow.
Well I hope that the initial reaction will be, 'yeah it's pretty cool' for those who don't get it immediately, then they listen a second time and go 'wow I didn't hear that before, that's really cool', and then it gets to the point where after the third or fourth spin it's 'my God this is really grown on me' kinda the way you said it grew on you.

Oh absolutely, you know I thought it was amazing to start with but it does just get better from there. Some of the left turns appear straighter as you go, you know. (laughter) There ya go. That's a good way to put it.

Yeah, it is isn't it? Well lets end on a high note as George Costanza would say. You know an interview's good when your quoting Seinfeld. (laughter)

Yeah, get to a high point and then walk out so it doesn't go downhill. I'm just gonna hang up right now.
Anything that we haven't covered that you wanna say, we should say?
Um, well, no I think you're pretty thorough; you're always pretty thorough with the catching up of things. I'm glad you definitely focused on the fact that it's a new record we're talking about here as opposed to really dwelling into too much other things. Because there's so much that we could talk about but I really wanted to focus on, instead of going astray with different conversations and such I'd rather focus on what we're doing now and I appreciate that on your end.

You have the free download that's coming off the album, and again, like I said earlier, when people hear this song, your first impression is everything and I know initially when people hear this song it's just not gonna appeal to everyone from the get-go and I'm so aware of that. But for the most part, everything we've said, everything we've discussed all they have to do is read from top to bottom and it might explain it a little more and after one or two spins they're gonna go, 'ok, now I get this'. They're either gonna hate it or they're gonna love it.

That's a good thing. You know it's good when it invites passion.
Oh, one thing I should mention is that the free download Testify that was actually co-written with a fellow Aussie. It's one of the two songs that has nothing to do with Paulo Mendonca's writing. My buddy Ben Carey who was with Savage Garden but now has been with Lifehouse for the last few years.

Yeah, we hung out in LA didn't we?
He's the co-writer on this one. He came to me with this tune a few years ago and said 'Man I've just been screwing around with it in my studio what do you think of it?' and I go 'I love it, let me finish it', so Testify is one of the only songs on there that's not co-written with Paulo.

He's the one that came up to me in the San Fernando and said 'Def Leppard hates your ass'. (laughter)
I don't think they hate you.

Of course not, I'm just having a laugh there. He was helpful in pointing out the band's feelings towards things while I was in LA.
I actually talked to Joe about you in detail and they don't hate you by any stretch. Obviously they were miffed about whatever they thought in their minds happened and how it went down and everything but it's all forgotten now.

Well, it certainly is here. You know they're coming here in November, to Melbourne at least.
Well I'll have to come down and be the peacekeeper and introduce you guys.

The free download – Testify – is a good half-way point on the album I think, a little be old, a little bit new.

That's true, it's got a little bit of the rock/funk thing that I've done before but obviously it's got more of a modern twist to it because it doesn't have the standard Marshall guitar turned to 11 sound and it's definitely got a little more contemporary appeal to it.
I've gotta tell you though, the stuff on the album's so strong even to release a free download I can't say that this is a single because it's not by any stretch one of the first singles it's just one of the songs I thought would be a good starting point because it does have the rock feel, it does have the soulful feel to it but it doesn't have the complete left field as you said kind of feel to it. It's a little safer for an introduction to what they can expect from the rest of the album.

It's the perfect introduction to JSS.
There ya go.

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JSS - Beautiful Mess

Track By Track

21st Century - it's about all the movements, both morally & socially, through the ages we've experienced as a society in the 20th century...from all the dangers of drug & alcohol abuse to the rights of minorities & even women to vote. It all comes together in what we called the future yet what is here now, the 21st Century.

Cry Me A River - This one is about where we are as a society versus one man's struggle to find inner peace, it dwells in the idea of finding our way out of the 'beautiful mess' we've come to be in on this planet at the same time trying to climb out of a personal inner turmoil & finding that peace of mind for both.

Gin And Tonic Sky - This song is about an escape, not necessarily from the title's bluntness of alcohol, more a dreamscape of how the sky or rather, dream can be hazy through the affects of a gin & tonic. There is always somewhere to go when the chips are down, when all seems doom & gloom, everyone has their own G&T Sky to turn to.

Hey - This one is a feel good summertime song, about the end of your 9 to 5, kicking back with some friends, throwing back a few cold ones & making a holiday with every minute you can get away from the daily grind of life. Everyone can relate to this as we all have the stresses of the day we need to chill from.

Broken Man - This one is somewhat an apology for emotionally hurting someone else, making others feel cause for neglect or anxiety. In a sense it could be an open letter from a politician who never lived up to the level of promises & before leaving office & is asking for redemption. But at the same time, it could also pertain to someone who has suddenly walked away from a long relationship or even someone about to be released after serving a long prison sentence, a plea for forgiveness.

Mountain - This is about a lost soul in search of something or someone to guide him to the 'light'. Some might see it as a spiritual cry for help or some may see it as a child on their way to entering adulthood. It works both ways, sitting upon that mountain & looking down to which path they will or could take.

Our Song - This one is about all the many songs in our lives that we swear were written about 'us' personally & our relationships through the years. It deals with the mid point of a relationship where you're past the honeymoon stages but not quite at the ignoring each other at the dinner table stage! Ponders about if this is where 2 people want to be, will they find a way to recapture that magic or if it's the beginning of the end.

Eye - This one is about not only dreaming there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but actually pursuing it. Most of us live seeing life through rose coloured glasses in hopes true love will find us but only some actually do something about it. This is one's person's goal in getting it.

Bring It On Home - This one is a good old fashioned 'I want you & I KNOW you want me' lyric. A little part teasing, a little part cocky & a lot of sensual desire here. The swanky, greasy groove makes this one ooze with sexual appetite!

Testify [Download MP3 Now] - This one is about getting straight to the point in wanting someone so badly you can't see straight. Whether you're one to chase or desire for many or there is that ONE person you must have, we all have that inner yearning to conquer that lust!

Wherever U Wanna Go - This one is about 2 ships passing in the night, a one night stand if I may, that is so cool, so perfect, that neither wants it to come to an end but the realities of either something like distance or even difference in personal religion would doom any chances of it being able to continue. I tried to put the romance into a situation that is normally looked upon as cheap & regretful. Rarely do 2 people find sparks from the throes of a 'heat of passion' experience.

Kick It - This one is about being with your soulmate, your life partner, the one you have devoted your heart to, telling them they still 'do it' for you after so many years. It's easy to forget all the things you did & said early on in relationships so this is a song that reminds your partner you continue the longing & desire to 'kick it' with them for life. For those abroad who don't understand the expression, in the US, we use the term 'kicking it' as an expression for hanging out, doing nothing & enjoying every second of it!

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