Jeff Scott Soto - Soul SirkUS

January 11, 2005

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I know your name from way back. You've sung for many different people.

Don't make me too old now.

You've sung with Yngwie Malmsteen and Axel Rudi Pell.

To name a few, yeah. I've been around the block for about 20 years actually.

That's not so bad. You're a veteran.

Most people in the States don't really know it but I guess that's all right because it didn't really give me a chance to become dated and become one of the ones trying to make a comeback. On the other hand, it's been a long wait so to speak and now I'm doing something I think that most people respect and recognize.

It's kind of difficult for you to make a comeback because you're always so busy doing things. You don't have time to take a hiatus.

I guess so.

Are you still working with Axel Rudi Pell?

No, we stopped working together around '96 I believe. That was the last thing I did with Axel.

That's a pity. A lot of that stuff was really good.

Thank you. When I was working with him, it was more of on an availability basis. I started working with this group in the States. It took away too much of my time and he wanted somebody that would be free to be touring as well as doing his albums the way he wanted them done. I told him it would probably be best if he moved on with another singer. Ironically enough, the guy that he's got working with him now is the guy that used to be in Hardline with me also. Funny how we swap roles in this business.

They say the music business is incestuous.

Yeah, more so than any...I mean it's pretty insane how intertwined I am with so many in the business. I don't even know.

You were the guy who did the vocals for the character in Rock Star.

Yeah, it was the main singer that Mark Wahlberg who played in the movie, basically the guy that was in the beginning of the movie, that was my voice that lip lined the voice for him. Then there was another guy that did the voice for Mark Wahlberg.

I saw that movie recently. It was pretty good.

Yeah, it's interesting. It was a good representation I guess of the '80s hair band scene. There was obviously a little fluff, a little Hollywood involved in it but you have to have that in order for people I guess to stay interested.

Absolutely. Soul SirkUS started out as Planet US which had Neal Schon, Dean Castronovo, Sammy Hagar, and Michael Anthony. Sammy and Anthony left and you guys became Soul SirkUS. I guess you were with Soul SirkUS from the very beginning when it turned into Soul SirkUS.

Well, actually Dean stayed along with Neal on the idea if they were going to move forward with it and I met Neal exactly a year ago this month. He proposed to me exactly what he wanted to do yet he had no idea who I was. Neal didn't have any real history of my past or anything. So he was going in blind. He was just going with references by people who had known about my career and known about me. We ended up meeting at the NAMM show last year which is this big music convention every year. Within that weekend we bonded and got to the point where we said "let's do this. It sounds like we both want the same thing out of it." Within the first two or three months of working together, we had the entire album written. Not only the entire album written, the entire album recorded and mixed and done. It was that quick. It was such a quick marriage. It was one of those quick shotgun marriages. Yeah, it was just one of those immediate bonds and we've been working it and getting it all together ever since.

Dean had to bow out so you have Virgil Donati who is a kickass drummer.

Oh yeah. The problem with Dean, he never really came to us and said "guys, I've got enough going on in my life which is Journey." He felt more indebted to Neal in doing the whole Soul SirkUS thing than he really wanted to do it. That's one of the main reasons why we've got Virgil in the band because Dean wanted to have a little more time for his family and just for himself because of Journey's schedule. Whereas Neal is a workaholic. He'll work every day of the year because music is his life and be happy about it. I guess Neal took for granted that Dean wanted that and Dean took for granted that he would be able to pull off both bands and still have some personal time. It didn't work for either one so that's where we decided it was an amicable decision that we get somebody else that would want to be able to fill these shoes and pull it off.

I saw Virgil play with Derek Sherinian and I thought that guy was absolutely amazing.

It's ridiculous. It was a no brainer. When he came up to jam with us, within 30 minutes we just said "would you please join our band?"

Tell me a bit about World Play. You guys recorded it in two days.

Actually, yeah. We rehearsed four days with the actual band and putting it together. Make sure everybody knew their parts. All the actual music was recorded in two recording session days. It was so fast. Dean's drums were done literally in one take. There was not one time we stopped the tape and said "nah, let's go back and do that again. You could do it better." Or that he messed up a part that he had to go back and redo it. It was all done right on the fly and there were barely any overdubs. We were done with the basic tracks and Neal would just finish his guitar solos and get everything done literally within days after we'd tracked and that was the main rhythm tracks. Then I just did all my vocals here in my home studio. That way I could spend some time with experimenting with different things and lyrics and ideas. That was the majority of the time that was really taken on the album. It was literally done within 12 days and we had a buddy of mine that I've been working with the past few years on my solo records mixing. He did it fast in another home studio. It was so like "you've got to be kidding. This is an actual album?" It's so not the way we're normally used to working. We're used to the big budgets, the big studios, the producers, and going into a studio at noon or 1 o'clock in the afternoon and not leaving until four in the morning. This was just done right off the cuff. Right on the fly. It was quite unique in the way it was all done and it's amazing how raw and energetic that it sounds because of it.

It sounds like everything went really smoothly.

I couldn't believe it especially with us not really knowing each other and not really having had much experience playing together. We really had to do it on the fly the way we did it especially because Journey was very busy last year with their schedule and our bass player also does touring duties with Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy. Between everybody going out and doing their own things and things that were booked, we had no choice but to do it this way. Luckily it came out as great as I think it did.

He also plays with Ted Nugent doesn't he?

Yeah, he hasn't really worked with Ted recently because he's been so busy with Whitesnake and Lizzy and now us of course. He's wiped away the whole hired gun status as much as possible. That's one of the reasons why he wanted to really commit to Soul SirkUS because most people only know him as a hired gun.

Some people enjoy being a hired gun and some people want to be part of a family.

Yeah, the hired gun thing is great because it's a noncommittal situation that you can earn a great living from. On the other hand, thereís also security behind being with a group especially on a financial end because if youíre part of the group thatís actually earning and making royalties and sales, then itís something you can actually earn more later but as well, you have a commitment behind management and behind the band and all the people are working with and for you. I guess there are positives and negatives to both. The positive of being a hired gun is you can just move on and not have to worry about a commitment and constantly challenge yourself and constantly get to work with different people in the business.

Thanks to the Internet, a lot more people know about your band than they would otherwise.

Absolutely. The Internet has been such an amazing promotional tool. Especially the fact that it doesnít cost anything aside of what youíre paying for your broadband service. There are so many different ways if you had to pay for just the kind of promotion and marketing you can get from the Internet, thank God for that medium. Itís such a strong medium in music today.

I think the Internet is probably the main thing for music these days to get the word out.

Contrary to that belief though, itís still just only a small portion of it. Thereís still an aspect of ads and magazines and even the old school way of promoting things that itĎs still such a stronger point than the Internet. I just think the Internet is now becoming a very strong contender in being used as a marketing promoter. Not a lot of people have the Internet if you can believe that. There are still a lot of people that are not online and donít rely on using the Internet for marketing and promotional tools as far as music. On other hand, itís becoming such a strong force in exactly that. Iím sure it will level off.

Basically your lineup consists of you, Marco Mendoza, Neal Schon, and Virgil Donati. Have you guys done any shows together yet?

No, we just auditioned Virgil last Thursday. Heís just in the band as of not even a week old.

Do you guys have some gigs lined up?

Yeah, we had about two weeks worth of gigs that we had to cancel because of Dean falling ill and obviously because during that illness we decided to move on with Virgil, that because Marco is leaving in another week to start touring with Lizzy for about two months and Journey is going to be in the studio recording their new album, we basically put everything on hold until April. Thatís when weíre going to have rescheduled dates as well as probably do some things in Europe et cetera. Weíll probably have a good six weeks to promote the album just before Journey goes on their summer tour and then go right back out afterwards.

You guys are just busy.

Neal doesnít even know what heís gotten himself into. Then weíll have to work on a follow up album when weíre done touring. It will be nonstop.

I can imagine. While everybody is busy doing other stuff, what are you going to be doing in the meantime?

Actually I havenít had a vacation, not even two weeks off in a row, Iíd say since the end of 2001. I might actually take the summer off. Then again, I say that now and something might come along that Iíll have to fill in my time and maybe Iíll start working on another solo album that I'm waiting to begin when the timing is right. Who knows? At this point Iím just going with the flow and if I get too bored by relaxing and resting, because Iím like Neal, Iím just not used to sitting back for too long. Maybe I will delve into something along the way.

You just put out a solo album.

Yeah, it came out in September I believe. Itís on an Italian indie label so itís mostly recognized overseas. There doesnít really seem to be any kind of distribution here in the States. Which would be great if I could get it but then on the other hand, maybe musically itís not really something thatís going to sell on a commercial level. Not too many people would be interested in it. The solo album has been really good for me to just go out there and make my own little statement. Itís not like Iím trying to break the mold or remake anything or even try to reform myself as an artist. Itís something that I do on the side and I enjoy doing it.

Absolutely. I think you should do things because you enjoy doing them.

Yeah, and thatís why weíre doing the Soul SirkUS thing. For no other reason than...weíre not going to kill ourselves and get involved with something just for the sake of trying to be even more successful and make even more money than any of us have. Weíre doing it because we really enjoy doing it. If itís not successful, it doesnít earn or it doesnít sell, weíre still have the same amount of fun doing it. Of course you get all the fringe benefits of being able to tour and see the world and do all these different things if itís successful, but on the other hand, weíre just enjoying working together and thatís always the first start.

I think a lot of people will be curious about this because everyone involved is someone that you know about and youíve known about for years.

Right, very true.

I think there will be a large curiosity factor there.

I sure hope so. Weíre here to fill that curiosity, thatís for sure.

I was listening to the CD today and I thought it was great.

Thanks a lot. I know itís not going to float a lot of the Journey fans boat because obviously itís got a heavier edge but itís always like that with Nealís stuff outside of Journey. Theyíve come to realize that he does these side projects because he wants to do something outside the Journey league. He does what he does with Journey very well and has been successfully. On the other hand, thereís another side to Neal that he canít do with Journey. It doesnít necessarily fit that mold and thatís the reason for bands like Soul SirkUS and Hardline and such. Itís just another expression of Neal and luckily I got the chance to do it with him.

I always think itís crazy when people go ďBruce Kulick started Union but it doesnít sound like KISS.Ē Or ďNeal Schon started Soul SirkUS but it doesnít sound like Journey.Ē Well damn it, if you want to listen to KISS or Journey then listen to KISS or Journey. Itís ridiculous when people want a band to sound like some other band. Thatís not the point of doing it.

Right. People will hear similarities. Itís hard to not have some of the influences really come out. Especially because of Nealís playing and because of the stuff that he has done with Journey. Youíll hear that signature Neal Schon sound in his writing and his playing but obviously you wonít hear Steve Perry or Steve Augeri along with it.

And you shouldnít because itís something totally different. Any other thoughts or comments?

I think you pretty much nailed it.

Soul Sirkus