Neal Schon: Doing It His Way
Guitarist Neal Schon makes his claim for Guitar Hero status on the new Journey album Eclipse. I talked to Neal just prior to the band hitting the road in the USA for their 2011 Tour - Leg 1.
Andrew! How are you, buddy?
I'm doing ok. How are you?
I'm doing good, man. We're just, you know, booking out here, trying to keep up with this, man; it's a lot of work! You know-the travel.
We're just in from Italy-last night from Milan. We had a great show there. We just did sound check and I did another interview for Guitar Player Magazine. And so, here I am! I've been ready to do you for a while but I understand you had some other things going on.
Oh yeah, sorry. I flaked out on you a couple of times there—held up and then kids. You know what it's like with 3 young kids. (laughs)
I understand. It happens.
So thank you at least for staying patient and good to talk to you again.
Yeah! Are you completely sick of talking about this album yet?
(long pause) No. But I've seen a ration of shit that you are getting already!! (laughing!!)
From EVERYBODY!! You know. It's a catch 22; it's all I can tell you. It's like, if we……I LOVE the record and I know that you love the record…
Yeah, I sure do.
.. and now I'm like the devil in everybody's eyes because it doesn't sound like our older stuff…but if we make a record that sounds like our older stuff then they'd say, well why can't they do something different. So, it's…you always want the opposite. They can always criticize.
You're never going to please everybody and if you wanna play the older stuff, you've already got it - go play it.
Exactly what I thought.
I'm sorry, man. I'm eating like a little piece of candy here cuz I'm just dragging ass and I want to wake up for you here.
Ok, so you've got the album out. A lot of people really love it and get it, which is great.
Yeah, and what I've been talking to management about is that we need to get more awareness that it's actually out. It was cool to come here to Europe and do all these dates in South America and stuff but, in a sense, I think that we could have done a bit more damage if we had stayed home and did more TV and made people aware that it's even out.
I think that things are going to pick up. It's been known to happen to other records too, in the past. It just takes while to work things. We do have some TV coming up and I think that's going to help out tremendously.
I definitely think that the record has legs so that's not the problem. We can keep coming with the tunes off it and, you know, I feel good about it. The whole record industry is in a different place than it's ever been before, like always…
(laughs)… like every year it changes and it seems like it gets worse; but that's just the nature of the beast. If you get dealt lemons then you've got to make lemonade.
You're one of the few bands that have been around, virtually for every change in the music industry (laughs) since 45 singles almost.
Yeah. Yeah (laughs)
You've been there the whole time-you've seen it all.
Yeah, I get asked the questions all the time – in every interview - like, 'How do you suggest for people to get new music out there…'
I'm like, you know what? I have no frickin clue. Just PLAY LIVE!!
Nobody has any idea these days. It's tough.
Play live, play in front of other people and hopefully word of mouth spreads. I don't think there is any foolproof plan or any perfect plan to get things out anymore—there isn't.
No, there isn't. Nobody has the answer because nobody's been getting rich.
No. They are all searching for it. It's terrible for new artists because I feel bad for my son too because he's a great guitarist and he's trying to get things going and it's like everybody's looking to me like, why can't you do that for him! (laughing) And I'm like, I can get him all the gear, I can get him the studio time, I can get him this, I can get him that; I can't get him a record deal.
I said, Miles, you gotta get out there and just play and so that's what he's doing.
So he's out there and he's playing and he's going at it—and making quite a little name for himself.
And so that's what ya gotta do. You know, you gotta pay your dues and there's no way getting around it. There's no quick way.
Well that's what you guys did.
Well, yeah. I mean, there's a quick way. When labels existed, and they heard somebody they liked and they'd come out and do a massive push and stick a ton of money into promoting and everything like videos….They'd spend all the bands' money so that they're never ever gonna make any money (laughing) in the next 10 years. (laughing)
You know? But they're thinking to themselves, Well, it doesn't matter because they're not gonna last that long we'll drop them before that. It's a very crude industry.
But, um, I'm really grateful just to be able to a part of it still and do what we do.
It's kind of amazing isn't it really? I mean, it's a testament to you guys and your stamina, your personal, physical and mental stamina…
It's definitely a test, you know? I mean, we haven't even started the states yet, obviously. I've gotta tell you-the South American tour was grueling. It really was. It was a hard schedule to keep up with, mainly because of the travel.
We had to fly everywhere and it was the whole crew and the band. All of our equipment went underneath the plane with us to every city that we went to…or country. Every 2 days it felt like it was 9 or 11 hour travel days.
So, I felt like I was going from Ashcroft to London every 2 days.
We came down with some really weird infection. Our manager, John and myself. We got weird ear infection—I think from the water. We had a really bad ear infection, sinus infection and it went into the chest. I was on the heaviest antibiotics I've ever been on for like a month straight and still it didn't go away.
So I was like trying to travel and keep up with it at the same time, you know, and it's like rough when you are not actually well.
And so, right now, everybody's good! And that's the way we're trying to keep it. We're like….. we constantly meet a lot of fans and washing hands and (laughing)…
You really are still a hands on band, aren't you, when you're on the road? You know, meet and greets and stuff?
Hello? Sorry! It dropped out.
No worries at all.
I was talking and talking and talking and then I go, Hello????
There was nobody there!
So was I! (laughing) What I was saying was you're still a very hands on band when you get on the road, aren't you? With fans and stuff?
I think so- yeah. You know, we try to be as much as we can—meet and greets every night. It's tough sometimes to keep up with that. It's not that you don't want to meet the fans; it's just burnt, you know? Burnt. And we've been doing it and they haven't been really super big meet and greets so it's like a little bit easier. You take a fast picture and meet some people and say 'hello' and then pretty much we're on stage after that.
And so, but when you're traveling… we did like 7 hours last night travel and then tonight we've got 9 hours on the bus. Some people are not sleeping on the bus and I'm kinda up and down. Arnel doesn't like—he hasn't been sleeping on the bus.
And so, you're trying to catch up with your Z's and keep everything in focus.
Yeah. It's tough on the road-people don't appreciate how hard it is.
Well, they don't do the work, that's the thing. They like to criticize it but look! (laughing) 'well, it wasn't as good as this and it wasn't as good as that' but if they had known the circumstances - what everybody has gone through in the last few months, you go, Oh-well now I can understand.
It's always like that.
Tell me, back on the point you made originally, you were saying that you want to give a bigger splash for Eclipse in the U.S. and you're going to ramp that up. You are obviously keeping track of the sales figures – are you a little bit concerned that they're lower than expected?
You know…well…..we had so much going on around the time that Revelation was released…we had a lot of TV exposure.
You were everywhere!
I know! We were on Ellen Degeneres; we were on Oprah. You know, Oprah was the thing that like really kicked everything off.
And, that's what everybody gets the awareness from. You can't buy advertising time like that. And especially if you can sound good live, I mean-that's the thing. We do sound good live and so…nobody's afraid to play it live on TV. So, we're working on that right now-just getting more TV exposure. I think that is going to kick everything in the butt.
And, you've got another long tour, haven't you.
Well, we're going to be out for 2 years.
That's amazing, isn't it? How many bands could actually do that?
Yeah. (pause) Well, we'll see if we make it! (Laughing)
(laughing) Hahaha! You'll just pull up stumps halfway through and go, eh, that's enough.
(pause) No, it's hard to do that –you can't do that—once you're committed , you're committed, you know?
But we are committed to 2 years and worldwide. We've been off a lot this time and, usually, we'll just do the States and we'll go over to Japan and that's it. We played a couple of shows in South America before when Arnel first came in the band but it was easy. You're in and out. This time there's…you know the UK was great and we had a great time in the UK this time and we have so many great fans there—and enthusiastic audiences. We just had great shows there.
I had great feedback on that –I heard really great feedback.
Yeah. It was really great; we loved it there. The band just seems to be getting bigger and bigger over there, which is so crazy to me—this many years later!
Hello? You there?
Yeah. I'm here, Andrew.
It comes and goes. We'll deal with it.
You've put in the hard yards over in Europe, haven't you? It's what, you're 3rd or 4th tour back there, isn't it?
Um, in Germany?….I think it's the 3rd - I'm not really sure. But, yeah, this is a different market - Germany is. So far, some of the smaller dates that we've played are… they're good but, so far, I prefer playing the festivals…
Like we did last time. And, I just like getting in front of more people. You know, actually, we did a lot of damage last time---in a good way.
Just being able to get in the middle slot or a special guest and play a little bit shorter set but just charge it up in front of a lot of people. We worked for a lot of great reviews and took a lot of fans with us. So, I'm looking forward to these bigger festivals that are coming up here shortly.
You're coming off of an album that sold 800,000 units in the U.S. I mean, who the hell does that these days?!!
(softly laughs) I don't know.
(laughing) How did that happen?
(laughing) I don't know anybody that sells records at all, it's like crazy: except, for catalog stuff - older catalog stuff - like our older stuff. The classic rock stuff that's been there forever; it just keeps on selling albums.
That stuff's never going anywhere.
Good for us!!
A new record-a new studio album sold that many units. It's just unbelievable.
Yeah! But you know what is funny about this record is even though I don't think the units are out there, I think they've downloaded it because everyone is singing the songs in the audience when we play the live stuff. (laughing)
So, they know the songs—they do! They know the lyrics and they know the songs. They're singing right along with it. I'm like, wow—this is weird! How can they know it?
There's a few bands on the road at the moment that are taking new albums out with them and playing the new songs and I'm really glad that they're doing that.
Yeah. I mean, for us, Andrew, I feel that if we don't do that then we're just kind of sitting in neutral and resting on our laurels, which we could have easily done anyway. We could have just played our greatest hits forever and forgot about ever making a new record and forget about being critiqued for it, you know?
I think we're real ballsy about where we went here. You know, Jon and I absolutely agreed on where we wanted to go after we finally talked about it. It was just kind of like a no brainer because we had all this other material sitting there; we had so many great ballads and they're all sitting there and how many can we really use in a show?
Not very many. You know, you have so many minutes to play in a show. It's not like we're doing a 3 hour festival or 2½ hours or even 2 hours, you know?
We've got a lot of stuff to play and a lot of hits to play and people expect to hear that; there's no getting away from that ever!
Nor do I want to! I love the fact that people want to hear it!
If they didn't want to hear it, then I'd be going, Why do I want to play?
They still love it so, yeah, I want to play it.
And we're mixing the new stuff in and it's going over well! I mean, you know, nobody's sitting down! I remember the days when you'd play something new and everybody sits down…and they kind of like fall asleep for 4 minutes or however long the song is and then they get back up on their feet when you play something familiar.
I saw you guys in L.A. in 2003 and you did Higher Place and I think I was the only person standing in the whole building! (laughing)
Yeah, I mean, it hasn't been like that with this record so far.
Everywhere that we've played and when we were playing the longer show, which wasn't a real long show but some of the South American days, we played 5 tracks…5 new tracks? And nobody sat! Nobody sat!
The whole time. And they dug it and they didn't even know it. That's a good sign in itself, right there, you know?
Absolutely. So, where did the idea for the album come from? I mean, you've been promising to rock it up for a while. Is this like a continuation of from where you were going with Planet US and Soul SirkUS? That desire to really turn it up?
I don't think so. I mean, I think it sounds like Journey.
Of course! It certainly sounds like Journey: I meant the heaviness of it and the attitude.
Well…(pause)..I mean, I don't think it's heavy metal by any means. It's very melodic still but it's guitar driven…and some of the grooves are like bigger than the usual stuff that we do. It's just not as much pop - it's more rock - it's more of a rock record.
Oh I know.
Yeah, well so do I! That's no secret to anybody; I always talk about it – that I like to rock and I'm…
You know, I was talking for at least 5 minutes…
…and then you weren't there and I was like, I don't know what's going on. It's pissing rain here right now.
Well, you know what? It's pissing rain here as well and I had a black out- I lost ALL power including my phone connection.
Oh, ok. Well, we're driving back now; we're going to the hotel. Maybe the reception will be better.
Sorry. Where were we?
Um……I don't know where we were.
What pearls of wisdom did I miss out on there?
Um… you know, I don't know. I was babblin, man. I couldn't—unless I recorded it and listened to it—I couldn't tell you what I was talking about!! (laughing)
You asked me a question and I was answering but I don't remember where we left off but it was like 10 minutes ago.
(still laughing). Ok….so it's time to record a new album and you've obviously got something on your mind. How did you bring it up with Jon about style and what you wanted to do?
Well, you know, we just talked about it and said, 'Look, is there really a reason to repeat ourselves here and keep writing exactly the same stuff on every record?'
I mean, really, is there a need to do that? We've all these new areas we can go—Arnel's coming into his own. He has no brakes; we don't have brakes with him so let's just experiment a bit. I look at this record, Eclipse, like it's our new Frontier record-like Frontiers one was for us, when we put it out with Steve.
That was a totally experimental record at the time and I think some of this stuff is even more straight up. But, there was nothing wrong with it back then; I don't think there's anything wrong with it now.
I think it's a lot…what's different about the record is that it's a long play record-you listen from one end to the other and it's not like you pick out this song and then you pick out that song and you have those 2 saved…and everybody's going to have their favs but really I mean, and unless I'm wrong, that's the way I listen to it and I like it. I think it's got a great flow and musically it goes up and down, like it should and it keeps my attention, which is hard to do, man! Honest to God!
I love the 'journey' of an album—pardon the pun. I love 45 or 50 minutes of an emotional ride; I don't want to hear 4 minute singles all the time.
Yeah. I mean, those are great too but they also easy to come up with and we have a lot of those already. You know, I mean, we've got tons of hits like that and so we're trying to move forward here and show some light of existence and new area and not just repeating the same thing over and over and over - move the chords around, move the melody around, do the same groove, don't change anything up too much. That's the bit, you know.
Well, on the positive side of the reviews, that where you've gained a lot of respect, you know, for not taking it easy—for not sitting back and just being lazy or whatever you want to call it.
Yeah some people are getting it. I've read a lot of really great reviews and a few bad ones, but you've got to expect both sides—like I said, you can't please everyone…but the ones that do get it, absolutely get it.
Yeah, well as much shit as I get on the message boards, I like to think that I got it so…(laughs)
You did and you're catching a lot of shit for it, too!! (laughing)
It's ok! I don't care either!
What do you from here? Have you got a long term plan as far as what you'd like to write next or do you just forget about it for a couple of years while you're on the road?
You know what? We're not…I'm not thinking about that right now. We're just starting touring here and we have a very young record. (laughs) Some people are cutting the legs off already and saying, it's done! It hasn't started yet-it hasn't begun yet…that's the way I look at it, especially when we're going to support it for 2 years on tour. Things just haven't started really yet.
I agree completely and I only asked that because I wondered if you actually set out a plan or you just take it as you feel at the time and live in the moment.
Right. That's it. I mean, that's all you can do-play the cards. You know what I mean? You're dealt a deck of cards, man, and you play 'em as they're coming.
Absolutely. I talked to Arnel about this and I was saying to him that he's so well accepted now, I think. This is a tough question, but do you think some of the stuff that was aimed at Arnel in the beginning was because of the way you swapped singers? Could there have been a better way of doing things?
(pause) You know (pause), things happen for a reason, Andrew.
And for some reason, things just did not fit like a glove…like we thought it might and we felt the need to find a guy and that was just my gut instinct - it was everybody's gut instinct.
But it's not taking away from anybody, it's just…that's the way it went, that's all. I suppose when you're looking back, there's always better ways of doing things but, at the time, we all like listened and had eyes wide open and we said, you know-we need to find somebody.
I'm going to keep calling back till we get this interview done!
(laughing) Oh, it's fine, I don't care.
Did you ever expect to find Arnel where you found him? Not as far as the YouTube thing but just, being from the Philippines?
I didn't know what I was going to find. I was looking into a lot of different singers on there and there was a few guys that I heard that absolutely had great voices; it was more of a soul thing. I was looking for that. I like soul but I was looking…
I wanted the rock mixed with the soul. We needed to find a high tenor: somebody that had a high tenor voice to properly do our old stuff as well as just for us to sound the way we do - the way we're supposed to sound. Arnel was really the only guy who I stumbled upon him and he is the only guy that I really…when I heard his voice I went, WOW—who is that?
Honestly. He just struck me - immediately. I went, that voice is something else.
Yeah. It is.
I think it was just fate. He's a really great guy and he's very humble and he's very talented and nobody deserves it as much as this guy. He was like homeless!
I know! It's unbelievable.
He's never forgotten that. He's definitely tremendously talented; he has a God given gift. Ok? No matter how long other people work on it and work on it and they get better at their craft and they sing better and they do this and that, some people are just gifted from the second they were born. To sing or to play whatever they're playing and they have a natural ability—he is one of them.
You worked with Kevin Shirley again for this record. But not the mixing aspect?
You know what? Kevin always does a great job; I found the problem with Kevin, you know, is he is always so busy-he's all over the place. And, it's hard to lock him down for enough time. (laughing) He's something. You know what I mean? That's what we found when we were done, it was like there was a whole lot of extra work that needed to be finished and that's why it's co-produced by myself and Jon.
Arnel pretty much re-sang the whole record; I re-did a lot of guitars and…added some keyboard parts and finished stuff up and tightened things up, moved string parts around. I mean, I did a lot of work with Jonathan on this record-- you know, after Kevin left.
Then, I was there for the whole mixing process with David Kalmusky and Jonathan would come in. But I sat there hour after hour in Nashville and made sure I got the best I could get out of it. I think that had we not done that I think the record would not sound the way it does. And I think, personally…I think it's one of the best sounding records we've made in a long time. I think the fidelityis full…a big bottom end that we don't have on a lot of our records; we compared all the mixes. We made like a little Pro Tools session and listened to ALL our records in a row-little bits and pieces of ALL our different records. They were big records and we then listened to the new record go by and it was just like… it sounded bombastic compared…it was all smashed in the middle. It's wide range fidelity and I don't care what anybody says-the proof is that if you listen to it side by each---you know, a lot of older records were actually mixed more for radio.
Because of all the compressing they used on radio and whatnot. This record was made for you to play over a system—like a good system…
…or even good speakers on a computer, you know what I mean?
And not for radio, so much. All the mixes that used to go out to radio in the old days are so horrendous sounding when you put them on a record player.
You know, they sounded great on the radio; it was nothing but high end sizzle and noisy! Just noisy!
I love the way…I love how Deen sounds on this record.
The drums…we worked long and hard on the drums, too.
Man, they're big!
The drums. The way they were recorded—there was issues with them. Big time.
We re-worked a LOT of that. Yeah. There were certain songs the mike wasn't on the snare! (laughing) I had to duplicate the snare and move it around! It was like…there were some issues.
You know, there was just a lot of work, Andrew, that's all I can tell you.
More work than I have ever done on any record, ever in my life.
It sounds like it.
Thank you. When we all finished with this and it was down to the sequencing. The sequencing was really…like if anybody wants to try to sequence this record in a different way…let them try! I listened to this record every frickin' which way you could listen to it. Moved every song, moved it around in front of it, in back of it. I mean…. I came with some of the stuff that more Journey-friendly - Someone and Anything Is Possible - I tried moving those up more towards the front and the other stuff sounded so out of character.
So, I worked on the sequencing for a couple of days straight and that was what I could get out of it—to where it flowed as an overall statement.
I feel it really does! I'm not sure I could rearrange it any better either.
Yeah. Well, you know all I can tell you is I know that I worked my butt off on this and the end result is absolutely as good as it can be for what it is.
And, if you don't care for it, then you don't care for it; if you love it, you do. It's like that, you know?
Absolutely. I think you've done a great job; there's no doubt about it and I'm glad you're on the road and things are going well.
Yeah. Things are good. I'm looking forward to getting back to our system. We had own PA system in the UK and in the United States. These shows that we're doing right now, we have whatever system you have that the promoter supplies you with and that's just the way the smaller shows go. So, it's more challenging for our mixer and such but, I mean, I think he's been doing a great job.
I've heard some complaints here and there about sound but he's still fairly new with us and he's learning our stuff to great detail.
It's getting better and better by night by night. That's all I can tell ya.
Who is that? Is that your new permanent guy?
Yeah. He was out with Nickelback and he's done a lot of people. He's done Halen before, he's done Ozzy—Lionel Ritchie (laughs). All sizes—in fact, he's done Chicago. If you look at his roster, I mean it's just miles long. So, he's getting a grip on our stuff right now.
There was a different guy, Martin, actually that was mixing us, from South America. So, it's like we switched in midstream. With Martin, it was very more of a clinical mix; it didn't sound like the band to me. He's very good at what he does but it was more like a Steely Dan version of Journey.
Everything was separated and we were all compressed and tight. You know, Deen and I—sometimes sounded like we were in a closet!
And, so, it was just not working for Deen and I at all. Our new guy is a little bit on the other side so he's having to pull it back a little bit. He gets it rocky like a big monster but then he needs to be able to put it on top in the vocals. It's a fine line and he's...he just said to me the other night - he said, 'This band is not as easy as I thought it would be to mix.'
I said, No, it's not! But now, you're finding out. There's a lot going on that doesn't meet the eye when you listen to it. Jon's got a lot going on over there and there needs to be space made so that everything can be heard.
But, he's getting a grip on it! I really feel that he is.
Very cool. I've got to ask you 2 questions about the album that keep popping up. So, don't shoot the messenger but the one thing that everybody keeps saying is, This is Neal's record. Do you agree?
Well, you know what? It was…I've always wanted to do a conceptual record.
Whether or not we got a conceptual record - I don't know about that. I think musically it is a conceptual record, the way songs flow into other songs.
Conceptually, with lyrics, being about what they are on the record, I think that does flow too, but, obviously, it's not like a theme to it, lyrically, where…like a Tommy with the Who or anything like that.
So, you know, it was a vision that I had and but I think it's just as much Jon's record as it is mine! And the whole bands'.
I mean, Jon wrote the songs with me. And Arnel wrote on 2 songs and so I think it's all our record.
Yeah but it is a guitar record - there's no doubt that it is more of a guitar record.
And you know, some people maybe would prefer to hear the songs shorter but I felt no need to chop them shorter. I'm like, Why the fuck chop the stuff up when we're going to make a single anyway out of a song—it's going to get chopped up anyway for radio. For the actual record, why not have it stretch a bit? You know? If someone doesn't have the patience to listen to it then they just don't! You know but I felt no need to chop it up for radio purposes because I'm looking at it and I'm going, Really, how much radio is out there any more?
That's the exact same thing that Jack Blades said to me a couple of weeks ago when I was talking to him.
When Jack and I worked together… Jack and I were working on the other solo project that I worked on - you know I made 2 solo records after the Journey record and Jack helped me with the one with Marco and Deen… and so we were talking about it and I said, you know, what's the need to chop everything up? I don't get it.
That's what he said.
I'm like it's not like it's played on radio anymore and if they do want to play something, it's so easy to chop it up and not make it sound like it was like completely chopped off at the legs any longer: with Pro Tools there's a smooth way of doing it, where in the old days with tape, an edit was an EDIT…
…just cut it off. Cut it off a lot. I mean, we chopped down the City of Hope and we're chopping—we're ready to chop all of them.
Obviously, they need to be chopped but I just didn't feel the need.
Well, there isn't a need-you're absolutely right.
Kevin Shirley, before he left his last .02c was - I saw some stuff that he sent to Jonathan - he said, I feel there are too many guitar solos, it's too long, chop it up, and I was like, Well you could shorten stuff up, but then I said, Why??
It's a long play record; it's that type of record you know.
Oh, I'm lovin the extra guitar!
Well, like I said, it's always easy to chop later. If need be.
Here's the other big question that keeps coming up. You stated that you needed Arnel to return to the legacy sound, then there's the criticism that now this new album isn't the legacy sound! So what were you talking about?
Um…(laughs) Well, I don't know how to answer that. You know, like I said, we all need to feel like we're moving forward at one point and this is Arnel coming into his own. I mean, we can easily go back and go and write another Separate Ways - we can go back and write another Faithfully - we can go back and write another Stone in Love - you can go do that. But it's like we already have those songs.
Well, people will argue with me, well, you don't need those songs anymore - don't play them! I'd rather hear you play this! Everybody…it's a catch 22 constantly, Andrew. It's like, you know, no matter what you do, someone is saying, You should be doing this…and in the end, you need to do what you think you ought to do - not what everybody else thinks you ought to go.
We're in a Lamborghini here; we're switching gears and we're not stuck in neutral, you know what I mean?
…or first or second gear. Things are opening up! We're learning about who this new band is - with Arnel. We can…I don't think…Who knows what our next record will sound like.
You know…I have NO clue. But I can tell you that the fact that we made this record is a record that I wanted to make and everybody loved it when we were done with it and –I still LOVE it!
I still love it too.
Yeah. I think that it's a great record. It wasn't made specifically for radio - no it wasn't. Period.
Well, I'm glad…and that's exactly what Jack Blades said, “We didn't make it for radio; we just did what we wanted to!” (laughs)
Well, Jack was, before they started recording their record, we were talking about it! I'm like, man! ALL our songs are like 5, 6 minutes long! He goes, Really? And I go, YEAH! I go, Who cares??!
You know? I mean, if somebody, whoever, is listening and they don't like it because it's too long, they can always move forward - you know, go to the next track!! (laughs)
You could put out a 30 minute edited version for those that like concentration.
Like I said, Andrew, it's always easy to chop; you can't add. When you've added it from the git go, you can't add later. You can always take away.
And, all these songs can be put more in a radio friendly way to where they can be chopped down to 3½ minutes and still make sense.
Sounds good. I heard Arnel talking about Arrival, saying how much he liked the songs on that and it's still a GREAT album.
Yeah. We actually considered, at one point, Jonathan and I were talking about re-doing some of that stuff as we did with our Greatest Hits. And we felt very strongly about Arrival, too, the material –wise.
It's a great album.
Who knows, you know? Maybe we'll do something like that: maybe we'll dabble into that. We could have done more Greatest Hits 2 with this record…like the other Greatest Hits that we did with Revelation and do the same thing we did last time. We just chose not to, you know.
Well, we've definitely started something because now everybody likes the idea of re-doing a greatest hits but, once we got into it, and I realized it wasn't going to be that hard, I said, Why don't we do a full length record? You know, I want to do a new record…as well. So, a lot of people are doing that now.
Ok, so I like the idea that this is a stand-alone record it gets to stand on its own. But you're not ruling out doing some re-recordings of Arrival tracks and some other stuff at a later date?
No, I'm not opposed to that at all. I think we have great material on there, which I think…personally I think Arnel will KILL!
Not that Augeri didn't do a good job - he did! But, you know, they are 2 different guys.
Oh absolutely—very much so. You've managed to pick up singers with their own identity yet still have the Journey sound, haven't you. You've been pretty clever with that.
I think, honestly, Arnel is like…the guy. When he's not tired and he's not sick---he had a bit of some kind of chest thing going on where some of his high end went away for about 4 or 5 shows. He was really struggling—the smoke. The problem is, Andrew, is there is a lot of cigarette smoke over here.
Oh I know!
There's so much smoke in the air. I'm telling you what, when I played with Paul Rodgers, for a time, if ONE person lit up a fucking cigarette, he would leave the stage.
He would. I mean, that was his thing-he hated cigarettes. I mean, like most singers do and it was like a couple of these places we played, I felt like I inhaled a carton of cigarettes while we were on stage. I don't even know how he sang with that crap…it was very, very difficult. It got in his lungs and it took him a bit south for a second, but he's on the road to recovery right now - he sounded really great last night.
It's a different thing in Europe, isn't it - the whole smoking thing is still widely accepted, isn't it?
I told my stage manager, Rob, today I said, I want fans-across the front of the stage - not ON the stage but like just build a little platform down there. And I want fans all the way across. And he's building them for all the cigarette smoke and he's blowing all back into the audience.
(laughing) If they're gonna blow smoke up, then it's going to go right back into the audience.
Great stuff. Now when are you coming to Australia - come on!
Next year! We're supposed to come next year.
Yeah, that's what I keep hearing. Is it going to happen?
I think so! I mean, honestly! I mean, it sounds pretty solid. That's why we're doing…we're not doing 2 years to go back into the same markets.
Well, I know that there's a lot of people down here that have waited a long time for you guys to come here.
Yeah! We need to put the right package together for it. I would love to play some dates with Barnes there. With Jimmy Barnes.
You know, seeing Jonathan wrote and produced that Freight Train Heart record for him and I played on it—we could have some fun.
That's a killer record. It still is.
I know! I love the record.
It's still his best album.
I haven't heard him years but, man…what a voice. I heard he's back in Cold Chisel…that's amazing.
Anything you'd like to say in concluding, Neal?
You know what? I think the record stands on its own merit and I'm sticking with that. I think that anybody that thinks that this record is done right now is COMPLETELY wrong.
There's a lot of records that I've seen that were out there like 8 months before something even hit and so we've got a lot of stuff and a lot of different ways to go about getting this record out. And everybody said, well, it's more of a European record…well, yeah! Europeans are digging it but it doesn't mean that it's not going to happen in the States too but we actually need to get there.
We need to GET there and make some things happen. It just doesn't happen like magic, man! We've got to be seen on TV; we gotta promote it! You know?
I'm sure it will. I'm sure it will; it's a great record and it deserves it and thanks for making a record that really appeals to me! (laughs)
Thank you. I'm glad you appreciate it; there was a lot of heart and soul went into this thing: that's all I can tell you--a lot of effort.
Yeah. It shows. I think it shows. Whether you like it or not, you cannot deny that there's a whole bunch of stuff going on there.
Well, I'm glad you see it, my friend.
So, that's it for me, Neal; I'm off to bed.
Ok, Andrew. It's great talking to you. I haven't talked to you for long time.
It's been a while.
Best wishes to you and you're family.
Thank you, mate! Hopefully, I'll be able to bring them over to see a show next year.
Great! I'd love to see you.
Thanks for your time, Neal.
Thank you! Take care.
c. 2011 MelodicRock.com / Interview by Andrew McNeice