Intervju med Jeff Scott Soto.
För tredje gången har jag ringt upp den alltid så trevlige Jeff Scott Soto. Han har en av de absolut bästa rösterna i branschen och har jobbat med allt och alla.
Efter att först ha misstagit mig om att det snöat i LA, baserat på en bild från Carmine Appices Facebook, berättar Jeff att nämnde trummis faktiskt bor på samma gata som honom.
Jeff är just nu aktuell med W.E.T. som snart släpper en förbannat bra platta, men vi kom även att bl a snacka om TSO, en kommande e-bok och den lille men store mannen Prince.
How are you doing Jeff?
JSS: I´m doing great man. A little tired, but that´s all par for the course. It´s a crazy time at the moment and it´s my fault for multitasking and thinking I can be Superman at the same time.
First of all, congratulations on a great sounding W.E.T. album!
JSS: Thank you man! I appreciate that.
The sound and production is just splendid. There´s one track that stands out for me and that´s “Bad boy”.
JSS: Awesome! It´s funny because that song almost didn´t make it on the album because the record company hated it.
JSS: We actually wanted to open the album with it because it´s such a strong rocker type of thing and we didn´t wanna open the album with more of a commercial song, but we lose those battles when it comes to the sequencing of the album, sadly. As far as we´re concerned, we´re happy that it actually made the cut and was able to stay on the album.
Strange. I love that song!
JSS: Yeah and so did we and it´s just amazing to me how many different opinions and different favorites you get from different people. You just never know. It´s one of those things where a song can be somebody´s absolute worst pick and somebody´s favorite on an album and vice versa. Some people will hate one of the ballads or one of the songs they chose a s a single. Who knows anymore? (laughs)
True. What were their reason for not liking it?
JSS: I don´t know. They never really gave one. They felt maybe that it wasn´t strong enough. They kinda felt that way with a lot of the heavier songs. I think they were hoping that the album would be more mainstream and that´s not what we´re all about. Even on the first album, there are bits on the album that are commercial and mainstream, but they´re still quite heavy as far as the guitars and the overall riff and the groove. We try to find a nice balance of being able to come across as a heavy band without sounding too mainstream and too AOR. I think it´s a nice balance because you still get that kinda commercial feel with the keyboards and the choruses and all that, but you still also have the balls behind it.
Absolutely. I think you´ve done very well. What was it like working on this album compared to the first one? Was it harder or easier coming up with stuff?
JSS: Well, it was easier in the sense that we had a foundation to go by. Having the first album, we kinda knew where we were gonna take it from, but on the other hand we didn´t wanna repeat ourselves. The first album was more individually based, the ideas and the overall songs came about individually, whereas on the second album we wanted to do it more collaboratively and to make sure that we were all involved in it. That´s one of the biggest differences between the two albums. There was a big pressure at the beginning, "How are we gonna follow up with this since there was so much hype and buzz from the first album? How are we gonna match this?". We finally just had to calm each other down and say “Ok, hang on a second! We made the first album without thinking too hard on it and we have to go into the second album the same way. We just have to do what we do and let it just come together on its own as opposed to thinking too much.”. I think that´s what we did.
Cool. I know you filmed the show in Stockholm. Have you taken a look at the footage?
JSS: I haven´t seen the footage yet and I just heard the actual audio for the first time yesterday, but damn it sounds good! When you´re doing it and especially since this band has no real history yet as a band, we don´t know what´s going on when we´re up there. We´re just kinda looking at each other going “I hope this is good and I hope we´re getting through this ok?”. It´s not until we actually get to settle down and let some time pass and then we listen back and go “Damn, this is actually pretty good!”. Overall we´re extremely happy with it and I can´t wait to see the footage that´s gonna match the audio that they´re starting to mix now.
Is this just gonna be a DVD release or is there gonna be a live CD version too?
JSS: I think the plans are, and maybe I´m talking ahead of myself here, maybe it´s something they wanna be able to discuss, but I think the idea is to release the DVD with the audio CD included. I think they learned their lesson and I actually came up with the idea on my last live album and DVD. I told them “I think it´s silly to put out a live audio CD separately. They can just mark it up a tiny bit and put the audio CD in there for people who do wanna listen to it.. I don´t think there´s enough people that wanna just put the live show in their car or rip it to their iPods, enough to actually sell a CD of it. But I think it´ll be a nice little extra to put it into the actual DVD.”. They went “No, no, no we´re gonna sell it separately blah, blah, blah…” and I think they didn´t sell too many. Maybe enough DVD´s but not enough audio. This time around we´re gonna do it this way, but there´s also some additional bonus tracks that were left over from this album and they´re gonna end up on that audio CD. They were songs that we were very happy with and felt very strongly about, but they didn´t make the cut.
You also shot a video when you were over here. Out in the cold, right?
JSS: (laughs) Yes we did. We actually shot two of them, but the second one is still being worked on right now. The first one was “Learn to live again” and man it was cold! Not only that. The original idea was for me to be landing on Friday evening and then we´d start filming around noon or something on Saturday, until they called me two days before I was leaving, saying “Well Jeff, sadly all the places we were gonna be filming and the locations etc, fell through and the only place where we can do this is gonna take us four hours to drive to and we have to leave at seven o´clock in the morning.”, so I literally landed and got settled in my room in Stockholm around 11.30 at night and then had to be up and ready by seven o´clock in the morning to start driving for four hours to that industrial cold barn.
The rock and roll lifestyle.
JSS: Welcome to Stockholm! (laughs)
Doing a video, is that mostly the record company pushing for it? is there really a need for it? It only gets shown on YouTube I guess?
JSS: Exactly. I just look at it as a little extra promotion item and as you said, it´s not gonna be played on video channels and such, but you never know. I mean, there´s still bands out there doing videos, hard rock videos and such and there are still outlets out there playing these things. Of course, with a little video budget, there´s very little that we can up with as far as ideas, locations and how far we can go with it but we just tried to make the best of it with what we had. As you said, it´s only gonna really apiece people on YouTube, but there´s a lot of people on there that might check out the band even accidentally than would know of the band and that gives us a little more influence I guess out there.
What are your plans right now? I was reading on your Facebook page and I kinda got the feeling that you had some time off. What are your plans for the next couple of months?
JSS: I wish. (laughs) I´m collaborating on a couple of things with several people and I´ll leave that open because I´m constantly working on things with people, but I´m basically working on a couple of session type things. I´m working on something that´s another special new CD item that we´re gonna be selling just on my upcoming European tour, so I´ve gotta get that done. I leave in a week and a half to Tampa to go work with Trans Siberian Orchestra in the studio and then when I get back here, it´s just enough time to pack and get ready to go do my European tour. As much as I would´ve loved to come home and just put my feet up for two months, it just hasn´t happened. And of course doing loads of interviews for the W.E.T. album. (laughs)
The TSO album, what time frame for a release are we looking at there?
JSS: I have no idea! They march to the beat of their own drum. When it´s ready and when it´s done, they have their own agenda and they pull me in when they need me and I basically walk away from it not knowing when it will see the light of day. At this point it´s anybody´s guess. I know they´re trying to push things forward a little faster than they have in the past because the last album took something like four years to get out there. I think they´re gonna do it a lot quicker this time around. I´m not privy to that information. I go in when they need me and it´s a great situation to just kinda be a part of.
A thing like that, do you get the music well in advance to listen to or do you hear it when you get there?
JSS: I get it when I get there because they don´t work traditionally. It´s not just “Here´s the song and here are your lyrics! Learn it and then when you come in we´ll see.”. With them it´s more of a story behind it and it´s all about getting into the character. They don´t even want you to hear it on your own at first because they don´t want you to fall into the wrong character or the wrong personality of what they´re gonna be pulling out of you to do the actual song. For them it´s best to listen to it together, explain what the story´s about, explain what the lyrics are about and then put you in into the character that´s gonna be singing that right there and then. That way you capture all that raw emotion right there.
Even though you´re at the level you´re at and all the stuff you´ve done through the years, do you ever feel pressure coming into a situation like that? You´re supposed to perform at your best and come up with stuff.
JSS: No, because I wouldn´t put myself in a situation that I knew I couldn´t do. Usually the people that are hiring me or pulling me into situations like that, know I can do it. It´s a confidence on both ends and whether it takes 20 minutes to do or a month to do, we know we´re gonna get it because we have the confidence in each other. I eliminate that pressure just based on that alone. I know I´ll eventually get it. They don´t want me to sing it the way Jeff Scott Soto would sing it and they don´t want me to sing it the way Jeff Scott Soto sings for Journey would sing it. They want me to sing it the way Jeff Scott Soto would sing it for Trans Siberian Orchestra and that´s something that´s a challenge for me because it puts me into another stratosphere career wise and another challenge for me as opposed to what I would naturally do if you give me a song and I start humming along to it and then sang it in the studio. It´s a completely different animal.
Right. Last time I talked to you was at the beginning of last year and we talked a bit about Dave Meniketti. Anymore plans on that? We talked about you wanting to take that collaboration further and maybe do an album or something?
JSS: Yeah, you know, every time I see him or see those guys, they´re as busy or busier than me. It´s all really a matter of timing and at this point I´ve got my hands full, so I´m not looking to fill my plate anymore. If a situation is presented to me, than I can look at it, but at this point I´m not actually looking to go find more work. (laughs) My back´s against the wall as it is.
That´s good though.
JSS: It´s a great thing! I´m not complaining in any way.
As I said last time, I see you and Meniketti as being two of the really great voices out there and you worked with him on your latest solo album.
JSS: Yeah, he did a solo on one of the songs.
You and him singing together would be pretty damn cool.
JSS: I love the guy and I have a huge admiration for him, both musically and personally and I would love nothing more if we could do something together at some point.
You´ve worked with a lot of people, different bands and artists, is there anyone you´ve always wanted to work with that would be a dream come true?
JSS: Yeah and I don´t know if it would be something that I´m doing in my own personal career, I think it´s more of a bucket list, but I would love to work with Prince. That guy is, as far as I´m concerned, beyond genius as far as what he´s left us in terms of music and creativity. Just as a personality of not having any boundaries, any walls or any barriers musically, he was one that just took risks and especially going against the grain of what people expected of him. Just when you think “Ok, this is what he´s gonna be doing now.”, he turns and does something else and he was able to make it successful. I´ve kinda followed those footsteps in a lot of ways and it has bit me in the foot sometimes because I´m not at the level of that and I don´t have the stature or even the management team or the kinda people behind me that can help kinda force feed that situation. If I experiment too much, my fans will go “Eh, I don´t think so!”. (laughs) But he´s very inspiring in that sense and I would love to see what would come up collaborating with him.
Writing music, do you have to set yourself in a certain mode and sit down to write or do you get ideas flowing through your head constantly?
JSS: These days I don´t have the constant flow of things unless I´m actually working on something particular. It´s mainly because my plate is so full and the next thing I´m working on is coming up immediately after I´m done with the present thing I´m working on. It´s not like I have two or three months where I´m not doing anything or I´m not doing anything musically and then I´m just gonna say “Yeah, today I´m gonna write a song or I have an idea that I wanna put down.”. I really only come up with ideas or start working on ideas when it´s gonna be for something. It´s just because I´m so swamped with work and there´s no real down time anymore. Again, it´s a good thing and a bad thing. It would be great to just keep churning out songs and keep creative, but on the other hand I just don´t have the time or the mental capacity for it at the moment.
Doing all this work, is that something that has increased over the last couple of years?
JSS: Yeah, it certainly increased. I´ve gotten more awareness in the past 10 years than what I had in my 20 years previous, when I was starting my career. I´m not one to just rest on my laurels. I don´t just say “Well ok, I´ve had a nice run here and I´m just gonna sit back and collect on it.”. As far as I´m concerned, when the iron is hot you gotta keep striking it. Even if they get too busy, I realize that that´s the best time to keep striking it because once you walk away and they forget about you, it´s kinda hard to get back in there.
What was the Queen Extravaganza thing like?
JSS: It was a lot of fun and it was a great experience and I´m glad I did it, but it wasn´t for me as far as continuing to do it annually because there are too many other things that I´m already committed to that I still have on my plate and that I want to do. It was just a fun experience and a great thing to do. It was a great band and it was an honor to work alongside with Roger and making it happen. In reality it´s a cover band and I have other things I need to be doing besides doing cover songs for months on.
Is it supposed to be an annual thing?
JSS: Well, they just finished the tour last week, I believe, and I think they´re going back out in the summertime at some point, so they plan on it being a regular thing and they´re planning on taking it to Europe. It´s gonna continue going. I think at some point I´d like to do it again and do another run with them but if people just expect the lineup that is already there… again, if you walk away from something and they´ve forgotten about you, there´s no point in coming back. We´ll see.
SAS then? Is that like a covers band?
JSS: It´s a covers band but the band is basically a big revolving door of singers and Spike, the keyboard player from Queen, he brings in different singers from different walks of life and when he books a show, he´s got like six singers in the course of the evening and they´re basically singing hits or things that people know them from. The band is essentially a covers band covering the songs of the artist that they hire. I don´t really have the same name as some of the people they bring up on there, so I end up doing a lot of Queen songs through the course of the night just through my association with Quuen.
Didn´t you do a gig in Sweden last year?
JSS: Yeah, we did a gig in Gothenburg. A corporate gig.
Is it a lot of corporate gigs?
JSS: Oh god yeah! When I was living primarily in London, I did a lot more with them. We´d go all over Europe and even in the US. We did a gig in Iceland and we were all over the place.
JSS: Well, you don´t fly half way around the world unless they´re well paid. (laughs) You can get shitty paid gigs in your backyard. (laughs)
So true. Final thing. Have you ever thought of putting together the story of your life in a book or something like that?
JSS: Yes and no. I would rather there be more of a story to fill if I´m doing an autobiography, I don´t think there´s enough interest. If I did something like “The Dirt” or something, you have to have interest out there to even get publishers involved to make it a real book. At this point, what we have done is there´s a guy in Germany that released kind of a chronicle of my career and it was so well done in the sense of digging up all the demos and sessions and all of the things that I´ve done in my life and put it in this book, but it was only in German and it was a limited release. We took the idea of what he did and we had it translated to English and we filled all the missing pieces and all the things that weren´t in the book and it turned into quite the undertaking actually. We´ve (Jeff with tour manager) been working on it for the past three years and we´re possibly releasing it this year finally. Every year I get something new and good and fun and interesting to add to it, but what we´re planning on doing is to release it just as an E-book. If we release it that way we can always update it, rerelease the update. That way we can keep it an ongoing thing, but it´s gonna be much more than a Wikipedia where they only put the main things in. It´s unbelievable when I look at all the things that I´ve done on there. The book is huge! But again, it´s more of a chronicle of my career. It does have some stories and there´s a lot of additions from people I´ve worked with. I´ve got people all through the walks of my career putting little portions in it. Everything from high school bands to whatever. It´s really cool in that sense, but it´s not an autobiography where I talk about the affairs and drug abuse and all that kinda shit. (laughs)
Looking forward to it. Have you heard that Yngwie is writing his own book?
JSS: I think somebody told me about it. That´ll be interesting to see, how much he mentions me. (laughs)
He did a radio show here, but didn´t really tell anything and I think a lot of people were really disappointed.
JSS: Too bad. I´d love to do something like that! I think that´s next on my bucket list thing, to someday get into deejaying or having my own show or something. Everybody always tells me “What a great voice you have! You have such a voice for broadcasting.” and I´d love to do it. There´s nothing more fun than to shoot the shit and talk about music and talk about funny situations in life. I think it would be great.
Absolutely! Jeff Scott Soto, the radio DJ.
JSS: (laughs) Well, Ian Haugland made a great career out of it. I was actually talking to Ian about it when I was in Stockholm a few weeks ago. He was telling me how he got into it and I said “Man, I gotta get into that!”.
Definitely. Thank you so much Jeff. Always a pleasure talking to you.
JSS: You got it brother! Thank you.