För någon vecka sedan hade jag åter igen nöjet att snacka med Jeff. Det blev bl a en hel del prat om hans nya soloplatta "Damage control", som faktiskt visade sig vara just vad titeln säger, men även snack om studioarbete, framtida arbete med Dave Meniketti, W.E.T. och ny musik.
Jeff Scott Soto: Hi, Jeff Scott Soto calling.
Hey Jeff, how are you?
JSS: I´m great! How are you?
I´m good too! Sitting here drinking a glass of wine and listening to your album.
JSS: Awesome! Sounds like a good Friday night already.
It sure does. First off. It sounds amazing. I think it´s some of the best work you´ve ever done.
JSS: I can´t thank you enough for that. That´s what I was going for for this one. I was going for to just let people know I´ve still got it. (laughs) Awesome!
There´s your classic AOR stuff and more melodic hard rock and that mix works really well and your voice sounds stronger than ever.
JSS: Thank you, man! Well honestly, and a lot of people don´t know yet and I´ve been pushing it in all the interviews I´ve been doing, that there´s a deluxe edition coming out. What you´ve got there is the 11 songs standard edition and the three songs that are missing on there, two of them are even heavier than the stuff that is considered heavy on the album. As far as I´m concerned, those three songs kinda round off the whole thing and it´s kinda like a director´s cut of the album, but it´s also the complete version of how I foresaw the entire album when I was actually putting it together. Unfortunately Frontiers had their ideas that they only wanted an eleven song edition as a standard one and they were doing me a favor by letting me do all 14 songs, but I also told them that I´m not gonna be pushing the standard edition when I talk about it. I really want people to listen to the other songs, which I think are very important. Especially one of the songs that got cut from the standard edition is a song called “Afraid to die”, which I wrote about Marcel Jacobs. Very important song and this one Is one of the heaviest things I´ve done in a while too. When they hear it or you hear it, you just go “Jesus, this should´ve been on the regular album!”.
Writing a song like that, about a friends who´s passed away, does it come easy or is it hard?
JSS: Well, it´s not so much about him. It´s more of an anti suicide song. It´s my whole perspective on when somebody gets to that level, gets to that extreme in life, that they feel that it isn´t worth it anymore and if it even save one person and changes their perspective if they´ve gotten that low… everybody gets that low in their life at some point. You´ve lost a relationship or lost your job or your health, everybody gets that moment where they feel “I wish I could die right now!”, but obviously there are others that get to the point where it actually becomes a reality for them, that they wanna take their lives and if this song can give any perspective that life is worth it, even for one person, than I´ve done my job. So it kinda deals with that side of… it´s not a preaching thing like “Don´t give up, it´s worth it!”, it´s more of kinda what I went through the first few hours when I found out that Marcel took his life and there are even some emotions in there that I put on there, because as I´m singing it and as I´m thinking of it, I really relived that memory of the day I heard about losing him.
Right. The title then, “Damage control”, what´s the story behind that? Did that come early on or did it get changed around?
JSS: It actually came midway recording the album. When I heard the song itself, “Damage control”, it kinda had a Talisman kinda vibe to it when we were working on it and when I put the lyrics together for it and just when I said the line “This is damage control”, It was almost like I was exclaiming that not only what it was about, but when I said the actual line “This is damage control.”, I thought “That sounds more like I´m presenting the album. It sounds like I´m saying this album is damage control.”. The original name of the album was something else and when I exclaimed that line in the song I said “I have to change the title of the album because this is damage control.”. The song title and a lot of the songs on the album have a lot to do with things in life where you have to perform damage control and you actually have to step up and fix something that you made wrong. It can be anything from the state of the world we´re in today which “Never ending war” is about. It´s about we´re the world is… everything from the US to Europe and all the crazies from war to famine and everything that we´re dealing with in today´s day and age compared to 20 years ago. In every aspect of life we´re performing some kinda damage control to something that we´ve caused or something that we´ve actually damaged. And in a tongue in cheek kinda way it´s also a way to state that I´m performing damage control on my own career based on the last album I released, which was “Beautiful mess” and “Beautiful mess”, no pun intended, ended up being a mess as far as sales and as far as kinda putting a little damper on my career, my solo career. I guess in a tongue in cheek way, even though damage control meant something else, this album as a rock album, is kinda performing damage control to the beautiful mess I left behind, is kind of a strange way to put it. I´m very proud of that album, but unfortunately my fans didn´t really see it as an album they wanted to hear as a Jeff Scott Soto album. This album is basically the damage control to fixing that little mess that I left behind.
I never thought of you as out of action and you´re certainly in action now with this album. The album cover with a picture of you making a fist, was that something that came up during the photo session or was it planned?
JSS: No, we were doing the regular photo session and I had just put on that t-shirt and he (photographer) was saying “ I need to check the lighting.” And everything we did was outdoors and I was facing a particular direction and the wind was blowing the wrong way and he goes “Nah, I´m not getting it here.”, so I switched position so the wind was blowing the right way and he goes “Just give me a few poses! I need to make sure the light is ok.”. I didn´t just want to stand there and put my hand in my pockets, so I just did the fist thing and the picture came out so strong and so cool and it wasn´t calculated at all. It was just one of those things where I was goofing around and of course when I sent all the photos to the guy that does all my artwork, he was trying to come up with a concept that was strong enough to actually portray the title “Damage control” and he said “Man, there´s one sticking to me. Every time I´m working on something else, I keep going back to this one. What do you think?” and that was the one that… it stuck in my mind the first day I saw 20 different proofs, that´s the one I went back to, so it was unanimous.
Cool! What was it like working with Dave Meniketti? I love his voice and the stuff he´s done in Y&T. How did you hook up?
JSS: Well, I´ve known Dave for quite a few years now and he´s become a very good friend through the years and it was actually just by chance. We were actually mixing the album and it was probably more than three quarters done and that particular track “Bonafide” was one of the last ones being done, because I actually programmed the drums on it and it was one of the songs I wanted to play everything on. It´s kinda a self indulgent track because it´s a ballad and it didn´t have any extreme musical parts or anything too challenging so I decided I was gonna play everything including the guitar solo and in the end I wasn´t too crazy about the way my guitar playing sounded, but also I happened to see Y&T in London while I was mixing the album and Mike Vanderhule, the drummer of Y&T came to me and said “Man, I so wish I could´ve played on this album.” And I said “Well bro, I have so many people in line that I wanted to work with and they´re already sending me stuff and I would´ve loved to have you on it. It´s actually one track that I did the program drums on. It´s a ballad and if you want, I can actually change it and put real drums on it?” and he said “Dude, I really wanna play!” and as soon as he heard it, he really wanted to play it. I said “You have to do it quickly!” and he was literally leaving from this tour going home and he dove right into the studio and sent me the drum tracks for it back in San Francisco, because I was still in Europe and when he sent it to me he goes “Dude, you know who would sound great doing the solo on this song? You should have Dave to do the solo!” and I go “You think he would do it?” and Mike goes “Well, I know he´s ill and he´s probably tired and he´ll give you every excuse in the book, but I´m sure if you´ll ask him, he´ll do it.” And as soon as I asked him it was like “When do you need it?”. I knew he was ill and tired and jetlagged and all the excuses, but he said “I´ll do it as soon as possible, when do you need it by?” and I said “Well, I needed it last week.”. (laughs) He gave it to me the next day and it was exactly what the doctor ordered. It´s one of those things you know, when you grow up having posters and magazines and albums of your favorite people and then 27 years later, they´re in your phone book, they´re in your contacts as your friend and it´s still a strange thing to grasp that you were once just this 12 year old kid who was just a fan of these people and now all of a sudden they´re playing on your album and you´re hanging out with them and jamming with them live. That´s what´s so cool about music and about the rock world, that it can turn around like that as you get older and as you actually pursue this dream. It´s a dream for me to have Dave Meniketti on my album finally and actually say that we worked together.
You should do something more! You two would work well together.
JSS: (laughs) I think we are gonna take it to the next step next time around and we´re probably gonna write something together, maybe even duet. I would love to actually go to the next step further with him.
Excellent! He´s gotta be one of the good guys in the business? I´ve met him a few times and he seems like a really down to earth and cool guy.
JSS: And everything you saw is exactly what I see. The way artists treat the general public or the media, they have different ways of treating different people and especially their peers. It might be like “Oh, I gotta be nice to this guy because he´s a big rock star.”. Meniketti is exactly the same to the mailman as he is to the Pope, you know. Everybody in his eyes are equal and that´s what I love about this guy.
As you mentioned about your album “Beautiful mess”, how do you look upon releasing albums these days? It is a difficult business and a difficult industry when it comes to sales and so on. I recently read about a new collection with Anthrax and it sold 64 copies in its first week. You do all this work and put your soul and heart into it and then you really don´t know what´s gonna happen to it.
JSS: And that´s the whole thing. I´m not gonna stop recording and I´m not gonna stop creating the music that I personally love that I wanna share with the world, just because I´m worried that nobody´s gonna buy it or appreciate it. All I can do is keep doing what I do and always have done and at this point… it´s kinda a running joke when somebody says “Oh, you´re so old school!”. At this stage I´m not old school, I´m just old. (laughs) I´ve been doing this for almost 30 years and it´s kinda hardto change my perception in why I got into the industry and why I do what I do and just because the industry evolves and change or whatever, I still do what I do because I love it and I know there are people that do enjoy it too and I can´t worry about all the bullshit in between. I can be thrilled that I´m still here 27 years later, doing what I always dreamed of doing and I still have a label supporting me that´s giving me money to go create new things and I still have an outlet to go out and play live. Basically, this is the second half of my career, this is phase two as I see it. The first phase was all the education and learning and all the stages of getting your feet wet and people knowing who you are and I passed all that. I might not be a household name and selling out arenas on my own, but I have a respect from my peers and my fans and even the media out there, that I can actually now enjoy everything that comes with all the hard work that I´ve done through the years. That´s how I see it. I gotta put a positive into any negatives out there, because if I live off negatives I´ll just live in a cave.
Are you an avid record buyer yourself?
JSS: Not so much anymore. Maybe partially because I´m not so excited about what´s out there musically these days, but I think part of that too is that I´m a bit sheltered musically because I´m always working on something new right after I´m finishing something. I mean, I literally just hot off the press mixing my album and I´m doing interviews for it and we already started working on a new W.E.T. album, so for me to be listening to other things and new bands and new music, is distracting for me when I´m trying to actually write and create. I don´t wanna listen to other things and accidentally borrow or steal from them. I wanna actually just concentrate on what I´m working on and then when I´m done with that, I´m on to a tour and doing something where I have to learn songs and concentrate on remembering songs. (laughs) I´ve got such a catalog of songs that when I´m doing things live it´s impossible to go “Oh my god, I can´t remember lyrics I wrote a few months ago, much less six years ago. I´m always having to think and put my thoughts and my concentration on other things, that I don´t really get the chance to go out there and dig out and seek out new music and really enjoy what´s going on out there. The few things I have, I really love, like Black Country Communion and Chickenfoot. I love the new Van Halen album! There´s a few exceptions, but for the most part I´m not really looking at and digging out new music, which is kinda answering the other thing you´re talking about where Anthrax sold a small amount of albums, I guess I´m kinda one of those that´s not really helping the cause so to speak, but I´m contributing to the cause and I´m out there putting more music out there. I´m trying to find the balance but it´s difficult. I´m a working man! (laughs)
Speaking of Van Halen, have you heard the new album?
JSS: Absolutely and I think it´s great! I know already because they dug into the archives of old material and they realized “We don´t think and write the way we used to and we used to write some great shit, so why not take some of the great shit nobody´s ever heard of and resurrect it?”. I think it´s a brilliant idea and I think today, if Marcel Jacob was still alive, we´d probably be digging into some old Talisman stuff so people can go “Wow, that sounds like the old stuff!”.
You didn´t get to go to the dress rehearsals at the Forum?
JSS: Unfortunately no, I´m here in London.
You mentioned W.E.T. Have you started working on another album? That was another great album.
JSS: We are six songs deep and we´ve got another six or seven we´re working on. The new album will definitely be done and mixed and turned in before the summer and Frontiers will probably release it later this year or the beginning of next year, so I get a chance to promote my thing. They definitely wanna give “Damage control” a chance and they´re stepping on their own legs if they´re putting things out with me on them. They´re gonna space out accordingly but because I´m so busy and I´ve got so many things going on, they wanna be able to have it in the can, so we´re working on it now and it sounds amazing!
Nice! What else have you got going on? Any other projects happening in 2012 that you can tell me about?
JSS: When is this interview coming up?
It should be up within 2-3 weeks.
JSS: Then I should be able to talk about this news. I´m not supposed to discuss it yet until it comes from the official stages, but Roger Taylor from Queen has got this new show in the US called “The Queen Extravaganza”, that he´s sponsoring and it´s an all new band with three singers and it´s a huge production with video screens of the band in their heyday and the new band is basically playing the Queen songs mixed with these videos. Stunning visuals, lights and productions and lasers and it´s an amazing show that´s being put together and I´m one of the three singers. It´s one of the reasons why we´re doing the W.E.T. album now, because I have to be in the US for about four or five weeks of rehearsals in April and the thing launches in June, I believe, but I can´t really talk much about it because Roger wants to make the proper presentation of it, but I think that announcement is gonna come out in the next week and a half or so, so it should be alright by the time this thing comes up.
JSS: That´s gonna keep me busy through the summer and in the fall I´m gonna gear up with my band and do my own solo tour for “Damage control” and depending on if I get that done on time or not, I might be doing another Trans Siberian Orchestra winter tour, so I´m pretty much booked all the way in till January next year.
Man, that sounds good!
JSS: That´s the reason why we gotta get this W.E.T. album done, because otherwise we wouldn´t be able to start this until January next year.
In between all things, do you do a lot of studio work for other musicians on their albums? Do you get asked a lot?
JSS: Here and there, but I mean, a lot of that stuff, especially with the internet and home studios, a lot of that stuff takes literally a couple of hours. It´s not like the old days where you had to learn the song, you had to rehearse it, you had to go into the studio and spend hours blah, blah, blah. Everything´s so immediate. If I get offered a session, they basically send me the mp3, I say it sounds great, they send me the track and within 20-25 minutes I´ve knocked it out in my own home studio and send them the tracks by internet. It´s so easy now, but I´m trying to cut down on that kinda stuff because it starts lessening the value of my name. A lot of people I´m sure will hire me thinking “Well, if I get Jeff on this, we´re gonna sell a few thousand more than we normally would if we didn´t have him.”, but that´s gonna start making a few thousand less of my fans going “Well, I´ve got too much of him.” and these people have spent too much money to get me on their thing blah, blah, blah, so I´d rather there be more of a quality thing instead of a quantity thing going on.
Of course. What about Sweden then? Any plans at all?
JSS: You know what, thankfully I´ve got somebody working the angles out there and getting me press in Sweden for this new album, which I´m hoping, especially with the exposure I´m getting from W.E.T., hopefully people will now listen to this album knowing it´s a hard rock album and knowing there´s another W.E.T. album and I´ve got this kinda refueled excitement of coming back to Sweden, because I would absolutely love to come back and tour the mother country like I used to back in the day. Sweden´s always been a second home for me because of Yngwie and Talisman and it´s a pity because every time I do a solo tour it´s one of the places I have to bypass because it´s so expensive to get everybody over and it´s usually maybe two or three places that are interested, but it´s not enough money to cover the expenses so I´m really hoping that there´s a little more anticipation this time and I can get the band to do a few shows in Sweden and make it worth our while financially.
I´m looking forward to it! Again, a really good album and it´s always a pleasure talking to you Jeff. Last time I talked to you was in November 2010 and you were in Boise, Idaho.
JSS: Oh, I was getting ready for TSO.
Exactly and we talked about the Bee Gees.
JSS: Right, right, that´s right. I do remember that. (laughs) Cool man. Good talking to you again!
Good talking to you and good luck with everything Jeff!
JSS: Thank you bro!