Unless I’m doing it with Yngwie I really dont have any interest in doing it – An interview with Jeff Scott Soto

Mr Jeff Scott Soto. A man, legend, within the metal and rock world who has had an almost 40 years long career in bands like Talisman, Yngwie Malmsteens Rising Force, Journey and recently Sons Of Apollo, has just released an album where he revisits his past and do so by inviting friends to remake the songs that carries his legacy

You have a new solo album out. Do you have any personal favourites on the album, or songs that didn’t make it on this one?

You know what. I let Frontiers Records choose the majority of the songs. I still believe in the idea of letting the label be a part of the project, having them choose the songs, approve the songs, approve the mixes all that because these days there are so many artists saying “leave me alone I don’t wanna hear from anybody! You are not gonna hear demos, you’re gonna get the record – you gonna love it”
I still believe that the label is behind you if they help you with the mission to complete the record. They are gonna be behind you pushing the record for promotion. I just want them to be happy about everything I do for them so I let them choose the majority (85 %) of the song titles and the group were gonna be tapping for this first version of something I hope gonna become a regular thing.
So it was easy in that term, I just let them run with the songs they wanted me to do. Some things I disagreed with and changed them to other songs. For the most part no! Every song we selected
to do on this first version we choose and it became eleven songs in the end. As far as stand out I got to go back, I really gotta go back to the first two songs that we released as singles, because you know, “Don’t Let It End” was the very beginning of my professional career, I was still a kid myself, I was still trying to find my voice , trying to make a name for myself so I reflect on that song and that era as my humble beginning. I love the idea of going back to that almost 40 years later and resurrecting something that was the beginning of my career.

And it was also the reason I choose Dino Jelusić to sing with me because he is now the new and next generation of that music and everything we did almost 40 years ago. He is the next version of that so I wanna be a part of his growth and in people discovering who he is as a singer, as an artist so that Is one of the reasons I choose him, and the other song I have to say is “Coming Home” because anybody who knows my career, my life or influences know how very important Steve Perry was in the creation of me as a singer and as an artist and when I wrote that Soul Sirkus song with Neal Schon I really tried to make it a Journey song, I knew, doing that song on a duet album it was no way I could make Steve Perry do it with me so the next best thing was to get Deen (Castronovo) to do it with me, because you know. If I can´t get Perry- Deen is the next call.

Speaking of Dinos vocals. I was impressed by him. I am gonna see Whitesnake in May next year. Is he a member of the band or what’s up with that?

I think its touring and a lot of people confuse what role he exactly has. They see him as a frontman, as a singer.
So is David Coverdale gonna be sitting in a chair in front of the audience watching Dino sing his songs?. No Dino is joining the band to be another utility in the band
, whether is playing Keyboards, playing guitars or the high backing vocals. Basically rounding off their sound. They already have such a great sound: Michael Devon is such a great singer. Reb (Beach) and Joel (Hoekstra) can sing backup. They have such a rounded badass core. Dino is just gonna put the cherry on top of that core.

Speaking of ”Don´t Let It End”. Ever thought of doing a Rising Force tour? Are you allowed to do such thing?

There are no boundaries or legal things that prevents me from doing it but i really don´t have any need or desire to do it because there is not really a demand for this. I always try to go by the demands of what people want from me and my career and for the most part I don’t wanna force something for the sake of try to make money from it. It would be fun to revisit all those songs and everything but to be honest with you unless I’m doing it with Yngwie I really don’t have any interest in doing it on my own. It’s the same thing with Talisman, we are lying dormant right now doing shows here and there every few years but I am not really interested in having ”Jeff Scott Sotos Talisman”, I think it’s silly! I’d rather write songs on my solo albums that reflects the Talisman vibe and the Talisman catalogue and legacy than go out there and play those songs as a cover band, it’s not interesting for me right now. Of course if there was a massive offering and someone says “Were gonna give you a lot of money to do something like this and you can go out on tour for 6 months” and it would be a huge thing!” of course I would consider it. But there are no demands for that. Nobody is knocking at my door for this so I am just gonna keep doing what I feel is best for me right now.

There is not even a demand in Sweden for this

No, nothing. I mean, the legacy is getting older and we are getting older and in the next generation you have bands like Eclipse and H.E.A.T. and all the bands that came out of Sweden. They are the next generation of what we did so many years ago. Let those guys have their time. Its a wonderful memory, its a stepping stone in my life and my career. I would rather continuing moving ahead and at some point if there is interesting in doing a catalogue tour of course I would consider it but I would never come up with it for the sake of makin a dollar! In your case the kronor.

Was it hard for you to fit Erik (Gronvall) into a song without it sounding too much Eclipse or W.E.T.?

No it was very easy. Every time I do a W.E.T. album or hanging with the guys or preparing for a tour or just even driving in the car with Erik, the type of music he listens to doesn’t really reflect on the music he is doing and its the same with me. I don’t really listen to a lot of hard rock or metal. I listen to more soul music and RnB. Basically the opposite of what I am doing in my career. Erik loves rock, hardrock and rock n´roll like old school AC/DC, he likes punk, he likes the simple stuff, the stuff you put your fist in the air and bang your head to. He loves that kind of stuff and I always heard him singing that kind of style and “Livin the life” is such a driving rock n roll kind of song and I thought his voice would be perfect on this because it doesn’t have to reflect, If I chose a Talisman song it would be too obvious. You could hear the influences of Talisman on the W.E.T. songs. I wanted to choose a song that would take him out of his normal comfort zone and what he is doing in his career but also give him something that is comfortable and the kind of stuff he loves and listen to already.

Glad to see that you have Mats Leven on the album.

I have a copy of his record he did recently, he was working on that on the TSO tour (Jeff is probably referring to the Skyblood album) so I got to hear the demos that he was working on and he is just amazing. On this album I choose the people I am closest to or having an association with and who have an association with Frontiers records. He is the only one who hasn’t got an association with Frontiers but my association with Mats is that he used to sing with Yngwie and he even sang for Talisman for a short time and Gus G and of course Trans Siberian Orchestra so I am so tied in with Mats that its crazy. I really wanted him on this album so why not choose a song that was originally on a Swedish release (Humanimal) so it all made sense.

”Believe In Me” is a total favourite of mine. But ”I’ll be waiting” the first time around i thought it sounded slower than the original. Is it me or is it just to suite Alirio?

You are used to it the way we do it live
when sounds like a freight train coming but its exactly the same tempo as the original version. When my drummer Edu was sending me the drums he didn’t have the musical references to go by so he was tracking the drums based from the original release. But when we do it live it sounds like ”Click track? What click track?”

Calling All Girls” from the first Eyes album is another song I like. Should be a standard in your live set. Such a brilliant sing-along song.

It’s probably would be but its such a motherfucker to sing. It starts high and it only gets higher and I find the lyrical content just a little dated. When we were writing lyrics in the 80s it was all about the parties and the chicks and all that stuff and to be singing that stuff in my 50s seems a bit sad.

Did anyone who you asked to be on the record have a second opinion on being on it or was it as you said friends of yours and friends of Frontiers?

I made a list of people, friends and people I knew might say yes to do this and there were a few leftovers and I didn’t get the time because I had more singers than I had songs. This is where I first got the idea of calling it ”Volume One” because if I can make this a regular series of things: I have so many ideas of singers and people I like to do future version of this with, that’s where the idea of calling it ”Volume One” came from. I am basically and psychologically telling people ”Hey?! You wanna hear volume 2,3,15 you need to buy Volume one first to show that youre interested in it.

I wrote down a list of singers, but when I saw the songs I was kind of like a casting director making a movie or a TV show. They find the right actor or actress based on the role so I looked at each title – I thought of the melodies, I thought of the range, I thought of the feeling then I just started crossing the line across one singer to one song. It looked like a jigsaw puzzle of which singer would work. There were other things that would work on certain songs but the ones I put on the first choice, every single one ended up on the record.

Axel Rudi Pell vs Yngwie Malmsteen. What’s the difference or similarities to those two guitarists?

They are very different in terms of skills and the style of music it´s the obvious. Axel got the very traditional German hard rock vibe to him. I don’t even call it heavy metal. Both of them are extremely influenced by Ritchie Blackmore but you hear more of that in Axels music than in Yngwies. Yngwie is more Baroque and classically oriented but working with them is the biggest difference because working with Axel: he wants your input, he wants you to be you in the actual songs. The bottom line is that you work with Axel and with Yngwie you work for him.

You were a short time in Journey. I for one is not a fan of the band I must say but can you tell us a bit about your time in that band?

I am the biggest fan of Journey so that was a dream come true for me. To spend all of my teenage years singing that catalogue in my car, shower, parties with friends. That was a dream come true actually being on stage with the actual guys singing those songs. It was a great moment in my life and my career and I tell people all the time it would have been two reasons I wouldn’t have be in the band now if I wasn’t fired. One was that the catalogue would have killed my range, my voice eventually because its so difficult to sing. To get through your 20s 30s or maybe your 40s is much easier than to sing it in your 50s.
And the other reason is maybe after a couple of years I would have looked at the situation saying ”
This is just a tribute band for me, this is just singing someone elses legacy. I wanna go back and sing on my own”. I can make albums with Journey and release singles but nothing will compare or compete with everything they did before so the only way for people to know who I am as a singer, as a creator, as a producer is for me to continue on my own path.

Going back to what we spoke about in terms of age and what songs you cant sing nowadays. I go back to David Coverdale still singing”Still of the night”.

Yes there are not a lot of people who can and I admit to that its impossible for me to do
a lot of my catalogue now unless we tune it down or I don’t sing the notes I did on the record. But there are ways to get around that. But a song like ”Still of the night” is such a popular song around the world so he has to do it. Whatever amount of voice he´s got that night he has to do it because its expected. Nobody expect me to do a song like ”Calling All girls” in my set because it was never a massive global hit so I don´t have that pressure. To have to do certain songs based on expectations.

Whats next in the life of Jeff Scott Soto, except the shows you do with Jason Bieler?

I leave next Saturday for the Trans Siberian Orchestra tour. Its gonna be my 14th year with them. And god willing and all abide by the rules set before us and we don’t have to pull the plug and we can do the entire tour. I don’t even want to talk about shutting it down. I just want to think that we gonna have a great run and everyone gonna get home safe and we get the people what they love every year for their holiday tradition. So this is what i´m hoping for.

The Trans Siberian Orchestra is massive in the US. Not so much in Europe.

The idea behind TSO is a different
story. Its a narration of a story and the songs reflects the actual story itself. So of course it works mainly in the US or in primarily English speaking countries. Maybe it could work in England but there is so much American pop culture involved in the stories. I think that is another reason it only works in the US. They never really pushed for an audience abroad.
As a lot of people know TSO was the next version of Savatage and they wanted to make it a bigger and bolder version
of that band. An over the top version of what Savatage already did before them. This is the reason some of the Savatage guys are still involved in it so its an extension of that band but in a much grander way. As big as Savatage was abroad I don’t think they will be, its not as hard rock or metal as Savatage so maybe the hardcore metal or rock fan find this a bit more family sounded. This is why it work so well in the US because you can bring your youngsters and your grandmothers to the shows and its not too abrasive for them. Its not a heavy metal show! But its funny when you look at the audience and you see a kid wearing a Slayer t-shirt and next to him is a grandma wearing a sweater with a reindeer on it

Is Talisman dead and buried?

No! Not at all, we did “Never Die (a song for Marcel)”. That was a tribute to Marcel, lyrically and musically it was a tribute to the band. But it was also a thing that we thought was important. We got together with the suicide prevention corporation and teamed up with them to release this. We wanted to do something to Marcel and they wanted to see if we could partner with them and kind of getting the suicide prevention messages out there. We did a second song which is yet to be released.
But as far as doing records and tours, there is no real discussion with that.
We´re doing it by year. We do it when we want to and how we want to at this point and we´ll see where it leads.I would love nothing else than to do a proper album and a proper reunion tour and play all those songs from such a great catalogue and body of work.
But right now its in the stages of lets do it when we feel like it and the offer is right and see what happens.

Did Marcel leave any demos behind?

We were hoping for that. The week before he took his life we were about to start on our 8th album, and when i spoke to him back then I asked him if he had any demos he could send so I could start working on the songs, maybe writing some melodies and lyrics and getting a head start, he said ”No I have all the songs in my headIi think we should do it as we did on the “Humanimal” album, everybody come hear, we sit in rehearsal, we basically work everything out and then take it to the studio from there”.

I was OK with it because we made such a great record with ”Humanimal” because it was an absolute team effort from the beginning to end from the rehearsal to the studio. I thought it was a great idea and it would be great to do this again. So unfortunately I never get to hear one song or idea that he had planned for the album, unfortunately it went with him.

The Talisman show at Sweden Rock 2014.

I was so nervous about that. We were supposed to go on second I believe and even then I was worried about two things: My voice being awake enough to sing all those Talisman songs, some of them can get high and you need a young man’s energy to pull that stuff off. I think we were originally going on at two o clock in the afternoon and in the last minute we were told we were the first band on and I thought ”oh my god”! There are not gonna be anybody out there, people are just waking up or going to sleep from the night before, we thought it would be at best 2 or 3000 people there. When I walked on stage! I get goosebumps right now talking about it. I almost cried when I saw this sea of people ready for us and ready to sing along with us. It was one of the most incredible moments in my life. It was an out of body experience. I don’t get many of those at this point in my life and career, because in this age you pretty much seen and done it all.
This is what Sweden means to me. I started my career with Yngwie, that was the beginning with an incredible association with Sweden. Going from Yngwie to Talisman and then to W.E.T. It seems that every decade I get a new
beginning of extention and in my love affair with Sweden

What’s your Proudest moment or achievement as a musician?

I really have to say this, and I don’t just say this because we are talking about Talisman. I say it because Marcel means a lot to me. I would have to say Talisman because the main reason is, I cant think of one band or project in my career that lasted as long as Talisman. We did have a couple of breaks, we didn’t record or tour every year. The band lasted 17 years. But we didn’t have an album or tour every year. But the 17 year existence is the longest I have ever been involved with a project or a band or anything. This is why Talisman will always mean the most to me out of everything I have ever done.

What is your other hobbies apart from singing and performing live?

My passion have diminished because I work so much and yes work a lot because I love it and it is my job and I have to work to make a living and pay the bills of course. It completes my life. Its the same as breathing, its the same as having blood in your vein. Music do that to me. I need it. I need to work the way I do just for the sake of existing. Even over the whole pandemic and lock down music was my therapy, it was the one thing that kept me going, it was the one thing that kept me from going crazy. I also found that people needed music, I also found that people relied on us to get them something to distract them so my therapy became a therapy for others so that is why I don´t really have time or interest for hobbies. Music is my hobby, my blood and my oxygen.

Did you have any role models growing up or in the music business when you first started?

Its strange because every-time I have to talk about inspirations and role models, people just don’t understand…When you hear a song like ”I´ll see the light tonight” or ”I am a Viking” how I can aquaite the influence from Earth Wind and fire, Jackson 5, Sam Cooke, Journey . You don’t hear those influences in those songs. But without those influences I would not be half the singer I am today so my biggest role models were the ones early on that I loved as a singer. From the pop stuff to the RnB and soul stuff. That helped me find where to find emotions and feelings in music and from that I adapt those genres influences into everything I do. You might not hear it but it is there.

As the world shut down Sons of Apollo was about to do a gig in Sweden. Is there any new dates for Sons Of Apollo?

At the moment we rebooked it four times. It got to the point where we were just doing one certain area, we could do it but its not cost effective and at this point in time we are holding off on rebooking that and now we are focusing on the only four shows we have in South America for now.

You are mostly welcome back to Sweden. You know that.

Thank you so much. I cant wait to come back again and cant wait to get back doing what we miss doing.I cant wait for you guys to come back and watch us doing it.

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Unless I’m doing it with Yngwie I really dont have any interest in doing it – An interview with Jeff Scott Soto

December 10, 2021

The bottom line is that you work with Axel and with Yngwie you work for him.

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