Jeff Scott Soto’s wayward Journey
JSS: two days' notice to pack his bags and join Jounrey
Jeff Scott Soto – one of melodic rock’s leading frontmen – talks to Classic Rock‘s Dave Ling about his bittersweet time spent fronting AOR icons Journey.
In 2005, Soto joined Journey guitarist Neal Schon and drummer Deen Castronovo and Whitesnake bassist Marco Mendoza in the group Soul SirkUS, which rose from the ashes of an aborted project called Planet Us that was intended to unite the Journey duo with future Chickenfoot alumni Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Joe Satriani.
There was an album on Frontiers called World Play and Soul SirkUS also made it to the UK, headlining the very first Firefest in 2005 and appearing at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
“I had very high expectations for that band,” recalls Soto. “However, somewhere along the way that changed. I still have very good relationships with Marco and Virgil Donati [who replaced Castronovo on tour], but the other member [Schon], obviously less so.”
The main reason Soul SirkUS fell apart, imparts Soto, was “Neal was still so involved with Journey and there was no stopping that machine. When management said: ‘It’s time to get back to your real band’ they put a blanket over what they felt was some vanity project.”
Had there been any late night bar conversations between Schon and Soto about the possibility of the latter joining Journey?
“It came up in passing when [Steve] Augeri started to have his vocal issues,” confirms Jeff. “Not because they wanted to get rid of Augeri but because they realised they’d booked a tour that he wouldn’t be able to pull off. When it came to fruition I really couldn’t believe it. I had two days of notice to pack my bags and join them on the remaining four-and-a-half weeks of a six-week tour.”
And was he ready for such a challenge?
“Completely, yeah. There are only three bands in the world that I could step into tomorrow without a day’s rehearsal,” he laughs. “That’s Journey, Queen and Van Halen – the David Lee Roth era of Van Halen.”
After helping to complete the tour with Def Leppard in the summer of 2006, Soto was awarded the position permanently in December of that same year before being controversially axed, Filipino unknown Arnel Pineda arriving as his stead.
“What is it now, four or five years?” he calculates. “I’ve lost count because I’ve lost interest. But the way it was handled was not very kosher and I can honestly say that I didn’t see it coming.”
Soto finally received an explanation of sorts when Deen Castronovo attended a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show in Portland, Oregon. (Soto sings with TSO, one of his many ongoing projects.)
“We had a long chat, and although I can’t tell you what was said it gave me closure. I haven’t had a nightmare since.”
So was the decision made for business, personal or musical reasons?
“All of the above,” he responds in friendly yet final tones.
Read the full interview with Jeff Scott Soto in the new issue of AOR magazine, on sale now.
JSS will appear at the inaugural HRH AOR festival in Rotherham on April 6/7 – get your tickets here or ring 08700 110034.