Neal Schon: ‘Simon Cowell Is Brilliant’
…But that didn’t stop the guitarist refusing Cowell permission to use Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ on the X-Factor. Come inside for an exclusive chat with Schon – and find out all about Journey’s plans for a new album.
Interview: Peter Makowski
So, Don’t Stop Believin’ is back in the charts.
I know, man. It’s unreal. I just got back from London. I was over doing some interviews and the song kept climbing up the charts. Simon Cowell called our office; they wanted permission to redo the song for the X Factor show. We heard the version and we weren’t crazy about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Simon is brilliant. When I watch him on American Idol I pretty much agree with everything he says. But in this particular case it was two different producers and I don’t see anything wrong with our original version. If it’s not busted, don’t fix it. The rest of the band felt like that too. We decided to say no.
Randy Jackson [judge on American Idol and former Journey bass player] came back at me and said: “Dawg! Come on!” I said: “Randy, it ain’t gonna happen. We’re going to stick to our guns.”
The song’s been in a lot of films and TV shows and as a result our audience has got a lot younger – where it’s got to the point that nowadays our audience starts at about six or seven years old!
It was noticeable at Download last year that you were pulling in a younger crowd.
It used to be cool to hate us and now it seems to be cool to like us. We toured all over the place with Marilyn Manson. It was kinda scary; we’re not exactly what you’d call heavy metal. I rearranged some of the songs and took some bits that I did with Sammy Hagar [in the band HSAS – Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, Shrieve] and just some stuff I thought the crowds would like – and it worked.
The Marilyn Manson audience was really funny. Our audience is mostly predominantly women and with Manson it was all guys. So I thought I was going to get pelted. I was ready to start ducking, but it went down really well.
Is there a new album on the way?
Yeah, I’ve already started writing and the band will be getting together on March 25 to start work on some new songs. Arnel [Pineda, vocals] has got some great ideas; he’s really good with melody and lyrics. We’re going to make a rocking record. I know I keep saying this every year but this is for real now. I’ve gotten everyone together and we’ve talked about it.
I had a long talk with Jonathan [Cain, keyboards] and I said: “We have all the AOR material that we need, we’ve got all the hits we need and we have to play that stuff forever. There’s no getting away from it. So I don’t see the point of repeating the same song with different chords.”
I’m going for a conceptual record because I really feel that we have the good musicality to pull it off, and I think that right now we have everybody’s attention. I mean, there’s no radio anymore. The days of writing songs that are three-and-a-half minutes long for radio are over.
I have an animal instinct with music. I see what people dig, while I’m playing it I feel it, then I go home with that feeling and think: “Now I know what I need to create.” I think definitely in Europe, if not in the States, that they’re ready for us to come with something on the artsy side. It’s got to up and down, it can’t stay on the ceiling all the time otherwise there’s no dynamics.
I think it’s going to be a very musical record and I have a cool thing to write about. But I don’t want to reveal too much because somebody will steal it. But it’s a one title, like most of our records are, and it’s a very deep subject – real stuff.