Jeff Scott Soto
For those of us entrenched in the melodic rock world it’s easy to recognize Jeff Scott Soto as one of the best vocalists of the era and one of the hardest working men in the biz. Currently rocking the world with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and two recent releases under his belt Jeff Scott Soto – One Night In Madrid (a two disc cd/dvd live set ) and Jeff Scott Soto – Live At Firefest 2008 we don’t quite know how he does it!
Following his career starting in the 80s up to the present – his work with Yngwie Malmsteen, Talisman, Eyes, Journey, a myriad of solo albums, Rockstar, W.E.T. and of course most recently Trans-Siberian Orchestra – we were excited to get a chance to talk to him about everything he’s up to now and the path that lead him there.
Oh we also managed to chat a bit about hoops and find out that JSS’s first concert was The Bee Gees – what a lucky son of a gun!
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
You recently released Jeff Scott Soto- Live at Firefest 2008 CD, this performance at Firefest is special for several reasons. It was the first time songs from the Beautiful Mess album had been performed in Europe and the last show the original Jeff Scott Soto Band –featuring Howie Simon on guitar, Dave Dzialak on drums, and Gary Schutt on bass- played together. Was this a “just another gig” feeling or were there circumstances that led up to this show that made this one more special than others?
Of course it was a special gig for me as I have a longstanding relationship with the organizers as well as being in the room with so many peers and acquaintances, most of whom I hadn’t seen in ages. I always love those kind of shows/gatherings as it makes for more of a challenge to perform in front of fans of many other artists people showed up to see but just the same, nothing beats playing in front of your own crowd who just there for you.
Do you have any recording plans scheduled for 2011 either solo or with another project?
I am currently working on this now trying to determine which will have priority, which will be ready first and who it will be. I have a new solo album to do, possibly another W.E.T. album as well as more Trans Siberian Orchestra studio work coming up, it is another busy year!
You have been involved with Trans Siberian Orchestra for the past 3 years. How did this year’s winter tour go? Are they planning on staying on the road past the holiday season?
The tour went superb as usual and yes, we are doing a more extensive Spring tour this year which brings TSO to Europe for the 1st time ever in March. This is why we’re having to juggle so much in so little time this summer as I will be with TSO until nearly the beginning of June and if I am to do another Winter tour this year, the months between tours are barely enough to squeeze in all that is happening.
Your background as a vocalist seems more entrenched in pop music and R&B from the 60’s and 70’s than hard rock based on the medley we hear on Live At Firefest 2008. How much of an influence did your parents/family have on this? What was your first concert you attended?
My parents influence, not so much musically, haha….my Mother loved Johnny Mathis and Tom Jones, my Dad loved a lot of doowop and pop standards at the time but I didn’t grow up with him so my influences came mainly from the stuff I heard on radio then from my older brother who was the first one to bring new music and sounds into the house. My Mom and Dad had great voices so I imagine they passed that gene onto me in terms of wanting to sing but my brother really turned me on to artists that made the impact on me later in my years.
Moving into the 80’s did you hang out at all of those clubs on the Sunset Strip and see bands starting to make a name for themselves in the hard rock circuit?
Not really, I was too young then, I mean joining Yngwie at age 18 meant I went straight from high school into my 1st international band. I didn’t get weaned on the clubs so much. I had gone to all ages places or concerts throughout the years but I didn’t get to do the club scene. Believe it or not, my first concert ever was the Bee Gees in 1978!
You were only 18 when you joined Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. What did you learn from this experience in terms of live and on the road, dealing with people and the pitfalls of that party lifestyle?
Well the only way to equate it is graduating from high school and going back into kindergarten, everything you thought it would be like going on the road, being managed, etc., was complete opposite with him…mainly because it was all about HIM. There was no interest in us in the slightest, we were his gardeners and janitors really, and it really pushed me to move on as soon as I could and get into situations where my involvement was appreciated. I was never into the party lifestyle of drinking or drugs which I guess is a testament to why I’m still in the condition and shape I am in today both physically and mentally.
Basically Talisman was a direct spin off from working with Marcel Jacob in Yngwie’s touring band correct?
Not so much spin off as it was only Marcel and I, as well as took many years after I left
the band to come to fruition. Talisman was an accidental blessing that came into my life, a one-off that gave me the better part of 19 years with a band I loved.
It really is amazing when you look at your body of work and see the list of projects and bands that you have been involved with. At this point in your career do projects /situations seek you out or do you enjoy the prospect of starting your own musical endeavors?
I would say 98% of what I have on my plate today is from being sought after, I honestly don’t have time to chase ideas or dream situations for me to be involved in but I guess it’s just as well having these choices as I can weigh out things that I would like to do instead of deal with the disappointment of seeking things I would like to do and getting turned down. It’s a great to place to be in my career and a reward to the many years I put into this path I chose many moons ago!
Will W.E.T. have a 2nd release and will you guys ever have the time/opportunity to take the show on the road?
We are currently working on that, it’s all about schedules, contractual things, and songs but it is very likely we will follow up on this soon!
What is the greatest compliment you ever received direct from a vocalist/musician you grew up idolizing or were influenced by?
I think the most amazing compliments have come from Roger Taylor and Brian May of Queen, both at different times to different people. First, Roger telling me I ‘sing the ass off their songs’ was the compliment of all compliments in regards to how he feels about me singing Queen songs. Then being introduced by them to people like Roger Daltry and some of their other famous friends as one of the best singers on the planet; I mean it doesn’t get any better than that!
You have played some shows with “Scrap Metal” –the all star hard rock lineup featuring Matthew & Gunnar Nelson, Mark Slaughter and a host of others-as a guest vocalist and the shows I seen have all been stellar. Are those as fun to be involved with for the performers as it is for the audience?
They’re a blast, those kind of things are when we as performers get to just have nothing but fun…no stress, no worries about the business, money issues, drama with band members, managers, etc., just show up and sing! I love all the guys involved with that and it’s really like just jamming with friends, plain and simple, a complete blast.
You contributed some vocals to the movie Rockstar. During the filming of the movie (although you never appear on screen) were you ever around the actual set at all or were you a studio only performer?
No, unfortunately I was too busy or overseas at the time of the filming, I was invited to tag along but couldn’t. I spent enough time in the studio during reshoots and such having to redo things accordingly so at least I got to hang with some of the Steel Dragon guys like Zakk Wylde and Jeff Pilson who are dear friends.
When you toured for the Soul SirkUS release you played the old Somerville Theater here in MA and your performance was nothing short of amazing. I really enjoyed that record. Was there ever talk of a 2nd album or more touring?
Soul SirkUS was supposed to be a real band with a real shot at building a future together, little did any of us know is how heavily involved Neal (Schon) was still to Journey. He made it seem as if there was plenty of time to do both but in the end, we had a small window of time to do the little we did. The dividends didn’t end up making financial sense to continue as the little interest didn’t help push the band forward. It was a shame, I really enjoyed this band and music, I put everything into with high hopes.
Have you ever played Rockband or Guitar Hero and how good are you at either of them? What is your impression of these types of games and do you think it helps or hurts anyone who may consider trying an instrument or singing?
I love them but only attempt the songs I know. I am a better drummer and bass player on those games than anything else! I think it helps anyone who plays the game just find a more real interest at pursuing music, especially young people. Of course the instruments provided have NOTHING to do with how to really play the instruments on those songs but the interaction on pretending to play the songs does create a real yearning for wanting to do it for real which is a great thing!
Have you had a chance to see the play Rock of Ages and if so what were your general impressions?
Not yet, I know many people involved in it but haven’t had the time to check it out.
Total hypothetical question: Gene Simmons calls you the day of a KISS gig in LA and your home off tour. Paul Stanley has laryngitis and cannot perform that night. They don’t want to cancel the show and have every intention of alerting the fans that they can get a refund or we can put on the show with a replacement..one night only Jeff Scott Soto. A. Would you do it…including the make-up and platforms ? B. Could you do it with just a few hrs notice…assuming you knew the material. C. I realize you cannot replace Paul Stanley but just humor me!!!
Probably not, there are only four bands on the planet I could do something like this for and Journey was one of them and it did actually happen this way – no rehearsal, no real soundcheck even, just check the mic and go – to 22,000 people waiting in the crowd! The other three bands I could do this for and know every lyric/melody to every one of their songs are Styx, Queen and Van Halen!
I have read that you are a huge basketball fan. Do you see my Celtics back in then finals against your Lakers once again?
Oh my God, you didn’t just say ‘my Celtics’! Ha! Our arch enemies and longtime rivals! The way things are going, I think it’s safe to say your Celts will be there again but my Lakers have a lot of game to pick up on if we’re to match that level again…I know people are getting bored of the Lakers being there again potentially but I love it! I watch every game and try to get to as many live as possible.
Do you have a final message for your fans Jeff?
My fans new and old know how I feel already, I am lucky and blessed to have this charmed life I call a career and for this I am forever grateful!
If you’re in LA, catch JSS live at The Whiskey on January 13th with FOZZY