Jeff Scott Soto of Soul SirkUS
Interviewed by Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Frontiers Records for the promo pictures.
Thanks to Stefan at Atenzia records for the help with the interview.
In my last interview with Jeff Scott Soto we talked a lot about his solo album that he was about to release and he?s tour with his JSS band. This time it’s time to talk about his and Neal Schon’s band Soul SirkUS and what they’re up to.
Hi Jeff, The last time I talked to you was when you were on tour throughout Europe with your own band JSS band and did promotion for your new solo album, what’s you been up to since then?
Just finished the Soul SirkUS tour through the US & Europe, it was great to go out in front of larger audiences with a new original band, the audiences were GREAT!
Why did you choose to call the band Soul SirkUS? Weren’t there any plans on calling the band Planet Us (’cause of Neal’s leadership of the band Planet Us)?
Planet US was Sammy’s idea, Neal never liked it anyway so the name was subject to change. We kept the ‘US’ idea for the word SirkUS as a reminder it was the originating prospect that led to our band.
Is Soul SirkUS a band or a project?
I just wrote ‘band’ for exactly THAT reason?it is definitely a band, from day 1!
How long did it take to write SS new album and who has written the material?
Neal had the general ideas for Planet US already mapped, I got the ideas, moulded & added my lyrics/melodies to complete them. All in all, we worked as a band on the songs for a total of 2 days & tracked them in 2 more. It was very fast but these guys are extremely on top of their game so the process flowed with absolute ease.
What are the lyrics about? Have you written about anything in particular?
I write about so many things that the music pretty much dictates the subject matters. Some are serious, some are fantasy, some are sexual & some are loving?everything I write about is relatable to general human interaction.
The bio says that you have recorded the album in Jonathan Cain’s Studio, what’s the studio called and where’s it located?
I don’t remember the name, it’s at his home in San Francisco. We did it to conserve costs & work in a familiar environment for Neal & Deen.
If I got things right I understand that there are two versions of your new album. The first version that were sold through Soul SirkUS records/Warner Music, is it still available and is it Deen that’s behind the drums on that version?
Yes, it is, on both questions asked!
Why did Deen leave SS? And how ended Virgil up in the band as Deen’s replacement, did you knew Virgil from before?
Deen is an amazing drummer but his input although simpler than Virgil’s sounded more 80′s to me, Virgil’s version is a bit busier at times but his approach gave us more of a 70′s vibe which is a cooler nostalgia for our songs I feel.
What’s the difference between Deen’s and Virgil’s drum play do you think?
Virgil is definitely more technical & trained in his playing, Deen is more raw & powerful?both are the best drummers I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with.
According to the bio you have re-recorded all of the drum play when Virgil joined the band, is that correct?
Yes, we wanted the representation of the band live to match that what was on the album. No one ever saw us live until we finally played with Virgil so it made sense that the essence of the band was the same from the CD to the stage.
Who’s the band leader of SS?
There is no leader, we all have our roles & keep the machine rolling together.
What’s the story behind the title of the album WORLD PLAY?
It is an album that needs to be played around the world, not just the US or Europe. We gave it a universal appeal for this reason.
Who’s done the cover artwork, what’s the thought behind it and what do you think of it?
Richard Mace, a designer in London who has done all my CD artwork since the Prism album in 2002 is the graphics designer, he is involved with everything in my career now, he is certainly the best I’ve worked with.
You and Neal have together produced this album, how is it to work with Neal production wise, usually you produce your albums by yourself?
It was like breathing, very easy, very democratic & very respectful. We had a great time doing it all, especially the mixes.
On the version I have in my hand you have added 4 more songs to compared to the other version so instead of 11 tracks I have 16 tracks, Why did you feature 4 more songs?
They ‘occurred’ in the studio while we were retracking drums, all by default. We just kept coming up with more things & decided to add them as a completion of what we felt was the REAL album.
Do you have any favourite song that you’re especially happy about?
Soul Goes On is definitely a favourite, very bluesy & soulful, a bit ballady & soft, yet aggressive at times including the message.
Are WORLD PLAY released world-wide?
Would you like to tell us a bit about the bonus DVD that comes along with the first edition of the album, what does the DVD include?
It was the idea of Frontiers Records, it was a bit rushed & not really thought out well, especially the editing. I wish now we had put more involvement behind it but it is what it is.
Have you read any reviews from the media on the album yet? And is there any difference between what the American and the European media’s point of views?
I’ve read nearly all of them, the point of views are very much the same, the album has received an overall great feeling.
You are described as being a melodic hardrock act, do you agree with the definition of your music or would you describe the music in a different way?
We are a hard rock band, we are melodic, but there are some bands this category really falls under much better than us. We are not the Journey/Survivor/Foreigner type melodic band, we have a much broader scope in what we’re aiming for than the safer, commercial side.
Are you content with the labels promotion work with the album? Are you satisfied with Frontiers Records, which is your label here in Europe? What label are you on in the U.S.?
So far, the promotion overseas seems really good. We have no official label in the States yet, there is something big brewing that should be confirmed by the end of the year.
What do you think of the comment that SS are an American super group?
It’s flattering but we don’t let that kind of hype sell the band, we still have to go out there & earn our stripes. Success isn’t warranted anyone just because the members all have a past.
You have recently toured through the U.S., how was that? Went everything well?
The US was ok, we found out the promoters were not allowed to use Neal’s name with the Journey moniker next to it. How would we sell this band otherwise if the billing can’t say Neal Schon from Journey? The attendance?s were fair but the audiences were superb.
Right now you’re touring through Europe, is there any difference between the European and the American fans do you think, if so what difference?
The European audiences knew of the rest of us in the band which meant we had more interest in the 4 individuals whereas in the US, most that came knew only of Neal. I’ve always had a great rapport with European audiences, much more than here in the US.
The tour ends in Scandinavia at the end of May, have got any more gigs planned after that?
What do you think of Neal comment in the bio ?The new staff is cool, melodic and has plenty of edge. We are much looking forward to getting it out soon and playing live. I definitely think we have the goods??
The same thing you & everyone else thinks of it?it’s true!
Why have you chosen to hide the last track, then comes two songs without music and then comes ?James Brown??
It’s not hidden, the album has 2 empty tracks to get the listener out of the hard rock mode & ready for the funk that James Brown offers. The CD says it plain as day?James Brown.
A few of the songs falls a bit out of the frame like the gospel sounding ?My love, my friend? and the more funky ?James Brown? as well as the instrumental ?Abailar to mundo?, why have you put those tracks on the album?
Out of the frame for who? Not us! These little tidbits are reflective of us not genre fans! Why should we make an album that just goes from A to B when we want to go all the way to Z?
The album is very long, it’s on about 75 minutes, was it meant that the album would be so long?
You get more bang for your buck, especially if you already bought the 1st version.
What do you think of the other guys efforts on the album and what do you think of you effort?
Now that you look back on WORLD PLAY do you feel you should have done anything different on it?
No, it’s perfect for us!
How does it feel to come to Sweden once again and tour, you didn’t play anything here during your latest solo tour last year?
I tried, there was no interest! One can only tour where one gets interest to play. It’s so difficult out there, you would think with my involvement with Yngwie & Talisman for so many years it would be easy to get interest but Sweden has proven the hardest to get shows.
What are the plans for Mr. Soto during the rest of 05?
I’m doing a summer tour in Europe visiting some countries I missed on my last tour. Maybe a new solo album as well before the next Soul SirkUS album.
Can you reveal on which album you’re going to appear next?
No, I don’t even know yet!
Talisman have recently released another double live and DVD, do you feel that’s motivated with thought of Talisman have already released two live album prior this one?
No, we released them because we had them recorded. Why not put out things that came out well & represent another generation of the band?
Do you know when, and if, the next Talisman album is gonna come out?
No, so far no plans or even discussions.
Finally, is there anything you would like to say to the readers of metal-rules.com?
Go crazy as much as you can, we’ll be old & grey before you know it!
Read the review of the first Soul SirkUS CD here
Read the reviews of Jeff?s solo CD?s here
More info about the band: www.soulsirkus.com