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INTERVIEW: JEFF SCOTT SOTO of SOTO – May 2019

 

According to a recent press release: “SOTO, the modern Heavy Metal / Hard Rock group featuring vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (ex Yngwie Malmsteen / Talisman / ex Journey, Sons Of Apollo, TSO, etc.), are soon to release their third album and InsideOutMusic debut Origami, May 24th, 2019. SOTO started in 2015 derived from the ideal of Jeff Scott Soto wanting to return to his heavier roots. So far they released 2 albums, Inside The Vertigo (2015) and DIVAK (2016), taking a short break while Jeff embarked on the supergroup Sons Of Apollo, alongside Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian, Billy Sheehan and Bumblefoot.” We get Jeff discuss new music, South America, and much more…

Toddstar: Jeff Scott Soto, thank you so much for taking time out. It is always an honor and a privilege to speak with you.

Jeff: Well, I have to say the same, because anybody that wants to talk to me about something I’m doing, I’m more than happy to do it.

Toddstar: There’s so much exciting going on in the world of Soto right now, but today is the launch of “Hypermania” – the single and video.

Jeff: Yes, sir. We’ve been waiting for this one. Well, actually we’ve been anticipating this one for a while, but what happened is we shot the original video back in early February, I think it was, and it wasn’t quite the visual that we had in mind, so we had to scrap everything and we started all over again and literally they shot all the stuff that we weren’t in, without us, like within a few days of us arriving into Brazil for the South American tour. Then on the day off, after our last Brazilian show, we stayed an extra day in Brazil to actually get the band footage. The thing was literally edited together, I want to say three, four days ago. So we were down to the wire, because the song should have been out first. It should have been out before the second lyric video. One of the pratfalls of having a band that live on three different continents is we don’t see each other that often. So when we want to do photos or even want to go out for a beer, it’s virtually impossible. So we had to wait until we were all together again to actually go and shoot the video, so we were really excited how it turned out. As we had to rush it, we were just so chuffed that it came out the way it did.

Toddstar: It’s an amazing video. I threw a link up as soon as I went through it once. I can’t get enough of the visual, but the music just kills me. It’s amazing. It’s not the first single, but it is the lead track on the album, Origami.

Jeff: It was an important one because as I said, we already have lyric videos for the others and this being the first presentation, like visual presentation, from the album it had to be something that was visually stunning. We used the same director we did on the very first video we did together from the first album, the song called “Break.” He didn’t get to film us he only edited all the film we sent him, but we knew he would be just extraordinary if he got to actually film the footage he was editing together. And we were, we couldn’t be more happy with it.

Toddstar: It’s a crazy good video. Let’s talk about I, which drops May 24th on Inside Out Music. What can you tell us about this disk that in your mind is a shift from DIVAK or Inside The Vertigo – the first two albums. What was the shift for you on this album, what differed for you?

Jeff: The main thing it really took those two records, it’s funny I always hated when there were situations where a new artist had to state that it took them three or four albums, it took the label had to develop and wait for them, for like the third or fourth album to finally start showing success or finally start showing interest from audiences. And it really, that happened to be the case on this one, it took us those first two albums to kind of learn where we were heading musically. We already had the chemistry, the camaraderie because we, the guys in SOTO were my backing band when I was doing the JSS shows. When we converted that to SOTO we’d already had the camaraderie and the chemistry the working side of things but because it was a different sound and a different vibe that we were going for I think we needed that time to kind of grow and mature and realize where we were headed, and the kind of records we could and should be making and we absolutely one hundred percent nailed it with Origami. I think, personally just my own feelings aside from every artist says “yeah this is my best album blah blah blah”, I just feel that we really honed in on it and we nailed it. This is the best thing we could possibly come up with.

Toddstar: I’d agree, top to bottom, listening through the whole thing. I can’t wait to hear the bonus track as well. With this thing, the last album it would seem almost disjointed, like the songs are all great but it didn’t seem to flow. Is there something in the tracking of this album that you feel really helped this album step up and stand out a little bit?

Jeff: Not necessarily the tracking of it, I think the overall cooperation behind. My drummer has always been very instrumental and has been very instrumental in the production and the songs that we end up choosing for the album. But this time around we had more assistance from our new bass player Tony Dickinson, whose phenomenally talented for as young as he is. The guy is an old soul in the sense of he’s really got a lot of experience and he’s just one of those music nerds, that spent a lot of time practicing. For somebody that young to have the ideals that we had when we were young and growing up and what we wanted to achieve in the music industry, he has the same things. So that’s why even though he’s a lot younger, especially than me, he fit in ideally with us because of that, because of his work ethic and he really gave us a lot more than we probably would have had in an y other circumstance if we didn’t have him with us. So that alone was the major contributing factor that helped us achieve what we did with the sound, the production, and with the overall songs. Regarding the tracking we did that the same old way we’ve been forced to do it. Because sadly we don’t have the same budgets, the inflated budgets we had back in the 70’s and 80’s where a band can spend three hundred fifty thousand on airline flights and hotels and sitting in a studio for a month and half creating an album, we don’t have that luxury anymore, so we obviously have to use technology on our side and come up with the best that we can from afar. And again I think the results are great because we know how to use that technology to our best advantages.

Toddstar: Your voice and your lyrics are always so poignant no matter what type of music you’re doing, but I really like the way you bring it across on the heavier stuff. Is there a mindset for you when you’re singing this kind of stuff, because some of these lyrics again if you dig into the lyrics it may be heavy, but it gets even heavier when you get to the lyrics. Is there a shift in you when you’re doing the heavier stuff, especially vocally?

Jeff: Absolutely. I always write and double entendre. I’ve been doing this since, I did an album with Talisman called Truth. And there was a song on there I wrote on there about my dog but because I never mention about any details or something that would make you think that it was about a dog, everybody thought I was writing about either my daughter, which I don’t have, an ex-girlfriend or somebody that I knew. Nobody equated it to me writing a song about my dog because it was cleverly written that it would be perceived as a relationship between two people. And ever since then I’ve written in double entendre, I have an idea of what I’m writing about but I make sure that the lyrics can pertain to something else, and then from there I let the listener or the reader, whichever if you’re reading lyrics or you’re just listening to the song, I let them interrupt what they think I meant by that. It’s, I’ve turned down so many of those interviews where they say “Okay give us a play by play description of each song” and I say “Nope, I’m not going to do that but I’ll tell you about the music, but I’m not gonna tell you about the lyrics because I want you to treat it the way an author treats a book, he wants the reader to put his own images or her own images of what that author was actually talking about in the book. Whereas when you watch the movie that’s the spoiler, you get that image, and you’re creative mind has been shut down because you’re getting it all there for you. And that’s what I try to do with my lyrics.”

Toddstar: Well and I think that’s very evident in how we led this with talking about “Hypermania.” I would never have put the visuals from the video with the song, lyrically.

Jeff: Yeah, that turns into a triple entendre because what I sent, I sent the more or less I sent the what the lyrics were supposed to be about to the video director and then he took it to his own virtual level of what the song could mean and the song has triple meanings. Again if you don’t see it, it’s not really my, I don’t want to be the one that tells you, ‘Oh… now I get it’, I would rather you, it’s more like a puzzle, I’d rather leave that puzzle unfinished and let you kind of figure it out. And if you never figure it out, even better, it makes you think harder, makes you just think more about it.

Toddstar: You guys led with “BeLie” as you mentioned, then you’ve got “Origami” and now “Hypermania.” Of these three songs which one are you most charged about to play live, when you know it’s coming up in the set list?

Jeff: Oh boy, well the funny thing is when we started the South American tour that we just wrapped last week, we had “BeLie” in the set list, mainly because the song was already released as a single and we were thinking that people would expect to hear it. But the new stuff is still lukewarm received because they don’t know it yet, you know, it’s like ‘okay this is the opening of the show this must be a new song’, so they’re not really gonna be charged up and jumping up and down just yet because they don’t know, the material is just too new. And “BeLie” was just one of those songs that didn’t cross over when we played it live, just yet because it was just too new. “Hypermania” was our opening for the tour and immediately got them because it’s the opening of the show, it just, it resonated. “Origami,” everyone just freaked the hell out because it’s so heavy, it’s still melodic but it’s so damn heavy. It’s like the song “Wrath,” it’s got that really heavy factor but then when you get to the chorus, when you get to the melodies, it’s not so bad after all, it’s acceptable.

Toddstar: How do you feel your approach towards writing, your piece or your components of the song has changed since Inside the Vertigo?

Jeff: I don’t really think they’ve changed so much, in the sense of, I have the same ideal with everything I do, whether it’s heavy, progressive, whether it’s melodic, my ideal is it’s gotta be melodic, it’s gotta have melody and hooks and things that make you, that draw you into the song, that keep you into the song, because without that it’s just a bunch of great riffs, it’s a bunch of great instrumentation. But without the one thing that you can actually sink your teeth into you got nothing. So as I was just saying with a song like “Origami” or “Wrath” really ultra heavy, I make sure that it’s singable, I make sure that it’s something that you can actually sing along to as oppose to ‘well that was a great song because of the riff or that was a great song because of the lyrics’, I want all of the above, I want the kitchen sink on every song. So my melodic sense is on everything that I do and that’s why I don’t think much has changed, I mean musically the songs are different, so clearly that’s what puts me in the mindset of what I’m going to be writing about or the kind of melodies I’m going to be singing but I go with the same approach with everything, it’s gotta be melodic.

Toddstar: Well you mentioned you just wrapped up your dates in May down in South America. If there’s any reason to move to South America from Detroit, it’s to see you guys – you are constantly touring there; you are huge down in South America.

Jeff: Well, for some reason my material resonates, whether it’s SOTO or Sons Of Apollo or W.E.T., I get the most fan mail, the most adoration and obviously the most capacity as far as attendance to the shows in South America, it’s a great problem to have, because man, one of the greatest things I love about playing down there is the music absolutely transcends to younger generations. When I do my tours in Europe or say the U.S or even one of the rock cruises, those are audiences that basically are within my age rage that I grew up with or grew up with me. But you go down there, South America, you seeing man 70 percent of our audience are between 19 and say 26 years old, and how did that happen and it’s that young audience loves old vintage music as well as the new music. And you see them, young and old at all the shows, it’s amazing how it resonates down there.

Toddstar: You can tell listening to some of your live stuff that you’ve released through the years [most of JSS live catalog has been recorded in South America], they know your catalog, it’s not that they know just the Talisman stuff or just the Jeff Scott Soto stuff; they know your catalog.

Jeff: It’s truly incredible, it’s, I absolutely, as much as I love touring South America, I loath it the same because they don’t travel they don’t tour the same way we do, and the rest of the world with tour buses and such, every single day is a fly day, you are literally show – airport, show – airport and man that’s a soul killer, especially when you got those early morning flights cause you have a long flight going into a show without a day off, but it’s certainly makes up for it ten fold when you finally get on stage and you see the reception.

Toddstar: I can imagine. I mentioned, moving to South America from Detroit, but what about Detroit? It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten a Jeff Scott Soto proper show. I know you did some stuff locally or at least close with Sons of Apollo when you toured that last year. What are the odds of us getting SOTO up in the Detroit area anytime soon.

Jeff: I would love nothing more than to play in my own backyard, and when I saw backyard I’m referring to the U.S. The U.S has always been a slow burn for and when you think I’ve been in this business for thirty five plus years that’s an incredibly slow burn. It’s virtually impossible for me to get anything going here in the U.S. As far as interest, and believe me I’ve tried it, even fresh out of Journey after performing for what was it eight hundred, nine hundred thousand people, I wasn’t even out of the band for four months and I booked a little short solo tour in the U.S just to kind of test the waters and boy that was rough. It was rough to play in front of forty and fifty people a night, and it’s debilitating, it really sucks the life out of you and makes you not want to do it when you see that there’s such little interest out there. And so this is one of the reasons I’m kind of holding back on doing anything in the U.S. for SOTO because not only do I not want to play in front of small crowds like almost virtually nobody, I don’t want promoters to lose their ass, I don’t want somebody to dump a bunch of money into the necessary cost in bringing the band out because we, sorry I need some water, we have three continents representing SOTO it’s not cheap to get us on tour and to get us on the road. And I don’t want to see anybody losing their ass I don’t want to see anybody wasting money on something where people aren’t coming out to make it worthwhile. So as far as I’m concerned, I’ll hit the markets that I know we can hit, and I’m just gonna let the other ones lie until they kinda catch up and there’s a demand for us.

Toddstar: It makes sense, You mentioned you’ve been in the business thirty-five plus years and that’s why guys like you do succeed – you understand,that not only are you an artist, a rocker, and all that good stuff, but you’re business man and at the end of the day you understand the business side of the music business.

Jeff: Right and I co-manage SOTO, I have a partner who co-manages the band with me and part of, that was partly out of necessity. I’ve worked with so many managers in the past and the band basically convinced me ‘nobody has the best interest of the band more than I do.’ If I’m passionate about this band, I’m passionate about every single element that’s happening with the band or not happening. I’m the only one that can do something about it, and that’s one of the reasons why I got a business partner and we partnered up and were managing SOTO and were taking care of all the day to day events that happen with this band so yeah, I thankfully through the decades I’ve been in the business I’ve learned the business, I didn’t necessarily want to by design to become a manager but because I know enough about the business and what to expect and what to stay away from etc. I have the best interest of the band at heart and I know we can get a lot more done than waiting or hoping someone else is doing it for us.

Toddstar: I know you’re busy, you have a lot of promotion to do, so I got one more for you if you don’t mind?

Jeff: Go for it.

Toddstar: Of your whole catalog and you mentioned earlier you know you’re always saying that artists saying this is my “best album, this is , my best album”, if you had to look back what’s the one album you wish you would have rethought? Whether it was part of a group, as a solo project, as a side project, what’s one project you wish you’d a thought twice about before releasing?

Jeff: You know Todd, I don’t think about those things, mainly because every single thing that I’ve done was a learning experience or a learning curve. If I didn’t do it the way I did it, if I didn’t make the decisions or we or whatever the circumstances for whatever intent or purpose we’re talking about, didn’t happen the way it did, I would not have learned from. I don’t have, it’s the same answer to when anybody says “Do you have any regrets in life or in your career?” I don’t have nay because every aspect of what I’ve done whether it’s an album, project, band, blah blah blah, etc. its all done with a learning experience that I gained from it. So I wouldn’t change a thing, I wouldn’t rethink a thing, everything happened for a reason and I gained something from it, if I didn’t gain any financial reward or career advancement, I gained knowledge of what not to do or what to do the next time around. So every single thing I would leave exactly as is, it’s a thumb print, it’s a stamp in time that led me to where I am today.

Toddstar: And with that said, I go back to your thumbprints all the time – today I actually went back and listened to Redlist.

Jeff: Oh, that’s awesome. And it’s funny, I don’t know who I had this conversation with I’m thinking it was Nuno Bettencourt or somebody like that. An artist is never happy, an artist can, everything can always be better, it can always be improved, but you’re going to drive yourself crazy trying to make it perfect or trying to make it the best it can be. The best thing you can do is make it the best for that moment and then move on from it because you will drive yourself insane trying to make it better than it already is or different than it is. It truly is not something you should spend that much time and effort and thought behind. Keep is spontaneous move on from it. When you play it live, that’s when you can fuck around with it, that’s when you can tweak it a little bit here and there, but don’t overthink it ’cause man, it’s suppose to be spontaneous, it’s music.

Toddstar: That it is. And again I know you’re busy, so I’ll let you go but make sure we keep promoting Origami, out May 24th on Inside Out Music, and can’t wait find you on the road or hopefully the promoters get you finding Detroit on the road and we’ll keep our eyes and ears open for Jeff Scott Soto and everything else you have in the works.

Jeff: Right on man, well the bottom line is I need a million more people like you listening to and digging it and then we’re on to something.

Toddstar: Sounds good Jeff.

Jeff: Right on Todd, have a great day man.

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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