– Hi Jeff, first off thanks for taking the time. You’re currently touring the States; how’s the tour going so far?
Amazing as always, I did it 1st in 2008 as a test to see if it was right for me and them, well it’s my 3rd year with TSO so must have worked for both of us
– It’s been now over 25 years since your first known steps with Yngwie Malmsteen and his mighty “Rising Force”. What are your memories about that period?
Well the early years with him were a nightmare, he was far more intolerable then as well I didn’t know how to deal with the business. Through the years we both matured and have had a normal friendship/relationship for years. I haven’t spoken to him for a while but we have remained close in the sense that we are friendly.
– More or less during that same period you also were in the band PANTHER, whom played US Heavy Metal. Did you already know then music was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life? Did you expect them reaching the status you’re holding today?
I was never in that band, someday the world will know this as I mention it in every interview for 25 years! I guess no one bothers reading. I was already in Yngwie’s band when my friend and bassist of the band asked me to record some demos with them to help them find a singer. They decided later they wanted to release it with me on the album to capitalize on me being with Yngwie so they released the demos as an EP. That’s all there is to that story, nothing more, nothing less.
– In 1988 (if I’m not wrong) you also worked with the Japanese artist Kuni; how did this collaboration come up?
Yes, I joined with Kuni out of request from Wendy Dio and Yngwie’s manager at the time, both who backed out of the project later. I enjoyed making that album although I realized nothing would ever materialize for me as it was all tailored for Kuni.
– Then in 1989 you appeared in the track “Under Fire” from Alex Masi’s album “Attack of the Neon Shark”. This album got a great success back in the time. Were any ideas of working with Masi again anytime?
No, it was just a session for me, a 1 time request to do a song on his album, I was far too busy with my own ventures to work with yet another guitarist who’s name would be the marquee draw.
– Then it was EYES (previously known as LA ROCKS). This band had a great line-up and toured with several successful acts so, why did that band had such a short career? And what made you quit?
I don’t know where you got your information but we never toured. We did a few gigs in LA, a few out of town but never a full tour, maybe a total of 10-12 shows during the whole time I was in the band. I was kind of pressured into the band in that I didn’t really want to be there in the beginning but needed the money and was paid to remain. Once we got it released, I decided to make the most of it but ultimately, Talisman came along and THAT was the music I wanted to do most so I left.
– Anyway, I’d take us so long if we had to talk about all the bands and artists you have been involved with, since they have been a lot actually, that’s why I can figure out you really love what you do. So, how did your interest for music born?
It was always there, I have been singing since I could remember speaking! I saw Michael Jackson do it at such an early age, I loved his singing and dance moves, I knew when I was 6 years old this is what I wanted to do.
– And what artists did you listen when growing up?
Mostly R&B, Motown, Prince, Earth Wind And Fire, etc., I got into metal very late in my teens, maybe even 4 years before joining Yngwie…until then, even Black Sabbath was too heavy for me, haha!
– I think we can notice clear Funky influences (among others) in your music…
– This 2010 you have released a double live album, and you did the same in 2009 with “One Night in Madrid”. So, as we’re from Spain, let’s first get into that album recorded in Madrid. Why that concrete show? And what are your memories of it and your thoughts about Spain?
The 1st official JSS solo date on my 1st ever solo tour was in 2003 in Madrid. It was my 1st visit ever to Spain & I was really excited! I had done a solo show with a backup band as well as the Gods show where I released my 1st live DVD for was officially a solo band show, but that was a festival that was attended by fans of many other bands…this night in ’03 was all mine for the 1st time & I was petrified! I had no idea if anybody would show up, if anybody would accept me as a solo artist…but the night was electric, my memories remain to this day on how amazing the show & the people were. Every year I returned with my band, Soul SirkUS, Talisman, Journey, each time got better & better…I knew I would return one day & film a show for release there, this was the time.
– Your brand new album was recorded at Firefest Festival 2008, so what could you say differences both live albums?
The new line up gave the songs a fresh approach to the new songs, the original line up played them with a different dynamic and I knew I wanted to try something different for the Beautiful Mess tour. But as I had an obligation to release this show with Frontiers, it made me happy people would get to hear the difference of the 2 shows and although the songs and set list are very similar, you hear them very differently and its cool.
– Tell us a bit about that concert: the previous hours, rehearsals, etc. Since I read it was a bit stressful for you.
It very much was, normally I get through any situation or stress with no problems but this one was more scary that we didn’t have proper time to prepare. Once the show started, I had good feelings about it.
– Firefest is a fest that is, year by year, supporting classic and newer bands into the Melodic Rock scene; did you notice that in the crowd? I think we can feel its warm while listening to the CD.
Indeed, festivals are great but you also have to remember that the crowd are to see many bands so it’s no surprise if the response isn’t the same as your own show…this is why I didn’t release this album 1st, I didn’t get to do the full length set you got on the Madrid DVD but this show had a magic about it that I am so happy people will get to share.
– I also think the setlist selection is just great; does it get harder with the years to choose which songs play?
Yes and no, I mean this is my solo career so of course I want to play more of my own songs but I know people will walk away disappointed if I didn’t give them certain things. So I try to balance out the things I want to play and the things people expect of me, that helps me out a lot in choosing.
– Beside your huge solo career, past 2009 appeared one of the biggest surprises for Melodic Rock followers: W.E.T. How did the idea arise? And what can we expect of it? Any upcoming album?
It started with an idea from the label into something we are not only proud of but plan to continue working on. We are discussing a new album now and of cour
se will hope to find time for a tour as well.
– Did you know WORK OF ART before forming W.E.T.? They have been one of the biggest surprises into AOR lately.
I only knew the music from Work Of Art but I did know Erik and Eclipse music from years past. They are amazing musicians and people to be around, I plan to have them in my life for years to come.
– And taking about bands with one single album; what happened with SOUL SIRKUS? After what happened with JOURNEY I guess that’s a closed chapter.
You would have to ask Neal Schon about all that, he was the reason for the beginning and end of my involvement with him on both fronts. There is no need to discuss what happened with Journey any more, its an old story and still longer mystery as far as my end, I have no idea what went wrong and he refuses to tell me, enough said.
– In 2007 you joined JOURNEY, but your exit was quite surprising. What did that period with them mean to you?
It was great, I am proud to have that in my history but we’re all better for moving forward and I couldn’t be happier where I am in my life and career.
– And what’s going on with TALISMAN at the moment?
It is over, at least for me it is. I would love to do a final tour out of respect to Marcel and our fans but there is no way for me to replicate the sound of Talisman which WAS Marcel. I couldn’t fool people into caring about new music that didn’t come from his fingers, I would rather let the legacy rest in peace with him.
– After all these years of musical career and working with so different artists; is there any musician you’d like to play with that you haven’t yet?
There are many but ultimately I am very fortunate for the experiences I have had, I plan to be around another 25 years so there is plenty of time to live out some more dreams.
– And, finally, what are your near-future plans?
I will be touring with TSO until June next year and in between will start mapping out my next solo album as well as things with WET, I may be involved with yet another TSO album so 2011 looks very busy already.
– That’s all Jeff, it has been a pleasure. If you want to add any final words to the interview take the last lines.
Just to say thank you to all the amazing fans in Spain, you are like family to me, love you all and be safe so we can rock into the next years together!