JEFF SCOTT SOTO On Being Asked To Join SONS OF APOLLO: 'I Said Yes Before I Even Heard One Note'
March 17, 2018
SONS OF APOLLO vocalist Jeff Scott Soto was recently interviewed by Sonic Perspectives. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On whether he was surprised to be asked by Mike Portnoy to join SONS OF APOLLO soon after his band SOTO toured with THE WINERY DOGS:
Jeff: "Absolutely. I didn't expect anything to come from it. I thought Mike was just watching [SOTO perform] because he loved when we did the Yngwie [Malmsteen] medley part of the night, and also when we did 'Stand Up And Shout' from the 'Rock Star' movie. I figured he was just watching on the side because he was waiting for that part of the show. I didn't realize he was watching the show because he was gathering information, so to speak. It certainly was a surprise in the fact that I didn't realize he was looking at me for that reason, and when he did call me to be part of this, I said yes before I even heard one note. I didn't even need to hear one song. They could tell me all I'm doing is burping the entire time, and I just wanted to be a part of it because I'd been wanting to do a record with Mike and a record with Billy [Sheehan] for so many years, and to actually be on the same record with those two guys, I said yes before they even played me one song."
On the group's chemistry:
Jeff: "Every band needs a leader. Everybody needs somebody to kind of lead the charge, so to speak. Of course, this band has five leaders — five people who are more than willing and adequate and able to do this, but then that's where usually it becomes chaos. It's better to have one designated person that's doing that, and Mike stepped up to this decision before even I was involved. He told Derek [Sherinian] he's doing so many different things that he really loves to do, but he doesn't want another situation in his life where he has to have five or six people coming in with their opinions. That's usually what kills a band. That's where all the fights begin, and the egos start driving. He told us very early on, 'Listen, guys. I'm going to be the captain of the ship. Everybody follow my lead. It will be so much easier. Trust me; I know what I'm doing — for this band, and for you individually. If you just trust me, you're going to see the results.' This is what we all did — we said, 'Mike, take the wheel and steer the ship, and we're just going to follow you, and you take us into the promised land.' That's exactly what he's doing. So far, it's working great, because everybody's so busy with other things, and they've come from other things, they don't have to think about SONS OF APOLLO. The map is made out for us. It's great — as long as we don't disagree, of course. But everything's being done so far in a way that we all agree, and it seems to be working really well for this band."
On how it feels to cover songs live from Sherinian and Portnoy's tenure with DREAM THEATER:
Jeff: "I've never been a big DREAM THEATER fan, and I'm not saying that as a knock to the band — I just wasn't a fan of that style of music, so therefore, I don't know any of the material. I know 'Pull Me Under' — it's the only DREAM THEATER song that I actually ever heard before 'Lines In The Sand' and 'Just Let Me Breathe'. When Mike gave it to us for everybody to learn, I thought, 'Oh boy, here's two songs I've never heard, and I now have to make them sound believable, and make them sound like I know these songs, like I've sung these songs before.' To me, that was the difficult part. Once we actually started playing them live, they started sounding like SONS OF APOLLO versions of those songs. They didn't sound like we were just trying to sound like DREAM THEATER; they didn't sound like we were trying to remake the songs; it just sounds like us, the way we play, the way I sing, the soul, the method that I use in singing, it just sounded like those songs could now be SONS OF APOLLO songs. That's on purpose, because if you're going to do covers in a band like this, it shouldn't sound like a tribute band — it should sound like kind of a newer version of what those songs were."
On the adjustments he had to make when writing lyrics and melodies for songs on the group's debut album, "Psychotic Symphony":
Jeff: "I expected they just wanted me to do what I wanted to do, and how I wanted to do it, but on the other hand, I kept thinking, 'Well, they probably can expect this to sound like DREAM THEATER meets MR. BIG meets GUNS N' ROSES.' I'm thinking I have to tap into all the backgrounds of where all these guys came from for them to be happy, and that was the worst thing I could have done, because I was trying to write lyrics like DREAM THEATER — just sci-fi, proggy kind of lyrics and melodies. It was completely opposite of what they wanted. That was the only real dispute, that I came up with some cool ideas, but some of them were just too proggy and too DREAM THEATER, and too much like other elements of the bands that we come from, not necessarily something that sounded new. It was an easy process once I realized what they wanted. They didn't even know what they wanted — they were just waiting and hoping to hear it from me without getting involved. They realized, 'I think it's better if we do this together, so that way, we get the results that will sound like this band.'"
On the group's upcoming tour schedule:
Jeff: "I'm still battling with management because most people in business, they want the band to go out, and of course, everybody wants to see as many shows, as many gigs as you can squeeze into the year, but everybody forgets that the human voice is very delicate and fragile. I've told them numerous times, 'Guys, I'm not 25 years old, and even when I was 25, I didn't sing four nights in a row.' It's going to be difficult, and I've done it before — unfortunately, it just means no fun for me. It means I sing, and I shut up for the rest of the day, and I go to sleep early, and I don't drink, and I don't talk. It's going to be a very boring tour for me, but to me, it's more important that the people who are working their asses off to pay for those tickets to come and see us, I have to deliver. To me, they come first."
"Psychotic Symphony" was released October 20 by InsideOut Music. It sold around 5,200 copies in the United States in its first week of release, earning the band the top position on Billboard's Heatseekers chart, which focuses on top-selling albums by new or developing acts, defined as those who have never appeared on the top 100 of the Billboard 200.
SONS OF APOLLO recently announced plans to perform alongside an orchestra during its concert appearance at the Ancient Theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria on September 22. That night, the group will perform two sets — one of which, says Portnoy, will be a "very special covers set" — and record the show for a future live CD/DVD.