Neal Schon: Q&A

When Journey guitarist Neal Schon describes the recent events in his life as “really out there”, he’s not kidding. In the past 12 months Schon’s name has been all over US media as part of a bizarre story involving his current girlfriend, reality TV star Michaele Salahi, and her ex-husband Tareq.

The Salahis separated in 2011 after Michaele ran off with Schon, amid claims from Tareq that his wife had been kidnapped, and that the guitarist had texted him pictures of his genitalia and boasted: “I’m fucking your wife”. Tareq also filed a $50m lawsuit against Schon, alleging “outrageous and intolerable conduct”, although this lawsuit has now been settled, according to a report on ABC News.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Schon has also been betrayed by a former bandmate. John Waite, singer for Schon’s 80s supergroup Bad English, recently dissed Journey’s music as “super-white” and stated that he would rather shoot himself than re-form Bad English. Thankfully, Schon, who has a new solo album released this month, isn’t taking any of this stuff lying down.

You’ve been in the news a lot lately.

Yeah. In the last year I’ve learned a lot about the media that I never knew. I didn’t ask for it, it just kind of happened. But I’ve gone along with it. You get smarter about it, and instead of being manipulated by the media you start thinking one step ahead of them.

**Has this been a traumatic time for you? **

It’s a bit traumatic if you wake up and you turn on the TV and there’s a story about a picture of your penis on ABC News – Good Morning America! I’m like: “This is so silly”. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. But you have to just brush it off.

**What exactly was this story about your penis? **

I don’t really want to get into it, but Michaele’s ex- had a picture that he claimed I sent to him – which I never did. And he claimed he had a voice message from me telling him that I was fucking his wife – and that was not me either. If you listen to the voice, it sounds like somebody from Australia. But the media will believe anything so long as it’s a catchy story. And all of a sudden, bam, it’s everywhere.

And what about the lawsuit? Bad English had a song called Price Of Love, but you surely didn’t think that price was $50m?

You mean the 50-cent lawsuit? [laughs] You know, I was never worried about the $50 million. But I’m glad it’s over. And some good things have come out of this whole thing. I meet people and they’re like: “God, you deal with a lot of crazy aspects in your life right now, and I really commend you for holding it together so well”.

**What did you make of what John Waite said about Journey – that the music was “super-white” and “just wrong”? **

I got a good chuckle out of it, man. I mean, John is a great guy. I love John. He’s always been tremendously talented. I know he considers himself a poet, and I loved working with him when I did. But to say that Journey is ultra-white is really off the wall.

It’s also tough on Journey’s former singer, Steve Perry, who idolised soul singers such as Sam Cooke and Otis Redding.

John Waite is a very cool singer. But if I had to put Steve Perry’s voice next to Waite’s… I’ll tell you, I can hear a lot of R&B in Steve Perry, and I know exactly where it came from – Otis, Sam, Jackie Wilson.

**Waite also said he’d rather shoot himself than do a Bad English reunion. Which of those options do you think he should take? **

I think maybe John Waite has got a few chips on his shoulder. Whatever’s not right in his life, I think he should change it.

Your album is called The Calling. Is that how you see your life in music?

Absolutely. It’s always been my calling to play music. It’s what I love doing.

**How would you describe the music on this record? **

It’s instrumental, very diversified but also well balanced. There’s a lot of rocking moments and really intense jamming.

**Have you started working on the next Journey album? **

We’re talking about it. We’re touring for the rest of this year, but I’m writing all the time. It’s just in me, like a switch that doesn’t turn off.

**You’ve worked with so many different artists over the years. Who was the strangest? **

Michael Bolton was a little eccentric. I played the blues guitar solo on his version of (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, and Bolton made me re-do my solo about 200 times.

**Is it true that Journey considered Michael Bolton as a replacement for Steve Perry back in the late 80s? **

We thought about it for a second. Michael definitely had pipes – he was pretty bionic when I worked with him. But even then there was a lot of personality clashing. I didn’t feel that we would get too far, that’s all I can tell you.

**When did you last speak with Steve Perry? **

The last time I spoke to him face to face was when we did the Hollywood Walk Of Fame eight years ago.

And was it a good conversation?

It was. But there were so many reporters around, it had to be. To this day I don’t understand why we can’t just pick up the phone and talk.

**But Journey lives on without Steve Perry. **

You know, a lot of people thought that us going on without him would be the kiss of death. And it was a long, hard ride back. But now, here we are with Arnel [Pineda, vocalist], and things are going amazing for us. It goes to show that if you really want to do something, you can succeed regardless of what anyone says.

This was first published in_ Classic Rock_ issue 176.

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”