http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/journeys-neal-schon-talks-new-album-eclipse-the-sopranos-guitars-and-gear-455206

Neal Schon played mostly Paul Reed Smith guitars on Journey’s new album, Eclipse. © Travis Shinn

“I don’t feel like a guitar hero,” says Journey’s Neal Schon. “It’s flattering when people say nice things about what I do, but really, I’m just another guitar player. There’s so many guys who are much better than me. That’s not false modesty – it’s the truth. In the end, it all comes down to trying to express yourself. If you can establish a signature sound or style, that’s a major feat. I’ve been at this a long time, so hopefully I’ve accomplished those things.”

Since founding Journey in 1973 (this after joining Santana at the tender age of 15!), Schon, whose tenure in the band has been a constant, despite what has sometimes appeared to be a revolving door of members, has done more than carve out a recognizable guitar sound. He’s created a rich catalogue of songs that – pardon the cliche, but it’s entirely fitting here – have become part of the soundtrack of millions of people’s lives across the globe. From proms to weddings to even funerals, Journey songs have played a prominent role.

And as for pop culture, screw the critics, who have hurled brickbats at the group since Day One. That Sopranos finale, the last scene? Fuggedaboudit – unthinkable without Don’t Stop Believin’ playing on the jukebox. Game, set match – Journey won the title of Coolest Band Around without even setting foot on the court.

But here we are in 2011, and Journey (which also includes longtime members Jonathan Cain on keyboards, bassist Ross Valory and drummer Deen Castronovo, along with 2007 YouTube recruit, the Filipino-born singer Arnel Pineda who has tackled the unenviable task of replacing vocalist Steve Perry) have just released Eclipse, their most musically diverse and challenging album since 1983’s Frontiers.

There’s hooks a-plenty on Eclipse (a joint production between Kevin Shirley, Schon and Cain), and yes, there’s a couple of unabashed love tunes, but much of the time the group flips the bird at their reputation as ‘sensitive, power-balladeers,’ dishing out muscular, complex cuts that routinely clock in at well over the five-minute mark.

Which suits Schon just fine. “Eclipse is a Catch-22,” he says. “Most people really love it. Occasionally, I’ll hear a snide remark: ‘Oh, they should’ve stuck to the formula. With a song like Don’t Stop Believin’ being bigger than ever, where’s one of those?’ But that’s the thing: We’ve already done that song. We’ve got a ton of those songs. I don’t feel like sitting in neutral. Right now, there’s pretty much nothing we can’t do. We’re going for it.”

Gearing up for a two-year world tour in support of Eclipse, Neal Schon sat down with MusicRadar to discuss the new album and the state of Journey, which he calls a “very happy, very together unit.” In addition, we chatted guitars and gear and strolled down memory lane to talk about the one song that, in Schon’s words, “just doesn’t go away.” Not that he’s complaining.

Once again, you worked with Kevin Shirley, who is known for his speedy manner in the studio. Does that kind of rapid pace inspire you?

“Not particularly. Kevin is quick, and I’ll be honest, he was a little too quick with me. We don’t take forever in the studio; we don’t waste time. But I don’t like to be rushed. Put it this way: I’d rather spend my days playing in the studio instead of having somebody Pro Tool.

“Actually, the record is co-produced by Kevin, Jonathan and myself. After Kevin split and went to work with Joe Bonamassa, I went in and redid things. I heard what we’d recorded, and I thought we weren’t even close to being done. So I recut quite a few guitars and solos. Arnel sang practically the whole record over again. Then we did more keyboard overdubs and moved string parts around.

“We produced a lot of this record by ourselves. But I was very passionate about it and wanted it to be great, so I stuck with it till the very end. From the mixing to the sequencing, I put in a lot of work. In my opinion, when it was done, it was really done.”