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Neal Schon


"We never thought about the recording process, of how we were going to cut it with drums and bass, then add this later. We just went in and played live. That's what Escape is and pretty much all of our records."

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One of my cousins played guitar in a band. It was Paul Revere and the Raiders cover band. I used to go this roller rink with my cousins and he was playing guitar in it and so he taught me the first few songs that I learned, Louis, Louis, Gloria, and then I just kind of took off from that.

I was playing around a lot in the Bay area, Broadway when it was all blues and jazz clubs and I was kind of just walking around, up and down the streets with a guitar and going in and every club and any club owner that would let me play because I was underage. They'd keep me in the basement say you can come up and play, but then you got to go back out the basement. Don't drink any water. Don't drink anything. Okay.

I started hanging out with Greg Raleigh a lot. I was like 14 and a half. I just felt like something was going to happen. I was getting very close to all of these guys. They were in the studio recording the Abraxas record. And they had set me up in a little office off the side of the room where I used to take like a twin and turn it face down and put a pillow over the back. And crank it and just practice the records.

At the end of about two months, I remember sitting down at the dinner table with my folks and I said, I think I'm going to get into this band Santana. I think they're going to ask me. And they both start hysterically laughing going, "I can't believe the confidence this kid has." And I'm going, "I don't know. I'm just telling you the truth. That's what I think is going to happen." And the next day the Santana guys asked me to join.

I'm recording in Wally Heider with Santana, and we're in there late one night, and Clapton walks through the door. He came in and it ended up being Eric and I playing guitar. We didn't say any two words to each other the whole night. We just played for like about an hour and I'm sitting here going ... I'm going, "What just happened? That's insane." Eric, we were talking and he says, "Who are your influences?" And I go, "Well man, you're like one of them, the main ones." And he goes, " I don't believe it."

I picked up an acoustic guitar for him and I played him pretty much note for note, Crossroads Spoonful and stuff like that. It was off the live Wheels of Fire record. Gave me a great compliment that he proceeded to ask me to move to England to join the band. And I was like, this is so crazy. So I said, "I don't know if I'd love to play with you, but I don't know if I'm ready to go to England." I go, "I'm actually still legally in high school. I have to get my parents permission to be able to go do anything even if it's with Santana." So I said, "I can do that but well thank you for the offer."

Once I got in the band, Carlos and I became ... like, we hung out all the time. Every once in a while he would say, "I've got this melody and I want you to play a harmony to it." Like on Jungle Strat or stuff like that. And he'd show me the part and then I play the harmony to it. But he wasn't telling me what to do. I was really kind of ... I didn't even know how my style was going to fit in with the band.

It was so far removed from everything I'd been listening to with all the Latin and African percussion, and I was not that strong of a rhythm guitar player back then. And they let me play a lot of lead. Carlos was very strong at both. So if I was playing rhythm on stage when he was playing lead, I'd play very quietly. I just kind of chug along like an older jazz guy.

The cool set up that I had back down was the Les Paul that I got was a 68 re-issue gold top with the P-90s and a wild wind, a twin. And then I put like the cheapest 12 inch eminent speakers I could find and it said they'd break up. I knew this turn up the town. And that was it. It was a good combo.

Some days if I practice and I'm practicing straight for like six hours, five hours. I'll play with eights on a Strat or Tele. And it feels great and I love it. I play nines mostly, but then other times I'll play tens. They all sound good to me. I think it's more between your fingers and the amplifier and the guitar, and the myth about this big strings and ... yeah, for blues they sound gigantic. But if you try to play the other stuff all night long, like I'm going to play what's comfortable to me.

Hendricks played eights and sevens, so it's a myth, it depends what you're doing, what you like.

We toured 11 months out of the year, the 12th month we come out and we do a Next, Journey third record. And at this point CBS is kind of giving us an ultimatum. Like you guys need a front man. We need to get on the radio, otherwise you're going to be dropped.

I didn't know how comfortable I would be trying to write a song for a vocalist. Never even thought of it. It was always jam. We listened to a manager Herbie [Hover 00:07:53] And he happened to be like 1000% correct and he had ... Herbie sending Harry out on tour with us. I think we were in Denver, Colorado. We were hanging out in a hotel room and then I had an acoustic guitar. I had some music that I'd written thinking about, okay, well I'm supposed to construct, a song here for him to sing.

And I showed it to him and he started singing to it and it was immediate. It was just like, it was done within an hour and I thought it was pretty good at that point. And I've started really hearing the texture of his voice and what he was capable of. And I loved that he had the RMB soul thing, even though he was very clean in the first Journey record, the more we got into it, I realized he was a RMB guy. And so that's what I felt like set us apart from many of the other rock bands that we got sort of shoved into a box with by critics at that point.

Steve played drums, he was a drumming singer in his old band, which really makes me understand why he had such great phrasing. I knew how to sit and back at the beat and sing and make it soulful. But he also played bass and I thought, wow guy, that's all you really need to be able to write a melody as your root note. And he came in, he showed me how like a stumble of lights, but it was more like ... it was like a [inaudible 00:09:36] . It was a stumble, I listened to it and I said, what if I put a little bit of a Jimmy into this?

We did like a straw. He had the whole song pretty much written. I wrote the intro and the guitar bridge and the guitar solo, and bam, that was it. And we were off and running that was the second song. And then we realized that we actually did have chemistry together to write and continued doing that.

I had taken over Larry [Glim's 00:10:47] old place in Oakland. John came in, we set up his keyboards and we started writing. And we got into it immediately and wrote Escape record. I had like all the music for Escape, I had all the chords and the parts and pretty much arranged. I had Mother Father, same where I had arranged all the stuff written one section with my father and then we kind of banged out the rest of it.

I had given Jonathan I think a box of cassettes, I never used to demo anything. I just would on a cassette if I had an idea, and I play the part and I was there and I'd go back and listen to it and see if there was something there to finish writing the song with. So that's what we did. We did through all that stuff. John did a lot of it and he went through it and he goes, you've got these two parts. I think this part fits here, but [inaudible 00:11:45] changed the key of the other one. And he was very good at that. Before you knew it, we had a whole record that we rehearsed. I think we rehearsed for about a month straight playing this stuff live like we were going to go play live.

We never thought about a recording process of we're going to cut it with drums and bass, then add this later. We just went in and played live and so that's what that record is and pretty much all our records.

Everybody wants to hear this. I was maybe not maybe most definitely the guy that blocked it the most, for years and years and years. I wanted to move forward always. Now I wanted to lay new stuff on it and when we play by ourselves you can do that, that's what I found. You can stretch out. You're going to add parts of songs, even if it's ... you're playing in, you can put different vets in for the song. Just rearrange it, so it's not the same all the time. Is what mainly what the audience wants to hear. And they're the ones that are buying the tickets. So you have to look at it from their perspective, and give them what they want. And then you're going to have a very successful tour.