JEFF SCOTT SOTO: ‘We Never Said SONS OF APOLLO Was Over’

In a new interview with Robert Cavuoto of Sonic Perspectives, singer Jeff Scott Soto (TALISMAN, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN) was asked if there has been any discussion about the status of his progressive metal supergroup SONS OF APOLLO, which also features guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-GUNS N’ ROSES),bassist Billy Sheehan (MR. BIG, THE WINERY DOGS),keyboardist Derek Sherinian (also of BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION) and drummer Mike Portnoy (DREAM THEATER),especially now that Portnoy is once again a member of DREAM THEATER. Soto responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “First of all, there was no discussion. There still is no discussion that SONS OF APOLLO is over. The tour ended because of COVID. There was no discussion of where we’re going, when we’re going, how we’re gonna do it, blah, blah, blah. There was no even discussion of Mike going back to DREAM THEATER or anybody at that point. Everybody was just focusing on what they were doing.”

He continued: “The DREAM THEATER thing truly, from my knowledge, happened in 2023. It nothing to do with the pandemic and nothing to do with 2021 or ’22. Where we’re at, where he’s at, where’s WINERY DOGS, it nothing to do with any of that. Whatever his personal discussions with the band were, whatever they were discussing or conceptualizing with it all, [it had] nothing to do with us, nothing to do with any of his other bands. I know that for a fact. Number two, him being with the mothership, he’s home. He’s where the fans have been waiting for, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m so happy for him, I’m happy for the band, I’m happy for the fans. He belongs back home, as far as I’m concerned. But my personal opinion is I don’t think SONS OF APOLLO and DREAM THEATER could exist and kind of on the same atmosphere, I guess, is the only word I can come up with. It’s too similar in music. DREAM THEATER, they go to way more intense, crazy levels of what they did and what they still do than SONS OF APOLLO did. But I think it’s too close. I don’t think it’s gonna work.”

Soto clarified: “This is just me speaking. [This is] not from any discussion. We haven’t had any powwows. ‘Well, let’s make sure we say this.’ There’s nothing. We haven’t discussed any parameters about this band. So to say that it’s over is unfair because we never said it was over. Mike never said, ‘Hey, guys, I’m going to DREAM THEATER. SONS OF APOLLO‘s done.’ When Ron and Derek started WHOM GODS DESTROY, they never said, ‘Hey, SONS OF APOLLO is over.’ We just never discussed it. It’s just kind of an open-ended book that we never closed. So I’ll go on record by saying we never said it’s over. My personal idea is I don’t think that both bands will coexist at the same time. Mike‘s gonna be far too busy with that. I’m sure most of his [other] bands are going to go bye-bye. Maybe WINERY DOGS will continue. Who knows, but I don’t know. And that’s his business. That’s his question. I can’t speak for him. I can only speak for me.”

SONS OF APOLLO recorded and released two studio albums over the course of a three-year period but has been inactive since completing a South American tour in August 2022.

In some of his recent interviews, Bumblefoot spoke about SONS OF APOLLO in the past tense and said “everything has its lifespan” with regard to the band’s future plans, stirring up speculation that SONS OF APOLLO was all but finished. Sherinian and Thal have since formed new progressive metal outfit WHOM GODS DESTROY, while Soto has also joined Thal in ART OF ANARCHY, with both bands releasing new albums within a month of each other.

Bumblefoot addressed SONS OF APOLLO‘s status in a recent interview with Jimmy Kay of Canada’s The Metal Voice. He said: “Well, we were on tour. Shows, we had doubled our attendances. Just everything was going this way [pointing up]. It was going great. And we got four shows into a 20-show tour in Europe. And we had to pull the plug, COVID and all, and went back home. And then Derek and I and Jeff, we wanted to start working on album number three. It was, like, ‘We have all this time now to nurture it.’ But not everybody was on board to do that; some people had their own plans and things they wanted to do, which they did. And so, what happened was it split into two bands. Jeff, he offered to be the singer for this band that I had with old friends of mine called ART OF ANARCHY. And he knew that we were just, during the pandemic, we’d get together and record songs. And he said, ‘You’ve had all these problematic singers. You should have just worked with me from the beginning and everything would have been fine.’ And I was, like, ‘I agree.’ So he offered to be the singer. And, of course, the band all said, ‘Hell yeah.’ So now I have ART OF ANARCHY with Jeff. And Derek and I just continued writing as we did with SONS OF APOLLO where we just write; we write the music. And we kept doing that, and we realized that with certain members not interested, we couldn’t really continue with SONS OF APOLLO. I mean, Jeff was interested; he would have loved to do a third [album]. But we found new bandmembers… So [WHOM GODS DESTROY] really started from the ashes of SONS OF APOLLO. We crawled out and we continued writing what could’ve become a third SONS OF APOLLO album, but it wasn’t gonna happen.”

Asked if it’s easy keeping a supergroup like SONS OF APOLLO together, Thal said: “Nothing is easy. It can be easy if everyone just shuts the fuck up and does their job and, yeah, if people think about the hive and not just their bee-self. If you have the mentality of being a team player and not just a selfish fuck, then a band can easily work and last for decades.”

He clarified: “I’m not calling anyone in particular a selfish fuck. I’m just saying that in bands, in every band, you’re gonna have the narcissist, usually a drug-addict narcissist, you’re gonna have the conspiring, greedy asshole, you’re gonna have the one that is just riddled with depression and thinks that every note is the most important thing that happened. And also you have people that forget that if you have four or five people in the band, you should only be getting 25 or 20 percent of your ideas going through, and if you’re hogging it up, you’re taking away from everyone else. And it’s not a fair scenario and someone is gonna feel like they’re left out and not being heard and not feel like an equal. So I always say in a band, in a band of five unemployable dysfunctional dudes, if only one out of five of your ideas makes it through, then everything is fair and you have to be able to be okay with that. 20 percent times five — that’s how it should be. You have to accept that mentality, and anything beyond that, think of as a bonus and don’t look at it like…”

Thal added: “Bands are a really fucked-up marriage.”

After Bumblefoot‘s remarks were published on the Prog web site and the article was shared on the magazine’s Facebook page, Portnoy took to the comments section to write: “Obviously Ron is (discreetly) pointing the finger at me (and possibly Billy as well?),but I must publicly squash this rhetoric that is implying SONS OF APOLLO‘s demise had anything to do with me rejoining DREAM THEATER. That didn’t happen until Oct 2023…

“The reality is when the SOA tour got cancelled because of Covid in 2020, by the time there was any talk of writing new stuff and a possible 3rd album, I already had commitments with TRANSATLANTIC, NMB [NEAL MORSE BAND] and THE WINERY DOGS (w Billy as well). I can understand Ron, Derek & Jeff‘s frustration with this, but the reality is the ONLY way I was ever able to juggle and balance all my bands all these years was to block certain windows in my schedule for each band or project to have time for an album/tour cycle. Sadly, SOA‘s album/tour cycle window got killed by Covid and by the time the world reopened again, I already was booked with my other bands and projects.

“Anyways, I’m happy for those guys that they were able to continue working together in other musical capacity’s…but make no mistake, at the time, it had nothing to with me rejoining DT!”

Sheehan was unable to join his SONS OF APOLLO bandmates on the aforementioned South American tour due to COVID-19 vaccine-related travel restrictions. His replacement on the trek was ANGRA‘s Felipe Andreoli.

SONS OF APOLLO‘s second album, “MMXX”, was released in January 2020 via InsideOut Music/Sony.

The follow-up to 2017’s “Psychotic Symphony” debuted on multiple Billboard charts dated, including Tastemakers (No. 10),Heatseekers Albums (No. 11) and Hard Rock Albums (No. 21).

At the time of “MMXX”‘s release, Soto told Billboard: “We absolutely jumped into this as an ongoing commitment from all of us that we were going to follow up on and treat it, with all intents and purposes, as a real band. With the caliber of who we have and what we could come up with, we knew we wanted to dive into this thing fully committed, and not as a one-off.”

Regarding the differences in the musical direction between the two albums, Soto said: “I don’t think we strayed too far. If you put both albums together as a double album, it would work. The only difference is that I feel that I put a little more personality into the vocal parts. It was a little homogenized on the first album, in terms of playing it safe. I didn’t toy around too much with straying from the main ideas.

“On [the second] album, I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” he continued. “I knew where we were headed as a band. This time, it was a no-brainer that I should just go for it. The first album was, again, the foundation and the skeletal embryonic stage of the band. Now it’s solid and I’ve watched it flourish, and I went in knowing what to do.”

Six years ago, Portnoy told Let’s Rock about SONS OF APOLLO‘s chemistry: “I’d like to say that I was surprised by how easy it came together, but, to be honest, I kind of expected that. That wasn’t really a surprise. I knew it would work. I knew it would be easy once once we started playing just because I know the guys involved. So, I can’t really say there were many surprises. Everything kind of went according to plan. Everybody was kind of chosen for the band because I knew their personalities. And Jeff and Bumblefoot in particular are the two most easy-going guys, and [laughs] that’s very rare for a guitar player and a singer. But in this case, you couldn’t ask for two sweeter guys. That’s a huge part of [the] importance in picking band chemistry. A lot of times, it’s well beyond the music. It’s more about the personalities and in this case, it’s a great group of guys.”

Photo credit: Hristo Shindov


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