Here’s a heartwarming story that shows how some dinosaurs in the music industry are putting the Internet to better use rather than simply bitching about it ala Universal Music’s Jurassic relic, Doug Morris.
When rock band Journey whose more memorable days were when Steve Perry was at the helm, was looking for a new lead singer they found one via YouTube. Arnel Pineda from Quezon City in the Philippines must have surely had an incredible dream come true after Journey saw him singing their cover songs with his band The Zoo on YouTube and contacted him even though his initial reaction was one of disbelief:
My friend Noel picked up the message on YouTube and told me it was from Neal. I thought it was a hoax so I ignored it. Noel said, “What if it really was Neal and he wanted to offer you the chance of a lifetime?” So I e-mailed Neal back and the rest is history.
Arnel and his manager then flew to San Francisco to audition for Journey soon after, and on September 26th, 2007, Andrew McNeice of Melodicrock.com first reported the hiring supported by the first Arnel-inclusive image of Journey.
And now the official press release confirms it.
But history also shows that Arnel will amazingly be Journey’s sixth singer and no, Steve Perry was not even the first, even though he had two stints with the band. Robert Fleischman has the honor as their first official lead singer even though keyboardist Greg Rolie covered the role initially - and other lead singers include Steve Perry sound-alike Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto. So lead guitarist Neal Schon obviously had a lot of practice in head hunting but this time round, instead of going the juvenile Rock Band reality show route, he decided to go Web2.0. As he explains,
“I was frustrated about not having a singer, so I went on YouTube for a couple of days and just sat on it for hours. I was starting to think I was never going to find anybody. But then I found The Zoo and I watched a bunch of different video clips that they had posted. After watching the videos over and over again, I had to walk away from the computer and let what I heard sink in because it sounded too good to be true. I thought, “he can’t be that good.But he is that good, he’s the real deal and so tremendously talented. Arnel doesn’t sound synthetic and he’s not emulating anyone. I tried to get a hold of him through YouTube and I finally heard from him that night, but it took some convincing to get him to believe that it really was me and not an imposter.”
So EMI’s recent decision to cut A&R budgets and to spot bands via social networks and music/ video websites is not all that much of a pipedream and may even work in some instances as this proves.
However, in the rush by all the other news bulletins to give YouTube the sole credit for this job placement it ignores the merits of the most musical nation on earth, the Philippines. Filipinos have been entertaining audiences all over the world with their note perfect renditions of cover songs of all manner of bands, but sadly have few international singers in the spotlight other than Allan Pineda Lindo of Black Eyed Peas and the legendary Freddie Aguilar, and for a brief moment, Eraserheads
Just like the many other bands in the Philippines, Arnel’ band The Zoo has had their fair share of cover songs, and as serendipity would have it, included Journey songs coupled with their original material as they played in clubs around the country - with Arnel also having sojourns at Hong Kong’s Cavern Club and Igor’s. Not for the Filipinos, the amateur Guitar Hero and Air Guitar antics as they have been paying their dues with real musicianship, so Arnel’s success should be an inspiration to the rest of his fellow rockers. Arnel stated,
“It’s so exciting to sing with one of the best bands in the world. It’ll be a lot of hard work on my part and I’m actually looking forward to the scrutiny I’ll get from the hardcore JOURNEY fans. I know they’ll expect me to sound exactly like ‘the voice’ (Steve Perry), but that will never happen. I know there’s only one Steve Perry in this world.”
And in true hospitable Filipino style, he has endeared himself to the band already, as keyboardist Jonathan Cain gushed,
“Arnel brings a soulful and passionate voice to Journey. His personality is very well-suited to our music. He’s a sincere, authentic person with a great smile and a big heart. I think fans are really going to love him. With Arnel’s soaring tenor, Journey returns to our heritage sound.”
As Journey now sets out to record a new album with producer Kevin Shirley who calls Arnel a “phenomenal, monster vocalist”, it is heartening that Music 2.0 helps make the world a smaller stage and gives hope to many musicians of realizing their dreams. Indeed, Don’t Stop Believing.
Update: Now MySpace delivers a new lead singer for Anthrax - 18 Dec 2007
Another story of a renowned band getting a new lead singer via the Internet, this time from MySpace.
Reuters reported that thrash metal band Anthrax has plucked a new singer from obscurity, with a little help from MySpace.
Dan Nelson, plying his skills in the Long/ New York area had fronted several local bands and he had contacted Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano via MySpace. According to him,
“We sent music back and forth, got together, and jammed for 10 hours straight. After 10 hours, he said, ‘I think you’d be right for Anthrax.”
It’s really nice that there’s tangible hope for tribute band members while baby wheel Guitar Hero and Rock Band players have something to aim for when they grow up.