Journey guitarist Neal Schon says he has managed to get over his drug addiction issues – but admits he was once a “functioning fuck-up”.
And the axeman says fears over living a drug-fuelled lifestyle drove him to refuse an invitation to join Eric Clapton’s band when he was 15, opting instead to play with Carlos Santana. Schon told MusicRadar: “I got the offer from Eric to join Derek and the Dominoes before I got asked to join the Santana band. What a choice, you know?
“I was in the studio with Carlos and we were jamming, when Eric walked in. I was blown away, of course, and I didn’t say too much. But we ended up jamming, it was a fun time, and the next day I went back to the studio and there was a note from Eric’s people requesting that I go and play with him that night. I arrived about 15 minutes before the band were supposed to go on – and they were all sleeping, nodded out in the back. I knew something was up, and it wasn’t healthy. I love Eric. He’s a great guy; it’s just, I think that was a period when there were drug issues. Not that there weren’t drugs in the Santana band – but it didn’t seem as radical.”
Schon returned to work with Santana but regrets: “I was more from the school of Eric than I was of Carlos or Latin music. It was a heavy thing.”
Drugs and alcohol have affected his life, but Schon says he managed to keep working throughout his addiction issues before finally conquering them in 2008. “I was a functioning fuck-up, a functioning alcoholic,” the guitarist states. “I did coke and drugs for many, many years, but I just never went down. I never got so sick where I couldn’t play and I never missed a gig in my life.
“I felt that gave me the right to do anything I wanted; but you get older and your body starts talking to you, and you’d better listen.
“Three years ago I finally said, ‘I’m done.’ I never went to an AA meeting or anything – I just stopped everything. I never had an addictive personality but I just couldn’t put the brakes on. I didn’t have a shot of tequila, I’d had the whole bottle. You can’t keep doing that.”
Neil Schon and Journey have just released the “Eclipse” album and will be touring with Foreigner and Night Ranger all summer long and into the fall.