Thursday, June 10, 2010

Arnel Pineda

JUST a few months after he was handpicked by the celebrated rock band, Journey as its new lead singer, I had the chance to interview Arnel Pineda back in 2008. Literally a journeyman musician, Arnel impressed the members of Journey when they saw several videos of him posted in YouTube singing their big hits.

The rest as the cliche goes, is history. Here’s that 2008 profile that I wrote about Arnel for One Philippines, an entertainment and lifestyle magazine for Filipinos abroad. Once upon a time known as the “Steve Perry of the Philippines,” he is now simply the Arnel Pineda of Journey.


THEY say that in order to go places, one literally has to go places.

That’s exactly what Arnel Pineda did. From Cubao to Makati to Olongapo to Hong Kong to yes, even cyberspace and now to San Francisco and beyond, the journeyman singer from Sampaloc, Manila has taken the roads most and less traveled in the pursuit of his rock and roll dream.

And at 40, a new life begins for the newly-anointed frontman of Journey. Yes, Journey, that stadium-filling rock band responsible for a string of hits in the 80’s that included “Don’t Stop Believin,” and “Open Arms” has just welcomed him aboard. And the irony is that for all his travels, Arnel did not even to have to travel some more to audition for what he now calls “a dream gig.”

Thanks to the rapid advances in technology in general and the website in particular, it was Journey who came looking for Arnel and not the other way around. See, the band, whose contemporaries include the likes of Styx, Toto and Foreigner has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts in recent years after some of its greatest hits have been featured in such high profile film and TV productions like Charlie’s Angels (“Anyway You Want It”), the Oscar-winning  Charlize Theron-starrer, Monster (“Don’t Stop Believin”) and just last year, in the closing credits of the final episode of the HBO mob series, The Sopranos (“Don’t Stop Believin” again).

Problem is, the original voice behind those classics, Steve Perry has already left Journey, apparently for good, way back in 1997. Although Perry’s shoes have since been filled on two occasions by sound-alike and okay, look-alike vocalists in Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto, they simply weren’t acceptable enough for most of the band’s fans. So the search continued.

“I was frustrated about not having a singer,” guitarist Neal Schon admitted in an earlier interview. “So I went on YouTube for a couple of days and just sat on it for hours. I thought I would never find anybody.”

And then Neal found Arnel. A battle-tested veteran of such touring bands like Ijos, Amo, New Age and most recently, Zoo, whose cover performances of Journey’s songs uploaded to YouTube including a stunning note-perfect, goose-bump worthy reading of “Faithfully” got Schon’s attention.  A couple of email exchanges and one fateful phone call later (“I didn’t believe it was Neal Schon who actually emailed and called me”) and just like that, the latter’s long musical journey ended with well, Journey.

Dubbed in YouTube as “the Steve Perry of the Philippines,” Arnel makes no bones in acknowledging his longtime admiration for the former.Still overwhelmed by his sudden good fortune, he says his stint with Journey also gives him the honor and opportunity “to preserve Steve Perry’s legacy.”

“My voice is my weapon and my greatest fear would be to lose it,” he told the local media during the recent launch of “Pain In My Heart,” Zoo’s latest single, a “farewell gift” of sorts. “I’m happy to be a torch bearer for Filipinos. With this gig, the fire of the Filipino spirit is with me.”

“Arnel brings a soulful and passionate voice to Journey,” continues keyboardist Jonathan Cain. “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.”

Of course, we all know that popular Spiderman mantra that “with great power comes great responsibility,” right? Well, Arnel reveals that attached to his Journey selection are tons of responsibility and hard work. Arnel’s official Journey begins with an exciting but grueling world tour that starts next month in Santiago, Chile and includes stops in Las Vegas, Paris, Japan, Australia and hopefully the Philippines by the end of the year. Recording an album of all-new material is also part of the band’s busy schedule.

“There’s a lot of hard work involved,” Arnel admits. “I need to familiarize myself with all those Journey songs I grew up with and that require proper vocalization. Although the band loves my accent, they hired a speech therapist to soften it a bit and there are also some English words that I need to fix. I’m also at the gym everyday to increase my stamina as this will be a long tour.”

Arnel happily announced that he has already bonded with his new bandmates that also includes bass player Ross Valory and drummer Deen Castronovo. “They’re already asking me what Filipino food I can cook when we hit the road,” he muses.

“It’s so exciting to sing with one of the best bands in the world,” he adds.“ 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’ but that will never happen.  I know there's only one Steve Perry in this world. What I’m bringing to the table here is my own singing, which is pure Filipino. The band and the fans are going to have a taste of that for a long time.”

Arnel says it won’t be a problem for him at all if Steve Perry, whom he never met, decides to come back to Journey. “If that happens, I’m more than willing to step aside,” he reveals. “But I’ll be more than thrilled to perform with him on the same stage if given the chance.”

His selection as Journey frontman came at a time when Zoo was beginning to make waves, whose debut album Zoology was launched only during the last quarter of 2007. Its kick-off single, the rollicking “Gimik” is already a huge radio hit and has the makings of an OPM classic. He does not dismiss the possibility of rejoining them in the future in a possible post-Journey scenario.

“Zoo will move on without me and I’m sure they’ll be fine,” he declares. “But me and those guys, we’re like a brotherhood, and if the time comes that I’m no longer with Journey, then who knows?”

1 comment:

cafémobility said...

i remember the time back when arnel pineda(fronting amo band) sang roxette's "listen to your heart". i think it was either gma supershow or that's entertainment.

years after that, a friend email me a link of arnel, this time a mainmabn of zoo singing journey's "open arms." so i searched for more of his videos in youtube. there i found him doing covers of some of my fave glam metals eg, he sang stryper "honestly".

six months after, he was discovered by journey and became their front act.