Substance Survivor 2: Journey axeman Neal managed to keep operating – but had to refuse Clapton invitation over health fears

Neal Schon

Big decision: Neal Schon

Journey guitarist Neal Schon says he’s 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 tells 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.”

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