Born in Sampaloc, Manila, in the Philippines, on September 5, 1967, Arnel Pineda has enjoyed a successful career as a singer/songwriter and recording artist for the last 25 years. Between recording two albums on major labels, winning a Best Vocalist award, playing with numerous bands, as often as 6 days a week for 3-5 hour shows, Arnel has remained consistently busy throughout his career. However, to the western world, he's been Asia's best kept secret until now.
As Journey's lead vocalist, with an upcoming new double album and DVD, "Revelation", which is slated for June 3, 2008 release (through Wal*Mart), and a world tour (co-headlined with Heart and Cheap Trick in the US), Arnel is on his way to becoming a household name.
Arnel's life story presents a true rags-to-riches tale that will warm and inspire any heart.
The Early Years: Born the eldest son of two tailors, his parents encouraged him to start singing at age 5, entering him into amateur singing contests. Arnel recalls being very shy but his mother encouraged him every step of the way. She put him on a table and bribed him with one peso if he sang for her friends.
When Arnel was 12, his mother (then 35) passed away after a long battle with heart disease. The family's attempts to provide Arnel's mother with the best possible treatment and care left them in serious debt. Broke and brokenhearted, Arnel's father found himself no longer able to adequately provide for his children. Relatives were willing to take in Arnel's 3 younger brothers, Russmon, Roderick, and Joselito. Homeless, 12 year old Arnel sometimes slept outside in Luneta Park. In an interview on Balitang USA, he described drinking water that smelled like gasoline, because there was nothing else for him to drink. He also bathed in the same water and dried himself by laying in the sun.
When possible, he stayed at a friend's house, whose family gave him a small cot outside and he described being feasted on by mosquitoes. In a TV interview with Jessica Soho on "Kapuso Mo" in the Philippines in 2007, he tearfully recalled sleeping at that friend's house and watching through the window while the family ate breakfast. If any food was left over, Arnel had something to eat that day.
For a while, he hung onto the jeepneys to get to school because he had no money for transportation. Eventually, he quit school to earn money to help support the family by collecting scrap metal and empty bottles at the pier, and selling newspapers.
During this time, Arnel dreamed of becoming an engineer. But fate had another future in store and Arnel was destined to be an entertainer.
In 1982, when Arnel was just 15 years old, friends introduced him to a local band called "Ijos" (later renamed "Yjoz") and encouraged him to audition for the frontman position. Arnel sang "Help" (The Beatles) and "Making Love Out of Nothing At All" (Air Supply). Ijos members were impressed with his voice, but noticed his timing was off, and thought it would require training for him to become ready to take the frontman position. A fan of the band, who ran a local fruit stand, was so impressed with Arnel that he offered to pay 35 pesos per week if Ijos hired Arnel. Arnel's fate was sealed because of the generosity of this wonderful fan.
In 1986, while Yjoz was still performing, Arnel (Vocals), along with bandmates, Ulysis Ablang (Uly) (Band Leader and Second Lead Guitar), Elmer Palermo (Keyboards) (who was then with Gary Perez's band, Blitz), Kamlon Acebo (Bass Guitar), Lito Ablang (Drummer), Makoy Alcantara (Vocals and Percussion) formed a pop/rock band called Amo. Later that year, guitarist, Monet Cajipe (First Lead Guitar) (another former member of Ijos/Yjoz) joined Amo. Amo was originally formed with the purpose of entering the Rock Wars contest in Makati. They entered and won performing Heart's "What About Love", Journey's "Separate Ways", Toto's "I'll Supply The Love", Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and their own original song "That Girl". In
1988, Amo entered and won the Philippines leg of the Yamaha World Band Explosion Contest. They went on to Hong Kong for the Asian finals, but unfortunately, did not win due to a technicality. Their winning song was Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". However, the rules stated that a band could only win the Asian finals performing an original composition. Another rule did not allow a competing band to change the song performed in their country's leg of the contest. This technicality rendered Amo, although the favourite, ineligible to win. The contest was broadcast on TV in Asia.
After the contest, Arnel and his bandmates decided to continue as Amo and played in clubs in Quezon City, Olongapo and Makati, which are located on the biggest island of the Philippines. They were very popular in the renowned Chinese owned "California Jams" club which was frequented by military personnel.
In 1989, Amo opened for Robert Palmer at the Araneta Coliseum in Manila.
In 1990, several members of Amo formed a separate band called "Intensity Five" for the sole purpose of competing once again in the Yamaha World Band Explosion Contest. This time, Arnel won the Best Vocalist award, keyboardist Elmer Palermo won the Best Keyboardist Award, and drummer Arnold won the Best Drummer award, while the band itself came in as first runner up. Their accomplishments were nonetheless incredible for a Filipino band.
Later that year, five of Amo's original members split from Uly and formed another band behind Arnel, "New Age". This occurred prior to the release of Amo's only album released in 1990 titled "Ang Tunay Ma" ("The Real Master") on BMG records which spawned one popular radio hit called "Running Away". (The song was popularized again in 2006 by another Filipino artist, Erik Santos, who won an American Idol type Filipino TV show, "Star In A Million".) The remaining members of Amo went on to become "The Boss Band", while Arnel's band, "New Age", played regularly at "Fire and Rain" in Makati, a city on the outskirts of Manila.
In 1991, the owner of the popular Hong Kong club "Grammy's" took notice of New Age and asked them to move to Hong Kong. Arnel and New Age performed six nights a week, Tuesday through Sunday, at Grammy’s for several years thereafter.
In 1994, Arnel's life reached an all-time low. A long-term serious relationship failed, brokenhearted, he found himself turning to alcohol and drugs for comfort. He was broke, unhappy and, worst of all, he lost his voice. He returned home to Manila to recuperate for 6 months. His doctors thought he may never sing again, but Arnel was determined, realizing that singing was his true passion in life. He gave up drugs, and later, quit drinking. With his voice strong once more, he began to sing again with New Age.
New Age briefly changed its name to "Ammo" (named after one of their concerts at Up Los Baños) and in hopes of recognition from their time with the original Amo. While recording an album, the band changed their name again in 1995, to "Kamme". This name was derived from the first initial of each member's name: Kamlon, Arnel, Monet, Makoy, and Elmer, and was designed to match the title of their album "Heto na Kamme" ("Here We Come"). Unfortunately, the album did not materialize, and the band went back to being called New Age, instead of starting over as an unknown band.
In 1998, the band was approached by the owner of Igor's in Hong Kong, which was at that time, the premiere restaurant/nightclub frequented by tourists, and asked to perform there. Because Igor's was a theme restaurant (horror), the band dressed in skeleton outfits and called themselves "The Rolling Bones".
In 1999, Arnel caught the attention of Warner Bros. record label and, on his two days off a week, he went back to the Philippines to record a solo album, the self-titled “Arnel Pineda” which he wrote and arranged (along with Isaias Nalasa). Most of the album’s ten original songs are slow ballads, with only two upbeat numbers, one of which carries a Latin style. One of the songs, “Iiyak Ka Rin” became very popular and is now a karaoke favourite in Asia, while another song "Sayang" became a radio favorite. Reviews of the album say:
"One immediately notices that Arnel Pineda has an excellent voice, full of depth and passion. He effortlessly reaches all notes on the scale, which many Philippine singers have trouble doing. He has charisma and is technically skilled as well. He sings in various registers on the album and has no trouble singing in a high range..."For more information on the album, click HERE. Arnel dyed his hair blond during this time period and continued to perform at Igor's while making his album and thereafter.
In 2001, Arnel sang one song on the Filipino band, "South Border"’s album “The Way We Do”. The song is called “Looking Glass”. (South Border are a popular Filipino band who featured on one of American Idol’s Jasmine Trias’ album.) Reviews of the album described this track as follows:
“Things, however, get amazing on "Looking Glass," a pop/rock -styled outing on which the vocalist gives the pretty melody a gritty edge. Actually, the song sounds like something in the style of 1960s British band, Badfinger.”
In 2002, Arnel's band reformed as 9MM and played at “The Edge” in Lai Kwai Fong, in Hong Kong.
In 2004, three members of New Age reformed with a female singer sharing lead vocals with Arnel and began playing at The Cavern Club in Hong Kong. This popular club was run by Igor's Group (which started Igor's, the club New Age played at before it was closed.). Briefly, the band called themselves "The Bones" in remembrance of The Rolling Bones. Then, they changed their name to “Most W@nted”. They played 3-4 hour sets Monday through Saturday at The Cavern Club in Hong Kong. On Sundays, their only day off, they often performed at Filipino community events, taking requests.
In 2005, Arnel recorded the theme song of the short-lived Filipino radio show "Dayo". Arnel is pictured on the right with a band known as "The Visitors", formed for promotion of the "Dayo" soundtrack. The Visitors never actually performed together, but three of its members were from Ijos/Yjoz, Amo, New Age and Most W@nted. When requested to perform live on a few occasions, Most W@nted played in their place.
2006-2007 - The Zoo and Beyond:
In 2006, Arnel moved back to the Philippines along with Monet Cajipe, the guitarist/songwriter who had been in all his bands during the previous 24 years. Arnel often refers to Monet as his "inspiration" and the guy who taught him everything he knows. (Their long-time bandmate and friend, Elmer Palermo, remained in Hong Kong, renaming the band "Impulz" and they still perform at The Cavern Club today).
Arnel and Monet formed the Zoo Band with Emil Bondoc on bass, Edgar Mendoza on keyboards, and Makoy Alcantara (another long-time bandmate of Arnel) on drums. The Zoo Band performed several nights a week at clubs in Manila and Olongapo during 2006 and 2007. Shows regularly spanned 3-5 hours. The Zoo’s first album “Zoology” was released by MCA Universal in September 2007 featuring 13 original tracks, several of which were penned by Arnel.
Videos of The Zoo performing cover songs by Journey, Survivor, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Air Supply, The Eagles, Kenny Loggins and other popular acts from the 70s, 80s and 90s, began appearing on YouTube.com in February 2007 and now number more than 200 in total.
Arnel and the Future:
On June 28, 2007, Neal Schon, guitarist and founding member of Journey contacted Noel Gomez (ndgomez), the YouTube member who uploaded many videos, asking for contact information for Arnel. At first, Arnel thought it was a hoax, but Noel encouraged him to respond, just in case it was the chance of a lifetime. Arnel finally responded providing his cell phone number. Schon called him ten minutes later and fondly recalls spending the first thirty minutes of the conversation trying to convince Arnel he was really Neal Schon. It was decided that Arnel and his manager would fly to San Francisco to audition with Journey.
When Arnel arrived to apply for his US visa citing his reasons as auditioning for Journey, the immigration agents did not take him seriously and were about to send him home empty-handed. Luckily, one agent had seen Arnel perform at the Bagaberde club the previous night and recognized him. The agent recalls being impressed with Arnel's vocal skills and thinking he sounds like Steve Perry. He asked Arnel to sing "Wheel In The Sky" a capella in the office. Everyone iapplauded and Arnel's visa was granted.
On August 12, 2007, Arnel, along with his manager, Bert de Leon, flew to San Francisco to audition for Journey. Arnel described his audition as "nerve-wracking, tense" and said he was "star struck". He thought his voice was not at its best, but he knew he was in the middle of his own very special fairytale!
After two auditions in Journey's rehearsal warehouse, Jonathan Cain, keyboard player of Journey, was still not convinced. He suggested bringing Arnel back to his home recording studio to test his recording voice. Neal Schon insisted Arnel was the guy for the job. Arnel recounts Schon saying: "This is the guy. If we're not getting him, I'd rather form another band." After hearing Arnel's recording voice on the old Journey hits, Cain was finally convinced they had found the right guy for the job. Arnel returned to the Philippines after his audition and continued performing with The Zoo until October 2007.
A photograph of Arnel and his manager, along with Journey members Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Jonathan Cain, and Deen Castronovo, surfaced online in September 2007. (The lead singer spot was last filled by Jeff Scott Soto, who performed with the band from July 2006, and was announced as lead vocalist officially in December 2006, only to be let go in June 2007. Soto replaced Steve Augeri who was Journey's lead vocalist from 1998-2007, when he left for health reasons. Augeri replaced Steve Perry, the band's best known vocalist, 1978-1998.)
Arnel is Officially Journey:
In late October 2007, Arnel returned to the US until shortly before Christmas, and recorded a new double album with Journey produced by the legendary Kevin Shirley. He recorded 11 of Journey's greatest hits, along with 11 new songs.
On December 5, 2007, Journey issued a press release welcoming Arnel with "Open Arms" and announcing an upcoming album and an upcoming tour.
The tour started with two dates in Chile (February 21 and 23, 2008) and Arnel was a huge success lauded by the Chilean press. Two more dates in Las Vegas occurred in March 2008 (one a private ReMax function) and the other a sold out smash hit at Planet Hollywood. The second Las Vegas date was filmed for the DVD which is part of the new album pack: "Revelation".
In May, 2008, Journey appeared by request on the "Ellen" show performing "Separate Ways" and their new single, "After All These Years" from the new "Revelation" album. They also appeared on the syndicated "Rockline" radio show broadcast throughout the nation showcasing "Revelation" and answering caller's questions.
In June 2008, GQ Magazine published a feature magazine about Arnel and Journey, and the CBS Sunday Morning Show showcased Journey in a special feature focusing on Arnel's life, and Journey's comeback with Arnel at the helm.
On June 3, 2008, "Revelation" debuted in the US charts at No. 5 selling almost 108,000 copies. This is Journey's highest charting album since "Trial By Fire", their last with singer, Steve Perry. In Europe, "Revelation" entered the UK charts at No. 27, Norway's charts at No. 97, and the Top 50 in Germany's charts. The single "After All These Years" entered the US Adult Contemporary charts at No. 28 two weeks before "Revelation" was released and continues to climb (currently at No. 23).
Journey began touring Europe on June 8 (starting in Madrid, Spain) and will continue to the UK and Ireland with supporting act, John Parr (St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)) through June 29, 2008. The North American leg (with Heart and Cheap Trick) begins July 9 in Denver, CO and continues through October 11, 2008. At the end of 2008, Journey will tour Japan, Australia, and the Philippines.
Arnel's father, Mang Resto, is still active as a tailor at 68 years old and living in the Philippines. Arnel's three brothers are married and also live in the Philippines. Arnel supported his youngest brother, Roderick, while he attended college, and Roderick is the only member of the family who graduated from college.
Arnel has three sons: Matthew (19) (from a past relationship), currently attending college, Angelo (13) (from Arnel's former marriage), currently attending high school, and Cherub (2) (from his current relationship). He remains very close with his entire family.
When he's not on tour with Journey, Arnel lives in Quezon City, a suburb of Manila, with his long term girlfriend/partner of 5 years, Cherry, and their baby son, Cherub.