June 16, 2004: Infinity: A Tribute to Journey
December 2005: Steve Perry with Melodicrock.com
June 14, 2007: Steve Perry with Entertainment Weekly
February 2008: Kevin Chalfant with Melodicrock.com
March 2008: Herbie Herbert with Melodicrock.com
May 2008: Steve Perry with GQ Magazine
March 2009: Steve Augeri with Rock Eyez
July 21, 2009: Steve Perry with QCBC Radio Canada
February 12, 2010: Neal Schon with Classic Rock Magazine
February, 2010: Jeff Scott Soto with Classic Rock Revisited
February 14, 2010: Gregg Rolie with Long Live Rock
November, 2011: Robert Fleischman with FabricationsHQ
March, 2012: Jeremey Frederick Hunsicker with FabricationsHQ
March 30, 201: Gregg Rolie with Something Else!
April 4, 2012: Steve Smith with Something Else!
July 13, 2013: "The Girl in the Video"
August 17, 2018: Steve Perry
|Infinity: A Tribute to Journey
Date of Publication: July 16, 2004
Date of Interview: July 10, 2004
Location: Round Lake Beach, IL
Band members: Bob Biagi, James Cairo, Vincent Ribando, Len Schillaci, Kevin Willison, Dennis Zarobsky
Crew: Scott Flaws, Bill Rueschaw, Zach Willison
Ten Questions with Infinity
1. How did you meet and decide to play together?
Bob: We’ve been playing together since 1984.
Kevin: Bob actually started the band. We’ve only had four member changes over the years….and always the keyboard and bass players. (Len is the newest member, with a year and a half playing with the band.) Bob and Jim are cousins.
Bill: Even I have been with the band since the beginning…but I still consider myself the “wer-gin”!
2. Infinity is the most active tribute band covered by the Journey Zone. What do you think makes you so successful?
Bob: I think we naturally identify with our audience, we listened to the same music growing up, and it brings back memories. We like to take the focus off of us, and put it on to them.
Jim: I think it has to do with Bob going out in the crowd.
Bob: Our audience seems more like friends than fans. The came to the show, met us, met each other….some of them had kids, and now the kids come to the shows. The music we play spans time from about ’69 to 2002.
3. Besides making your schedule more accessible, how has the internet helped Infinity?
Bob: I think it is (mainly) making the schedule more accessible. Our site averages 700-800 hits a week. We also have the Infinity2k mailer we send out, and a hotline for fans to call: 630 – 964 – 1956.
4. The song list on your website represents selections from 32 different bands. How do you choose songs?
Bob: Mainly fan requests – we never work with a set song list.
Dennis: We use hand signals on stage, like baseball players use, for what we are going to play next.
Kevin: Crowd reaction is the key….like tonight with “Enter Sandman”….that will be going into the set.
Bob: I promise to learn the words! We talk a lot with fans before and after shows to see what they wanna hear.
5. Have you thought about creating an internet poll to let fans help you choose/add songs?
Len: That’s an idea.
Bob: Maybe, but we like talking to the fans to see what they wanna hear.
6. Favorite Journey song to perform?
Bob: It’s one we don’t even do: Mother/Father.
Kevin & Scott: Stone in Love.
Bill & Len: Separate Ways.
7. Most embarrassing moment on stage or off?
Bob: You don’t have enough paper!
Len: Before when we played a Ted Nugent medley, I didn’t know what they were doing, so I played the wrong chord!
Dennis: At the end of the Queen medley I totally messed up the notes!
Jim: Vinnie has a good story!
Bob: Vinnie, the drummer who’s so quiet, has a good one!
Vinnie: Ok, ok. This one happens a lot. I come offstage, dripping wet after a set. I’m in line for the bathroom, and the guy behind me will go, “Hey, you know that band? They’re pretty good huh?” All laugh.
Bob: They have no idea who he is.
Vinnie: You think they could tell, I’m dripping with sweat!
Bob: Ok, one time I went to a pool party before the show….and I didn’t swim in all my clothes. Later at the show, I see some people auctioning off underwear. It’s pretty funny until I look – and it’s MY underwear!
8. What is the craziest thing a fan has asked you to do?
Bob: You don’t have enough paper! All laugh.
Bob: Signing body parts. I look at them, hold up the marker and say to them, “This is permanent marker!”
Len: Once I was asked to sign a brick.
Kevin: I think it’s been asking me to sign a Journey shirt.
Bob: Yeah. I mean, it’s their Journey shirt! But sometimes they’ll say, “Hey, this is the closest I’ll get to Journey, man.”
9. What is your first reaction to this situation: You are on stage performing and you get word from a reliable source that a member of Journey is in the audience.
Bob: It’s happened!!
Bob: It was our first fest at Glendale Heights, and we heard that Deen’s (Castronovo) mom was there. When I saw her backstage, I wanted to ask for ID! We heard that Deen himself was there, but we didn’t see or meet him…they couldn’t tell us where he was, you know.
Len: It was nerve-wracking.
10. You have 25 words or less to say anything you want to any member of Journey – go!
Bob: I grew up listening to your music, I used to wear out your albums. Thanks for the roots, man. We’re just trying to keep the music alive.
Len: Neal was the biggest influence on me musically – thanks!
Kevin: They began real vocal rock. Thanks for starting that, and making it ok for guys to sing slow songs.
|Steve Perry: Mother, Father
by Mitch Lafon, reprinted at Melodicrock.com
Reprinted at the Journey Zone
At one time, Steve Perry was THE voice of melodic rock. Both fans and radio-programmers alike couldn't wait to hear his latest (be it with Journey or solo) multi-million selling song of a generation, but for almost a decade his voice has been silenced due mainly to a seemingly self-imposed exile from the music business. By the fall of 2005, he was back (sort of) doing a limited amount of print only press to help promote the Journey: Live in Houston 1981 Escape Tour DVD that he produced. In this rare and candid interview, he looks back at what was and what may be.
Steve Perry: “Talk to me – where are you?”
Mitch Lafon: In Montreal...
SP: “It's so beautiful up in Montreal. I was on tour one time up in Canada with a band called The Privilege when I was a teenager. They hired me as a singer and I was one of their frontmen and we ended up in Quebec and Montreal. In Quebec we stayed at the Chateau Frontenac and my big thrill was having onion soup at the Chateau Frontenac.”
ML: Maybe, you'll come back up here on vacation or for a show?
SP: “Yeah, but how about in the spring? Is that ok?”
ML: Let's talk about the DVD – Live in Houston 81. Why did you accept to get involved with the project? Wouldn't it be too much of a heartache?
SP: “The answer is yes – it was too much of a heartache to look back. When I first heard the tapes and I remember that show, it was too painful to think what it once was, but the only thing I could not do was... I'm a fighter for the music. I'm a fighter for the songs and a fighter for the performances and I refuse to let them be evaporated into time. If I do anything, I'm going to fight for those performances to be heard and the band is out doing what they're doing and I was approached by SONY to do it, so I said absolutely. Since, I produced the first compilation DVD. So, I got Allen Sides and we did the 5.1 and stereo mixes together then I did the editing. The interviews and all that was painful too. It was tough.”
ML: Will you be doing more DVDs like this?
SP: “I don't know if my heart can handle it.”
ML: You've been away from the band for quite awhile...
SP: “Since May '98”
ML: And you've also been away from the public for quite awhile...
SP: “Except for the World Series with the White Sox.”
ML: How was that?
SP: “That was excellent. It was so exciting. I just couldn't believe it and they adopted the 'Don't Stop Believin'' song back in July as their mascot and when they won and were going to the World Series; their communications director wanted to try and get me to game one. I got a phone call and went out there and was there for game one and two and was getting ready to leave and they said you can't go. You got to go to Houston and I had to think about that because they had booked me for all these interviews to promote this DVD. It felt good to be wanted, so next thing I knew – I'm flying to Houston for game 3 (which lasted 5 hours and 45 minutes) and I was on another planet when we won that one and game four they won and swept'em. It was unbelievable. They swept the Astros.”
ML: Good city to be in to be promoting a Houston 1981 DVD...
SP: “I didn't start the promotion there. I actually came back to LA and started doing phone calls. It was actually very funny.”
ML: You've been out of the limelight since '98. You did the Journey Behind The Music, but you really haven't put out any music. What's going on? Are the interviews and new DVD... are you coming back? Is Steve Perry going to be singing for us soon?
SP: “You know I love singing again. I've been pulling out of it and I've been missing in action for sure... I put a lot of effort in trying to put Journey back together for the Trial By Fire era and I worked hard with those guys so that we would keep our original integrity and write some good music and we did. Then I had that hip problem and it crashed on me. I had to go have surgery. There were some mistakes made and they checked out a few singers and they got tired of sitting around and one thing lead to another and we split again...”
ML: For the final time?
SP: “Well, I think so. Only because I said to them in January of '98 when I got this phone message that said 'go out and do whatever you want to do, but do not call it Journey.' That fractures the stone to me; that breaks it. I was given an ultimatum and I don't respond well to ultimatums.”
ML: Not that anybody should. Now, the hip thing was a degenerative problem. Is it getting better?
SP: “It's completely replaced. It's very good. It's beyond better.”
ML: So, you're 100% physically?
SP: “Well, I have some other physical issues. I'm not a teenager anymore.”
ML: Do you see yourself going back into the studio?
SP: “I've been thinking about the good side about this whole split up with the band that happened in May of '98; which is that I could not be kept under contract while they replaced me with a sound-alike or whatever he was... fish or cut bait. The bottom line is that the label had to let me go. So, I haven't had a record deal since May '98 and you've got to know that I signed my record deal with Columbia in '78. That was 20 years of being signed to a label. It's been a real pleasure not having contracts lurking over me... obligations and extensions until you deliver. Oh, please! It's been nice to fall back into your own life and so that's what's happened. I'm no longer in the band since May '98 and I had the surgery seven or eight months after 'that' January phone call... so, you know, I'm just living my life and I have been entertaining the idea of just getting into the studio, but it's a tough thing.”
ML: Have you been writing at all?
SP: “I've got all kinds of stuff written. Writing isn't a problem, it's...”
ML: It's not stage fright at this point in your career?
SP: “ No, it's just what do I want to do? I love R&B. I love rock. I love techno. I love remixes. I love acoustic. I love everything. When I come up to LA, I'll spend two days watching someone record 172 pieces of score. I sat back a year or so ago and watched Alan Silvestri conduct a 175 piece orchestra for Van Helsing (movie). So, when I watch that kind of arranging... I love the power of that. So, I just don't know what to do, but I'll probably jump in the studio with a four-piece section and just start having some fun and maybe do some covers just to get my feet wet. I sat in the studio for six weeks with this DVD mixing it in stereo then tore in down and mixed in 5.1... that was one of the best pleasures I've had other than the emotional aspect of being dragged through the plethora of emotions from 'what happened' to 'we were great' to 'look how young we were' and remembering all the stupid things we were doing to each other when we didn't know what we had.”
ML: You've got that built-in Journey fan base that wants to hear you do that melodic rock again...
SP: “Yeah, exactly, but I don't know if I want to become a parody of myself.”
ML: If you do a comeback album and deliver something the fans aren't expecting...
SP: “I may do a comeback album or I may do one track; load it onto ITunes and go home. I don't know.”
ML: So it is something you're thinking of?
SP: “I don't have management... I have completely shut down the store. The store has been shut down forever. I own steveperry.com, but I haven't flown it. I've really had to let go because emotionally... to be perfectly honest with you, if I do decide to sing again and record again, I'm going to do it for the right reasons. It's not going to be because people want a comeback record that's calculated... people come up to me all the time and say 'you should do a big band album like Rod Stewart. It would sell.' That's probably true...”
ML: It is true – it would sell gangbusters...
ML: But if you don't like it, what does that matter?
SP: “I have a spin on that. I would do that differently than anybody else's, but I can't talk about it and I don't necessarily want to do a big band album.”
ML: And I imagine you don't want to do an album of ten 'Open Arms' or ten 'Oh, Sherry'...
SP: “That's right. I don't want to sit there and (sings) 'start spreading the news...' I don't really.”
ML: It would be interesting to get you singing again and with all due respect you are one of the greatest voices of the last thirty years...
SP: “That's so kind of you to say because they've only been saying that in the last five years. They certainly weren't saying that years ago. We were considered the band that wasn't cool. It was the bands with the skinny ties, the checkered shirts and the Flock Of Seagulls' haircut that were considered cool. We were not considered timeless at all, but as time has proven and we're fortunate that the music has made the voyage with us so far.”
ML: What do you attribute that too? Here we are in 2005 and you're hawking a show from 1981 and it's still timeless, it still sounds great, the musicianship is tight and the vocals are perfect... What is it about Journey that got you this far? Why didn't you just fade away like the Flock Of Seagulls?
SP: “Well, it's because it was a real band. When I joined them they were a band and when we replaced Ansley Dunbar with Steve Smith – it became a bigger band. When Jonathan Cain came along and I started writing with him... I had written all songs with Neal from 'Anyway You Want It' to whatever and that was one kind of band, but when Jonathan came along we turned another corner in the evolution of the band. This particular tour (Escape) was the first time Jonathan was onstage and it turned the corner. The work we had done previous had built a fan base and now that they were really showing up we were turning a corner musically and they just liked it. We didn't have any calculated things. There was nothing pre-calculated about the music ever. Never did we second guess, it was just 'let's do this. Ok.' If you listen to the albums, I don't know how many groups you'll find that have 'Separate Ways' and 'Still They Ride'. That's left and right. You go onto Escape and you'll get 'Who's Crying Now', 'Open Arms' or from other albums 'Dead Or Alive', 'Where Were You'... these are all on the DVD by the way, but we were all over the map. 'Good Morning Girl' was a little acoustic piece. 'Patiently' was the first song I wrote with Neal when I was waiting to get into the band and I had dreams of being a singer in a rock 'n roll band. I sat in a hotel with him while he was out opening for Emerson Lake and Palmer and I wrote 'Patiently' and that's what those lyrics are about – 'for your lights to shine on me. For your song inside of me this we bring to you.' That's what it's about. I was dying to get into this thing, but from the heart stand point - not from a calculated stand point and today everything is so calculated. Don't you think? The music business has become like the movie business...”
ML: Also, the music business doesn't develop an artist anymore. It's give me a hit single and get the heck out of here...
SP: “Isn't that sick? The guys who helped build the Journey fan base were record label executives like Al Teller and all the guys that worked at the label at the time that are escaping my mind. They helped believe in the band and they would go three, four singles deep into every album...”
ML: They would also go three albums... You had three albums to make it. First one was the trial, second was the hit or miss and the third one was the do or die...
SP: “More than that. We had Infinity, Evolution, Departure, Escape...”
ML: They would give you three albums minimum to develop. Now, you get single one maybe two...
SP: “That's right. It's like television. They release a TV show and if the numbers aren't good – it's cancelled next Tuesday. It's unbelievable – there's no faith anymore and nobody believes anymore. That's why it is the way it is. There are corporate executives that should say to their superiors 'this is the single – we have to go on it' would they ever say that? No. Would they ever say 'the band is crazy about this song and believes in this song? No, they won't say that either. Will they ever say 'I went and saw the show and this song is getting a lot of audience response. I don't know why, but we should go on it and ask radio to play this... NO! They'll do what's calculated and safe.”
ML: They want to appeal to the lowest common denominator and get as much money out of it as possible...
SP: “They are not making decisions based on belief. They are making decisions based on fear. They assess it and say 'well, let's not do this and we shouldn't do that... so, what's left? Let's do that.' They're decision making process is based on calculated fear assessment. Instead of – 'wow – I don't know what it is about this one song, but I sure do like it.' Those guys are gone; they just don't do that anymore. I'll tell you a quick story – 'Who's Crying Now' that song was intentionally recorded and arranged so that the solo (back then songs had solos) was at the end. The song goes out on a solo and that song is long. The record label came to us and said 'as soon as the solo starts you'll have to fade it or radio won't play it.' I said ' well, radio can fade out and go onto the news. I don't care, but we're not going to cut the solo.' They insisted that if it said it was four minutes fifty seconds or whatever radio won't even add it to their playlist. So, I told them to put whatever on it... three minutes whatever, but I'm not fading the solo and they were adamant about it and said we were killing the song. It's not going to be a hit because you won't fade it, so just fade it. It's no big deal. I said 'look – Neal played the most beautiful solo on this thing. It's simple, heartfelt and feels timeless; the melodics are timeless and I do not want to kill that solo. So, fought for it, the song becomes a hit and the stations never pulled out of the solo. When it goes to that melody (sings melody) – it's timeless and it's not the melody that's in the song. It's another melody; so is that so wrong? No! So, I'm glad we fought for it against all odds. Plus, Neal would have been really crushed... he would have been destroyed.”
ML: I'm surprised the record company didn't go ahead and just cut if off...
SP: “They would do that today which is why I'm glad I'm not signed right now. I would probably take a bat to somebody's desk.”
ML: That's the one new advantage, if you were to release new music, you don't have to go through a label. You can go through ITunes...
SP: “Isn't that amazing? I think the Internet is so freeing to music as we've come to know it. I think it's the best thing that has ever happened. It's phenomenal because as an artist you've never had so many choices. You just never have. I could get somebody right now to build my own site and put downloads on my own site. I've yet to do it though.”
ML: Is there a reason?
SP: “I'm just a little bit... you're going to ask me 'what is it, right?' But I don't know.”
ML: It's the question everybody has been asking, right?
SP: “No, we've been talking mainly about the DVD and the performances.”
ML: I apologize...
SP: “We can talk about this. It's ok. I don't know – it's a tough one... (pauses)... Twenty-four years ago when I did that DVD – when we recorded it for MTV... (pauses) It was a different landscape at that time, of course. MTV had aired for the first time in August of '81 and three months later we were recording this for MTV. It was a brave new world with this video music thing... (pauses) It was a different time – we had a mission as a group... (pauses) I emotionally was unstoppable... (pauses) My mother was alive and pulling for me. My father (though they weren't together) was pulling for me. My grandfather was alive... The whole landscape of that has changed... (pauses) You lose some of the incentive that you didn't realize was driving you to do good... to do it... to do IT. Now, that it's been done I'm trying my best to digest it. When I was doing this DVD, it was an emotional rollercoaster that I didn't expect. A friend of mine warned me because he knows me well. He's a TV director and he said 'I know you. You're going to get in there and be mixing and editing and it's going to be rough on you.' I said ' Ah, no biggie man – c'mon I did the other DVD.' And he said 'but that was assembling videos and synching up new masterings. This is going to be different. It's like making a mini-film.' And oh, God – he was right. It drove me... It dragged me through a plethora of emotions that I didn't expect. When I heard 'Open Arms' I got choked up. There are certain vocal things I did in 'Open Arms' that I'm not sure I'll be able to pull off exactly like that again because it was such a moment and I had reached beyond the master recordings to what I knew it could be. For example the lyric in the second verse 'wanting you near' that lyric is sung exactly the way I wanted it to be sung and I didn't know I hit it. I didn't know I got it. So, I'm sitting there mixing and watching the QuickTime video because I have to pay attention to audio and visual... so I'm watching it and just being dragged through... (pauses) through the whole thing again. The Whole Thing AGAIN! I'm dragged through our time together. I'm dragged through, 'what happened?' We were great together and then I'm dragged through the people who thought we weren't great and who used to belittle us in the press and I thought 'fuck them too'. How can that be fucked up? We were great! See you assholes... you know what I mean? We weren't fucked up – you used to tell us we were faceless and corporate and all these horrible things and all we were trying to do was keep our focus and play what we loved. Now, I'm looking back at it for the first time as a person in the audience... I'm not in the band and it's been years since I've been in the band. It's been years since I've been on that stage. I'm an older guy and this young kid up there on that stage believed in what he believed in and damned if it wasn't pretty good and I got emotional about it. I just felt vindicated. I really felt vindicated for my beliefs and my faith and my tenacity that I got such a bad rep for... it's just that I was NOT going to lay down. Betty Davis said “if you have a bad reputation – you must be doing something right.'
ML: She's absolutely right. It must really feel good after all these years. I was around back then and remember people complaining about your voice, that you were corporate and everything you just said...
SP: “They said it about a lot of groups.”
ML: I'm a Kiss, Cheap Trick and Aerosmith fan – all of those groups got dragged through the mud back then...
SP: “Foreigner got hit... everybody got it. They all were faceless.”
ML: Except Kiss – that only had a face, but no music talent, right? Not only did those groups survive, but are still setting trends to some extent. Anybody who looks into melodic rock has to start at Journey – you just have to.
SP: “And that's a big legacy to live up to. At the time, it was just living up to your own expectations. Now, it's become something else. Something you always hoped it would become. How do you deal with that?'
ML: I have no idea...
SP: “By the way if you're going to ask these questions – we kind of have to answer these questions as to what was going on with me back then versus now. It's a perspective that's interesting. A lot of it too... the music at that time... you were forced to perform everything. There was only one way to sell what you believed in and that was perform it and that was going to be live. MTV was three months old when we recorded this DVD. It was baby in diapers – it had no idea what it was. It had no power and I tried to go back to MTV and see if they had other elements or extra footage lying around and they had nothing because they burned over the tapes of that night. All I had was the final cut because they had no idea what they were going to become. They were too new and nobody had a clue. They were directionless. They were writing the pages as they were turned... everybody was and that reckless abandon is what created what we are calling timeless now.”
ML: Musically, there has been a loss of that 'fire' in bands and in MTV... there is no soul to anything anymore. It's all calculated...
SP: “They always said MTV would change the face of music forever and in some ways it did.”
ML: It did – for the worst.
SP: “It took the performing aspect out of it, but now they are getting back to it. Now, they realize that it's a great medium to promote performance. For a long time, it became a video lip-synch issue and it gave everybody credibility even if they're not performers. There's a lot of careers built on artists that have never performed, but they can make a great video and make a great record... and they were 'artists'. Then they'd decide to go on tour and work that up. A lot of them would run tapes, a lot of them were fake and would have mouth and ear pieces with little microphones in front of their faces and dance around. It was a totally different thing.”
ML: In terms of this performance – the band.. the five guys on stage (Steve, Ross, John, Neal and you) was that the ultimate line-up? Does this represent Journey well?
SP: “That's the quintessential line-up. Although, I don't want to take any credibility away from the line-up that existed with Greg Rollie and Ansley Dunbar. That was the earlier line-up that I joined and had it's own musical direction that was valid. It was a different kind of a band, then it changed when we got Steve Smith in there and Greg Rollie stayed. Then we got Jonathan Cain and I think the band turned a bigger corner. That became the Escape line-up that launched itself to another series of albums, songwriting and performing that was bigger. By bigger I mean it had a bigger pronounced sound to it... a mightier unity of the players than the previous one.”
ML: Jonathan brought a lot to the band... vocals, backing vocals and overall musicianship.
SP: “Yeah – right! And Steve Smith was a fusion drummer who was with Montrose... that's where we saw him play every night and I turned to Neal and said 'this is the guy we should have in our band. This is what we need.' I admit I was making trouble, but I had a gut level... that we had to look at making a change.”
ML: It was a good change...
SP: “Well, time has shown that to be the case, but at the time it had a mixed response.”
ML: By the way – with the producing of the DVD... is that something you see yourself doing more of?
SP: “I love it. I really love it. It's very very emotional and stressful though.”
ML: In general or doing the Journey stuff?
ML: Do you want to do other bands?
SP: “I have shown up many times with little groups... friends of mine and I'll be a fly on the wall and help them. I do it all the time for fun and for free. I've be doing that for years.”
ML: Do you want to sell your services as a record producer? Hey record companies call me up...
SP: “No. I don't want to necessarily do that. There's a couple of groups I would like to do a track with here or there.”
ML: But not a whole album from conception to the final mixes?
SP: “It would depend on the group. If I believed in the group I would do it. If I believed in the song, the singer and the band. It would be easier doing my own thing, but that comes with a whole other set of demons.”
ML: If you did your own thing would you want to produce it?
SP: “Just yesterday, I was thinking for the first time ever 'should I just let it go' because I'm always so involved and that's the problem. I know what I want to hear and it can go against someone else's vision, but at the same time my own vision has built my own direction and sound. So, what am I doing? Do I want to become Cher and 'Do You Believe In Love' and let someone make a left turn for me? I don't know – I'm not that kind of guy. I do hear things completed in my head and try to follow that lead, but I don't know. I do know that I worked hard on this DVD and tried to make it sound contemporary sonically. That's why I chose Bob Ludwig and Allen Sides.”
ML: Satisfied with the final product?
SP: “I'm completely satisfied with the project, but there will always be issues. The sound quality I hear in the studio, you lose when... you know someone will make an MP3 of it. That changes everything. You do one thing to it; it changes it. Echoes respond differently. Digital converters eat echo and it loses some of the lush echoes you worked so hard on. That's just something I have to live with. There are certain things that are easier to do logistically with ProTools on a live project like this than with tape. There were certain pops and clicks in my special wireless mic. It had a lot of vocal qualities that I loved, but it also had a lot of problems because it was transmitter microphone. It would over modulate and there was a couple 'pffs'... it's everywhere and with ProTools you can get rid of it. It's fantastic. So, I was able to clean up problems that back in the day could not have been fixed. It enhanced the performance by not letting something like that distract it. You're in a restorative mode like when you take an old painting and just try to clean it up.”
ML: Any other touch-ups?
SP: “There really wasn't a lot of touch-ups on this. There really wasn't. Not one re-record was done. I will tell you... we did two shows and on the day-off between those shows... we knew we were on tour and we knew it would be aired on MTV with a quick mix. So, we got around one mic and sang the backing vocals against ourselves. So, that we could blend that studio thing we do with the live vocals; so that they would have a little shimmer to them. That's the only thing we did. We called that 'vocal help.'”
ML: That was just for MTV?
SP: “It's on the DVD too.”
ML: But the original ones from way back then?
SP: “Yeah, the band was on tour three months ago and we aren't speaking. So, believe me - we weren't in a room together.”
ML: It speaks volumes about the band that you didn't have to...
SP: “Well, it was great performance. It really was a moment where... I didn't like walking up to the back of the venues and see a recording truck because I would get a little moody and cause a stink about it. I didn't like the idea of having tape running. I like the shows to be free and have nothing hovering over them like 'the tape is running' because it changes the band's ability to be reckless and free. I like reckless and free.”
ML: It also make you over aware...
SP: “It instinctually makes you over aware that tape is running. You get more concerned that things be a little more performed, I'm so glad that there's no fall back to the masters to this performance in Houston. I think once the show started nobody cared... we just played. Though, I did not like to video or tape shows – I'm so glad that this one was because I would have been wrong to not have this one. I would have been really wrong.”
ML: It captures the essence of the band...
SP: “It really does and there's another laying around that we don't know what's going to happen to from 1983 – JFK Stadium in Philly. We had 14 cameras running film.”
ML: You want to produce that?
SP: “I don't know if my heart could take it. By the way I do want to say when you watch the DVD turn the Dolby to off. There is no need for it. It's been digitally recaptured. It will severely change the fidelity.”
ML: Anything else to promote or plug?
SP: “There's a band I like. I think they're fun and reckless called The Rock 'N Roll Soldiers. The lead singer is a talented kid called Marty... they're working on a record right now which I think is coming out on Atlantic. I like it – I believe in them.”
ML: Thank you for your time...
SP: “Thank you very much for your candid questions and your sincere feelings about this. All this is good stuff and I don't mind talking about the fears and where I'm going and where I'm not going and where I've been. I'm trying to put my arms around all of it and when I'm done with that... who knows? I'll either sing some more or maybe just be glad that we had what we had.”
ML: Well, I think I speak for many when I say – we got to hear you sing some more...
SP: “I'll do my best – thank you. I would like to sing with the Rolling Stones one night and if by chance, I record something let's talk again.”
|Steve Perry with Entertainment Weekly
June 14, 2007
Interviewer: Missy Schwartz, Entertainment Weekly
We weren't joking when we said that questions about the Sopranos finale go on and on and on and on... 'Cause just when we were giving up hope that Journey's former frontman Steve Perry would call us back to chat about Tony and Carm taking a midnight train goin' anywhere, there he was on the horn, explaining that he'd watched the episode not once, but twice, and was even planning on watching it a third time that night. ''The last two days have been amazing,'' he told us, sounding very excited. ''It's just unbelievable.'' Here's what else Perry had to say about handing over ''Don't Stop Believin''' to New Jersey's first family.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So did you know ''Don't Stop Believin''' was going be in the episode?
STEVE PERRY: I did know ahead of time because they had wanted the song and they approached us, the writers — myself, [Journey bandmates] Jonathan Cain, and Neal Schon — a long time ago. Honestly, it didn't clear until last Thursday, because I was concerned that this could be a finale bloodbath or a Valentine's massacre. So I said, ''Well if you can't tell me what's gonna happen [in the episode] and trust me that I won't tell anybody, I can't personally feel comfortable approving the use of the song.'' They said, ''We'll tell you under one condition that you can't say anything.'' And they told me the exact layout of how it's used, what happens, where it goes to black and everything, including [Tony] thumbing through the little jukebox on the table looking for songs.
Wow, they must have really wanted the song for David Chase to lift his omerta on Sopranos plot points.
Yeah, I'm dying to meet David Chase. I didn't have that privilege. I sure would love to congratulate him and thank him. I think I'll try through channels to make that happen.
So how did you feel watching the episode?
Well, what [HBO] didn't tell me was all the tension that had built up in that scene: the daughter's having difficulty parking. I'm freakin' out, thinking Tony's being whacked, then they cut to some buffoon walking down the aisle to go to the bathroom, Godfather style, to get the gun on the back of the toilet bowl, you know? And then when they cut to black, I just shouted out loud. Like, you've got to be effin' kidding me! That's AMAZING! That's just perfect. And then he went to titles with no music and it was still audio black. I was stunned at that point. I thought it was pretty ballsy! [Laughs]
What is your interpretation of why Chase chose your song?
I don't know. I guess he saw something in the song that resonated with what he wanted to do. I'll tell you what I did see: I think he tried to grab the normalcy of family in the midst of any chaos or fears. I think that all families have fears and chaos, and I think the Sopranos have their share, but man, underneath it all is this, like, foundation of life. Life goes on and on and on. ''Movie never ends, it just keeps going on and on.'' And I think that the song has a lot of that in it.
Right, a lot of us here in the EW offices interpreted it that way — that very little changes in the Soprano life. By the way, is ''Anyway You Want It'' the real B-side to ''Don't Stop Believin','' as the jukebox has it?
Good catch on your part! To my knowledge, it was not. They're from two different albums. I'm trying to remember what the B-side was. I'm looking at the single in my head... It could have been ''Still They Ride.''
I wasn't expecting to get all teary during the episode. Does the song still make you emotional after all these years?
Yeah. I remember when I was working on the Live in Houston '81 DVD, and there's a moment where [we start playing] ''Don't Stop Believin','' and the place goes crazy. I remember getting that same choked feeling on stage and then I got the same feeling when I was mixing it. So just to know that people love it that much just takes me down. I mean, it's just an emotional song. I can't take credit for it. Nobody can. We were just writing from our hearts and doing the best we can. But we sure got lucky with this one. And I think you need to print that I have not been in the band since May of 1998. That's almost 10 years, Holy Christ. [Laughs] But the guys and I disagree on some of the requests that we get, and some of 'em I don't want to do and they do. This one, we all agreed that it was great.
And now the whole country's humming your song. Well, I am. I can't seem to get it out of my head. And the song is up to No. 30 on iTunes.
That's pretty cool.
What do you think about the band going on without you?
Um, you know, I have such a hard time voicing any opinions with the new incarnation of the group. I just have an opinion and memories of the Journey that I was in, that I can have opinions about and remember good and bad times, as they do. But the new incarnation, really, it's none of my business.
Are you working on anything?
Actually, I am messing around with music again. I'm starting to write and enjoying the process. We'll see where that takes me.
So, the journey goes on. Ha ha.
Right. Though we've gone our separate ways. Oh sorry. Did I say that? [Laughs] Okay, good-bye.
|Kevin Chalfant: Flying to AOR Freedom
June 14, 2007
by Andrew McNeice, Melodicrock.com
Reprinted at the Journey Zone
Kevin Chalfant is another artist who should be listened to - as he has been there and done that and he isn't afraid to do it by himself if need be. This interview was done late last year - just prior to the MRF show in October, so forgive me for getting online late. But it is still very relevant and Kevin's new album is still very much a current release - so listen up!
Hey Kevin. I can't even recall the last time we did a formal interview.
It's been too long.
It's been probably since Running With The Wind.
Yeah, it could have been. I don't know if we did anything with any of the Two Fires stuff.
Maybe…yeah. But here we are now again!
Here we are. I was just looking through photos of when we were in Manchester and if it's all right with you I think I'm gonna post some on my website.
Oh yes please do. I don't think there's anything too incriminating there is there?
(laughter) Not at all.
That was a pretty fun weekend wasn't it? [Gods Festival, UK 2002]
Oh my gosh, we could have just kept on going. I was talking to Jim not too long ago. We did a show together and we were just recalling how when we got to Liverpool it was like there was music in the air. We were just writing songs like crazy.
Yeah, I quite often bring the whole Liverpool trip up with Jim and also with Kelly Keagy because Gary Moon's a handful isn't he?
(laughter) Just a bit. I haven't talked to him, gosh, since then.
It's been a while for me too but hopefully we can have a bit more fun in October right?
That will definitely be the case.
I really appreciate your contribution in coming onboard Kevin. I think it's going to be a great weekend.
Well, it'll be some new memories and hopefully it'll be something that brings some support to the down under effort and keeps this music going.
I hope so. It's pretty tough out there isn't it? I mean for everyone.
It's brutal, very brutal.
What's your take on that?
Well, I see how it's affecting the people from the top to the bottom. From the way people just write songs, make records, everything down the line. How records are even being promoted and everybody's so conservative right now and it never used to be that way. It used to be like full steam ahead with guns ablazin' and it's just not like that anymore.
Yeah, people are very worried and they're not taking the risks because they know there's not the chance of the sales.
I think, at least I can speak for myself on this, just making this record. Having a choice of releasing new, previously unreleased songs, it was just so overwhelming at that moment when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do and what was exciting me, you know. And we've been through this before as far as getting down to the production time and how many people you can involve in it that you really want to and it just made sense to make this record now. Because at one time it started out, well you know, if somebody wants to hear me sing a Journey song or two or something, maybe I'll put them as bonus tracks. Then it got to be, OK, well what tracks would it be? I posed that question to people like; Let's say I'm entertaining the idea of adding a song or two from the Journey catalog on one of my records as bonus tracks, what would be your picks? Well it was just like a wildfire. All of a sudden the word got out that I was making a Journey record and all this stuff and I never really intended to do that. B ut so many people came back like, 'Oh that would be awesome.' And 'I hope you do, here's what songs I would pick.' Then of course the band would get together and we said realistically what do we think we could do? Is this something that we would even want to do? And the band, we all looked at one another and said, you know it's not gonna hurt my feelings. Then the next question was, what are the legalities of it? So once we had that all straightened out we just kinda said, well let's go, fine and you know what? It took the monkey completely off my back. Because trying to come up with new stuff and how do you top this guy and that guy and yourself to be able to do great songs that are proven hits and some songs that weren't necessarily hits by the radio standard but definitely in the deep cut of the fans we just pulled out as many of those, and you know we just could have kept on going. The list was like 25 songs deep and I said there's no way. I can't do a double album. I couldn't afford to pay them.
Exactly, well one of the questions I had for you is obviously the Journey catalog is about as deep as any band could get, so how did you pick the songs that you wanted to do verses the ones that really had to be done?
Well if you, I don't know, I guess Andrew it's not really fair for me to assume that you knew what we did as The Storm. I mean when we went out as The Storm and toured with Brian Adams and Peter Frampton and some of the people that we toured around with we fully exploited the fact that Greg was in Santana, and the guys that came from Journey and then the new stuff. So it didn't make sense for me to cover anything from Santana because I kind of covered Steve Perry's parts with Greg. But so many people when we would go out and play, I mean I obviously didn't start out by going out and covering Journey songs live, but the thing that I do that maybe a lot of other bands that may have super huge egos or whatever, I listen to what people want to hear me sing. I mean, if you talk to fans. I have a lot of fans that email me personally like you and I do back and forth. They feed me what I hope and believe is the truth. They don't really have a reason to lie. If they have the opportunity to email somebody that they look to as somebody that they like in music, if I were doing it I would say here's exactly what I would love to hear you do. That's what I took. I took those, you know, I mean, believe me there were other songs that were maybe from the newer catalog of Journey, the later stuff, that we tossed about but because we wanted to keep a little more drive in the sound I think some of the later on Journey stuff got a little softer. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I just saying in order to keep some fire underneath the sound with the guitars and the vocals and the harmonies and stuff, we wanted the more powerful stuff of their catalog. So that kind of was the first basis that we picked. Then as we went along we went OK now what ballads do we do. Well, at the end I was starting to bring people in to listen to the rough mixes. Family, friends, close people that I could trust that weren't even gonna leak that we did it and they actually keep it under their hats which was really amazing.
In this day and age that is amazing!
I brought in my youngest sister, the baby of the family. I closed the door and said I want to play you some stuff off my new record and I want to get your impression. So I'm playing it and she's like jaw on the floor going holy moly this is great but why are you doing Journey songs? I mean they've already recorded them. And I said well that's true but again I have to go back to square two which is what do the fans who support Kevin Chalfant want to hear? And these, I don't know, maybe part of it was because there was so much unrest kind of in the Journey scene. Whatever that reasoning is, I just said, you know I'm not gonna allow, I'm a little bit different I guess maybe than just the other singers out there because I have had a long term friendship, kinship with these guys. And they have been very kind to me. I'm not sure if it's maybe because they say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. (laughter) I don't know if I'm friend or foe, OK. I'm kept pretty close as far as they seem to genuinely care about me by the way that they treat me, embrace me, talk to me, call me. I'm a friend so I was looking at it and saying, well when I look back 15 years ago and I'm touring, and it was all the Journey fans that were supporting us out there then. Nobody knew who the Storm was. They thought this was the closest they were gonna get to Journey. Journey was off the road. So those fans embraced me then and those fans are still embracing me. So I really did make this record to 1) say thank you to everybody, and 2) dedicate it to Herbie who I think, without Herbie's help, none if it would ever have come about.
Yeah, he was instrumental wasn't he?
Great guy, I still stay in touch with Herbie, I love him. He's, I don't know if I really want to call him retired because I think he's more active from his home in the business than he ever was, and probably making more money than he ever was because he's just a brilliant man. When he's been kind enough to invite me to his home on the Pacific Ocean, and I've been out there a couple times and just spent time, days with him and his wife just to relax and to sort through things. And you know, I told Herbie that I was gonna do this, and he didn't really say I should or shouldn't. He just said, you know Kevin, there's no doubt about it, you can deliver the songs but if it's not right don't embarrass yourself. Don't do it. But you know, I think he wanted to hear it too. So anyway, when I brought me sister in to listen to the stuff, at first she was sort of scratching her head and didn't understand it. But by the time we got through like the fourth of fifth song she totally got it and she goes, there gonna love it. Then she says, OK, play Faithfully for me, and I said, well I didn't cut Faithfully. She said, “You're gonna release a record of Journey songs and you haven't cut Faithfully?” So I had to cut Faithfully. And Send Her My Love, those were the last two songs we cut.
Well, you know, I didn't want to be tunnel visioned and my sister, well, let me tell you this, she's not afraid to say anything to me, and though she paid compliments to me, she didn't understand why I had cut some of the songs that I did, and not cut others. So I had to get into that debate with her and she made complete, total sense. I said you're right. I probably avoided that song just because of the vocal challenge but it was in the end, it was bizarre dude. I thought how am I gonna mix this song and still be able to hold water with Andrew McNeice? (laughter) And out of nowhere I get a call from Beau Hill.
Ah, there ya go.
God sent me Beau Hill (laughter) to mix the ballads, you know?
You can't go wrong there.
It was just a beautiful Godsend and a reconnection of brothers and it was just beautiful. So we've been staying in touch too. So that was a great shot in the arm for me when I was the most tired at the end of the project.
He obviously knows exactly what to do with you and your voice from past experience.
He knows exactly. In fact, he knows so much that I already assured him that the next record would be with him. Well, there's no sense running from what I know is just a dead ringer.
What works, works.
And you haven't read my review yet. It's not up on line yet but compliments to you. The mix and the production is the best since the Storm.
Thank you so much.
You know you and I have gone backwards and forwards about production.
Well, you know money can't buy Andrew McNeice, but it takes money to get it to a level where Andrew McNeice responds. That record, you know, I've got a lot invested in it. So anybody who says something positive about it I just about want to mail them something very exciting. I might have to send you something but I'm waiting to see what color that review comes in.
Thanks Kevin! I've always been a fan of your voice and the music. I think this is a really confident record.
Well, you know, listening back you were always right on the money with the records and the reviews, even though I didn't want to face that. As time went on and I got away from things and would go to work on other things, you were absolutely right. I mean just because I wanted to get on an airplane and come down there and pulverize you doesn't mean that I didn't agree with you after I had a chance to get away from it.
Well you wouldn't be the first, but (laughter) I hate that part of the job. I really do. Everybody anticipates the reviews and it's the hardest thing I do out of anything. Well, you know, something else has happened to me since those days. I get a lot of calls because I started a thing for kids here called the Pop Star Boot Camp.
And since I've been doing that I get a lot of calls from all kinds of different organizations around where I live to just come and be a judge, and judge talent, which is a hard thing to do. You meet strangers and they're just putting all their hope into that you'll love what they do and the hardest part for me is when somebody's pouring their heart out and somebody else gets up and pours their heart out, and you've got ten people pouring their heart out and they're all great somebody's got to walk away. Some people are gonna be broken hearted, hate you, get ugly, you know it's all those things. So it's made me appreciate what you do more. You probably went into it with the best of intentions and then once you're into it you're so overwhelmed with the good, the bad and the ugly that I don't know how you stay focused.
It's hard to be honest. It's the same thing for you guys. It's hard work isn't it?
It's not what everybody sees on the surface. That's only 5% of it isn't it?
That's true, and that's why I think with the internet I have to say, I have had the time of my life. Managers have kind of always kept the artist at a distance from the public. And I was never one that OK, I'd get a ton of fan mail. If there was fan mail my managers would always kind of sift through that and give you all the 'attaboys- and all the 'I want to kill you' stuff went in the trash barrel. So when I actually, I've been on the internet since maybe '95 before a lot of people were even on there and it just really opened my eyes to how immediately you can have response worldwide.
It's insane now isn't it?
And getting worse all the time, better or worse, I'm not sure which. Getting bigger, it's getting bigger all the time.
Well now you're turning into a record label. Melodicrock Records is probably the next big launch for you right since you're already kind of releasing records?
Yeah, I've done my own compilations but that's something I've always wanted to do. The hesitation is that I don't really try anything unless I think I can do it properly. I suppose, like yourself, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I like things to be perfect and I haven't decided that I can do things perfectly yet or will have the money to do it. That would be good.
Well, that's something that one person walking into your life can change. I know that. That's happened to me a couple times in my life. The first time with 707, Neil Bogart who had just come from Casablanca and he started Boardwalk. This guy just walked into my life and all of a sudden I was touring all over the world with songs playing everywhere. Then the second time that happened to me was with Ted Field with Interscope Records. And you know, I'm a strong believer in three times a charm so I haven't hung it up yet because things in life for me do come in threes. So something is gonna happen for a lot of people again and I don't know if it's gonna be so much a resurgence but maybe just a new technology that's gonna change the level of the playing field a bit. There always has to be somebody in control. Have you noticed that? It all levels and that's the part of the business that's always made me feel like the people should have the choice of what the pecking order is, not the person who's doling out the cash or whatever. I just believe the people should have control of the pecking order.
I think the internet has definitely cut a few people's control for lack of a better term, hasn't it? (laughter) Also it allows you to release records independently doesn't it?
Yes it does and I've found it to be in some ways, I mean I'm sitting here in this studio and I'm thankful that I have the tools to work with, but you know everything that I purchased a year ago is already obsolete. It's a constant battle and that what I think is maybe why I was like, I watched this battle going on with the free downloads and everything and I was trying to not be a part of it, not get involved because I didn't know where I even stood in it. But when, I believe it was the Ignition CD, I was just doing whatever I could to pull together the funds to finish that CD because the budgets are so lean for those kind of records that while I was still working on the songs, I hadn't even mixed the record yet, and somehow, I mean I don't know who released this to the hounds but free download sites already had the record. I wasn't even done cutting the record and they were giving it away for free. And I'd taken a second mortgage on my house so you see, if people really do want to see you hang around it's sort of a, what you put in is what you get out. If you buy that artist's records he'll probably be back next year. If you try to get everything for free and feel like you're gaining something you're gonna end up with an MP3 player full of crap the following year. Maybe one or two decent CDs.
I totally agree. You've got to buy the artist to support the artist otherwise it's gonna dry up.
Totally and the other think I was gonna say is, you have hardly asked me any questions and I'm just spouting off.
I've got a couple of questions for you but keep going…
I wanna say that when we started first talking about the possibility of you doing a concert in the Chicago area, I got very excited and I'm very excited still about this because these are the kinds of things that I would love to be a part of with you in other locations of the world. OK, and the reason is, because there are areas, like in Japan, there're areas of the European community that I haven't been in where people would love to see my band and you're a help to me and I'm a help to you and that's kind of why this whole thing is happening. We're lending our support to one another to keep it going and give people a closer view of the artists and the music.
Well I'm never closed off to any ideas. I can tell you that. I'm always looking for new ideas and new things to do.
I think at this point in time we have to. One thing I teach the kids when I'm working with these young artists, and when they first walk into the room you can see it, they're in groups, this group over here and that group over there. By the end of it there're all mixed and matched together because the whole time everybody that came in the room that I saw for the three days were all taught about the same thing and that's teamwork. You might be in this band this week, but next week you might be with the other guys and you're gonna find out who are gonna stay, who are gonna leave and who are gonna work together. That's kinda what I see here. I'm sure everybody's gonna go out wanting to blow each other off the map thinking it's all in good spirit and good fun but bottom line is that I've learned through working with Jim Peterik and the World Stage and some of those kinds of projects that man the energy in the room surpasses any kind of competition that's on the stage. It becomes a feast for the listeners. You rise above it and it becomes a team effort. It's really awesome.
Ok, so…a couple of questions for you. With the Journey record obviously you talk of Journey. Your association is long and varied with the guys. Is there a reason to put you in the hot seat? Has your name been in the mix to take over for them? You know they've gone through a couple of vocalists and here they are again!
Well as you know there's only one person or maybe two or three or four that could answer that question but I'm not one of them. (laughter) I've always had an open relationship with them and I've been there to help them whenever I could. You know, sometimes my help was just to be at a show to give them energy when they were beat from the road. I would be there for them, no strings attached. I love them, I love their music, I feel fortunate that they let me drink from their cappuccino machine backstage (laughter) and hang out and have a great time. You know, come on, if I ever got that phone call, and though I haven't I've been told on the internet that I have, so maybe they know something that I don't. I'm just, I'm layin' low and doing my own thing and hey, who knows? It's not gonna be because I didn't want it or something. I would love to do it even if it was for a season. I think the problem with, and you know I feel bad, I feel bad for Steve Augeri and Jeff because to have that and to lose it is like I tell people sometimes it hard for me to go to their shows because it's like going to see an old girlfriend. You know, you fall in love again, and wait a minute, this is my wife sitting next to me (laughter) and she's enjoying watching my old girlfriend or something. (laughter) I worked with them and now it's almost as if it's a conflict of interest or something. If I tried to so work with them it's almost like I would create trouble in both of our camps, so I really just keep my friendship open and I don't really ask anything of them other than 'Hey can you give me some tickets' once in a while and I just don't pressure anybody. It's just not worth it. And if they were in a situation, and honestly before Jeff got the role I thought, 'well maybe I'll get a call to do a fill-in spot, kind of like what he ended up doing to sing for a season. And do you know what? I would take it and cherish it, love it and when it was over I would still love them because I can't have anger for people I love. Even though I don't work with people, you know there are a few people that I can say that I wouldn't work with again, but that wasn't because I created that situation. They've never slammed the door in my face. They've never given me a reason to hate them. I can only be thankful that they've given me worldwide exposure. I've got nothing to complain about. I'm a blessed man.
Is Journey a band that could continue to rotate singers just because the songs have a life of their own?
Well so far they're doing pretty good at it. I can't see why they just don't take two or three guys out with them and then when one guy gets a sore throat they could work seven days a week. (laughter) I'd get on that team. I've got no problem doing two, three nights a week. (laughter) I think it's like this man, it's what the fan wants, the fan loves, you know I love it. I wasn't able to see the band while Jeff was with them I had prior commitments the couple of times that I really could have. But whenever I would go to the shows I was in a position where, knowing I could pull off the job it's like I had to beat that monster in me down. I got to know Steve Augeri and he's a great man and just a beautiful individual. You couldn't hate him. You can't hate him. I've had what happened to him happen to me where I'd be sick for an entire season. People would go oh he's washed up, and all this and that, and then you know once you've had a season of rest you come back and your stronger than you were. So I wish him the best. I hope he comes back. I know Jeff's got a huge following worldwide and hopefully he'll land on his feet and move on. I have no preconceived notions of what's gonna happen. Nobody's called me to say 'Hey you wanna come join the band?' They're on vacation man. They have worked so hard that they just deserve to not even think about music for a while and have backyard cookouts. Let 'em breath for a while.
So the rumor that you were called in May to do that one show in Virginia was just a rumor.
Aside from Journey, the Storm, there's always been a call for you to reform the Storm as because there was always a sense of unfinished business there wasn't there?
Well not by our choice.
Oh no, absolutely not.
We really had a long term plan, and again, having Herbie Herbert be kind of at the helm of that. Things started happening that were beyond our control if you look back at the timing. We had grunge music in America starting to kick in and then cop killer rap music kicked in and when you're at the end of an era of music, which is kinda where we were, but it could have kept going if this new introduction of sounds hadn't been put in place right at that crucial moment. I think, you know, a band like U2 could have still forged ahead and done that but our label kind of hesitated. Like, 'I think we're gonna wait on releasing your second record,' If they would have kept it I think we probably would have survived it and got through it and we'd still be making records today. But because you had a label that was new and couldn't afford, well they probably could have afforded to take and have a few hits because they had a billionaire backer behind them but I think that the staff was in the process of regrouping and wanting to take more control of the company away from the owner and say we can do this on our own. In doing that, I think because Beau Hill left the company and Jimmy Iovine sort of took the helm, I don't think that Jimmy Iovine wanted anything that Beau Hill had his hands on to succeed. I mean, that's the simplest shortcut verbally I can make on it is that why would this man want somebody else's work to succeed instead of saying 'Why don't I produce the next record?'. So, that's where it was. I have a loyalty to Beau. He's a great man. He helped me at a time in my life when I really needed that break. He heard it. He got it. He heard what Gregg and I were doing. The first two songs Gregg and I wrote were I've Got a Lot to Learn About Love and Show Me the Way.
You know, and starting there I think it could have gone to the stratosphere, but without having the backing and the support of a company to be your legs it's really hard to do that. I think originally your question was something to do with reforming.
Yeah, obviously it wouldn't be an easy or cheap thing to do, but could it happen?
I believe it could. I believe it's gonna take another Ted Field or Neil Bogart to make it happen because, well I don't know exactly what the numbers were but they were in the millions to break the Storm. And you know, just to make a record at half a million dollars and have the production sound of that record, I mean I think with this last Fly 2 Freedom CD we did a pretty good job of a sort of facsimile by doing some sound replacements and some things like that that brought it to a nice level. But if, let's say George Tektro and Beau Hill and Kevin Chalfant started that same record in the same room in a place like George Lucas's studio where the Storm started, it could even be better. I mean I don't want you to adjust my numbers down from that (laughter) No, no, (laughter) but from the get go you know I would love to have the level of backing of a major music lover like, I mean Ted Field was a musician himself, Neil Bogart the same thing. These are guys who had enough clout to just get behind the guys that they knew had the juice to pull it off. I think Gregg Rollie, when he got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Santana, I think he took that as 'Hey you know what? This is what I'm most famous for. I'm in the Hall of Fame. I'm gonna go back to my roots'. That's the record roots or those records that followed and it's the more Latin oriented music that he's back into. Not to say that he couldn't follow the same history path given the right financial backer to say well look following that same natural curve you went more into a Journey, split off into a little bit more contemporary rock. I don't know. Gregg's a businessman. He's a music genius guy, I had a great time working with him. Our relationship is still kind of an open book. We're not hanging out because he lives on one coast and I live on another, but I don't think he hates me and I certainly don't hate him. I think it's all workable so God only knows.
I know Josh Ramos would be there in a heartbeat.
Are you kidding me? He'd be delivering the pizza to that session. On the way in he's grab the pizza guy, take the pizzas and carry them in with his guitar. (laughter)
Oh, you've gotta love Josh. I'm really pleased he's coming along for the October show.
I am as well. He's a, he's contacted me several times to talk about songs and how we want to go about doing it and I'm like, you know Josh just practice the tunes and when you walk in there won't be anybody in your way. Don't worry. Just step back into your own shoes and go for it. It'll be great.
It will be great. I'll ask you a couple things about the show towards the end of our conversation. But back on the questions, I enjoyed the Shooting Star record. Is that just gonna be a one off by the looks of it?
Well you know, when I was approached to help them finish this record, Circles, the intentions were, like you know if there're some tour dates and I'm available then that would be great. So without getting into all kinds of business discussions, we made a deal and then when the time came to do the shows that had slightly changed and for me to be expected to do some things that weren't agreed upon, and I'm not saying it in a spiteful way, it's just sometimes that's just the way the chips fall you know. It's all budgetary stuff and for me to be away from my business here it has to financially make sense. They weren't at that level to, you know we all had hopes that everything would be at a certain level, and because they're not a full time touring act, I think that caused promoters to look at it as a part time thing, or whatever, I don't know. The bottom line was that I loved all the guys. We hung out together and had a great time. We even shot a video together and all that stuff. But you know, economically it has to make sense and I just can't afford to invest in a bunch of different bands. I can only afford to invest in myself.
Well, that's where you should be investing.
I do help other people you know. I'm trying to stay open to young people and help them develop the right skills when their going in because I figure 15 – 20 years down the road I still what people to say Kevin Chalfant once in a while. Even if it's in an interview saying the guy helped me learn how to sing right, or whatever. Fifteen or twenty years from now if they're still saying my name and it's not attached to a cuss word I'll be so happy. (laughter)
I think you're safe. You've been getting a good bit of praise in the last few weeks for helping out Mr. Dennis DeYoung.
Well, I got another one of those calls like Shooting Star, because as people say 'If the shoe fits'. I heard from Tim his manager and I'd never spoken to Tim before, but Tim called and it was kinda funny because he said 'Is this Kevin Chalfant?' and I said yeah. 'The singer Kevin Chalfant?' I said yeah, 'Are you a singer that does studio singing?' (laughter) and I'm like 'What's the nature of this call?' (laughter) I thought it was a prank call at first, then he said Dennis DeYoung is gonna call you right back and I said, 'oh splendid'. I waited and about two minutes later Dennis called and we sat and told jokes to one another.
Oh I love that guy's sense of humor.
I had never met him, and this was really funny. This is a funny story. I went up to his home. He's got his studio in his home, and I got there and the first thing he did was throw the highest, most challenging song at me and I just nailed it. And he went OK, you've got the job. There's nothing higher on the record so it's all down hill from here. (laughter) I said, God I'm glad you caught me when I was fresh. So that kind of really inspired m because you know, when you look at a guy like Dennis who's now 60 and I've been listening to Dennis since I was in high school. I mean, he's a few years older than me. I've always looked up to him and I've sung some of his songs when I was in the cover bands and whatnot, and I always thought it would be great to meet him. This was the funniest thing. When I got through singing the first couple, two, three songs, he said, 'I still don't know who in the hell you are. Who are you Kevin Chalfant'? (laughter) So I had to talk about myself and this and that, and he goes 'I'm drawing a complete blank. Why don't I know who you are?' and I said, that's the problem. That's the problem. Kevin Chalfant has always been a part of a band. So it's time for Kevin to just be Kevin and my band's fine with that. They actually encouraged me. They said you know what dude, forget the band stuff man. It's been you. Why don't you just be you and we'll back you up. How many times do you actually hear a band say something like that?
Not too often.
Not too often, so I said if you guys are serious that would be great because they don't have anything to write on my epitaph at this point. (laughter)
I remember when I brought the show up with you, you said you'd love a chance to give my band a chance to show everybody what we've got, which I think was a fantastic idea.
You know, they're very patient guys. And I do a lot of stuff with Jim and I'm guesting with people and this and that, and every time I take my band out they just, if you took any one of us and put us in a room individually everybody would be yawning. But for some reason when you put us together, we've known each other all of our lives, we're just old friends that grew up together, that kind of thing, and we all played in different bands, but now we just kind of come together and it all fits. There are two guys in the band who actually sing as high as I do. There are six mates altogether and everyone sings and two other singers in the band are actually lead singers, actually three. So there are four lead singers in the band and six singers total and it's a freight train. So we just love going out and we walk in like this junior league team playing against the major league. We just love coming in as the underdogs and playing and having a good time. And if we're having a good time, most likely the crowd is gonna love it. If we're having a rough night the crowd will have a rough night, so we don't take it seriously. We just have a good time and try to play at the level we know we can play, and relax.
You've got some big harmonies, I guess, in there.
Well, what you hear on the record is real. There were a couple of songs where one of the guys had to leave town for a family function and I had to bring in a couple of other guys just to get through a couple of the tunes, I don't remember, maybe Lights and something else, but other than that it's basically what you hear live.
Well, that's something to look forward to then.
It's a lot of fun. We have a great time. I love 'em, they're just good old boys man, and we laugh a lot. You know, when we started the Storm Gregg Rollie had one rule and I carried that same rule into this band, which is; If we ever have to have a band meeting we're breaking up. So everybody knows that if you do anything that would require a band meeting that means the band is going to break up. It works like a charm.(laughter)
I like it.
He's a genius, I told you.
The important question I guess is once the dust settles from this, where to from here?
I do have one thing that I probably will do before I get to the holidays. I'm gonna remix a lot of tracks that I've already previously release. But I'm gonna have Beau and some of the other guys, maybe George, I'm gonna have some of the songs that I feel like maybe got lost in the mixes remixed and I'm gonna do a kind of 'Best Of' and maybe put some new tracks to it. I don't have time to start a completely new project but I'm about 4 or 5 songs deep into a new record already and I'm going to maybe feature two or three of those in a compilation disk. So that'll give some new stuff and then some of the favorites too. And I'm even considering some of the songs that we play live. Storm tracks that I've changed the feel of to fit the band that I'm in now. So I might do some of that as well just to fit into the 'Best Of'.
That's all I pretty much had to ask you actually.
Well, um, we'll just say that I'm continuing to stay busy. I'm helping to produce some other artists, which I probably will still send you to look at and listen to.
Some blues stuff and I know you're not a real country fan and you don't even have to put it on the website or anything but I'll send you some of the other product that I'm helping to just try to get a toe hold. I've got a power pop band that I'm working with right now. It's a cross between, I don't know if you're familiar with the All American Rejects and like Green Day, they're right in that vein and the singer is just fantastic.
That sounds kinda cool.
Very memorable song,
That sounds interesting.
They're really good and they're young. I think the youngest member is 17 and the oldest is 22 and they just blow my mind. They just woodshed and then when they come in they're like, they're going in and playing their parts one at a time and when it all comes together it fits just like a puzzle. It blows my mind.
And where do those guys come from?
The band is called Fickle's Lot. They've just got a huge following in this area. They will play for pizza parties. They will play anything. They're just doing it for the love and the excitement and to build up their fan base and it's working.
Well that's how it used to be isn't it? That's how Survivor did it.
Yes it is.
I think that's about it. I just wanted to basically promote the record. I suppose the one thing I didn't ask you is about the title, Fly 2 Freedom.
Where it came from?
Well it started out when I finally just connected with Dave he said, well you know I have a Journey cover that they never accepted and I don't know why they ever passed on it but it's pretty cool. And I said just send it over so he sent it over to me and it had the scarab on the bottom and I said well obviously I can't use that, but if we were to change, because it is like a tribute record, maybe we could change it to a different insect. Then I thought, OK, what is kind of translucent? Well I can't use a Japanese beetle because that's what the scarab basically is. I said 'Oh, hey, how about a shit fly?' (laughter) A green shit fly and how fitting for me to use something like that. And he laughed and while I'm taking to him he's already on the internet looking for these green flies and it was just like an iridescent fly was the idea. We laughed so hard. So the record was actually just gonna be called Fly and then after I sent a preliminary drawing to my son in Nashville he writes back and says, 'You know pop, Herbie had planned on naming Raised on Radio, Freedom and they never used that title.' And I thought wow, Fly to Freedom. So once we said, OK that sounds even better, Fly to Freedom, it's kind of funny because one night I was looking at it and I said wait a minute, I've got those “e's” there and I remember on Escape the flipped it over and turned the E into a 3 and the A was a 4 and all this and that? So I said to Wavid, just put the Escape kind of look to it. Because as long as it's a tribute record we can do that can't we, and he said absolutely. All of it in good fun, you know, just to be kind of fun and interesting and the fly is so ugly compared to the streamlined looking rock and roll scarab that they used that we laughed so hard.
Well…great record, and long overdue.
Well, I'm happy with it. I can honestly say that I can listen to it over and over and my blood pressure stays pretty level. And I can't say that for everything that I've recorded and you'll attest to that. (laughter)
No comment, no comment here.
c. 2008 MelodicRock.com / Interview by Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie!
|Herbie Herbert: One Man's Journey
by Andrew McNeice, Melodicrock.com
Reprinted at the Journey Zone, month day, year
Herbie Herbert is one of the music industries most colorful characters. For a period of time he was the #1 manager in the business, taking Journey – a band he put together with Neal Schon – to become a multi-Platinum selling stadium act. And in taking the band to the stadiums, he also helped pioneer the way we watch bands in such settings. The video screens and high-tech productions that dominate tours today were developed by Herbie and the company he and Neal remain partners in – Nocturne – who are today behind tours by U2, Madonna, Metallica, Def Leppard and of course, Journey. Herbie also broke Swedish hard rock act Europe in America, not to mention taking Mr. Big, Roxette and Steve Miller Band to more Platinum sales and sold out worldwide tours. He is vocal in his opinions and calls it like he sees it, which doesn't always please some folks on the receiving end. But few people have been in the position Herbie was in and when the chance to interview an industry legend presents itself you don't turn that down. I have long followed the business side of the music industry, so Herbie's insights were something I was looking forward to hearing and he doesn't disappoint. I do think this is a different interview than the infamous 2001 interview which was viewed by some as caustic in nature. And I'm pleased about that – but Herbie still has a number of things to say about the band he spent 20 years of his life guiding, some of which you may agree with, some of which you may not agree with. There are some points within this interview that I clearly do not agree with, but I respect Herbie's opinion and the experience he has in this business to make those comments. As was previously the case, Steve Perry remains in his sights as the band's number one problem. Why is this so? Well…one interesting comment from Herbie says a lot. In talking about the band, Herbie says: “I would just like to make my living and do what I think I can get done here. So from my point of view that got stopped and mucked up quite a bit. There was no reason for them not to continue in '84, '85, '86. they could have been a polished Grateful Dead and that was my model as a deadhead.” I feel that Herbie saw his long held vision for the band altered by Perry and therein lies the root of the problem. Read the interview and make your own conclusions about the personalities that make up this story. Journey has a long and complex history, with a number of different eras and different fans of those eras. It makes for an interesting world. At the end of the day, I would like to hope that this interview could be used not as a springboard for new arguments, issues and debates, but rather as a piece that closes the chapter on the past – a glorious musical past that has left us with so many lifelong memories.
Without Neal Schon and Herbie Herbert there would be no band.
Without Steve Perry there would not have been that electric chemistry that helped deliver a catalogue of songs few artists could compete with, sung by a golden voice envied by all.
Without Steve Augeri the band may not have recaptured the imagination of so many fans, allowing the band to continue into a new era.
Without the fans…there would be no point.
Thanks for reading - Andrew.
Good evening Herbie. Thank you for granting an interview. I know you don't do too many.
No, I don't.
I'm not sure, but has Kevin Chalfant told you anything about the website or myself?
Not really but I believe I've heard about it because if I'm not mistaken you guys are the ones that somehow in Sweden determined that Steve Augeri was singing to a hard drive.
Ah….well, I didn't have anything to do with that myself, but you are correct in that those claims appeared on my website's message board – posted by the sound guy from Sweden. Some chatter was already taking place and…heated debate continued as it always does on that board. The Sweden thing kind of took on a new life from that point onwards.
Yeah it did and I thought that was a healthy thing, that that came to light. Because, you know I think they dodged a real bullet there. They could have easily been reduced to Milli Vanilli quickly. What's unfortunate about that is Neal Schon's the real deal.
To generalize a little here – many big acts use samples and even shadow musicians behind the scenes to enhance the sound they are delivering. Why that need for perfection?
Well, because the money at stake on any given night is humongous and unlike motion pictures or television you can't say freeze or let's re-tape that or can we do that over or can we shoot tomorrow or whatever. Rock 'n roll is, always has been the most intense, high pressure, and if you're in that pressure cooker and you do get involved with drugs at all, then you're very quickly weakened. And you can't cut it or if you're as clean as can be there's a high level exposure. Every city you get to you gotta go to radio and retail and go to in-store appearances. You gotta have backstage meet and greets with all the record labels and the branch in that town and the various radio station personnel. All the radio stations, you need their support in each market so you're pressing the flesh and kissing babies and catching the flu. I remember with Steve Perry we had a four night sellout at the Reunion Arena in Dallas and he really was in rough, rough, rough shape and it was the one time when I had to sit down and go 'Steve', it's horrendous, this is why the pressure is what it is, but we would put in suspense the settlement on this, what at the time was an obscenely big gross in rock 'n roll and until we returned and played the postponed fourth date we couldn't settle because all the deals were really tightly negotiated predicated on four days. They were extraordinary low deals but they were justified by the band playing four nights sold out in the round and all the ancillary income from parking and all would be frozen if he couldn't perform. And so, somehow he got through that performance and in those days, when that happened, the crutches hadn't been developed. They hadn't come up with the Akai Samplers and the various technologies that would allow for it. But there was a famous lawsuit that happened in Detroit where it was discovered that a band were playing to just a big reel to reel tape machine out in the soundboard and there was a substantial award - a big settlement against them, a big judgment.
Against what band?
Against Electric Light Orchestra and Don Arden and Jet Records and whoever for basically doing a fake thing, a Milli Vanilli kind of thing. Journey really, I can remember sitting down one day and putting headphones on and watching a video of the last concert with Gregg Rolie back in 1980 in Tokyo at the Sun Plaza. And being just astonished at how good these guys could sing. You know, Jon Cain was never a Gregg Rolie as a voice but he's been trying and working at it for frickin' years now. He tries to cover those Gregg Rolie songs and he marginally pulls it off and Deen Castronovo is such a frickin' franchise talent. Great singer, great drummer, tremendous talent and so they really could pull off serious vocals. They didn't need the crutches. With Augeri they did. They needed the crutches, they needed the help. He had trouble. It was rough. I never understood why they went with him. They could have gone with Kevin Chalfant.
You have been a champion of Kevin's over the years haven't you?
I really have. Of course he was in the Storm with Gregg Rolie and Ross Valory. And when, you know I had absolutely nothing to do with it, I was on a sailboat going between the Hawaiian Islands and then doing a saltwater fast and was gone for about two and a half months. The day after I got back they were roasting me for the benefit of Thunder Road [October 1993] and they'd put all these bands together that wanted to perform at this benefit and it was sold out and I didn't pick the bands or book it. Journey performed that night and I was stunned. And they performed with Kevin Chalfant. This is researchable because in Rolling Stone, Random Notes, that must have been '93, it said, and this was one of the most cutting quotes I've ever read where it said “Not even Steve Perry's mother would have missed him in the band.” Now that is deep. (laughs) I mean, if you're a writer and you think and say wow that guy really thought about that line. I mean, he wanted to fuckin' play out a zinger there, ya know? (laughs) So yeah, and so Kevin was pretty flawless at all times and really could sing in that really high range. But, he did an album of Journey covers.
Yeah, that was last year – very good CD too.
Yeah last year and the thing is, I think the reason that he didn't get put in the band then is because, you know we're all, how old was Perry when he sang most of these songs, 30, 31, 32, 33, when you're in your 40s or 50's, forget about it. There's no chance, so Kevin was knocked down a half step. I'm not gonna go to a piano or guitar and try to figure that out. And he really intimated to me that this was done in the original key. Yeah, but barely, you know if you're a half step down from a major to a minor or whatever, you know, it's a significant change in the tonality and everything else. And for whatever reason, the band, Journey has always had an obsession with playing the songs in the original key. Despite the logic, the unavoidable logic, that if Steve Perry was still in the band, and I know that there's a giant public out there that would love nothing more, they're clueless to the fact that the guy can't sing anymore.
A number of people have suggested such a thing…
No, I said it in the one interview I did other than this one. No, what the hell, I said listen, here's what I want you to do. Go out there. There were so many people out there in Golden Gate Park for Bill Graham's wake. The Grateful Dead, Aaron Neville and all these artists performed and Journey performed that day. Journey performed, you take these songs and you get a tape of that and they took them down two whole steps. I mean, this is from E to A. They passed G to A, you know what I mean? Knocking 'em down hard and Steve Perry's voice was all broken up. So, you know, forget about it. It was just so revealing. That was in '91 at which point that day I hadn't seen him since 1986 Raised on Radio and that was five years. And what an ugly encounter that was with Steve Perry that day. That was the last time I ever saw him, Bill Graham's wake, and if I never saw him again it would be too soon.
You've certainly been outspoken about Steve Perry. Your 2001 interview, which was dubbed Castles Burning - [members.cox.net/mrcarty] - your last really big interview I think, become kind of infamous.
Oh really and who did I do that with?
It was with a guy named Matthew Carty.
Oh yeah, Matthew Carty, that was the guy. The guy from Phoenix or whatever, that was, you know the funny thing about that one was, at the end he said 'Now I have to ask you, why did you give me this interview.' I said, 'You're the only one who ever asked.' And I'll tell you what. This would be the astonishing part. What I think is significant about that is how the artists feel that they're so the center of the universe. That surely the interest in what is the every nuance of their life is so, you know, as if it were important or whatever. Nobody ever tried to find me. Nobody was ever interested enough to ask me any questions let alone the questions that kid asked. That kid asked some good questions because obviously people were, well, I think it stirred up a lot of controversy.
It sure did…
What it really proved more than anything is the power of something that I was very responsible for. And make no mistake, I have the utmost respect for the talent of these individuals. I selected them man by man. I negotiated and put them into my band. You know what I mean? And it's because they were extraordinarily gifted but when you have that sort of creative genius it doesn't mean that on the other side of your brain, left brain function where it's acquired knowledge about how to act, how to be, you know, that part that doesn't have narcissistic personality disorder, you know, that's the hard part. Very little exposure, you know? It becomes difficult after a while. Who's human to human, you know? That's the problem. In the long run though I have ultimate gratitude, ultimate gratitude and I'll go to my grave as Neal Schon's greatest champion and fan. I think he is just extraordinarily gifted.
He certainly is. One of the questions I was going to ask you and I'll throw this at you now – but I don't think Neal gets his share of love from the critical press.
I've never understood it. I've kinda thought maybe because of the origins of where Neal and I came from, from when he was 15 joining Santana and I was Carlos' personal guy and just had a great love affair commence right then with Neal. And I've kinda always said, you know, Carlos closed the door behind him. On the guitar legends thing you know, Page, Plant, Hendrix, Carlos Santana, those people could be mentioned in the same breath and for you to distinguish yourself and rise above the din of all the other guitarists you're really going to have to swing a big bat. And you're gonna find, you're gonna look up and you're gonna go wow, I guess Eric Clapton wasn't just a lead guitar player. I mean at the end of the day he became a great personality singer and great song selection has a depth of catalog and after while you go wow. Of course Neal was always a major Clapton fan so he didn't need to be told anything like that but he didn't really connect the dots. And so I wanted him to be a songwriter and a singer and in the songwriter since he's a melody savant, you know, just something else, you know, but it's been tough and people have been very reluctant to give him his due although I think he's been incredibly influential and they just don't talk about it. And whatever, it's never been de rigueur to mention Neal Schon. I think he scares the hell out of a lot of people. Even technical people that are great players like a Steve Vai or a Joe Satriani or a Eric Johnson or you know? It's just across the board because he's just a, he has some sort of sensitivity and touch and feel and voice. Did you hear the album he did for Higher Octave called Voice?
I mean now, who can do that?
I've got every one of his solo records. I think he's astounding.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. (laughter) It really is true you know. He's just something else.
I've got a lot of questions for you Herbie and…
I'm sorry to just ramble on. Go on and ask your questions.
I didn't want to cover a lot of territory that Matthew's interview already did because, credit to him for getting that great interview online, but there's a lot since that point in time that's happened that I'd like to ask you about.
OK. I've been very, very retired and very, very uninvolved.
I think you keep your ear to the ground though right?
A little bit, yeah. I mean Neal will call me and tell me all the things he's doing and of course and way back in the very beginning when he first found this singer on YouTube he called me and had me listen to it.
Oh great, Ok, look I'll get to that in a second Herbie. I wanted to ask you, just for the people, you know the younger readers of my site that don't know the Herbie Herbert legacy - you started off in San Francisco with Bill Graham who obviously was a legendary promoter. How did you hook up with Bill?
We met at the Acid Trips Festival, I think in January or early February of '66 and just had various encounters when he had the original Filmore Auditorium and then at the Filmore West and we just became very good friends. He was like a second father to me and a mentor and he is the one who, when I asked him what I should do, having been offered a job by Johnny Winter and Steve Paul from Peter, Paul and Mary who had a big hit at the time - Jet Airplane - and their manager was Albert Grossman. Bill knew both of those gentlemen and what should I do, and both offers started at $150 a week and in 1969 that was a lot of money, believe it or not. And he said, 'I think you should go to work for Santana'. And I said, 'Santana, why, they don't even have an album out?' And he said, 'well they're gonna have an album out' and he had just returned from Woodstock, which I didn't go to, and he said the world heard Santana at Woodstock, when their album comes out it's gonna explode, and he was of course totally right. So I said 'What can they pay me?' And he said 'maybe I can get you $75 a week'. So I said, 'you're telling me to not even consider those other jobs for half the money with Santana?' And of course, Bill goes “You asked, I told you, you owe me nothing.” (laughter) So I took the job with Santana and loved it, just loved it. And I loved that man, then along came this little punk kid guitar player, Neal Schon, and there's a wild story about how that evolved and somehow Gregg Rolie said to the owner of a studio, yeah I'll help you produce some local club band and Neal was in that local club band. So it was fantastic. Gregg Rolie was always a joy to work with.
I've only had a few dealings with Gregg but he has always been very genuine.
Uh huh, and his band's great. He's doing fantastic. If you go and see his band play right now he lets you know that he was a very big part of both Santana and Journey. A very big component, and really the leader, you know. Musically, the band leader and it was devastating when he left Journey. I was fuckin' crushed.
And you covered that in the Carty interview. He'd just had enough at the time.
Yeah, it was just, you know, bad things were brewing. He knew it and he didn't want to live through it. I think he felt that Perry was gunning for me from early on and I don't know why.
Yeah, so you started off with Sanata and moved through the ranks and then put Journey together and you were doing pretty well initially. Where did the desire to turn Journey into a bigger act come from?
After the first three albums, and by the third album the inmates were allowed to run the asylum. Meaning that Journey got to produce their own third album, Next. You know, there was a real cult following. They were like a jazz/fusion/rock kind of thing. We played with Weather Report, Majahvishnu Orchestra, Santana, and Robin Trower and bands like that. And it just went over perfect and I loved that original band and many people did. I think the first album in real time sold like 150,000 and the second album sold 250,000 and then the third album did 100,000 or maybe 150,000. So with that, and the thing that people can't quite keep in perspective, is where Journey was in that. All the other bands in their supposed genre had really come and gone. Boston, Foreigner, Styx, REO all those bands had their hits way before Journey had theirs. In fact some of those hits were from things borrowed from Journey. I think if you'll listen to I'm Gonna Leave on the Look Into the Future record, track 5 side 1, it's Carry On Wayward Son, by Kansas. They just lifted it. And if you listen on the third, Next, album to Nickel Dime, that's Tom Sawyer by Rush and they didn't modify it very much.
And that, I think, is the biggest song of their career. That's a pretty big career and so they were kinda left in the station when the train left. They were standing on the platform watching the tail lights of the caboose go wailing away in the distance. Then you look up and it's 1977 and they've toured all year, all through Europe with Santana and another big tour with ELO both in '76 and '77 and it just wasn't happening. And you look at the charts and its Donna Summer, Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Disco Inferno by The Trammps. I mean it was as clear as ringing a bell that era was gone and basically Columbia Records said that. It's over. So I was just in a complete scramble and they were gonna drop the act. So there was a scramble to do something to modify what we were doing. So I said we'll change it, we'll go commercial, I'll put in a lead singer and this guy that was in charge of artist development, Arma Andon had a singer that he liked that was managed by Barry Fey in Denver and that guy was Robert Fleishman. So we tried him and did a whole tour with him, with Emerson Lake and Palmer and even played stadium dates. And he was just very difficult to manage. And somewhere along the line I finally got a Steve Perry tape. I'd met Steve Perry numerous times, had thought about him numerous times. There were just certain moments. I mean when I was going to make the deal for Robert Fleishman in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge with John Villanueva we both looked at each other and I goes, 'Steve Perry. I still have never heard that fuck, but I have a feeling about him'. Then when I finally did hear him, I listened to him for about 60 seconds on tape and I tried to chase him down, but he's already left the music business. I talked to his mom and he was working in a turkey farm in Visalia pounding nails with his stepfather Marv on the weekends trying to pay back his debts. He'd borrowed all this money from them while he lived in LA and put his bands together and put his demos together and did showcase after showcase to managers, to labels, to agencies, and nobody ever heard it. Nobody ever wanted it.
I don't get that at all.
I was pretty astonished by it. I got it in seconds. I got it, and so I wanted, and you know what? At that moment, when I heard it, I was thinking that and well it was really truth, Robert was pretty well in the band and Neal loved Robert Fleishman. They really liked him. He was just a poodle in heat to deal with as a manager. He was like (using whiny voice) “Oh everybody, would you clear the dressing room? That person smoking over there….” That kind of, you know, oh man please. If this is before he's got his first paycheck what's gonna happen? So there was that side of it and so at that moment I just liked this band. I wanted to sign this band. It was called Alien Project. And I said I'll do this. I'm gonna make this happen. And from my first phone call, that very weekend, the bass player in that band died in a car accident which really left Steve Perry very fermished [messed up]. When I tried to talk him into coming up and spending a week with me at my house he couldn't afford to. I talked to his employer, got an ok, told him I'd pay him the money he was gonna lose, pay his expenses, he can sleep on my couch. He did all that and I started workin' on him and said ok let's forget the Alien Project. Let's talk about Journey. And it was not an easy negotiation by any stretch. He was afraid of Aynsley Dunbar not having a groove, being too white a British drummer with very minimal exposure to soul or R&B and not strong on the backbeat. I loved Aynsley, I still love Aynsley, great guy, intellect. You know, talent with an intellect, that's why I worked with Steve Miller for so many years. I like the resourceful type people, the Jeff Lynne's of the world. But you know at a certain point with Perry, Aynsley only lasted one record really, the Infinity album. Then we terminated him and brought in Steve Smith.
And that was the start of the hits era for the band…
Yes, in truth yes, their first top ten hit was Who's Crying Now from Escape. Although people want to swear up and down that Lights and Feelin' That Way and Wheel in the Sky and all these familiar songs, you know, the Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin', Anyway You Want It, and songs that got so Goddamned much airplay you got pounded by them but they really were never hits. And a lot of that airplay was subliminal. And a lot of it was not really subliminal it's called foreground music. That was little discovery about these companies up in Seattle, Washington at the time, AEI Audio Environments Inc., and their lobby's loaded with all of Journey's platinum and gold because they played up nationwide like you can't believe on their in-house proprietary music systems. We did big promotions with all their people and access to Journey tickets and merchandise and meet and greets and things like that and oh my God the airplay we got from that was incredible. So every shoe store, shopping mall, restaurant from the Rusty Scuppers to Houstons, you know, there it is. Getting all that airplay, those are all gross impressions and they cume up to a level of recognition and familiarity that makes people really believe that those songs were hit songs. They were heard so much it just wasn't on normal, it certainly wasn't on contemporary hit radio which is how you get a hit single.
Yeah exactly, in the classical sense.
Anything and every kind of radio but that, you know.
You were credited over those years with taking Journey further than maybe they would have gone on their own as well as building the whole idea of a live touring circuit weren't you?
Yeah, it was kind of a sneak attack because when the industry is used to a certain methodology as to how it works and how hit bands work what kind of hit it takes on the radio to go platinum, what it takes in terms of contemporary hit, CHR they called it at the time, radio. R&R Parallel One stations was the bible at that time and we weren't getting any of that yet selling millions of records. This is totally beneath the radar and one of the other techniques was we would fashion the most fantastic radio spots that would emphasize our emphasis track that we wanted the most airplay on and we would run those. Sixty second spots back in the day when radio was cheap to buy. In the '70s it was cheap, cheap, cheap, and we'd pound those and you know those radio spots were airplay. They were cumes [accumulations], they were gross impressions and you know, they're proving that theory right now in the most recent Apple campaigns. The music today that they're using on the new Apple Ipod or the new Air [laptop] da-do-da-do-do and all of a sudden you're singing the song and that's the way it works. Familiarity creates comfort which creates a transaction. So that's what it was all about, how to cume up gross impressions of a band that is not radio friendly in a disco world. In a disco world and another thing that was very effected was the artwork at that time. Creating a unique, highly recognized imagery within your target demographic so when they see it, so by the time we got to the Escape album it did not have to say Journey on it. And what I would suggest is, no matter how that lineup is perceived, if Jon Cain all of a sudden comes in and it's the classic lineup, OK, OK, but there was a bed there already a base of sales. They'd already sold 12 - 14 million records by then. Across Infinity, Evolution, Departure and Captured, you betcha. Look at all those records. I think Infinity's quadruple platinum, I would imagine Evolution is, I would think Departure's at least triple platinum and the double album, I know Captured is past double platinum. A double album past double platinum and at a time when lots of live albums come out and no one fared that well, the Eagles or anybody. So they had a hell of a thing going and the way we said Escape was E5C4P3 and the way we wrote the band's name, it looked like Russian and a lot of people never figured out how you had to turn it on it's side to see it say Journey and that was only on the shrink wrap. There were some graphics on the actual album cover itself, but when we initially put it out it was just the egg with the scarab Escape vehicle busting out of it. That's it. Then they made us change it and put some stuff on it. We didn't need to. Blew, blew units out everybody knew what that was. It didn't need to have a name on it. Then of course, right then and there is when Steve Perry really wanted to muck with the formula. You know, he really wanted to put things through a lot of changes.
In the years you've had to reflect on that have you come to a definitive conclusion as to why he wanted those changes?
No, he'd send Sigmund Freud to the hills, screaming and rippin' out his hair. (laughter) He's a tough nut to figure. Who knows, it's probably very petty jealousies or whatever. It seemed like he wanted, you know it was especially revealing to me when we had his solo album and I was managing him with Street Talk, and the song Oh Sherrie, and I mean I tell ya, he really had a gun to Journey's head right then. He had me, and I was just committed, I'm gonna make this happen because also as a manager it was going to be what I felt would be a very rewarding thing for me to know that in view of the failures of virtually every major artist coming out of a major group to have success on their own. The members of Pink Floyd, or Hall & Oates, or the Cars or any band that was huge. Aerosmith or any of theses guys, they do solo records and it's a dud. Phil Collins at that point had failed to go gold on Face Value and the one record that had come out as a solo record that had done extraordinarily well, virtually the same time, was Bella Donna, Stevie Nicks. She did triple platinum and we did more than double platinum in just America alone on Steve Perry's Street Talk. And I can tell you honestly, he denigrated me at every possible opportunity and said that I sandbagged him, that I fucked him, and I you know, and that the record of course should have been much bigger than Escape and showing total ignorance to the concept of branding and what we had built over so many years. That was '84. We had incorporated Journey, or Nightmare to furnish the services of Journey in March of '73. So here's eleven years of building a brand and a business and he wants to eclipse it with his first release. And if he doesn't I have failed and even though there is a history of nothing but abject failure on solo projects. So I don't know man, it's like fighting the impossible fight. I remember one time he phoned me at my house and just went nuts about Be Good To Yourself having been the first choice of a single off of Raised on Radio. And I said, it's a great song, it's a great production, it's great sound, it's Journey. That was the problem. It sounds too much like Journey. Well too many of the other songs sound too much like a glorified Steve Perry solo record. You'll have to remember on Raised on Radio is when he had me remove Ross Valory and Steve Smith from the band. Of course that was completely ridiculous and I forced him to pay them as if they were there on the tour and everything.
Absolutely, that's what I think you do for your people. There's very little chance that Ross Valory or Steve Smith would remember it let alone reciprocate but that is the honest to God truth. I made sure they were taken care of. I thought it was patently ridiculous and thought that Steve Smith was one of the best drummers on the planet.
And still is.
And he has been recognized as such I believe for longer than anybody in history as the best drummer in the country for something like twenty years running.
What do you think Steve Perry's problem with Ross and Steve was? I mean they were hardly the decision makers of the band.
No, because he wanted to divide and conquer. There was a real relationship I thought with Steve as regards my relationship, my father/son relationship with Neal Schon. It was a pretty serious thing as I would say to people half serious, half in jest half as the truth of the world, I would say 'This is my Neal Schon, he didn't turn out that good.' (laughs) And I'm not talking about him as a guitar player at that point, obviously not, I'm his biggest fan. These guys, when they screw the pooch not only can they not learn commitment, anything that comes along that they like better they get uncommitted real fast. And when they make a booboo, and booboos happen and the thing is when I make a mistake I have no expectation or notion of unringing the bell or puttin' the bite back in the apple. It doesn't occur to me. To them it's the gospel, of course that's possible, which I find hilarious. I find that humorous. That part of the business I surely don't miss. Management is a rough go, I tell ya.
Oh, I don't know how anybody could live on the road or get into that 24/7. It's hard enough just being a commentator on it.
You know at the end, especially on Raised on Radio, Steve Perry insisted I be on the road. It made it very, very difficult to do my job vis-à-vis phones and access because in those days, even in '86, you didn't have cell phones. You know, I mean we barely had the advent of fax machines and thank God for that, know what I mean? I spent my life on the road with no electronics, no benefits of the computer age.
Yeah I guess people forget about that. How did you do it?
It was so frickin' hard Andrew. I'd be in some country in Europe or the Orient and just run to a pay phone and oh my God, foreign currency, foreign languages, numbers, prefixes, country codes, man I wanted to go beat somebody up at a bus stop. (laughter) Just for the hell of it (laughter) just to take my aggressions out on someone.
It is amazing how quickly we get used to the technology we have and can't imagine life without it. But not too long ago – we didn't have it at all.
It's really true and now they really do have modern conveniences. But you know, oddly enough, and this was the least anticipated thing in my life, after I retired from management for some frickin' crazy reason I decided to become an artist and sing and play a little guitar. I had a total ball, and you know, played the Filmore 18 times with the legendary Sy Klopps blues band [www.syklopps.com]. All the best venues, all over the west, all over the country really with Sy Klopps and just really enjoyed it. When I stopped from that and they retired on the stage at the Fillmore, Bill Kreutzmann said you and your guitar player and me, let's form a band and we'll do Robert Hunter songs and so I said sure, let's do it. We created this band called the Trichromes and got up, got on a tour bus, went for six weeks with Bob Wier's RatDog and Phil and Friends and I had the complete touring experience. And not like a Journey, we were the opening band. And when the tour was over I told an audience of 40,000 at Alpine Valley what a revelation, what a joy, what a breeze, what an extreme fallacio everyday. Just a blowjob, you get treated so well you know I was ready to get on the bus and start it all over again the next morning. I thought that on those buses on tour you got no sleep and that the labor board could literally make an argument that me and my production company, Nocturne, which is one of the preeminent production companies in the world today and we have so many tours and so many crews that they'd come and make an argument that this is 24 hour 7 day a week employment and you have to pay overtime on every hour. They're on a bus, it's not restful sleep they're working the whole time and I just had all these nightmares going on thinking of business exposure and so forth. Then when I went and did it I've never slept so good in my life. And everybody else was that way. It was just phenomenal. I mean so what the hell and all these years I'd given these artists the benefit of the doubt I was so naïve and wrong. It was just, you know, I mean let me tell you, that isn't work. If any one of those guys could walk in a manager's shoes one hour they would be exhausted and require hospitalization.
I can imagine it. I've seen it and I wouldn't want to do it.
You know, when I was Sy Klopps I never did a single thing. Pat Morrow was the manager of Sy Klopps and I never picked up the phone and said a business word one time. He did a brilliant job. When I was a manager I knew I was management, was the key catalyst, and when I became an artist I got that reconfirmed yet again. I know I'm drifting astray and I know you have more questions.
I could probably spend a week talking to you because I love the industry and I love the business so it's a privilege to talk to you.
And you're in Australia and Journey was never really happening there. You know what? I actually got into Journey originally via Steve Perry's Street Talk album in 1984 because Oh Sherrie was a huge hit single here and that voice! But Journey – although every album was released here – never had a big hit single here and had never toured here. He [Steve Perry] didn't do any touring really for that record. I got him finally to do Oh Sherrie on tour with Journey.
You did? I always figured that was Steve's idea.
Yes it was my Idea so as to moot the need for solo touring on Steve's part. Journey also performed Don't Fight It - the song Steve did with Kenny Logins and Foolish Heart too. Then, when he tried to do his theater tour as Steve Perry with Lincoln Brewster and…
That was I guess very much a struggle. There were certain cities where he booked and calendared and then postponed, then calendared and postponed then ultimately cancelled and never played the market. Couldn't get well, couldn't sing, I didn't see any of that tour but I just heard that it was pretty rough.
Steve hasn't performed live since that point and has only recorded one album - Trial by Fire with Journey again.
Trial by Fire…I listened to that one time and not one lift off. Not one moment of this is gonna go somewhere. Monotone, monotone, I don't know what was going on with that. They really genuflected and signed all these agreement to try to supposedly get him to make a record and tour and I told Neal Schon that I swore on everything holy that he would never tour. 'He'll never do it; I promise you that, I'll bet my net worth'. He didn't take me up on the bet but I was of course right.
That was the last time that Steve was seen with the band. Just about every other band on the planet has reformed at some point since then, including many of them doing it now, but there is absolutely no sign of Steve Perry ever returning from the fray is there?
I really don't think so and to be honest with you I don't think it would be desirable. I mean just in a fantasy world. People want to remember back to a fantastic time when a great, there was a moment when surely Steve Perry was the foremost, contemporary vocal stylist in America. I believe that. Male vocal stylist, he was right there on point. Everybody loved that voice and he touched many people with songs, many of which that Jon Cain wrote like Faithfully and Open Arms. Man they hate it when I tell that story about Open Arms. You know about how they were fuckin' just denigrating Steve and just talking stink. He's in there trying to sing Open Arms with Kevin Elson, Mike Stone and I'm goin' 'he's singin' his heart out, he's tryin' to nail this fuckin' thing'. I mean you know it was (whiney voice) 'Is that Perry Como, and its so frou-frou' and they're just teasing him awfully. I took Neal and Jon into the backroom and go 'What the fuck are you doin' man? He's obviously written a fantastic song.' Jon Cain goes 'He didn't write that, I wrote that.' And I was stunned. I just looked at him and my mouth dropped open, it go 'Just making your behavior all the more remarkable, unbelievable.' Sometimes man, you can write a brilliant song, (idiot voice) duhhuh, duhhuh, but if I asked you to think it might hurt you.
So they were in the studio giving shit to Steve while he was recording?
Totally giving him shit. I mean seriously giving him shit.
I don't get that.
Anti-inspirational to the max.
I guess Jon Cain and Neal Schon really have become the partnership that has held the band together over all these years.
Well I guess so. I really don't know about the inner workings and the chemistry of it. To me it's always been a situation where I felt that from way back that they should just move on from Steve Perry. I'm talkin' I wanted them to move on in '84.
I heard you wanted that. That would have been an interesting twist.
For them to allow him [Perry] to hold the band hostage, and the money in '84 and '85 and every year thereafter because that '86 money could have been just a real Journey tour with just a replacement singer and this kid they have now [Arnel Pineda] can sing that material right now in the original keys in a very credible way and there's no way Steve Perry could touch that.
I'm gonna come back to this in a minute… but right now, in '84, the mid '80s if they'd have made a break, a similar sort of break as what happened with Van Halen in '86. They brought in Hagar and did a left turn with their sound and they lost some fans but won some others - just like Journey did in '78.
Exactly, that's when they shifted to Sammy Hagar from David Lee Roth. Right exactly and that was a brilliant move and very effective and you know I made a solo record that you may have in your collection called Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, Shrieve.
Absolutely, love it, for sure.
And you know, we know Sammy really well. He's one of our best friends, he comes to our birthday parties and yadda, yadda, yadda.
Oh I love Sammy. I'm an absolute diehard Sammy Hagar fan.
Yeah exactly, he's a great friend and of course we knew intimately. And of course I love the story of the '78 Journey tour with Journey, Montrose and Van Halen. The tour started on March 1 in Racine, Wisconsin 1978. And I said, 'Hey Neal, be sure to get a look at the opening band. I want you to go and see them and give me a call.' Then I got out to Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, the big cities, Pittsburg, Philly, every time I'd say 'Hey Neal, you seen the opening band yet?' He goes, 'No man, I never get there on time. I'll do it, I'll do it.' When I finally get to New York, I'm sittin' in the lobby, Pat Morrow the road manager brings 'em in. He's taken them out to the NEW radio and the Sam Goody stores and all that and they got just enough time to grab their clothes and maybe a little bit of food and I say 'hey Neal have you seen the opening band' and he goes 'no' and I say 'give your room key to Pat. He'll bring your guitars and all your shit. You're going with me right now'. I took him to the theater. We were sold out 3500 people and I said let's just walk in and sit down. We walk in the front door and sit down and he looks around and says, 'Where's all the people?' I go 'the people don't come until very late. I mean hardly anybody sees this band'. And even when we were done there was maybe a thousand people out of 3500 when their set was over. But when they started playing Running With the Devil and You Really Got Me and Jamie's Crying and all that stuff, and all the guitars Neal was just blown away. Blown away and he says 'man I gotta meet that guy, I gotta learn that stuff and I mean, you think he'll teach me that shit?' (laughter) I says 'man if you'll teach him some of those melodies you come up with'. He say 'whadaya mean'. I go, 'the man can't believe the melodies'. 'You mean he watches me?' I said, 'He watches your every note.' On this whole tour he hasn't missed a note you played and you haven't seen him once. So from then on he never missed a note. And they've become very good friends.
Ok, to jump to another point as far as touring – it seems that playing live is about the only way to make money in this business these days? The pressure is on a big tour.
Well now wait a minute.
Don't get stuck in the old, tired, fucked up, ground into the ground model of the traditional exploitive record, you know, Columbia records deal. Well you know, even though Journey had a 37% royalty, hey a phenomenal deal and they were well paid by any standard, but still it doesn't compare at all to what a single freestanding retailer can do for you. What Victoria's Secret did for Spice Girls or Target or Best Buy or certainly a classic example that Journey's following because of Irv Azoff,…
…is the deal with WalMart, absolutely. They blew through 3 million units for the Eagles faster than the record business did back in the, unless you could go back to the peak in the early '80s or something.
It's a phenomenal number isn't it?
It really is. I mean if out of one location WalMart's nationwide and a double album, priced right, $11.99, if they paid the band $8 a unit or something like that, a mountain of money, you know. Twenty four million or something like that and it's not a loss-leader. WalMart makes money now Journey's gonna have the 11 new songs, the 11 old songs, the DVD that Nocturne is shooting right now. WalMart's gonna price that really well and Journey's got, I mean this is a chance. The new Eagles record was very, very good and if they can get airplay and have a hit off of that record, wow. I mean it's defying the odds almost unbelievably. Having a hit is like moonwalking on water.
You once, I've gotta quote you on this, you once said that you had a better chance of your dick growing another foot than Journey had of having another hit single.
I admit it. That's what I said. I've got a better chance of my dick growing a foot. Sure I'd love it to happen but it's not very likely, and actually upon further review I'm not sure I'd love it to happen. But anyway, it's just the likelihood. I think I'd stand by that quote and I think the Eagles have just done what I've said. They've just walked on water. For the 60 year old set to come out and you know Journey can make a great new record. Especially with someone who can still go somewhere with their voice in that tenor range. The songs have to live. The whole idea with Journey was songs that started someplace, took you somewhere, and resolved that and brought you back. Which is a very difficult thing, most guitarists, if they know how to launch a solo and keep it interesting for more than twelve bars, they don't know how to resolve it. That's another thing that Neal's a master at.
Brings it back into the song doesn't he?
Yeah he does and so they could make a fantastic record. I have no doubt about that. The point is how do you get it listened to? How do you get it heard? I mean the business has so hopelessly, for so long, been a contemporary youth oriented business that they have walked away from multimillion dollar brands. Columbia let Chicago and Heart and Journey and Santana and all these brands that they branded for so long, let 'em go away and they're a huge success. Heart at Capitol, Chicago and Warner Brothers, Santana obviously with Clive Davis but previously with Polygram. What the fuck are they thinkin'? What the fuck? This stuff took so long and so much money to cume up the gross impressions over such a long duration to become nigh onto, if not a household word. This is the hardest thing to achieve. Madison Avenue looks down their nose at the record business because these guys don't know a thing about selling records. And they were so right, and now everybody thinks they can pick off the record business. It must be embarrassing. And the precipitous slide into the abyss, do you know when it started? When Steve Jobs took fuckin' a week to get every CEO, every president in the fuckin' music business to drink the Kool-aid. And give their entire catalogs, opening Pandora's digital box, and that shit will never get back in the box, and that's all master recordings going out digitally. And the way music is stored, distributed, sold and listened to has completely changed and they're not invited to the party. They get paid for their catalog, a little bit, but the real beneficiary is Steve Jobs who really dominates the business from not only software and the delivery side of it but also the hardware and how people listen. The biggest mogul in the history of the business and I think he spent a weekend figuring out how to be the biggest music business mogul in history. He's also the biggest motion picture mogul in history. And he's a majority share holder of Disney all of a sudden. And so this is really important stuff. Then everybody else said yeah, let's go pick off the record business. And I mean everybody from Starbucks to Victoria's Secret thinks they can do it better and you know what? They're right. They couldn't fuck it up, I mean, by accident they could do it better than the record industry with focus. Now, if you want a label to push the button you'd better be ready to give up your soul. I never, you know, if Journey, if Jon Cain, or any of these guys wanted to really be honest, and say wow, what was the greatest luxury than Herbie Herbert ever afforded me as an artist? They never had a record company executive step anywhere near them in the studio, in the songwriting process or any part of the creative process. We completely controlled everything vertically; album covers, the content, the songs. I sequenced each one of those records, and somehow fought to get the record covers the way they were, and I named all the albums. That's what you need, is to have some focus like that. It's not an ego trip, it's marketing expertise. It's branding expertise. I have nothing invested in this egowise. I would just like to make my living and do what I think I can get done here. So from my point of view that got stopped and mucked up quite a bit. There was no reason for them not to continue in '84, '85, '86. They could have been a polished Grateful Dead and that was my model as a deadhead. I wanted to just have them, and they were so huge in merchandizing and you know what else? The Journey Force Fanclub was a force to be reckoned with. We really had created the virtual affinity group, but it was physical, it wasn't virtual. It wasn't virtual, it was physical. It wasn't in the computer age. It was physical mailing lists. Well we did have computers. We had the first program that would manage our fanclub and automatically print labels and weigh and sticker and send out newsletters and the whole thing. And they had such a high membership, I think 600,000 at one point. That list, they sold the fanclub, disregarded it, and just thought that had no value. They almost thought of it as an albatross and a liability. They sold it to Tim McQuaid who ran the Force. He turned it into Fan Asylum [www.fanasylum.com] and turned it into a very successful business. He sold in the internet age and made seven figures. And it was the very same computer tool set that he bought, no modifications. And we invented all those things that you get when you're in a fanclub and go to the box office up until an hour before show time, show your Journey Force card and buy up to five tickets near the front, fifth row or closer and we would hold those seats. Then and hour before the show we'd send them out front with a bullhorn and just fuck over the scalpers. Any leftover fifth row seats, face value at the box office, right here and people would run standing in front of the scalpers right at the box office. You know, and it was just a fantastic thing the way that worked. We invented the travel packages. And you could travel with the band and do the meet and greets. These things were phenomenal. The velvet rope concept, all those things were created by the Force. These are things that are so valuable now and they just walked away from the whole tool set. They could have just been making their own CDs since they were dropped from Columbia and selling them like Ani DiFranco direct to their own active hot list that by now would have been converted to active email addresses and everything electronically and been completely in business.
So they missed a real opportunity there?
They just don't understand that there's something more to it than just writing songs and singing and playing. That business component of it and the thing is I was pretty much solely focused on that. All the other activities were done in the vacuum of their absence. They said well we're not gonna, even after Raised on Radio in '86, I said fuck it then, I'm gonna do this band Europe from Sweden. I got the job for Kevin Elson to produce it, I'm gonna break it, they released it, they failed, I'm gonna rerelease it and make it a home run. I was playing it for Jeff McClusky and Jerry Mickelson on the back of a band bus outside of the Rosemont Horizon on Journey's Raised on Radio tour, and Steve and Neal came into the back of the bus and said 'oh man that's tired and in the weeds. That'll never happen'. That was The Final Countdown. It went fuckin' #1 all over the world. (laughter)
Yeah, that did pretty well.
Yeah, then I did the Roxette project and that was very successful, almost dominated the charts there for several years.
Oh they were probably, I was in retail at the time, a record store, and Roxette were the biggest band around.
Yeah and I got them from the get go. I broke The Look here in this country and I there was no looking back, you know what I mean. And I had four #1s, three #2s and two top 15s in two years and sold 60 million records around the world.
That's gotta be good for everything!
Yeah that was fantastic. I just got a big hardbound book in the mail, all in Swedish about Per Gessler [Roxette guitarist] and I looked to see if they had any pictures of me anywhere. But I was a folk hero when that was happening because of what happened with Europe and what happened with Roxette and another Swedish band called the Electric Boys. They were very good, toured with Mr. Big and Hardline, one of Neal's bands.
I saw that show. I saw that show in Marin County California in '92.
Ok, so you know all three bands, Electric Boys and Mr. Big and Hardline. I thought that was a good tour.
Oh, it was a phenomenal lineup. I love Hardline. I'm a huge fan, actually I'm a very good friend of Eric Martin.
Well there ya go and I worked with him for 12 years before I could finally break, that was a long story breaking that To Be With You single. I traded all my Grateful Dead memorabilia for that hit. It's a long story but I mean that was very, very rewarding because you know, I had a lot of people say well you did that thing with Journey and you know you're pretty lucky. And I say 'Lucky, man the harder I worked the luckier I got.' They just kept drumming me on being lucky. I go yeah I must have a horse shoe buried right in my ass. You know but then, Europe, that wasn't luck. I levitated a dead project. Roxette, that wasn't luck. Everybody in the business, everybody turned me down on Roxette. And EMI, I got the record getting played here in this country then EMI changed their mind and said OK, we'll keep it and go forward so I worked with EMI. But right at the last second Doug Morris said, I want it, I want it. I said Doug you waited too long I wanted to make this deal a long time ago. But Roxette, that worked out well and then I did the Mr Big deal with Doug Morris instead. That worked out well too, so you know when you just start taking them all from the garage all the way to #1, I never had a #1 with Journey.
Yeah, isn't that strange?
Number 2 with Open Arms hopelessly behind Endless Love Dianna Ross and Lionel Richie. So I said I'm gonna do this. I got to #2 with Carrie by Europe again and then with Roxette I finally had my first #1 and then with Mr. Big that was my last #1.
Well you deserved that.
That was the fifth single off that Mr. Big record.
Yeah I know. I have the records. I bought the first Mr. Big album the week it was released because I loved all the guys individually and I thought wow what an amazing idea.
You know, I was trying to do them on a legitimate, you know, as a shredder band. And the first single was Addicted to That Rush. I was bold. I wanted to have the real thing. I didn't want to homogenize those guys but eventually if you wanna fuckin' have broad based appeal you've gotta go with something that gets you that hit. And you know, To Be With You, boom. All of a sudden they sell 10 million records around the world. So how do you argue with that?
Eric Martin keeps telling me that's a song that just keeps on giving.
It is a song that keeps on giving. Yeah, that's the one that probably pays his rent to this very day.
Absolutely, yeah, just jumping back to Journey – looking back over the years - they seem to have a history of dramatic vocalist changes don't they?
Well, but how about from Tommy Johnston in the Doobie Brothers to Michael MacDonald? From China Groove to Takin' it to the Streets all of a sudden, totally different voice, what did the new voice get, four or five Grammies. You know, and so you can make these changes. You have to just have to be bold and go forward. And you know at that point I have every right to say God dammit, I wanted to do that with Journey and they were just chicken and the left a lot of chips on the table for what I call in reality 15 years. From '83, because in '84 they should have moved, and so you go from '83 to '98 that's 15 years. How are they ever gonna make up for that lost time? I mean shit, I got tired of waiting and then when I'd waited all that time and they were ready to go forward they wanted to go with Steve Perry and I told them from the get go that we were gonna have to write a letter and say that we were doing this and offer it to Steve Perry. But in the event that he accepts I'm going to have to decline because at that point it's been about nine years of utter bliss not having to see him or talk to him or deal with his craziness. Man hey, once bitten twice shy. I'm not going back. I have a profound philosophy that our president, Bush, is incapable of articulating but it's very simple. Fuck me once shame on you, fuck me twice shame on me.
You're on record as saying that Steve Augeri was a good choice and a top bloke, and we all know he was a top bloke, but things ended on a negative note for him also.
I don't know what their relationship was like but I thought at first blush, looking at Steve Augeri I like his body language, I liked his look on stage, until I realized it's either hard drive or, you know, and often he would drop his microphone and the vocal would continue. And even for me, it took me a while to realize, Oh, it's not necessarily a hard drive there, you have Deen Castronovo, who could in fact do an even more credible Steve Perry and especially on the ballads. And so on the ballads Augeri would drop his mic and the note would be held and I finally realized. Because he's got that little teeny bend-around microphone or headset that Deen has and it's not like you can really tell when he's singing. Without video screens, that's where video becomes so crucial. It really does so you can see that. If you're at the mixing board that's invisible, you're not looking at somebody's lips move. At least not me anymore. I'm sure they passed it off as something for medical reasons or whatever and leaving a notion or tone that maybe he could be returned or that he could return to the band but I think not. I think it was real and I think that even if you were in fine voice, as maybe this gentleman from the Philippines is right now, this is a rugged expectation. And to really make it pencil financially you really want to try to get to and try to maintain at least a four night a week date density. This is easy to do in the northeast but very difficult to do in the west because it's so far apart between markets like LA, San Francisco, Seattle. And the secondary markets like Fresno, Sacramento, and Eugene don't yield much more than you're production nut. In some cases it's really hard and so where do you get a third and a fourth show? So it's very hard to route with and density in the West and when you have a high density to pay the bills then you run the risk of vocal hardship.
Yeah, which unfortunately and sadly happened with Steve Augeri.
I think it becomes a chronic problem. The pressures of live performance and you know it's just singing one time too many in any given week and you get a little rough and then it makes it rougher and you need recovery time. And you know what? As you get older you need more and more of it [recovery time].
Yeah, and you were saying at the beginning of the interview that modern technology allows you to make compensations for that.
That's exactly right. So realizing the horrific financial ramifications of failed performances or inability to perform or muddle through it or whatever, I can certainly understand the underlying reasons why they would potentially do this. But you don't do it as a matter of practice on an everyday basis. You do it on an emergency basis and then you allow the band to have some latitude, some spontaneity for Neal Schon to play an extra eight bars on a solo if he feels like it. Expose one or two links in that choke chain, loosen it up a little bit but it's tight. It's really a tight thing. I would want to get out from that noose. I've had that conversation with Neal any number of times. Why don't you just loosen that up a little bit. It feels a little regimented through the material.
Now you're talking about the band using a click track? [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Click_track]
Yeah exactly, I mean you're stuck. You've got to nail the exact arrangement, the exact meter and you cannot deviate or vary from that meter. So once that song's clicked off you'd better hold tempo perfect. You know what? I love click tracks from a meter standpoint. I think timing makes the music, tuning makes the musician. You really, when the time and the meter is really right, it gives power to the music and when you have bad meter you can't dance to it and you fall in a heap.
And after Steve Augeri came Jeff Scott Soto.
I really didn't think that Jeff Scott Soto was the right choice.
He has much more of an alto voice. There was a lot of material, especially Raised on Radio material like I'll Be Alright Without You that he might have done really well on but if you're gonna try to do the really high songs like You've Got Something to Hide or La Do Da or whatever, I can't recall, I went and saw them in concert and there was a bunch of material that was so far out of his reach he was just as bad as Augeri at his worst so you can't. If you make a change it's gotta be an upgrade. Kevin Chalfant would have been a much better choice at that point. Kevin Chalfant would be a much better point now. I don't know.
But they have gone with Arnel Pineda.
I've listened to the record that he has made and the songs that they've chosen on this 11 song thing and the performances are very credible. Have you heard it?
Oh no, I'm eagerly anticipating it though. Have you heard it already?
Yeah I've got a copy of that and it's in my truck. I listened to it and I thought he did a very good job. I gotta tell ya.
With the re-recording of the old hits, the sacred ground so to speak?
Yeah, sacred ground, well how sacred is it? Anybody is given leave to do that. They're public domain now. Kevin Chalfant, anybody can do a Journey Greatest Hits record and see how they fair. You know and provided this is, I just think he does pretty good, pretty damned good.
Well here you're talking about a singer competing with the world's greatest melodic vocalist at his prime in Steve Perry, so to come close is probably doing extraordinarily well.
Yes that's right. I think I agree with that completely. To come close and he comes better than close.
Wow, I'm really pleased to hear such an enthusiastic endorsement. I guess many fans are worried about the band treading on sacred ground by re-recording those tracks. Why do it?
Look at Frank Sinatra - he comes into the world and he puts together a string of hits that was formidable for Columbia Records and has a whole career. Well then he wants to come out west. He gets offered a boatload of money and a huge royalty to record for Capitol. So of course, sacred ground although it was he re-recorded the entire catalog for Capitol and it was hugely successful. I mean this is the stuff dreams are made of and he was such an important artist you can't imagine. I mean Steve Perry, I took Steve Perry and Steve Smith to see one of Nocturne's tours and it was on the opening night in Oakland Coliseum. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis and Dean Martin, ya know, and I said 'come and see the classics. You'll see Dean was the inventor or smooth before Perry Como and Andy Williams and all these guys'. This was the guy and you'll see so much of Michael Jackson and the dance moves and everything from Sammy Davis and then when the Chairman of the Board gets out here, phrasing, delivery, material he's just gonna hammer you. Of course that happened. Steve was impressed. How can you not be? And so then Warner Brothers came along and said 'we'll give you your own label and a mountain of money if you'll do it again'. So then he recorded it all again for Reprise. Now what happens is, in these contracts there are provisions for re-recording clauses and usually a re-recording clause would elapse in seven years at the outside and often in five. So then your re-recording restriction has expired. Now it's your song. You're allowed to re-record it and if you can re-record it somewhere and get it fresh and have a new mechanical royalty for it at the current statutory rate and get a new artist royalty for it from a new label or a much higher royalty from alternate means from re-recording it, go for it. I was one of the guys in fact advising guys to follow the Frank Sinatra model and do just that.
This is great. I really wanted to hear your take on this so this is interesting.
It's a way to generate revenue. I had Steve Miller put his greatest hit together and re-recorded them and I sold it to Arcade in Europe for TV advertising. I sold it to my buddy Michael Gudinski at Mushroom Records [legendary Australian record label] and got a gold album on my wall, from a re-recorded Greatest Hits by Steve Miller. All new sell it to Michael Gudinski, made the deal myself. Is he still kickin' around down there?
He most certainly is.
Good, he's a good man.
Yes he is he's done a lot for music in this country. So basically you're saying don't get hung up on the original because you've already got them?
Right and you know sometimes this stuff gets re-recorded and is much better. It's much better. One artist and manager that took my advice and actually came to my studio to do it was Bill Thompson with the Jefferson Starship and Mickey Thomas and we took these records and these tracks and I remember one day we figured out that the average cost of each track of their greatest hits record was in excess of $150,000. Many of them were produced by guys like Ron Nevison and Peter Wolf and yadda, yadda, yadda, and I said let's come in, and I really believe in today's age with all of our new, modern recording technology, that in complete A-B comparisons we can smoke every aspect of every one of your greatest hits. Deeper, broader bandwidth, better stereo soundstage, better tuning and timing and record quality, reduce of noise floor and I mean the only thing that would be questionable is the quality of the vocal performance. If you can deliver that vocal as well or better than the original we can absolutely eclipse all the original recordings. And we did that and we did it for $15,000 for 15 songs. So when you have a second shot at it, you know like 'Boy would I like to have another whack at that.' And sometimes you can hit it out of the park. You know what? I always felt that with Journey. So when I was putting together the Greatest Hits or putting together the Boxed Set [Time 3], I remember this, I'll admit to this, I always favored the track live off of Captured that Kevin Elson produced. For instance, as compared to the horrible recording quality in truth, although trendy and the moment and with lots of oral excitation and layered tracks, but those Roy Thomas Baker tracks on Infinity and Evolution were wanting. I mean if you listen the Wheel In The Sky off of Infinity and the bass drum and everything else even for 1978 it was almost kind of a medieval recording style. You know I really, I just thought he did a piss poor job. I really didn't like Roy Thomas Baker. And you have great songs which is the nucleus, the epicenter of our business, and so they had great songs and they had great performances. What was really bad was the way it was recorded. I remember going to Cherokee and he was playing back the songs and he'd blown up the speakers and I said please Roy, don't play it back so damned loud. I want to hear it so I'm insisting that I don't want it to go over 104 DBs. So I'm listening back at that level and I'm hearing this rattling and this ticky-tacky like somebody's got BBs in a plastic bottle or shaking a canasta or something. It's just awful. I'm hearing this and they couldn't hear it. It was driving me crazy. Finally I reached over to the knob on the board and turned the sound off and was gonna yell at him. But then the minute I turned the soundboard off and the speakers down I still heard the rattling, even louder. I said there it is, it's really loud. And I looked to the left of me and there was what he insisted on using. His own Stephens 40 track recorder, and every VU meter and every needle was tick-tacking pinning. Totally pinning itself and red lining and making almost drum rolls. Forty meters rattling and that was what was making all the racket. And I looked and I said look at this thing. You're so over-saturating tape it's creating compression and limiting just from over-saturation. You're just pushing the life out of this recording. And so, if you take songs like, whatever, Lights or Feelin' That Way or any of those songs from Infinity or Evolution or Departure and the Captured versions are usually vastly superior.
On the new recordings, are there any one or two or three songs that you thought the band really nailed? I don't even know what songs they've rerecorded yet.
Oh, I don't have the list in front of me. I remember there being, they did 11. There are more songs that need to be recorded than 11. I remember being pleasantly surprised that they did Stone in Love. They didn't do Ask the Lonely which was always one of my favorites. Ask the Lonely and Only the Young were originally on the Frontiers album.
And they should have been, what great songs.
What great songs and instead they were pulled off and Backtalk, because Steve Smith wrote it and he voted in on, it was a terrible glorified Bo Diddley, and Troubled Child, a real down Roger Waters kind of you know, funeral dirge kind of thing. I feel that with Ask the Lonely and Only the Young, and with the original Frontiers artwork, not the space alien last ditch effort to get the record out on time because he rejected the Kelly/Mouse cover which was brilliant, I think it would have eclipsed Escape. But he really didn't want that.
He really didn't want that and then of course when his record didn't sell as well then he kinda wanted to sabotage the Raised on Radio thing and bring Journey down to the level of him on his solo project. And getting rid of Smith and Valory and destroying and you know it's not a matter, I would say to Steve Perry, it wasn't a matter of what you want it's about your fans and the fans of this band. They're not all here to see or here your. Ross has his fans. Steve has his fans. I have to believe, especially with the way Steve Smith has gone on and the accolades he's received in his career and how Ross has continued to perform at an high level, you know, that, you know, dude you were wrong. I mean, Hello.
I saw there was an alternative cover for Raised On Radio also.
Yes there were multiple covers on Raised On Radio. At least two other than the one used.
And now, 22 years later fans are still debating the whole Raised On Radio album.
Oh are they really?
Absolutely, people still argue the point on…
…whether it's even a Journey record or not.
That and the whole change of style and where the record fits into the Journey legacy.
That's interesting. I never knew that until this moment that they were astute enough to realize it's hard to call that a Journey record.
I should send you a link to my forum, or maybe I should do you a favor and not send you a link! But it's arguing in the most infinite detail over the band and Raised on Radio is a constant. The whole lineup, the tour, the sound of the album, some people say it's their favorite album and some people hate it.
I have to admit it cost more than all the other Journey records put together. The guy, Bob Clearmountain you know, it's a very well done thing but it's just a bastardization of Journey. It's a corruption of the formula. It's very good, great songwriting, songs like Girl Can't Help It, I love I'll Be Alright Without You.
Oh I love the album. I think it's great but it's a different beast isn't it?
Yeah, it's a different beast and Randy Jackson, I don't know if you ever see him on American Idol and Journey being his claim to fame.
I can't take him seriously sometimes.
Yeah I know 'Yo dude yo.'
I see him with that hairdo from '86 and the clothes!
It's pretty rough and they've actually showed videos of him wearing those clothes on American Idol. Hey dude, your lack of humility knows no bounds. I mean wow, that could be embarrassing. But I guess it's so dated that he, you know, and it's his link to credibility really. Everything else, well he was just a hired side guy there too.
Purely hypothetically speaking here, but during the mid '80s with Steve and the band on the road, if technology had been available then, could you see Steve or the band using technology to assist their performances?
Well yes, well I don't know. We were doing it and had the technology and were triggering Akai samplers on background vocals and were perfectly capable of doing it on any lead vocal we wanted to on the Raised on Radio tour.
Yes, we pioneered this technology. We were, you know, that's my thing, production, so they had somebody right there. I'm managing, but I'm right from the back of the truck and I want to be on the leading edge. Just like Steve Miller was the first national tour to have in-ear monitors and it created a whole revolution. No monitors on stage, no equipment on stage. Everything off stage, just drums and keyboards and that's it. No speakers on stage, nothing, clean, clean, clean stages and I was certainly all about that in the Journey stage design. We carried our own stage and we were so oriented in sound, lights and production. We owned all that stuff, and you know, I'll tell ya, it's somewhat of a phenomenon that as egocentric as the music business is that other bands would unabashedly approach us for production services being so enamored and see these Journey tours and be so impressed that they would swallow their pride and come to us and ask us to do it for them. Whether it was The Who on their farewell tour wanting their set designed and video on their '82 farewell tour or Loverboy wanting us to do the lights for them and just various production services, we must have had 20 concert halls pay us to build barricades like ours for them for their venues. Our stage and our barricades and the design and they were portable and they were put together and they were bullet proof. You could not bend or break these barricades and so you know, just good stuff like that. I wondered, I've always wondered, I guess that Journey just didn't get that. It wasn't on their radar, it certainly wasn't a source of pride for them. And in '84 I came to find out that they had had a meeting with Joe Brown with a production sound company in England and offered to sell him Nocturne. And for what they basically hadn't been repaid. They invested two million and they recaptured a million two fifty of it and so they were outstanding, unearned three quarters of a million dollars. Hey, we were only a couple years into it at that point and they're earning back quickly and so the offered to sell it and that's when I said I'll buy it. That's just crazy. I'll buy it for that very same price. It does over 20 million a year you know. What were these guys thinking? Holy shit. Neal stayed in on Nocturne.
Yeah I though he did.
He's the only one that did and all the other guys must just be scratching their asses. What the hell, you know? And that was really Steve Perry that was the influence to say liquidate the investments, liquidate the real estate, liquidate the production company and he must have brushed a hundred million dollars off the table right there. And you know what? These guys should want to beat the livin' shit out of this guy. He cost them so much. He cost them so much. And cost himself so much and I've always said it's almost like he wants revenge and you know the old saying, 'if you want revenge dig two graves'.
Interesting. I guess Steve wouldn't be too happy about the guys re-recording stuff now.
He must have put up a fight to have that stopped. I think he probably did but I think he had to throw in the towel. What can you do? California is what's called a Right to Work state. They've never employed that strategy but it's as good and any you're gonna find. I mean they should have never, ever kowtowed to him in the slightest. I've never understood it but wow he sure carried sway with Journey, with Irving Azoff Management, and with the record company too. Impressive, I tip my hat. And all negative, nothing that would benefit or inure to the benefit of Sony, Columbia, CBS Records, whatever or Journey. As a matter of fact he just cost them money at every turn. So why, what's the attraction you know, what's the attraction here?
Nocturne sounds like a massive company these days. Is that early decision to buy into it paying off?
Nocturne is, we're buying two high definition, major investment right now for Metallica, one of our clients, who's gonna do such a massive stadium tour that we're gonna hopscotch complete productions. Mega-productions and so it's a business where we do a lot of reinvesting and if we want to maintain our market share and continue to be the #1 video company in music then we have to continue to invest but it's something that, the company went through it's first incarnation from '79 through 2001. Then we just kind of folded that down, refinanced and funded a whole new company and we've been doing fantastic, but we have to buy a lot of new technology. The whole advent of high definition basically meant all of our old MTSE standard systems were obsolete.
Ok so Nocturne's a sort of retirement investment.
Yeah, retirement, and not that it's not making money and it makes money, but a lot of the money that it makes is in assets build up and so core value of the company we have taxable assets without any cash so the company funds all of our taxes with increases in equity and gives us money too but it's not like it's making us rich.
And meanwhile Neal's still out there on the road doing what he does best.
Yeah well he, I saw a relationship that started out I think in Denver the first time that Neal Schon and Steve Perry sat down to write a song they wrote Patiently. That's such a great, great song. You go from there to Neal is doing the cocaine, drinking, fuckin' the chicks, doin' all the fuckin' things that Steve couldn't do as a lead singer. And then going out on stage totally hammered and playing perfectly. And then he'd go on a binge for a week, come into the studio hammered, and do all of his guitar parts, in that condition, on the whole album in the next two days and that's it. This guy, you know you take his album like Voices and I don't think Neal spent two whole hours on any track on that record and every single effect, everything you hear comes out that way on his guitar. The engineer has two stereo channels totally flat no EQ and all the effects, everything you here Neal does, on the fly, real time. The dude plays equipment every bit as good as he plays guitar. He's a frickin' genius with it and he just moves right through the whole thing and he'll play a couple bars, get it in his head, 'I got it, let's roll.' And he just rolls and sings the song. I'm telling you nobody can do that. My dear, departed friend Don Pearson who owned Ultrasound, probably the best sound company in the world, and they invested so much money in this ultimate Meyer sound system, and was on tour with the Grateful Dead for years and years and years until of course Gerry died. And um, then he put that system out with other artists one of which was Andrea Bocelli. And on Neal's record Voice there was two Andrea Bocelli tracks and in front of 300,000 people in Hyde Park in London on that sound system he played those two tracks and Andrea Bocelli was back stage, and this was also a Nocturne tour, and he said 'Who in the fuck is that? He's doing my vocal and every nuance of my vocal.' How can someone do that, you know? Even the singers hear it. You know Bryan Adams toured with us on the whole '83 tour. He heard 'Everything I Do I Do For You' off of that record and said, 'Jesus, that's just fuckin' unbelievable.' Even the singers themselves, they just don't expect somebody to be able to play like that.
Like Neal yeah, get that feeling, get that phrasing, really get that voice.
Yeah absolutely I agree, I agree. So just to jump forward to wrapping things up in a minute because you've given me so much of your time and I appreciate that. Years ago could you have imagined Journey with a Filipino lead singer? It's quite amazing.
Well, I think I can see even a sequence of vocalists. I just don't get, now if you had said, I think I would have said the much harder and much more challenging thing. Were you to replace Neal Schon?
I don't think you could.
I'm not saying you couldn't. I betcha I could find someone who emulates him so much, and you know what, it's just like there've been like any number of guitarists that have been right there on the verge of a very credible Jimi Hendrix. And I mean here is one of the most innovative, if you had to single out one frickin' guitarist that created such a special voice in a sea of guitar players I would probably single out Jimi. And now I've seen so many people do such a credible job of emulating him, but the key is being him and originating that voice. Carlos originated that voice, Clapton originated that style, and so now to come along it's, if you didn't invent it, to emulate it is far easier than inventing it. So I think that you could find somebody to mimic Neal Schon. There was a time when I thought that would be far more difficult than finding someone to emulate Steve Perry.
Yeah and there's always Josh Ramos isn't there?
Josh Ramos, yeah there's a problem. (laughter) I mean he's a sweetheart.
So Journey have found this singer - Arnel Pineda - and you know he's got an amazing Perry-like voice and you think that's a good move going back to the Perry sort of sound?
I think, you know I thought even when the Storm performed and they were on the Bryan Adams Waking Up the Neighbors tour, and playing all the arenas and coliseums I would here people in the audience going 'I didn't know Steve Perry joined the Storm' (laughter) or whatever just looking at Kevin Chalfant. Enough of a similarity in resemblance and a great voice and they really can't do an A/B comparison on the spot and determine the disparity or the nuance of difference. And so it's effective. It's very effective and I, you know when I go and see so many bands today I think they're as good or better than ever whether it's the Doobie Brothers or ZZ Top or Lynard Skynard and Lynard Skynard's had all kinds of people coming in and out of the band. Who's left? Maybe Gary Rossington and that's it? I don't know but they still sound pretty credible. It's the music, it's the name.
It's funny you should say that. I won't name names, but somebody suggested to me that it doesn't matter who the singer is. And I just thought for a band with such an iconic singer like Steve Perry that was a really unusual statement to make.
Yeah, I would say it's more true than not.
If you can't have the original (who doesn't want to or whatever)…obviously time moves on, then get someone who can.
You're probably one of those devotees who took a long time to arrive at that conclusion and to move on and say you know, I think I can go ahead and accept a substitute.
I was actually one of the biggest champions for Steve Augeri and I thought Jeff Scott Soto was a fantastic idea. Plus he's a friend of mine…
Yeah, I liked Soul Sirkus. I went and saw him at the Filmore, I thought Marco Mendoza was a tremendous musician. I mean the whole band was really tight, very good, Jeff was a great performer. I liked his look, his performance wear, I saw him with Journey he changed his look so much he really, he's changed his look so much. You know it really just changed the vibe. When I saw him in Concord and they were so desperate for me to come and see 'em, then they call and they want my opinion and it's really a mistake because they never really, you know musicians, they really want cheer leaders, they want groupies and they want the fanclub routine and they know better than that with me. I've never been that for them. You know you hear the genuine, the true fan in me when I talk about Neal Schon as a guitarist. But hey you know I'm not gonna blow smoke up your ass and I'm gonna give you my honest opinion about a performance. And when I saw them I just thought wow, here's a band that hits the stage and it looks, you know, I wanna see my stars, my heroes descend from Olympus as Gods. Inaccessible, almost unattainable, you know, just out of reach. I wanna love everything about 'em, their wardrobe, their look, their everything and these guys came out in a t-shirt and jeans and they just looked like the monsters from the black lagoon. I mean really just like the roadies, very pedestrian, very pedestrian. Where they were capable of performing at a pretty good level, much better than the headliner that night, Def Leppard, but Leppard came on stage looking like stars and entrance and exit and look and image is hey, hello, it's a big fuckin' deal. You know, it's a big part of it and I think they really shot themselves in the foot that way. Then of course they chose the wrong material. The fact of the matter is that Jeff Scott Soto is not a tenor and so what the fuck? If Steve Augeri was struggling with these songs it's gonna be even harder for Jeff Scott Soto and it was. And the thing is, the whole time that you were rooting and rooting and rooting for Augeri I knew that there was problems. Not because I was going to shows but because right at the beginning my company shot the Vegas show that was put out on Direct TV. And the original footage of that they insisted, you know, people at my company insisted that I come and watch. And I go, please I wanna come and watch Journey on video, what the fuck? And they said no you have to set and watch this for a minute. I go why, you know, it was like torture. So I sat down and then it was torture. I said what's going on here? I go man he's really, he's missing everything. He struggled so badly that night you can't believe it. There was hardly anything that could be saved in the lead vocal and the problem was to me at that particular time was Neal Schon was grimacing when he would miss these notes. I said man you can fix these notes in a studio but you can't fix the visual on Neal. And I'm like gettin' all sour faced because it's pretty sour. Neal has dog hearing and I said that to him too. I said 'you've got dog hearing I know you can hear that this guy's missing it'. And not necessarily, he doesn't know what's being fed in his earphone monitors and they don't have floor monitors. So he needed what may have been a crutch in the beginning but became something he was leaning on much more heavily than should have ever happened. So it's just unfortunate and I guess from the vocal in Sweden he wasn't even trying to sing along in key and it was pretty bad. In the house it sounded great but in the recording room at the raw feed, canned feed, and so that was a bust. Ok busted, the party's over, this ruse is up, now you're gonna have to try to get somebody who can really sing so you get Jeff Scott Soto without the benefit of the same crutches and help that Augeri had. He was just quickly and after a few dates in a row he was raw. Those songs will get you. They're very difficult to sing. Playing them in the original voice is like murder on a voice.
One of the hardest catalogs in music without a doubt, I would think.
Yeah I think you're right and so there it is. That's a formula for problems and so finding this kid that can do it au-natural without help that's nice. That should have happened a long time ago.
Do you think Arnel's voice will hold out? He will be under the same road conditions as everyone else before him.
Well like I say it's a very tough thing. The road is grueling on a voice, that's the hardest thing. And if you get sick you get sick. You lose your voice and you've got to power your way through it. There's just nothing you can do about it. It takes X amount of time to recover and man, trying to go through and get through gigs when you have laryngitis is just the worst.
Oh I can imagine it would be awful.
Yeah it's so hard on a singer and just brain damage, traumatizing is what it really is.
I hear Steve's doing better now and I'm really pleased for that.
He had been in a band, I think it was maybe Tall Stories. They opened up for Mr. Big so I knew him well before this gig. He had asked me about, 'Oh Mr. Herbert I'd love to sing in Journey.'
Oh yeah, I heard that from lot's of people.
So he was like putting his hand up back then?
Oh sure and talking to Eric Martin. Ask Eric, he was buddies with Eric. Eric Martin would talk to me about him being a real candidate to do it.
Well he certainly was. Tall Stories are going to do a show in October, a live show in England - a comeback. So I hope he nails it. I hope he does real well.
So he knows you were a big supporter of his and a big fan?
Well yeah, up until the point where the message board chatter overtook everything else. I just try to stand in the middle of all these camps – there are a lot of possibilities for conflict when passionate fans congregate.
Yeah, well I'm totally out of that fight. I got no dog in this fight.
Well I'm glad to hear it but I'm really pleased to hear your thoughts on the new line-up.
You know I have no ill wishes towards those guys. I hope only for the best for them. I really hope this works out well with WalMart. Hey man they've struggled. It should, I cannot help but feel that they squandered and pissed away their place in history, their opportunity at induction into the Hall of Fame, and they seized defeat from the jaws of victory.
Based on not breaking away from Steve Perry earlier?
Yeah, you know I get the idea of 'how can you miss me if I don't go away' you know, but they went away for 15 years. And to live through a couple generations like that and a wholesale change in the way music is bought, sold, distributed, listened to and everything I mean you know it's pretty amazing that they have such depth of popularity. And you know they are definitive evergreen. And a definitive evergreen is an artist that sells far more in death than they did in life. Journey in '86 had sold 22 million records and when they resumed business in '98 they were somewhere around 70 million records. And they hadn't played a song or a show or done an interview or done a video or done a damned thing in 15 years. And without any benefit of their presence or involvement or any exposure in the media they more than tripled their total lifetime sales. So that's an evergreen for you. You see artists like Hendrix who really had to die for that to happen and here these guys are still on the planet but it's as if they got shot. I mean you know, they just fell off the face of the earth for so long and they lost all their momentum and their cohesiveness and their ability to maybe go beyond Raised on Radio and have future hits. Obviously, I don't know, did anything click on Trial by Fire? Did they sell any records with that thing? Their live greatest hits was put out because they didn't earn back their advance, I know that. They had to have the live greatest hits to pay money back and the Greatest Hits Live was a live record where the audience had been extracted. That was awful. That was soundly rejected by the consumers. I know that didn't work.
They had a small hit with When You Love a Woman.
When You Love a Woman, that got some airplay?
I got a little bit of airplay yeah.
But we're not talking about a gold album or anything?
I think Trial By Fire did a million copies in the end.
Oh really? I think just.
I think it just scraped over the million line, I'm not sure.
Well that's very good.
That's just from memory. I know Arrival only did about 250 or 300 thousand.
And that was the first one with Augeri?
Yeah, but by that time we had the internet screwing with everything anyway.
Yep, well the digital Pandora's out of the box. Somebody gets one copy of Soul Sirkus and the whole world has it.
Yeah, it's kind of insane isn't it?
It's kinda rough if you're a royalty recipient, intellectual property owner.
It certainly is. Just to get your take on that before we close off, where do we go from here in this digital age? Has the internet screwed everybody or just the major record labels?
I think it's in fact empowered everyone. What was started in an analog, mail order, pick, pack and ship world, artists like Ani DiFranco out of Buffalo now have the access to the digital world. I remember seeing, I think there a Maria Tequila on MySpace that has two million friends. One button she pushes and sends an email to all of them that she's gonna strip naked at Hollywood & Vine at 12 noon tomorrow, be there or be square, and you know two million people have an opportunity, or at least they know about it. They could forward it and you could have a huge crowd at Hollywood & Vine. I mean this is a fantastic tool set that's available and so if Journey's still maintained their active email list and had 600,000 names and growing, there's a business right there. I betcha Ani DiFranco doesn't have 150,000 names and there isn't a label in the business that could pay her enough money to leave her business model. I mean if she sells 150,000 records and netting twelve bucks a unit that's, what I have to sell on a conventional deal to make that kind of yield? And I have a direct relationship with my fans who are highly engaged. This is a fantastic concept and this is why American Idol is really brilliant. Because these simple concepts are not tough to get your mind around have been out of reach by most managers and most artists for so long, but it's about engaging. So when they go through these early trials of American Idol, and I don't even watch this fuckin' thing, but they have all the bogus performances and they kind of ferret out the good performers and then at a certain date that they have it distilled down to 24 or 12 or whatever they start inviting people to vote on your favorites. But they try to get you early so it's probably when it's down to 24. Then you get engaged and the minute you pick up the phone, not only you're making them money, but you're actively engaged with that artist and you're gonna stick with 'em and I don't care if it's Rueben Studdard or Clay Aiken or whoever, Kelly Clarkson. You're gonna go all the way, you're gonna keep voting and when she puts a record out you're gonna be at least one of the first three million to buy it. And their winners and their runners up and sometime people who get tossed out with five weeks to go are going multiple platinum. Jennifer Hudson left well before the finals and picked a Golden Globe, an Oscar, a Grammy and a platinum record.
Unheard of, unthought-of of isn't it?
Yeah and she goes from nowhere, from nobody, she couldn't sell out a phone booth, to all of a sudden, triple platinum, Golden Globe, Grammy, Oscar.
Amazing, it's really only the record labels that are getting screwed – and some of the cool indie retailers out there. It's sad to see that happen. Some of the major labels needed a reality check though.
They were charging way too much. If they had the Eagles double album I'd be $19.99. It wouldn't be $11.99. The motion picture business was selling multi-layered DVDs with letterbox and analog versions and director's cuts and talk-alongs and picture galleries and so much stuff for $14. You want a rare CD, $18. How long was that gonna last? These guys were idiots they got what they deserved. And you know Madison Avenue says if we take something like Hartz Mountain bird feed and we take it and do our typical advertising mix of media, print, radio, TV and so forth and we sell under a hundred million units we get fired. The record business sells 10 million units when we have research that shows there 300 million music systems in America, pre-MP3 and Ipod type players, there were 350 million before that, and you sell 10 million and you celebrate like you've changed the world? You know and it's just crazy lack of penetration into the market place and it's just a laughing stock. Nobody ever even bought media mixes. Nobody sold enough to justify a normal media buy. So it was just terrible. The business has always been ripe for pickin' and somebody finally started pickin'. And it's really excellent for Journey to have this Walmart opportunity. This is the first chance they've really had I think to pull themselves out of the dark ages. Because in the old model what they did, if they did do those things even with Trial by Fire and Arrival, it just didn't have the feel or the presence of records that sold a million or 350. Boy, I can't feel it, is it in yet? There's just no presence to me. And there certainly wasn't any surge in their business and concerts. But do you know, I believe that Steve Augeri performed substantially more concerts with Journey than Steve Perry did.
Oh absolutely and he was actually in the band longer. What a phenomenal concept that was!
Yeah, there you go and so what's the liability of replacing singers? Well there's your answer. You know, and so if you had a really excellent one, if he really had, let's say this kid's voice, he [Augeri] certainly had a great look and you know he was good. He moved much better and was much more genuine. People don't realize that Steve Perry wouldn't even look at an audience.
Oh really, never eye contact, no way.
Well Steve remains a a very private individual to this day I guess.
Yeah, he sure does. That's fine with me, who cares? I guess you have contact on your board with people who would love to hear from him?
Oh of course they would, yeah.
They'd love to find out what's making him tick, what he's thinking. You know, a voice is something, if you don't use it you lose it. You know what, I tell ya, there's a lot of rumor about they're gonna build some palace for Michael Jackson in Vegas, I think he might have the same problem Steve Perry has.
Why, because he hasn't sung?
He hasn't sung since the '80s. And you know, it just goes away. It's a muscle, it's something that has to be exercised and trained and to get to that level of conditioning its hard work. And you know I think Steve Perry's really tried. When he had a solo career and his solo tour he tried to do it. I've heard that he's gone to the greatest vocal teachers and got the best help that you can get and it's just not there anymore.
So what can you do about it?
There's nothing you can do. So any other questions, I'm getting' tired?
Hey look, you and me both. Like I said I could talk to you for a week but today that's more than enough and I really do thank you for your time.
You know I just had my 60th birthday.
Did you really?
Yeah and I've got this big party I'm throwing up here on the coast.
Oh that's right Kevin said he was coming along to it.
Yeah, and Neal's gonna come and play and sing and all that. I think it's time to get behind this new line-up and give this guy a shot and I think they're moving in the right direction.
I'm really glad we can speak really positively about Neal during interview because he doesn't get enough of that.
He doesn't man. Something has really gone wrong there and I feel bad that these guys, I mean they threw their own thing under the bus. Their own opportunity at greatness their own place in history, to have bands like Van Halen inducted into the Hall of Fame that were their own $500 a night opening act has got to fuckin' effect them. I mean no disrespect whatsoever to Van Halen and Eddie but in songs and content and whatever they're no Journey. So Journey has been slighted totally and the East Coast bias of the Hall of Fame when you have bands in there like Velvet Underground I think credibility is beginning to get strained.
And Madonna, give me a break.
Yeah exactly, Madonna oh my God, now there's a lady…It's been great talking to you Andrew.
I really, really appreciate your time Herbie. Thank you sir.
Alright, you have a good night.
You too, thanks very much.
© 2008 MelodicRock.com / Interview by Andrew McNeice March 2008 / Transcribed by Sherrie and MR.com
|Foolish, Foolish Throat: A Q&A with Steve Perry (and Neal Schon's response)
Journey's ex-frontman talks vocal burnout, hip replacement, rock superstardom, and coyotes with Alex Pappademas, GQ Magazine
PLUS: Journey co-founder and lead guitarist Neal Schon responds
Linked to the Journey Zone, May 2008
Reprinted at the Journey Zone, September 20, 2011
Every time I told somebody I was writing a story about the new lead singer of Journey, I’d get the same incredulous response: “Steve Perry’s not the lead singer of Journey anymore?” Even though the piece I was writing was mostly going to be about Arnel Pineda (whose pre-Journey work can be seen here) and the present-day incarnation of the band, I knew I couldn’t write anything about Journey without getting in touch with Steve Perry. I was supposed to talk to him for thirty minutes, but he had a lot to say—about how he joined the band, about why he left, and about the pride he still takes in the work they did together—and we ended up talking for almost two hours. The raw transcript of our interview was almost 11,000 words long; the highlights of that conversation appear below.
GQ: Journey had already made three records by the time you joined the band.
PERRY: Yeah. I joined the band in 1978. What happened was, I was in Los Angeles, trying to get signed, with a band that I was in at the time—it was called the Alien Project, but it was also called Street Talk. The name wasn’t settled yet. Don Ellis, who was running the west coast side of Columbia at the time, heard the tape and really liked the group. We were supposed to talk serious contract papers with him right after 4th of July weekend that year. And our bass player Richard Michaels got killed in a Fourth of July holiday accident on the freeway. We were destroyed by that—he was a wonderful singer, a wonderful bass player, and a great guy, and he was part of a real interesting chemistry that Columbia wanted to sign. So Don Ellis took the liberty, about two weeks after that, of sending our tapes to Herbie Herbert, who at the time was managing Journey. And I got a phone call from Don Ellis telling me that Herbie had called back and wanted to meet me and talk to me about joining the group. Because Journey had made a conscious decision, along with Columbia’s—what’s the correct word here—request [laughs] that they become a little more song-oriented. So they thought that I would be a good addition to the band. So Don Ellis called me and said Herbie wanted me to fly out and meet Neal. I think it was in Denver, Colorado—they were opening for Emerson, Lake and Palmer at the time. So I flew out there, hung out with the band. Neal and I wrote our first song that night in the hotel room, after the show. Called “Patiently.” It began at that point for me, with the band.
So Columbia was pushing Journey to write more commercial music?
They just wanted some songs to get on the radio. I was always a songwriting sort of guy. I wasn’t really into jamming too much. But I appreciated the musicality, the ability to jam. So it was the best of all worlds, I think, when I got into a band that had the ability to play in a progressive way but was open-minded about writing songs. When you have one or the other, it’s just not enough. They were really an amazing performing band. But they didn’t have any quote “hit records,” and weren’t on the radio much.
So they were okay with the change?
They were certainly amenable to it when I joined them.
And it obviously worked out pretty well.
It worked out really great. There was something that we had together that I think neither of us have been able to find anywhere else. Everybody’s gone on to their own incarnations, and everybody’s had success, but the truth is, there was a synergy that the band had, in the chemistry of writing and performing and arguing and recording, y'know?
You mentioned arguing—was there a lot of that?
Well, disagreements are part of life! Anything worth anything goes down the path of discussion, disagreement and greatness, I think. I mean, gee whiz. Whether it’s making a movie or making music. It’s no different.
But you ended up having creative and personal differences with Jon and Neal, differences that led to you leaving the band—is that a fair assessment of what happened?
[laughs] You’ve gotta print my response. You’ve gotta print your question and my response, because I think it’s so humorous that such a question is even asked. [laughs] I can’t believe that this is news. [laughs] Of course! The answer is of course there’s differences between us all! It’s called a band! You get in a baseball team and some people like each other and some people hate each other, but they still play together.
Were you and Neal friends?
Of course we were friends. We lived together when I first joined the band. He gave me the back bedroom at his place. But we were also working together. And a lot of time spent together can chew on a friendship. Look, you’ve got to remember, they didn’t want to make it with a lead singer. They wanted to make it without one. They had Gregg Rolie, and that was enough. And he was a great vocalist for what they were looking for, but they didn’t want to have a singer out front.
You think they would have been happier if they’d made it in that prog-rock incarnation?
I can’t speak for them. But I’m sure that if they could have been successful the way they originally set out to be, that would have been fine with them.
Do you think that dynamic was set up from the beginning? Did that tension persist throughout your tenure with the band? Do you think they wished they didn’t need a charismatic singer out front to succeed they way they did?
I don’t know. That’s a tough question. I think that’s getting a little into the area of conjecture.
But I’m wondering if you felt that way. Did you feel like you were the new guy, still, after all that?
Oh, most certainly, I was the new kid on the block with them. I was the new kid in town. There was a statement I made on a VH1 special, which I’m sure you’ve heard—that I never really felt part of the band. “All these years, it’s funny—I never really felt part of it.” What they took out, edit-wise, was that—[long pause] I gotta think about how to say this. Ask me the question again?
Okay. What did you mean when you said, on that VH1 special, that you’d never really felt like part of the band?
Okay. So—[long pause] when we did the VH1 thing, I said there was quite some time where I never really felt part of the band. And people didn’t understand what that meant. And what that meant was that there was a period of time where I always felt, from Neal, that I had to prove myself worthy of the position I was trying to occupy in the group. And not until it really took off, I think, did that question really get answered. But along with this, you have to print that I can’t blame them. Because they’d had a certain amount of success without me, and they were wondering, once I joined, “Is this the right direction?” I could tell that. I didn’t have years of being in Santana under my belt, like Neal and Gregg. Ross Valory had played with Steve Miller and people like that, I didn’t have that. Aynsley Dunbar had played with everybody. I didn’t have that under my belt. So, yeah. I was the new kid. And I think that proving myself was something that went on for quite some time with the band members.
Schon was like fifteen years old when he joined Santana.
He was a child prodigy!
So he probably felt, justifiably—
You don’t understand. [Journey] was his band. Herbie built that band around Neal because he’s a star on his own from a guitar standpoint. There’s nobody who plays like Neal Schon, to this day. I still miss his playing. I love his playing. We don’t get along, but I love his playing. ‘Cause he’s brilliant. But you gotta know that Herbie built that band around Neal, and Gregg Rolie too, and then brought in Aynsley and Ross. And George Tickner in the beginning, who was the guitar player in the band before he left, and in came myself and Jon Cain.
That lineup of Journey ended up becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. You even had your own video game.
I was against that. Everybody went against me on that issue. ‘Cause I thought it was silly. I’ve come to find out that there’s a generation of kids who think it’s classic and wish they could find the arcade version. But I personally thought it was dumb.
But the fact that you had that—that’s a measure of how big you were.
See, it’s funny. That’s an interesting comment. Because I thought that we were big already, that we didn’t need a video game. But that’s how the world judges you. Like, “Gee whiz, you have a Lamborghini, so you must’ve been big.” I didn’t understand that. Every night, after every show, I would get everything I needed to hear. I didn’t need any of the other affirmations. I’ve read three reviews in my entire career, and they were all so painful that I decided not to read ‘em anymore. I got my review at the end of the night. When that audience wanted an encore, and they would not let you leave, it was just so gratifying. I didn’t need anything else, as far as an opinion on the show.
That kinda answers one of my questions. You had millions of fans and sold a ton of records—
I think it’s up to almost 50 million, now.
—but you were never a critics’ band. You were never cool.
That’s right. We did get a little bit trendy in spots, we all occasionally got a bit funny with our dressing, but we did not follow the New Wave thing, or the punk thing. We didn’t go nowhere near the disco thing.
Do you think that’s why the press didn’t like you?
There was a time that the press, and especially Rolling Stone, decided to call us—and by “us” I mean Foreigner, Journey, Styx—they called us faceless bands. Especially Journey and Foreigner. Because they said we all sounded alike. And I’ll tell you, to this day, I don’t understand what that meant. ‘Cause we didn’t sound alike. I think back in the day, there was a decision, by a couple of key editors, to never give us our just desserts. But like I said, at that point, I realized I wasn’t singing for, or co-writing with the guys, for critics. I was writing for the people who might want to listen to it. And as long as, at the end of the night, I heard what they felt about it, then I was good to go. Let’s roll. Next night.
When you started your solo career, was that the beginning of the end for Journey?
No. I think the beginning of the end was when Neal started his solo career. Neal did a solo album way before I was thinking about it, with Jan Hammer. And I said to Herbie, the manager, “I think this is a bad idea”—that it would fracture the band on some level. And he said “No, he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. I’ve tried to talk him out of it, but he wants to do it.” And then he did his second one, and I said “OK, look, if he does a second one, I’m probably going to end up doing one.” Then [drummer] Steve Smith wanted to do a jazz record. And the theory coming from Steve, and I kind of understood it, was that everybody’ll go out and be able to express themselves musically in some other areas, and then when we reconvene, perhaps we will have discovered or found things that we can bring to the group to help the group evolve. And so I thought that was okay. So after Neal did his second solo album, I went to LA, and in about three weeks, I wrote Street Talk, which was a bit of a nod to the earlier band, and to the bass player who’d passed, and with some great studio musicians and cowriters, we just knocked the record out and we released it.
That was the one that had “Oh Sherrie” on it?
“Oh Sherrie,” and “Foolish Heart,” yeah.
And that became a huge hit.
It did pretty good, yeah.
Was it weird, coming back to Journey after that?
Even while I was doing the solo album, even after it was successful—in my heart of hearts, I was never gonna leave Journey. I had no desire to. At the end of the last video from my solo album, for “Foolish Heart,” there’s an extra tag-on section that I shot for the video, to just tell everybody that that particular phase of my career was now over and now I’m back to Journey. The video is a one-camera move. One huge mag, with not one edit. It starts way in the back, over a railing, and it rolls up to the front. I walk onstage. I sing with a microphone and a music stand. And it rolls around, and halfway through the song it starts rolling back out. And when it parks back out in the audience, at the end of the song, I walk offstage. But in the extra tagged-on piece, I cut to stage right, facing me walking offstage, over the shoulders of Jon, Neal, Ross and Steve. Giving me high fives. Like, “Hey, man, that was great! Let’s go have some pizza. Right on!” So that was like a nod to Journey from my solo side. “Let’s go fuckin’ be Journey again.” I wouldn’t have done that if I had any desire to leave the group. I didn’t! We went back, and we started writing Raised on Radio.
So you came back together, you made one more record, and then the band took a break. You didn’t make another record for ten years after that. What happened?
Well. I remember [pause]. I remember that tour, the Raised on Radio tour. I remember by the end of that tour [pause], feeling musically toasty, feeling emotionally toasty, feeling vocally toasty, and, um, [pause] telling the manager, “I just don’t want to stay out here and keep doing this. Can’t we stop?” And eventually I had to say, “Look, don’t book any more shows after October. I just want to stop for a while.” So February 1st was when I finally got home from the last shows, in Alaska. And I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just needed to stop.
They would have kept going, I know that. But our relationships by then were not the greatest. At times it was wonderful, but it had been a long time, together. And we had differences of opinion in some areas, which eventually wore us down a bit. I thought it was silly to license songs for commercials and stuff. We’ve always had a difference of opinion in that area. There was a lot of stuff that we didn’t agree on. And a lot of things we did, but the point is we were toast. And maybe it’s just my opinion. Maybe I should just speak for myself. It felt like it was toast, and I felt like we should just stop. So I did.
Then shortly thereafter, I called Jon and Neal together. We met in San Rafael, we sat on the edge of the marina, and I just told them, “I can’t do this anymore. I gotta get out for a while.” And they said, “Well, what do you mean?” And I said, “That’s exactly what I mean, is what I’m saying. I just don’t wanna be in the band anymore. I wanna get out, I wanna stop.” And I think Jon said, “Well, just take some time off, and we’ll think,” and I said “Okay, fine.” And I just sort of fell back into my life. I looked around and realized that my whole life had become everything I’d worked so hard to be, and when I came back to have a regular life, I had to go find one.
Because you’d spent so many years—
Nothing was more important than being part of this huge family called Journey. And us being on this mission together, to be the greatest, and write the greatest songs, and come up with great sounds, and fight for the greatest performances. It was like being on a baseball team. Like, “Okay, we won the World Series. Now I wanna go home for a while.”
As a singer, were you dealing with a different set of demands?
Well, what I’m about to say—I’m gonna come across as a prima donna, but if there’s any singers out there reading this at this point, they’ll understand completely. You must put that in there, the preface, because it’s important. Everybody thinks singers are prima donnas. And to a degree I guess we are. But at the same time, the difference between a voice and fingers, or hands, is neurotic at best. When someone’s fingers get calluses on them, the guitar doesn’t hurt so bad. It feels better. Same for the bass. Same for the piano player, when his fingers get callused and strong. When a drummer gets calluses on his hands, they no longer chafe and they no longer blister, and that’s fantastic. The moment a singer gets one callus, he’s finished. Singers live on the edge of being powerful, being strong, and not degrading their voice, and it’s the most difficult edge to walk. You feel like you’re on a high-wire all the time. And the pressure of walking in front of an audience every night, and wanting to be what you know they want you to be, and what you want to be for them, and to have this silly little thing in your throat that’s about as neurotic as you are, is difficult. So it can make any singer a little crazy. It can make you just live your life in a state of insecurity and fear. Until you walk out there and open your mouth, and you see what you got, and then it tells you if it’s gonna be a fun evening or not.
And I imagine it’s much harder to take care of it.
Well, how do you do that and use it at the same time? It’s a very fine line. Like I said, using it can cause the problem. Using your fingers makes ‘em better. So it’s always a fine, artful dance. So at the end of a night, you feel great. I delivered what I wanted to do, I hit the notes, I feel good about it—but you don’t know how much you used up until tomorrow morning. And the tickets have already been sold. The next show is sold out. Only one night did I have to have a shot of B12 with an anti-inflammatory. That was in Dallas, Texas, because I got to a sound check and realized that people were lined up outside and I had half a voice. So that night we got a doctor to give me a shot. Which singers will do a lot—but I only had to do it once.
So that was a big part of the pressure? You were feeling like you were going to burn it out.
I was always on the edge of being what I expected out of myself, and what people wanted me to be, and I never wanted to settle for anything short of what it should be. And so I was always livin’ on that edge.
So when you told them you couldn’t do it anymore—at that point, were you thinking of it as a hiatus, or a breakup?
It was what I just said on tape. I sat down with ‘em at the edge of the marina, and I said I can’t do this anymore. And Jon said—or Neal, I can’t remember, it was so long ago—“Okay, we’ll take some time off.” And I said, “You don’t understand. I don’t want to be in the band anymore. I want out. I just wanna quit. I wanna let go.” And I’m sure they thought, “Oh, there he goes. Solo career. Fuck Steve”—y’know. But the truth is, no. I didn’t jump into that. I really had to let it all go. Completely. And fall back into my life. Because before that last tour—my mother had died, during the making of Raised on Radio. She was dying during the writing and recording of that record, and in the middle of doing vocals, she died. So I came home, took care of that, went back, finished the vocals and stuff, and before I know it, we’re on tour. And by the end of that tour, I was toast. I hadn’t even really addressed or dealt with anything pertaining to that loss. So I was about ready to crash and didn’t know it. And life just said, “I think you’ve got to go deal with this.” ‘Cause I was not happy with things in my life. And you can only run on the road and be in front of people so long before it doesn’t fix you enough, to where you can run away from things you haven’t addressed. You understand what I’m saying?
I imagine it was a really good way to run away from things, for a while.
You think? [laughs] Having people love you every night is a beautiful way to run away from things. Oh my God, it’s fantastic. But I needed to go home. So I did. After talking to Jon and Neal, I went back to my home town for a while, and I started doing things that people didn’t understand. I was going to the fair in my home town. I was riding my Harley a lot, all throughout the San Joaquin Valley. I mean, back roads, where there’s no cars, where there’s nothing but coyotes. Just lettin’ the wind kinda blow through me, and just trying to figure a little bit out, how much of me is in there, still, as opposed to what I became? What I thought I had to be? Now, I was grateful for everything that had happened. It was unbelievable. And I didn’t want to stop either, by the way. I didn’t want to leave the group, for Christ’s sake! I worked my whole frickin’ life to get to this point with these guys! We all put our lives and sweat and blood and tears into this thing. But it seemed like, for my life, to save it, I had to stop and get out. I know that sounds intense, but I had to take care of myself. It wasn’t easy to walk out, but I had to do it.
You made a couple of solo records after that.
Way after that. Way after. I think the last show, was at the end of January, ’87. I was back in my house February 1st—I’ll never forget that date. Home alone and going “Now what?” Knowing it was over. My first solo thing, I think, was maybe six, seven years later. ’94. Yeah. That’s right. Yeah, I ran right out there. [laughs] I think I needed some time off, what do you think?
But when you had that conversation, did you get the sense that they thought you were just going out on your own?
Mmm-hmm. I think they thought I was just going to leave the group and go solo and tell everybody to go—whatever. Remember, it took two solo albums from Neal before I did my first. I was a Journey member. I was a Journeyman. I was part of a band that saved my life. You don’t seem to understand how much I wanted to sing in that band. The manager, Herbie, fought for me to be in that band, when they weren’t sure. If it wasn’t for Herbie Herbert fighting for what he believed was the right direction, which was “This guy’s gonna be the singer of the band, and I don’t wanna talk about it anymore”—he fought for me. We’ve had our problems too, but if it wasn’t for Herbie, I woulda had no chance, to sing on that grand stage. He went to bat for me in a huge way.
With Neal, and the rest of the guys?
When they were uncertain?
When they were uncertain. ‘Cause you know, they had a singer before me, named Robert Fleischmann. And he was there for a brief time, until Herbie heard my tape and convinced them that they were gonna have to move from him to me. And he played the tape for ‘em, and they weren’t sure. They weren’t sure about any of it. I’m sure they weren’t sure about Robert, either, you know what I mean? But that’s okay. I completely understand their reluctance. They wanted to make it on their own goalposts. There’s nothing wrong with that. And I hope you print that, because it’s important that people know that. I’m not bitchin’. I can understand how they feel. But you’re asking me how it felt. I’m not whining. I’m not whining. I completely understand how they felt and why, and I want to make sure that’s clear.
Sure. You’re just responding to a question I asked.
Yeah. I did not use steroids! Except once in Dallas! [laughs] Okay? Now, have I perjured myself? You can’t bust me for steroids, but you’re gonna bust me for perjury—I get it!
The reunion, then—that was two years after?
Trial By Fire? I would say ’95. I called Jonathan around ’95, and talked to him on the phone.
So you didn’t speak before that?
No. Not much, no.
I imagine the band had become a huge business, given all the records you’d sold.
Oh, yeah, ‘cause it was so successful. People trying to sell hot dogs with your music. That doesn’t feel too great to me.
So you were always opposed to that stuff?
Yeah. Still am. The music is dear to me. Two summers ago I was asked by Sony to oversee the remastering of the entire catalog. And Journey was on tour, so I said “Fine, I’ll do that.” And so I went down and sat with this mastering engineer. We redid everything. That was one of the most cathartic and painful and wonderful experiences I’ve ever had, to go through the entire catalog, all the B-sides of albums that I’d forgotten about, and remember everything about the sessions, and remember the writing of ‘em, the struggles, the accomplishments. And the songs— I gotta tell you, it was unbelievable. And I only bring that up to tell you that, at some level, every one of those tracks are like a painting in a gallery to me, and they’re precious to me. And I just don’t think they’re for selling dogs and burgers. And so—[sigh]—I’ve tried to maintain that that’s just not what they’re for. ‘Cause I just believe in their sincerity. Those songs, and those tracks. And they are like paintings, ‘cause they were painted in a different time and they sound like it, and that gives ‘em their quality. And they’re good.
What was the reunion like? Tense?
It was a wonderful experience. I called Jonathan. His wife told me he was in a golf tournament, I think in Florida. And she gave him the message, he called me from there, and I said “Maybe we should talk about getting back together, I’d like to see what you think, let’s have coffee when you get back.” So we had coffee, talked about it, and he said, “Well, we should get together with Neal and talk about it,” and me and Neal and Jon had coffee, and that was kind of the beginning. We started trying to put back the original band, with Ross and Smith. And we wrote the record. It was really great. It was a real great experience.
We finished the record. We mastered the record. We were ready to go and rehearse and do the first video, and I was on a ten-day break before we started rehearsals. I was in Hawaii. And I went on a hike, one I had done many times before— this incredible trail, it’s pretty intense. I got to the top of this hill, and I was in trouble. I could hardly walk. I don’t know what had happened, but the pain was like an ice pick. I’d had some pain in my left hip area before, but I didn’t think nothin’ about it ‘cause it would come and go. I just thought it was part of the aging process.
So I came home, and started seeing a series of doctors, getting opinions. And the only one that was consistent was, “When the pain gets great enough, you’ll replace the hip.” And I said, “Excuse me? What are you talking about?” And they would show me on the X-rays, and the MRIs. I guess I was just in denial about it, like, “You gotta be kidding me.” [Journey had] just reworked our partnership. We were all ready to roll. And so I started a long process, seeing many doctors, and the guys got impatient. They wanted to get on the road, and I said “Well, let’s just get the video done.” So we got the “When You Love A Woman” video done—I was packing my whole left side in ice between takes. And, then after that, I continued looking for doctors, maybe hoping I’d hear what I wanted to hear. There was several medical, non-surgical choices, and I tried all of those. And then finally, months went by, and the band got impatient. I got a phone call from Jon, and I could tell Neal was on the phone, ‘cause I can tell when the line level’s down, and I could hear him breathing, I think. And Jon was telling me, “We want to know what you wanna do. We’ve tried out a few singers. And we need to know what you wanna do.” I said, “You’ve tried out some singers?” And he said yes. His exact words were, “You’re some big shoes to fill, but we wanna get out there. We wanna know when you’re going into surgery, because we want to tour.” And y’know— I didn’t feel like major surgery was a band decision. I said, “I’m gonna get it done. I can’t tell you when, but I’m gonna get it done.” It was suggested that I could tour and sit on a stool. And I said, I am not gonna tour and sit on a stool. [laughs] Please.
So at the end of that conversation, I said “Look, you go call whatever you wanna do with whomever you’ve checked out something else. Call it the J-Boys. Call it anything. But don’t call it Journey, y’know? Because I am gonna get this done, eventually.” But I needed to be ready to lay down and do this thing. And it took a few more months, until October, and then I was ready, and found the right doctor for me. Emotionally. Because then I started to become a medical guy. There’s like 20 different prosthetics, all claiming to be the one that lasts, and I had to do research on that crap. But in January, Jon told me on the phone, “I just wanna know.” And I said, “Don’t call it Journey. Because if you do, you will fracture the stone. And I don’t think I’ll be able to come back to it if you break it. If you crack it—it’s got so much integrity. We’ve worked so hard. Can’t you just, y’know—not do that?” And, he asked me again: “We wanna know when you’re going to surgery. Cause we wanna get out there.” That particular set of words. I said “Okay, you do what you gotta do, and I’ll do what I gotta do.” And I hung up the phone, and when the dial tone came back, I called my attorney, and I said “Start the divorce.” And he said, “What divorce?” And I said, “The divorce.” And I told him what happened. When somebody says, “We’ve checked out a few singers,” it’s like your wife’s saying, “Look, while you were gone—I know a few guys, and I just wanna know what you’ve decided to do, because I need to know.” My feeling at that point is very simple: “What am I going back to now? If you go back to that, what are you going back to now?” So that’s why I said, “Maybe we really are done.” I’d left to find my life, once before, gone back to it, to try to reclaim something we once had, and then we kinda fell into that same place again. Y'know? So I thought, “Well, maybe I’m not supposed to be there.”
Did you feel betrayed, by the fact that they’d been looking at other vocalists?
I did not like it, one bit. ‘Cause I’d called Jon to try to put it back together. I was the one who really wanted to do it.
You were the one driving the reunion.
I made the phone call. To Jon Cain.
Have you followed what’s gone on since then, at all?
I only know that they’ve been through three guys, and I’ve never heard any of ‘em, and there’s no need to. Really—I stay away from it, because it’s really none of my business now. We have children together, which are the songs we wrote together, and we have a vested interest, as songwriters, in where they go and where they don’t go. That’s about all. I really try to stay away from it. Because since May—hold on, I’ve got the fax on my wall, in my studio. May 8th, 1998, was the total release from all our contracts, and from Sony. I was a free man then. From all of it.
Did that feel good?
In the beginning, it felt extremely freeing. And then it felt terrible. [laughs]
Okay. Can you unpack that for me a little bit?
Well, it felt great to be free. They were gonna go do their thing. And I was not gonna be part of that. And I’m off Sony for the first time since ’78. And no contracts were really binding me to have to be or do anything anymore. So it felt freeing at some level to be a free agent, in ’98, ‘cause the industry was really changing, and the Internet was becoming a big thing, and I thought, “Gee, the future’s kinda wide open.” And then [laughs] then I just got this unbelievable freaky drive, which shows the neurosis of the singer-songwriter. I got a panic in me. Almost exactly like the panic I felt before I got into the band, Journey. Which was, “I gotta get signed before it’s too late.” [laughs]
You broke out of prison, and immediately started thinking about how to get back in.
As bizarre as it sounds, I felt like nothing had ever happened, like our arc of success almost didn’t exist. “I gotta go out there and try to get in this business.” [laughs] Before it’s too late! Which was my original motivation, back in the early ‘70s. Some of that stuff never goes away. It’s amazing. I was confounded by that. After all those years of doing everything, it didn’t change my original drive, my need to get some music out there or do something creative. I was kind of surprised. You’d think that a certain amount of success would squelch certain drives. At least I did. And I’m grateful for all of it, I wouldn’t trade it for the world—but it didn’t squelch much, y'know? I still felt this panic to get a deal, get signed, maybe make another record. But I didn’t. I didn’t do that.
That’s interesting. You had that urge, but you didn’t act on it.
No, I didn’t. I guess it’s because maybe I’d found a life. I’d gotten back in touch with parts of the life I had before I was successful. But I didn’t realize what we had done together until I stopped. And only now, when people come up to me, and tell me what it meant to them, do I realize what the band accomplished. It’s extremely gratifying to have people come up and say “‘Open Arms’ was my prom song, and to this day, my husband and I still listen to it.” Or when guys’ll come up and say, “Y’know, I wasn’t into youse guys, but if I took a chick to your concert… you know what I’m sayin?” I get the whole spectrum. And they’re all good. They’re all great. They’re all magical to me. I just love it.
Is there a validation when you see it crop up in pop culture? When you see a Journey song turn up on a movie soundtrack, or on TV?
[long pause, laughs.] Some of ‘em, I think the answer is yes. Sopranos is a definite yes. Because it was such an amazing use. The movie Monster, that Patty Jenkins wrote and directed, with Charlize Theron, was an amazing use of [“Don’t Stop Believin’ ”]. And there’s been some others, that I think have just been wonderful. And there’s been some that I wasn’t too pleased about, but my feet had been held to the fire, slightly, so I had to.
You were one of the few people in America to know how The Sopranos ended, before it aired.
What happened was, I guess Jon and Neal had signed off way before I did. I wasn’t sure what the Sopranos use was gonna be. I was concerned that it would play while somebody got whacked. So I held out a little bit, ‘cause I wanted to know. And the show was gonna air on Sunday, finally, my publisher got back to me saying well, they need to know, and I said, “If they’ll tell me how it’s used, then I’ll be glad to let go of my own equal approval.” So I had to swear to not tell nobody, which I did, and they told me how the show ends. But I didn’t see it until the first time it aired, that Sunday night. I stood up and screamed. He goes to a restaurant, he goes through the little jukebox at the table, they go through the thing, he goes through Heart, and then he ends up with Tony Bennett, and he reaches in, puts a quarter in and pushes a button, and you think he’s gonna play Tony Bennett—he’s a wiseguy, he’s either gonna play some rock and roll or Tony Bennett, that was how they threw the scent off. And then, boom, Journey starts, and I was like, “Oh, my God.” I just couldn’t believe it. It was so cool. It felt so awesome, to see that song be used in that moment.
It seemed completely right to me—given Tony Soprano’s age, he would totally have grown up listening to Journey. You’re looking at it in a deep chronological way. I’m not. I’m looking at it very simply. Tony Soprano thinks Journey’s cool. And look at the choices he had! He could have picked Tony Bennett—the greatest voice! And he picks Journey. And then when they started editing with the lyrics—like on “Just a small-town girl,” they’re cuttin’ across to the wife, and they’re cuttin’ to everybody, as appropriately as the lyrics can—wow. It was really intense. And then the day after, I was at the airport, and you’d think we had a hit single again. Everybody at the airport, man, walkin’ by, givin’ me the thumbs-up, like, “Yo! Steve! Sopranos!” It’s like, “What the fuck?” It was unbelievably cool. And I tried to get to David Chase to try to thank him, and I have yet to be able to.
Of all the hits Journey had, why is that the one that seems to resonate the most?
Well, like I said—we were good together. Goddammit, we were good together. And Jon Cain and I used to spend hours together, doing lyrics. I mean, we’d get together with Neal, and we’d all write the arrangements. I’d write some melodies, I’d write some hooks. They’d play amazing chord changes, and we’d all try to navigate and try to help us be great with each other, and when we were done, Jon and I would take just, empty tracks, with the melodies in my head, to his house, and I would sit there at the coffee table and sing the melodies, and we would skull out lyrics. And those lyrics are a big part of it.
Is it just that people can relate to the sentiment in that song? That everybody’s a dreamer on some level?
I don’t know. If we’d had a crystal ball back then, we woulda wrote twelve of those. Nobody knew, y’know? I live just above San Diego, in Del Mar. And occasionally when I get up to Los Angeles, sometimes I’ll go out on the weekend, and some of these clubs, man—this new generation in the clubs, man, they’re playing this song, and when it comes on they’re screaming it out to each other. The girls are screaming “Just a small-town girl.” They’re screaming it at clubs. Do you have any idea what that feels like? In my lifetime, to see another generation embrace this? As I said in the beginning with you, there’s something reverent about that, to me. And I only wish to protect it, because it means something to them, like it means something to me. I don’t wanna see that get damaged. I really don’t. And I just love to see them love it so much. It just completely slays me. I would have never—I would have never thought that was gonna happen. I mean, who knew?
Are you unhappy that the other guys in the band are still out there performing this music?
I really, honestly—and you must print this—I really don’t want to respond to what they’re doing, because what they’re doing is none of my business. They’re doing what they’re doing because they feel it’s what they want to do, and I’m doing what I’m doing because it’s what I feel I wanna do.
Journey got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame a few years ago. Was that the last time you saw them?
That was the last time. And I wasn’t sure if I was gonna go. Because I’d never met the singer, I’d never met their drummer. And we do have some turbulence between us. I had always sort of planned to go, but I wasn’t sure I was gonna go, you know what I mean? But I went. And it was really, really great to see everybody. At some point, in all our lives, we’d all contributed to that star on the ground. But the greatest thing was, I really felt in my heart that Neal was happy to see me. He hugged me, I hugged him, and he said a few things in my ear—that are mine, I’m not gonna mention ‘em. But it was just great. And every now and then he’d look at me and go, “What the fuck, y’know? I’m so glad you came. Wow.” It was a lift for me, that I emotionally needed. And that star’s on the sidewalk. I go there, from time to time, when I’m in town.
Where is it?
It’s on Hollywood Boulevard, on the south side of the street, east of—I wanna say Vine. It could be east of Vine. Or east of Highland. Just a little bit east of the Musicians Institute.
So you just go check on it?
Yeah. I think I’m gonna go by with some brass cleaner one of these days, make sure it looks nice. One time, I went there—there used to be a coffee shop right in front of it, and I was having coffee, watching people. And these two girls were there with a friend. They were of the generation we were speaking of earlier, that newer generation of fans. And they laid down on each side of it and tried to pull sexy poses with the star. And their friend was kind of hovering over them with a camera. And I ran out of the coffee shop and said, “I gotta get in on this.” [laughs] She looked up, her eyes got like saucers. And I said, “Come on, we gotta take a picture.” And I laid down, and I said, “Aww, girls, this is too sexy.” So we took a picture laying down on the sidewalk, by the star. They love the band enough to lay down on the sidewalk? In front of all these people walkin’ around ‘em and shit? I thought, “Okay. I’m layin’ down, too.” And that sidewalk’s not exactly clean.
Are you working on anything now?
I started writing music again, at the beginning of last summer. I had not opened that up in over ten years. I was reluctant to try to write some more, but now I’ve been doing that, and it’s been a real experience. I got ProTools, and I’m working on stuff. I’m not sure what I’m gonna do with it yet, but I got a lot of material, and a lot of it I really like. I’m in the boil-down process. I got these ProTools sketches of songs, and I guess it’s time to record some of ‘em. I guess I have a desire to sing and write music again, and I’m letting it take me places. It’s been painful. Sometimes, when I hear myself sing, I sound like Steve Perry, and sometimes that has a lot of memories attached to it. I’m serious. I just told somebody that, a couple weeks ago, a writer that I’m working with—my own voice is sometimes difficult to hear. Because it reminds me of so much. But I’m embracing it. And I’ve played some of the stuff for friends, and for some people that aren’t afraid to tell me the truth. And they’ve really liked it. It sounds like me, they’ve said. And that’s great. It’s been a love-hate thing. All creative processes are a love-hate thing. Anything worth anything has got to be that way. Right?
[A few days after I talked to Perry, I did a follow-up interview with Neal Schon, Journey’s co-founder and lead guitarist, in which we discussed some of the same issues Perry brought up. In the interest of fairness, here are the relevant parts of that conversation.]
GQ: The first three Journey albums sound like the work of a completely different band. There’s a heavy jazz-fusion influence, and none of the songs are as anthemic as “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” or “Lights,” the songs that would make you famous. When you changed your sound, what was the thought process behind that? Whose decision was it?
NEAL SCHON: We had run our course doing what we were doing, and what we started out being. What happened was we’d put out our first record, Journey, and I think we sold a little over 100,000 records. Which in those days was not good. In these days, it would actually be respectable! [laughs] But in those days it was a bomb. And so we were basically known as a touring band. We toured probably nine, ten months a year, and the other two months that were left, we were in the studio making more new music, and then we’d get right back out there. And we did that for about five years, that grueling schedule. And we ended up making two more records—we did Look Into the Future and then Next, and each record sold progressively less than the last one, but we attained a huger live audience, because we were playing live so much.
Did you just realize at some point that you needed a frontman?
Well, no—I didn’t realize anything. The label said, “We think you need a frontman. Otherwise we don’t think that we can ever get anything on the radio.” They wanted us to get on the radio. And sell some records. And so they gave us an ultimatum—you either get a frontman, or we’re gonna drop you from the label. And at that point we’re all thinking, “Oh, wow. This is a drag, after all this hard work.” And Herbie [Herbert] had received a tape from somebody at the label, of Steve Perry. He was in another band, at that point, and apparently they were getting ready to get signed, and his bass player was in an awful car crash and died. And I think what Steve felt at that point that he wanted to fold the band and go back to working on his grandfather’s ranch. So Herbie got his tape, and he played it for us, and he goes, “This is your new singer.” [laughs] And we’re all looking at each other going, “Really. Okay.” So we’re listening and goin’, “Wow, this guy’s got an amazing voice, but does he fit with us
” Because it was a radical change. Listening to what he was doing, and listening to what we were doing—it was like A to Z. I was goin’, “How are we gonna morph this together and make it work?”
Well, Steve came out with us and started hangin’ out—he was hangin’ with me, actually, and we were roomin’ together, and I pulled out an acoustic guitar, and one of the first songs we wrote, in about a half an hour, was “Patiently.” And that just kinda came out of nowhere. And then the second song we wrote, I was downstairs in Gregg Rolie’s house, where I was living, in Mill Valley, and Perry was over, and we were sittin’ down in the beanbags in the music room, and he started singin’ me these melodies that he had, for “Lights.” And I just started putting the stumble to it, felt like it was gonna be a stumble, and tried to give it some Hendrix-y type chords, to make it sound cool, and then I added a bridge to that, for a guitar solo, and that one was done, in about ten minutes. And so at that point, I knew I had some chemistry writing with him, even though it was very different from anything I’d done before. And I started learning how to craft song songs, instead of just jams.
How did it feel to be told that you needed to change what you were doing? Was that a hard pill to swallow at first?
At first it was, yeah. It was a bit of a learning curve, for me. Blues and progressive stuff was where I was at, y'know? And some funk. So it was a completely different area for me. But, y'know, I just flowed with it. I went along with it. I think in the end we all took Herbie’s advice, and it ended up being great advice.
Did Steve have to prove himself to you?
Well, there was no proving to us that he could sing. The guy could sing amazingly well. And after we compiled enough material to go in and cut our first record Infinity, we all listened to it and went, “Wow, there’s something here.” And the label was freakin’ out, they were lovin’ it. Management—Herbie was freakin’ out, he was lovin it. We were all lovin’ it. It sounded good. And lo and behold, all of a sudden you started hearin’ “Lights” on the radio. And “Wheel in the Sky.” And those were our first singles.
You went on to make a string of hit records with Steve. You became one of the biggest bands in the world. And then you went on hiatus. What was the deal with that? Did you get burned out?
Well, of course, everybody gets burned, but I was like a machine out there. I loved touring. So I was ready to go, go, go, and I think pretty much everybody else in the band was. [After the Raised on Radio tour] Steve Perry just came up and said, “Look, I’m burnt, I’m toast, I need to take a rest.” And so in the middle of a tour, he just pulled out. I believe we were in Hawaii. We hadn’t finished the second leg of the tour. And so everybody packed their stuff, went home, and I’m hearing that we’re gonna be off for maybe a couple months, three months, six months, whatever—but it turned out to be close to eight to ten years.
Did you feel like Journey had run its course?
No—I didn’t think Journey was done. We actually never even quit. It wasn’t like we called each other and went, “Okay, this is history, nice knowin’ ya.” It was just sort of left at a hiatus. And it was all based around Steve giving us a call and saying “Okay, I’m fine now, I’m ready to go.” And it just didn’t happen.
Was that frustrating for you, that he sort of pulled out like that?
Well, yeah. You work on something for so many years, and you attain what you attain, which was an amazing feat, and then it’s sort of like the rug is pulled out from under you.
Eventually he came back. You made one more record together. And then he left the band for good.
He said he was having health issues, and he needed to have hip replacement, and this and that. And so we kept waiting around to see if he was gonna go take care of it. And he pretty much came back and said, “Y'know, this is a personal issue, and I’m not gonna be pushed in a corner to get my hip fixed. When I’m ready I’m ready.” And I said, “I understand that.” Everybody understood that. And we still waited, even though we had things goin’ on. I still never wanted Journey to go away, because it was something that I was there from the beginning and started. And I felt that we still had wings, y’know? Which made me, inevitably, want to put it back together, without Steve. If you watch the [Behind the Music] documentary on VH1—it’s pretty much one-sided, with Perry, the way they edited that thing, but there was a couple funny things that went down in that interview. He’s saying, y'know, “If these guys wanna go on, I think they should just start something new and not use the Journey name.” Don’t crack the stone is what he kept on saying. Don’t crack the stone. Don’t go out and play these songs with someone else and crack the stone. Well, he did the same thing, way before we did! He went out on a solo tour, a solo Steve Perry tour, where none of us were invited. Actually Jonathan Cain tried to go down and go in and see him in San Francisco and they wouldn’t let him in the building! And he was playin’, I think, nine Journey songs and three of his original songs.
This was in the ‘80s? When he was touring behind his solo record?
Yeah, the “Oh Sherrie” record. And then, y'know, after that, he’s talking about not cracking the stone. So to me, the stone was already cracked.
So was that the big strain on your relationship—his solo career?
Well, I think—looking back, I was sort of a workaholic. I still am, somewhat. I’ve slowed down a bit. But in those days, if we took a month off from the road, I would jump into a side project. I did a one-off record with Sammy Hagar. And I had always been a big fan of Jan Hammer, the keyboard player that was playing with John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra, and was doing all the Miami Vice themes at that time, the music for the show. I met him when Journey was opening up for Jeff Beck, before Steve was in the band. And I’d always wanted to do a record with him, because I just loved his musicality—I loved the fact that he played like a wicked guitar player, and was always curious what I’d sound like playing with him. So I went to do my first solo record with him. We did it in a month, again, with some down time. And I think that actually might have provoked Perry to go and do a solo record. So in retrospect [laughs] maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing I ever did, because he went, “Well, Neal’s doin’ one, why can’t I do one?” And everybody’s goin’, “Well, Neal’s not doin’ anything that’s gonna conflict with Journey, y'know? It sounds progressive, and Neal’s singin’ on it, he obviously doesn’t sing like you.” But that was his open door, to go do it, and that was sort of the beginning of the demise.
It’s been your band longer than it was ever Steve’s band. Do you get tired of it being defined by his presence or his absence?
Um—no. I think he contributed so much to the sound of the band, obviously, to where those songs are gonna be embedded in everybody’s heads and hearts forever. And I think that we accomplished a lot together. And the legacy continues, with Arnel. I think that he brings the realness to even the old material. He’s not just a Steve Perry emulator.
You and Steve don’t talk, right? Is it safe to say that there’s not communication between you anymore?
I have tried to talk to him, numerous times. And he will not allow me to have his number. Everything has to go through lawyers and management. And that is sort of a drag. You’d think that after a while, everybody would grow up and be able to talk, one on one. But it just hasn’t happened. So, because of his wishes, that’s the way things go down.
What’s the beef about, specifically?
You know what? I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s like I said—I didn’t crack the stone. In my mind, he cracked the stone when he went out and did our stuff without us.
With what you make off the old stuff, could you afford to retire at this point?
Probably some time ago, yeah, I could have done that. With the other company that I’m a part of, Nocturne [a video-production studio]—between that and the residuals that I get, yes, I could live comfortably and just hang it up. But I’m just not in it for the money. I love doin’ it. I love playing. And so I think I’ll play, probably until the day I die. I look at people like BB King and I go, man, God bless ‘em. That’s what I want to be doing. I look at people like Jeff Beck who are in their 60s and still kicking ass, with more fire than they had when they were kids. Those are the guys that I look up to. This is what I wanna do. I mean, it’s in my blood, y'know? It’s what I do. And it’s what I really love. I feel lost when I’m not doing it. I mean, this last year, I had a whole year off, and I kinda went buggy. The one thing that was good was that it allotted me some time to get some personal issues in order with myself. I drank a lot. All through the years. And really did have a drinking problem, and didn’t know it. And so now I’ve been sober for the last nine months, and I never want to look back. This is the healthiest I’ve ever been, and I think it’s the best I’ve been playin’. I just sort of rid of a lot of demons that were inside of me. And I think without the year off, I wouldn’t ever have gotten to that place.
You were able to function, so you never really addressed any of that stuff.
Yeah. I believe I was a functioning alcoholic. And the reason I didn’t realize that I was an alcoholic is that I didn’t have to wake up in the morning and pound down a six-pack. I could go out and I could have eight, nine, ten vodkas, and then I wouldn’t drink for another three or four days. When I did drink, it was in excess. And I think I made a lot of really bad decisions over the years, because I was messed up like that. I’m just happy to be on the right track now, for once in a row.
Do you think you made bad decisions in terms of how you handled things with the band? Do you think there were things you would have dealt with differently if you were sober?
Possibly. There’s definitely some decisions, that are pretty personal, that I wouldn’t have done the way I did, because I was not thinking clearly. But for the most part, I’m just glad that I didn’t completely F up everything. And that I was still able just to play and have at least half of myself there. Now I feel like I have 100 percent of myself here, and I’m more into it than I’ve ever been into it. So I’m really excited about getting out there and just being completely in control of what’s going on, for real.
But do you think your drinking affected your relationships with the other guys in the band?
I’m sure I was a bitch to deal with. Definitely. It depended where you caught me. If I was drinkin’, I was great to be around, and funny. Much like a lot of people are. And then the next three days after that, I was terrible to be around. I’d be comin’ off it, and probably didn’t know that I was probably just jonesing for a drink. I had been through a lot of divorces, and probably a lot of ‘em due to this problem, and I had to just really face everything on a straight level. I was using alcohol for many, many years, to numb myself.
I imagine it’s really easy to be a functioning alcoholic when you’re on tour with a rock band.
It was a nightly thing for me when I was on tour. I wouldn’t drink onstage, but I’d get offstage, and when I got in the bus, there’d be a chilled bottle of whatever vodka I was drinking, and I’d start plowin’ into it. And I’d sleep, and I’d wake up, go do the gig, and the same thing would happen all over again. I just don’t hang out in that environment anymore. You won’t catch me in a bar, you won’t catch me anywhere around that. And if I am around people that are messed up, you won’t see me there too long, ‘cause it reminds me too much of what I probably looked like.
When I met you guys in Vegas, you referred to Steve as “He Who Cannot Be Named.” Is there some legal issue here? Are you not allowed to talk about him on the record?
Oh, y'know—there’s no legal issue with talking about him. It’s just that he thinks every time we talk about him, we talk crap about him, and it’s really not true. We just try not to talk about him.
So you’re not enjoined from discussing him in public?
No. I mean, I didn’t say anything inflammatory to him. I didn’t talk about how he still gets paid like a motherfucker even though he shouldn’t be. It’s stuff like that I’m not allowed to talk about. But the facts are the facts, y'know? He sorta just bitches and moans and whines about everything. And he just assumes that every time we bring up his name, we’re sayin’ bad things. Or he thinks we’re hangin’ on to his coattails. And it’s just not like that. It’s never been like that. He barely ever talks to the public, and he doesn’t want us talking about him, and he doesn’t want to talk about us, but when people ask me for stories about the band’s history, and things that went down, I’m gonna talk about it. I mean—we’re completely done. I told you about the VH1 thing, which is true, about crackin’ the stone—I’ve been wanting to set that straight for a while. It’s the truth. So fuck him.
Alex Pappademas is a GQ staff writer.
|Steve Augeri with Rock Eyez
Interviewed by Mark Balogh
Mark Balogh: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us here at Rockeyez Steve. It certainly is a pleasure to have you back in the game, so to speak, with the release of the new TALL STORIES album "Skyscraper". Congratulations on finally getting it out to the masses.
Steve Augeri: Thank you, it’s has been a labor of love of mine that I’m happy to say has worked out very nicely.
Mark Balogh: The songs on the new record were written back in the early 90’s. Is that right? Are they newly recorded or were they just "polished up" and completed for the new release?
Steve Augeri: The songs were written between ‘92 and ‘96. "Skyscraper" was the follow-up album to our debut that never came to be. These are songs and performances that we felt very passionate about and I personally took on as a personal "English Channel" to swim… My very own Mt. Everest.
Mark Balogh: How has the early feedback on the new record been so far?
Steve Augeri: It’s been mixed as anticipated, but overall right where I had expected it to be. This new set of songs are, I feel, a natural progression from our first record. And I also feel it shows the band in a truer sense, more layers and textures below the surface than the first CD. It gives our audience a glimpse of the bands musicianship and diverse songwriting abilities. Oh…and most importantly, it rocks! One thing we’ve heard consistently is that it’s a "grower", meaning the more it’s played, the less likely it is to be ejected from your CD player in your car or shuffled off your iPod. I’m pleased with that comment because most, if not all of my favorite albums to date have been "growers".
Mark Balogh: I’d like to get into "Skyscraper" a bit and talk about some of the songs. The record opens with "Tomorrow" and it’s a great tune that style-wise is reminiscent of the debut TALL STORIES album. Was this written around the time of the first record or was it specifically written for the 2nd album?
Steve Augeri: This was a creation of Jack Morer’s specifically written for "Skyscraper". Its sort of the old school meets the new. A blend of LED ZEPPELIN’s "The Song Remains the Same" and U2’s "New Years Day" you could say. Two bands that we most certainly admired and aspired to be like…in one way, shape or form of another. It’s a great eye opener in the morning… coffee and TALL STORIES.
Mark Balogh: Songs like "Clementine" and "Original Sin" seem to have a more modern influence. Can you tell us a little about these tracks?
Steve Augeri: The years that followed our debut were years of growth and experimentation. These were "the best of times and they were the worst of times". Due to the changing climate of rock and roll during the early 90’s, we were forced… no, we were pushed to our limits to find brave new worlds and new paths when it came to creating our music. Although the musical press considered us as "darlings" of the Melodic Rock scene, we merely thought of ourselves as a rock and roll band… a band with no boundaries and no labels. And so, we wrote with that mindset. Anything goes. The sky’s the limit… hence the birth of "Skyscraper".
Mark Balogh: "All Of The World" is a great heartfelt melodic track. Can you tell me a little about that song?
Steve Augeri: This particular song has had at least two other incarnations. This being the least "heavy" version but most appropriate for the lyrical content. We always knew we had a good song we just needed to find it a good home so to speak. Maybe an alternate version will surface one day. That would be fun. It’s got, like most of the CD, some of my favorite Jack Morer guitar moments. Classic guitar, period. He’s a natural. My hero.
Mark Balogh: The track "River Rise" has an almost funky hard-edged sound to it. Where did the idea for that song come from?
Steve Augeri: Well, musically it comes from a much harder place TALL STORIES has ever ventured. Perhaps a time when the likes of DEEP PURPLE, BLACK SABBATH and LED ZEPPELIN ruled and walked the planet. These bands had a profound effect on me growing up and helped form my affection for heavy music. I think, for me anyway, there’s a hint of SOUNDGARDEN thrown in there for good measure. I was pretty hot on that band and Chris Cornell’s voice during that era.
Mark Balogh: The track "You Shall Be Free" is pretty cool with its southern gospel feel. Tell us a little bit about the song.
Steve Augeri: Well, this track, which is probably one of my favorites on the CD, has a special place in my heart as well as in the bands repertoire. Immediately, from the onset you’re dropped into another time period. Maybe THE (ROLLING) STONES were on the radio, girls were wearing flowers in their hair and JIMI (HENDRIX) was playing down at Café’ Wha? in the "Village". My very first Rock show was at the Academy of Music on 14th St. in Manhattan. I think it’s an NYU dorm these days. Anyway, walking into that venue that night with my older brother, Joe (the tickets were a present for my 15th birthday) was a life altering experience. We’ve all had them. This was mine. It was electric. It was intoxicating. It was Marshall amps on 10, guitars, bass and drums and a pint sized man with a gigantic, mammoth voice at the mic. It was true magic. The band was HUMBLE PIE and the singer, the voice was that of Steve Marriott and I was front row center. F%$#@!ing Magic! I think we tried to recreate that vibe that drew us, no sucked us, into Rock and Roll initially… the rawness, the sincerity, the reckless abandon, the honesty, the music…yes above all, the music. We’ve also got a few dear friends singing along with us on this track… our very own TALL STORIES gospel choir. One voice in particular of note is that of Marge Raymond’s who actually recorded with The PIE later on as well as being that unforgettable voice on ELO’s smash hit "Evil Woman". Marge has sung with them all… AEROSMITH, this one, that one and now TALL STORIES! We’re honored. Thank you Margie.
Mark Balogh: Does the new album have a planned release for the US market?
Steve Augeri: We are currently shooting for a late March release here in the States and on iTunes.
Mark Balogh: The band just did the Firefest show in the UK back in October of last year. It was the first TALL STORIES show in many years. How was it to get back on stage with the band and how was the reception from the audience?
Steve Augeri: It was great to be back on stage with my old comrades. In some respects it was as if we never parted and in others it showed us that there is still a lot of life and music flowing through this band I’m pleased to say. The reception was warm and we were glad to have reunited in a place where so many of our Rock and Roll heroes came from. It was a whirlwind… long flight, no sleep, great Indian dinners, great company, and great music. We had a blast.
Mark Balogh: Will the band be doing any U.S. dates in the near future?
Steve Augeri: This is in the works as we speak. That’s all I can say right now.
Mark Balogh: Your time with the band JOURNEY has been well publicized so we wont get into that but what do you take away from that period in your life?
Steve Augeri: Sure, a wealth of beautiful memories. Friendships and relationships that I’ve developed and cherish more than all the riches one can imagine. Souvenirs from all over the world. Also the experience and honor of working with four of the finest musicians in the business. I had the privilege of writing with a couple of the finest songwriters of our time. Not to mention 8 plus years of performing to JOURNEY fans and all the perks and gratification that comes with it. Of course I would have never been given this opportunity had it not been for the man who came before me. I owe Steve Perry for doing all the heavy lifting. It was a daunting task to walk in after someone of Mr. Perry’s stature. He taught me to raise the bar for myself, and aim for new heights. But, like Steve before me, I too had reached a sign post and it was time to move on. For me though, it was a medical issue that was unpublished beyond just a vocal issue that brought about the end of my journey, pardon the pun. Doctors order if you will. What are you gonna do? C’est la vie.
Mark Balogh: How is your voice doing now? Was there ever any concern at any point that it would affect your singing permanently?
Steve Augeri: Yes, I was faced with the difficult decision to either take a break or fear damaging my voice permanently. Although it hurt beyond any pain you can inflict upon yourself, emotionally that is, in the long term it was the only way to go. I have my medical condition in check and have recovered vocally and then some.
Mark Balogh: Do you have plans for any further TALL STORIES recordings or even a solo album at some point?
Steve Augeri: Well a little of both. I enjoy working with TALL STORIES and I think we have the potential of being an even better band moving forward. As for myself, I’m currently recording tracks for myself. My own release… Literally.
Mark Balogh: Do you have any other projects in the works that you can share with us at the moment?
Steve Augeri: I am involved in a really interestingly ambitious project with a handful of super incredibly talented international musicians. One more outrageously gifted than the next. I guess you could call it a prog band. A little intimidating at first, but the preliminary demos turned Tall Stories Album Coverout so well, if we get this off the ground it’s going to be a monster. I’ve got my fingers crossed. I’d love to drop the names but I’d hate to jinx it. Stay tuned for an update.
Mark Balogh: Because "Skyscraper" features such great diversity in the music with some tracks having the AOR sounds of the debut, some having a more modern 90’s feel and some having a classic rock sound with a heavy LED ZEPPELIN influence. Can you tell us what some of your personal favorites are on the record?
Steve Augeri: It’s like the old adage; when it comes to your "children", your babies, how do you pick a favorite. They all hold a special meaning and place in my heart. They’re all my favorites for one reason or another. It’s corny but true.
Mark Balogh: Taking the last question a bit further. As I talked about in describing some of the new songs earlier, it’s obvious the music on the new disc features many styles. What are some of favorite styles of music personally both nowadays and in the past?
Steve Augeri: Growing up in NYC, I’ve had the exposure to so many different musical styles. It was really a luxury in many respects… every type and style of music at your fingertips, at your disposal. My freshman year in high school I went to Music and Art in Harlem at the time in the seventies. I played alto sax until one of the many muggings (most kids went to school with lunch money, I went with a dollar bill at the ready so that I wouldn’t be stabbed. New York City in the 70’s, go figure) I experienced left me "hornless". The school wouldn’t furnish me with another horn so I was immediately ushered into the world of bassoon and all that came with it… Orchestra, Pit orchestra, Symphonic band, Woodwind quartets, etc., etc., etc., on and on. And so…. I have a love for classical music… Tchaikovsky to Gershwin. In fact, "Rhapsody In Blue" is one of my favorite pieces of music of all time. Gershwin Rocks! I think he may have been a Brooklyn boy, too! I can hang with most types music as long as it’s quality. Great lyrics are hard to come by. When I hear one I appreciate it. That’s one of the reasons I love U2’s music so much. I’ve been enamored with Alicia Keys’ music and voice ever since I’ve first heard it. I think she’s quality and class. Seal has really impressed me through the years. I think he’s got a beautiful voice. COLDPLAY also, just to name a few. Oh yeah, I absolutely worship Annie Lennox. I guess I’m as old school as it gets, but, I’ve got an open enough mind to try listening to most anything really.
Mark Balogh: "Skyscraper" features several drummers throughout; can you tell us about some of the musicians that played on the record?
Steve Augeri: Tom DeFaria did all the original basic tracks for the record, brilliant performances. Because they were that good and had that special "In the moment, in the very same room feel" (which by the way is how the majority of "Skyscraper" was recorded, live with very few over dubs) we tried countless drum samples and triggers to salvage Tom’s basic tracks but no matter what we did, no matter what modern wizardry and technology Jack attempted (at my request) it never had a natural feel. They were nearly all unsalvageable due to the fact that they were recorded on an early version of the electronic drum kits. They may have been passable for DURAN DURAN at the time, but, it wasn’t cutting it for us. Not this style of music anyway. So when Tom wasn’t available to re-record the tracks (Tom incidentally left the band a year before we split up) we decided to press on and recruit some of "New York’s Finest". Rodney Howard (Avril Lavigne, Gavin DeGraw), Bobby Rondinelli (RAINBOW, THE LIZARDS) and last but not least, Nir Z (GENISIS, Chris Cornell, John Mayer). These "ringers" along with Tommy, and we had some serious drummers driving the record! They all blew me away. I can say that because I watched one of the best, Deen Castronovo (JOURNEY) night after night. These guys all brought something different, some slice of their personality to the table. It was great watching them work. What an experience.
Mark Balogh: Now to have a little fun and talk about your early days… Going back to your childhood, how did you become involved in music and singing and what were some of your early influences from a vocal standpoint?
Steve Augeri: Well, like most musicians my age, I was introduced to the BEATLES early on and they had a profound and lasting effect on me. But, even before that, my uncle Andrew bought me my first guitar from Sears and Roebuck (That’s what they called themselves at the time!) It was from a guitar he won in a card game crossing the Atlantic during World War II, that he taught my cousin Ad and I, Hank Williams Sr. songs ("Your Cheating Heart", "Jambalaya") and whet our appetite for music. And he was the very man that picked us up by the scruff of the neck one Sunday evening and plopped us in front of the TV to watch the BEATLES on the Ed Sullivan Show. My Uncle was a big influence and advocate for music in my life. I owe him big time for that. I like to think he’s smiling down on me these days, guitar in hand, ten-gallon hat, spurs and all. He was one of a kind!
Mark Balogh: What are some of the other bands you played in prior to TALL STORIES forming?
Steve Augeri: Well TALL STORIES evolved from a band called MAETSRO, which consisted of three wonderful Brazilian musicians. One of which, Junior Holmrich, who did the music for the John Borman film "Emerald Forest". Cool flick, still very relevant. We met while I was doing session work at the old Record Plant Studios on 44th and 8th. Conveniently down the corner from Smith’s Bar and Grill (enough said). It was an amazing place, the Record Plant. You’d see anybody and everybody walk through those doors back then. AC/DC, AEROSMITH, Stevie Nicks, John Lennon. Forgetaboutit! Before that, I sang with a band by the name of KICKS, (Not the KIX from Baltimore) which was originally fronted by Marge Raymond who has graced us with her incredible voice on "You Shall Be Free".
Mark Balogh: After TALL STORIES you joined TYKETTO and recorded the "Shine" album. How did that all come about and do you have any standout moments from that time?
Steve Augeri: That’s a long complicated story, but I will tell you it was a blast working with those guys. It had come when TALL STORIES was just winding down. I got a call from the band to help assist writing their next record. So I drove down the Jersey shore (sounds good already) and got acquainted with the band. A hilarious bunch, each and every one of them. Jammed at a few Asbury Park rehearsal studios. Wrote lyrics on the beach. We practically wrote and recorded the record in almost two weeks flat and had a blast doing it. After the writing sessions in Jersey, we loaded up someone’s van and drove to rural Minnesota to record at Pachyderm Studios. A fantastic recording studio nestled in the woods outside of Minneapolis, I think. It was complete with resident ghost, history of murders and vibes everywhere. Story was that NIRVANA recorded their early stuff there. That trip alone was worth the price of admission… one dude driving and the other three band members in one passenger seat. We became fast friends, especially Brooke St. James and I. We traveled to Europe and played here and there and that’s an experience that stays with you. Good times. I’ve seen Jamie Scott, bassist, passing through Dallas with JOURNEY on a few tours. I still keep in close touch with Brooke and look forward to working together with him again in the future. He and I really clicked. I like his style.
Mark Balogh: You grew up in Brooklyn, NY and recently at Rockeyez we did an interview with another great singer in Mrs. Robin Beck who also grew up in Brooklyn. Is there something in the water there that turns out great vocalists???
Steve Augeri: I don’t know. Could be the water. That’s what they say about the pizza. That it’s the best in the world because of the New York City water. Heck, maybe it’s the PIZZA! Did Robin dig pizza too? I’ve never had the pleasure of crossing paths with Robin but from her interview, she seems like a great gal. Brooklyn through and through.
Mark Balogh: Robin shared some great stories of her younger days in Brooklyn. How were your experiences growing up there?
Steve Augeri: I grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Known for its mobsters as much as it’s cannoli’s (and pizza). Many of my early acquaintances are either incarcerated or "sleeping with the fishes". Rock and Roll saved me from a life of well… let’s just say, it gave me a purpose and a direction where many of my peers were not as lucky. One of my very first bands, in fact I was fifteen, was called THOR. We were a trio with me playing guitar and singing. We played RUSH, ZEPPELIN, QUEEN and KISS covers while getting our songwriting chops together. We’d cross paths with local legends like C.C. DeVille and Steve Stevens playing church dances and neighborhood Battle of the Bands. And finally, before that was one of my earliest bands to memory and that was with bassist, James Lomenzo (MEGADETH, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, David Lee Roth). We’d play block parties, which may or may not be a New York phenomenon. In the middle of our set we’d be heckled by the "older" Italian folks sitting at their tables in the street to play some Sinatra, and by God we would… the Tarantella, "Hava Nagila" (you spell it!), the "Hokey Pokey", Jesus… the "Hokey Pokey". Whatever. We were getting our feet wet and getting a couple of sheckles (bucks) in the process. Ah, those hot sweaty Brooklyn nights. You could feel the heat coming off the asphalt. Block parties, whatever happened to them? Let’s bring them back! Everyone step away from the video games. Step away from the computer.
Mark Balogh: I guess that’s about it Steve. Is there anything you’d like to add before we go?
Steve Augeri: Yeah, I’d like take this opportunity to thank my fans for their patience and for hanging in there with me through some hard times and know that I appreciate all the "get well" cards and e-mails these last few years. They mean the world to me and I want you to know that it was your encouragement that kept me going. I’m back, we’re back, TALL STORIES, and we’ve got a great new CD I hope you all get a chance to hear one way or another. I think it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done and I’m extremely proud of it. When we get out this summer please be sure to drop by and say hello. Until then…
|Steve Perry Uncut
July 21, 2009
The former singer of superstar rockers Journey discusses the enduring popularity of the band's hit, "Don't Stop Believin'"
Click HERE for the interview.
|Neal Schon: "Simon Cowell Is Brilliant," by Peter Makowski
February 12, 2010
Classic Rock Magazine
…But that didn’t stop the guitarist refusing Cowell permission to use Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin’" on The X-Factor. Come inside for an exclusive chat with Schon – and find out all about Journey’s plans for a new album.
So, "Don’t Stop Believin’" is back in the charts.
I know, man. It’s unreal. I just got back from London. I was over doing some interviews and the song kept climbing up the charts. Simon Cowell called our office; they wanted permission to redo the song for the X Factor show. We heard the version and we weren’t crazy about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Simon is brilliant. When I watch him on American Idol I pretty much agree with everything he says. But in this particular case it was two different producers and I don’t see anything wrong with our original version. If it’s not busted, don’t fix it. The rest of the band felt like that too. We decided to say no.
Randy Jackson [judge on American Idol and former Journey bass player] came back at me and said: “Dawg! Come on!” I said: “Randy, it ain’t gonna happen. We’re going to stick to our guns.”
The song’s been in a lot of films and TV shows and as a result our audience has got a lot younger – where it’s got to the point that nowadays our audience starts at about six or seven years old!
It was noticeable at Download last year that you were pulling in a younger crowd.
It used to be cool to hate us and now it seems to be cool to like us. We toured all over the place with Marilyn Manson. It was kinda scary; we’re not exactly what you’d call heavy metal. I rearranged some of the songs and took some bits that I did with Sammy Hagar [in the band HSAS – Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, Shrieve] and just some stuff I thought the crowds would like – and it worked.
The Marilyn Manson audience was really funny. Our audience is mostly predominantly women and with Manson it was all guys. So I thought I was going to get pelted. I was ready to start ducking, but it went down really well.
Is there a new album on the way?
Yeah, I’ve already started writing and the band will be getting together on March 25 to start work on some new songs. Arnel [Pineda, vocals] has got some great ideas; he’s really good with melody and lyrics. We’re going to make a rocking record. I know I keep saying this every year but this is for real now. I’ve gotten everyone together and we’ve talked about it.
I had a long talk with Jonathan [Cain, keyboards] and I said: “We have all the AOR material that we need, we’ve got all the hits we need and we have to play that stuff forever. There’s no getting away from it. So I don’t see the point of repeating the same song with different chords.”
I’m going for a conceptual record because I really feel that we have the good musicality to pull it off, and I think that right now we have everybody’s attention. I mean, there’s no radio anymore. The days of writing songs that are three-and-a-half minutes long for radio are over.
I have an animal instinct with music. I see what people dig, while I’m playing it I feel it, then I go home with that feeling and think: “Now I know what I need to create.” I think definitely in Europe, if not in the States, that they’re ready for us to come with something on the artsy side. It’s got to up and down, it can’t stay on the ceiling all the time otherwise there’s no dynamics.
I think it’s going to be a very musical record and I have a cool thing to write about. But I don’t want to reveal too much because somebody will steal it. But it’s a one title, like most of our records are, and it’s a very deep subject – real stuff.
|Jeff Scott Soto, by A. Lee Graham
Classic Rock Revisited
Jeff Scott Soto clasped rock’s brass ring before losing it to … well, exactly why he lost the Journey gig remains unanswered.
But that’s OK for a man happy with life and the opportunities it’s brought one of rock’s most underrated vocalists. Whisked away aboard Yngwie Malmsteen’s Viking ship in 1984, Soto began turning heads with pipes capable of metal screaming and soulful crooning, often within the same song.
“It’s my ‘70s upbringing,” says Soto, whose versatility struck a chord with Eyes and especially Talisman, the Swedish act whose cult following continues to support Soto and his myriad musical endeavors.
Those include an impressive solo catalog as well as stints with Axel Rudi Pell,Takara and a little band called Journey. After Steve Augeri stepped down, Soto more than capably filled his shoes and had fans pumped for the new lineup’s debut release.
It never came, with Journey plucking Arnel Pineda from Youtube obscurity and giving Soto the boot. An official explanation has yet to surface. Too bad, as many believed Soto would have refreshed the band’s sound while honoring its legacy. His contributions to Soul SirkUS seemed a firm foundation for what Soto would have contributed to Journey.
But that’s water under the bridge, for W.E.T. is Soto’s latest passion. Rounded out by Eclipse guitarist Erik Martensson and Work of Art axman Robert Sall, the trio’s debut has become a modern classic for AOR acolytes and paints a bright future not only for the young group, but for its tireless front man.
Whether fronting Journey or screaming “Stand Up And Shout!” (yes, it was Soto powering Mark Wahlberg’s vocals in Rock Star), Soto has enjoyed — and continues to enjoy — a full musical plate. Classic Rock Revisited caught up with Soto weeks before Santa made his yearly trek.
Lee: Congrats on W.E.T. I mean, what a great album.
Jeff: It’s one of those unexpected things. We had no idea what was going to happen with it, musically or anything else. It’s all been really surprising. That’s for sure.
Lee: What brought you guys together: the W, E and the T?
Jeff: Well, it mainly started with Serafino (Perugino, Frontiers Records president-C.E.O.) It was a little brainstorm to get these two guys to write together, to write songs in this sort of AOR vibe. I think Serafino wanted me to do an album like this after my stint in Journey.
It was the last thing I wanted to do. I already had my Beautiful Mess thing — my last solo album — in the works the previous year. I just never had the chance to finish it. Once I left Journey, it was my passion to get that done. So the last thing I wanted to do was kind of chase those AOR kind of coattails. And I told Serafino we’ll have to wait on it.
But it wasn’t until after I got Beautiful Mess done and out of the can that we started talking about the W.E.T. project. I said, “OK, let’s discuss this thing. Send me some songs and let’s see what we’ve got here.” It was one of those immediate things when I heard the first two songs, I said these two guys have something special here.
Lee: As hard as you try to escape your AOR origins, they just pull you back, huh?
Jeff: Well yeah. It’s in the blood. It’s pretty much where I’ve got my core fan audience. And that’s all fine and dandy. It’s not necessarily the only side of me that you know. As an artist, you want to grow. You want to change yourself, but you also want to tap into the influences and resources that made you want to be an artist in the first pace.
I always wanted to follow in the footsteps of Queen and Freddie Mercury where they didn’t have any walls or barriers or boundaries. AOR’s a good thing to come back to and revisit once in a while.
Lee: You definitely have explored quite a variety of styles, from metal with Yngwie and the AOR-oriented rock of Talisman and Eyes, to the really … I guess what you’d call maybe, not singer-songwriter, but soulful ‘70s rock roots like some of your solo stuff like Beautiful Mess. It just really runs the gamut.
I guess maybe the common link is it’s all just timeless music. It doesn’t really fit into something where you say, “Oh, that’s so ’81!” It’s valid in whatever year you hear it.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s it exactly. That’s what I love about ‘70s music more so than ‘80s music. What I grew up with was the ‘70s stuff. I tapped more into that with Beautiful Mess, where W.E.T. has more of that ‘80s kind of vibe, and more of a classic rock sound. I grew up with Styx, Boston, Journey, Van Halen. Those are my bands growing up despite all the great Motown and soul and R&B stuff.
Lee: Does it frustrate you that, despite all the accolades and rave reviews that W.E.T. has gotten, if it were released in the ‘80s, it probably would have been huge commercially?
Jeff: Actually, it doesn’t. And I’ve answered this question in another interview. I’d rather be where I am at now because a lot of those guys in the ‘80s have a hard time reinventing themselves. They can do their reunions and nostalgic things, but I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be a nostalgia artist. I haven’t done enough on my own in my own life to only live in the past.
And honestly, I think that if W.E.T. had been released in the ‘80s and was big then, I might have this kind of stereotype of being stuck in a rut in this day and age, so it’s kind of cool that we can relive it in the sense that it’s revisiting that time, but it’s also something brand new and fresh and kind of reinventing that time.
Lee It’s funny that when I listen to the album, every song screams “radio friendly.” Yet I have to stop myself and say, “What’s really radio-friendly these days?”
Lee: Everything is so divided, so categorized now. There’s no homogenous selection of songs everyone listens to.
Jeff: What is the term radio friendly, especially when alternative and college bands became the radio norm? If you compare it with Britney Spears and Rianna and all that stuff that’s on the radio. Radio friendly? That is kind of an old term you can’t really use any more. But I know what it means and I know what you’re referring to.
Lee: When you first got together with W.E.T., at first I didn’t know if all three of you guys knew each other or whether this was some sort of master project overseen by a John Kalodner type. But it sounds like you guys really meshed well. Would you say you gelled organically and this wasn’t just something planned on paper?
Jeff: The funny thing was that we never actually sat with each other in doing these recordings. And Erik (Martensson, guitarist), when they were writing the songs together, that’s the only actual connection. Erik pretty much recorded the entire alum with members of his band Eclipse and pretty much did all the rhythm guitars, as well. And Robert played on a few things here and there, but Robert was mainly instrumental on songwriting with Erik.
Erik basically demoed the vocals and sent them to me and was in another continent completely. We were just communicating through e-mails and Skype. The first time I actually met Robert (Sall, guitarist) was when we were shooting the videos. It’s funny how the chemistry was so strong and how the songs sound like we were really a working band where we’d never been in the same room before, in the same presence.
I’d met Erik before. I had seen Eclipse once and met him in Stockholm when I was working with Talisman. Aside from that, we had this sort of chemistry and basically it was parlayed into the songs there in the end.
Lee: So you sent your vocals through sound files via Skype or e-mail?
Jeff: Yeah, they just sent me the demos. I’d go to the Pro Tools and sing the song and I’d make sure they had the reference track to make sure they could match them back into their master tracks and it was so easy.
Lee: How would you describe Talisman and W.E.T.? Are there qualities that really distinguish them from each other?
Jeff: With Talisman, we tried to be radio-friendly. But they were more riff and guitar-oriented songs whereas these are more song-oriented songs. Talisman was more about, for a better term, guitar masturbation (laughs)
Lee: Talisman was more hu-man where W.E.T. was more human.
Jeff: (laughs) That’s a good way to say it. But on the working side of things, they’re very much the same, almost identical because more of the Talisman albums were done in exactly this way. They were done with the recordings prerecorded, sent to me and I’d record and send them back.
And maybe we’d be sitting together when we’d be mixing. But rarely were we in the same room while these things were getting done.
W.E.T. had a lot of the same humble beginnings as Talisman, so it’s possibly the band to kick off the next stage of my career.
Lee: Who came up with the name W.E.T.?
Jeff: We had no idea what to call this. There was this working title that Frontiers gave us and it was their way of putting their controlling stamp over it. We absolutely hated it. We thought, “We can’t keep this.” It was horrible.
Lee: Was it W.E.T.?
Jeff: (laughs) No, we went to the label and said, “We can’t do this and you’re not going to stop us.” And we couldn’t come up with anything so the first thing I do in any situation, I start with the initials with the guys I’m working with and see if I couldn’t come up with anything that sounded good so I sent with the three bands that combine us and it sounded better than WTE or TWE (laughs)
Lee: What was the initial name proposed by Frontiers?
Jeff: Do I really have to tell you?
Lee: Oh, please.
Jeff: It was so terrible. It was called Lost In The Shadows.
Lee: Lost In The Shadows?
Jeff: I said, “You must be kidding me.”
Lee: At least it wasn’t Savage Animal.
Jeff (big laughs)
Lee: It sounds like a Dokken song.
Jeff: Or a Queensryche song.
Lee: Oh, like “Walk In The Shadows.”
Jeff: Yeah, “Walk In The Shadows.”
Lee: Maybe that’s what they were thinking.
Jeff: It wasn’t for me.
Lee: Was it awkward with W.E.T. coming out at a time when you’re up to your eyeballs with Trans-Siberian Orchestra rehearsals?
Jeff: We’re actually halfway through the tour.
Lee: Really? I’m behind the ball here.
Jeff: Yeah, we’re halfway through the tour. Rehearsals started in October and the tour started Nov. 1.
Lee: How is it going?
Jeff: It’s going great. I’m in New Mexico now and we’re working our way through Texas.
Lee: Wow. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that it’s December, let alone that TSO dates are coming up.
Jeff: It’s very hard getting into the spirit of things when we’re singing “Merry Christmas” on Nov 2.
Lee: I remember you playing a solo set in a small club in Fort Worth a few months back. I kicked myself because I couldn’t go that night. I was wondering if Texas or anywhere else in the states can expect any dates from Jeff Scott Soto in the coming year?
Jeff: It is unfortunate that I have to put the U.S. on such a backburner when it comes to touring. That was a test run when I did that thing in the U.S. because of Journey. People were saying, “Well hey, Jeff’s picked up a lot of fan base and he’ll be able to play to a helluva lot more people in the U.S. So I said, “Let’s see how much the Journey thing helped my career.”
After playing to over 900,000 people in the course of seven months with Journey, I went out with a two-week run and didn’t draw more than 80 or 100 people a show.
Lee: I wouldn’t take that personally. That was probably attributed to marketing or lack thereof, not you as an artist.
Jeff: I attribute it to the fact that the U.S. is so huge and spread out. In Europe, I have a large enough fan base that they’re willing to drive two or three hours to see me, whereas in Dallas, I might have 20 or 30 fans there and 20 or 30 in the surrounding cities that can’t necessarily make their way in.
It’s hard to make it worthy of a tour. It’s sad, but true. That’s why with TSO, I’m trying to use that as a lift, so to speak, to get myself more exposure here to do more things in my home country.
Lee: Sounds like a prudent approach, for sure. As opposed to your solo tour stateside, I’m sure you’re seeing lots of bigger audiences with TSO. How is preparing for a tour like that different than preparing for a traditional rock tour?
Jeff: For starters. I’m only singing three songs in a 2-and a half hour show. It’s that long, In the first two songs, you’re starting to warm up and you’re starting to get into things, but with TSO, there’s only three songs, and we’re doing double shows so we’re in arenas for eight or nine hours a day and they’re so spread out.
We do double shows. There’s a whole factor of warming up and warming down, cooling off, cooling down. Your really have to go into it with a different approach. Luckily, I did it last year and really found my groove. I only sang one song last year.
Jeff: They tripled my workload (laughs) We just did seven shows in five days. We do a lot of matinees on this tour.
Lee: It’s only three songs, but I’m sure the dynamics and demand of those songs are quite considerable.
Jeff: That’s the other thing. It’s more in the musical Broadway rock opera thematic kind of thing, which takes a completely different approach. Normally, I go onstage and do like I normally do. I don’t use my usual approach with this stuff. I have to do it in a way that meets Paul O’Neill’s (TSO founder) vision that he had with this whole TSO thing. I can’t sing it as Jeff Scott Soto. I have to sing it as the person Paul O’Neill originally wanted. So it is a little different. It is a little more challenging for me.
Lee: I wanted to touch on your last solo release, Beautiful Mess. From your perspective, did it catch your audience off guard as you initially thought, or did they warm to it?
Jeff: It took them a while to warm to it. That’s why I put a disclaimer, if you want to call it that, before I released it. Because I didn’t want to give people the wrong idea of what kind of album it was going to be, I made sure there were plenty of audio clips, even text things saying exactly what the album was going to be like.
I didn’t want people to think it was going to be like what was in my solo albums previously or stuff that was in my bands previously. I wanted them to know this was going into this particular direction. I didn’t want people bitching that they got ripped off because this wasn’t the normal Jeff Scott Soto album.
It took them a while to warm into it, but I picked up a whole other fan base I didn’t have before. And that was my whole intent — to pick up another side that could hold in with everything I’d already been doing. I didn’t want to be stuck in one rut.
Lee: That goes back to the timeless vibe that we were talking about. I hear not only a lot of ‘70s influences, but I hear specifically Stevie Wonder and Lenny Kravitz, and in your discography, it blends well.
Jeff: The funny thing is that some songs were written with the intent of pitching them to Christina Aguilera or Kelly Clarkson, the contemporary artists that are on radio today and I was more interested in trying something like that to see how my voice would fit something like that for someone who’s on the charts today.
Lee: Did you actually pitch those to Christina or Kelly Clarkson?
Jeff: Yeah, “Our Song,” I think, was pitched to Kelly Clarkson. There was a song on the Soul SirkUS album I did with Neal Schon that was pitched to Christina Aguilera.
Lee: Really, which one?
Jeff: That was “Soul Goes On.”
Lee: That would have been interesting.
Jeff: When Neal wrote it, he wrote it with the vibe of the first song “Beautiful” she had and kind of formed the song that way. It’s all up to the interpretation of what’s actually covering the song when it gets to the recording stage.
Lee: From Soul SirkUS to Kelly Clarkson, it’s really like a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon thing.
Jeff: Yeah. Even the song was pitched to Justin Timberlake. It was one of those things if you hear them do it, you would not believe in a million years I’d do a song like that. But if I did it, you’d say, “Yeah, that sounds like a Jess Scott Soto song.”
Lee: I wanted to touch your cover of “Frozen” with Talisman. I’m not the biggest Madonna fan, but you guys did a great job. But I have to admit that even before your cover was released, some elements of the song really intrigued me. There was this melody, this eerie underlying component that reminded me of why I liked a track by George Michael called “Father Figure.”
There’s an outro that has this really exotic, almost Middle Eastern melody that pulled me in. I hear something similar in that Madonna song.
Jeff: That’s what Marcel [Jacob] heard when he wanted to cover the song. When he said I want to cover “Frozen,” I was like, well, first of all, the song is not even a year old [at the time] and secondly, why are we doing a Madonna cover? (laughs) He heard the same kind of eeriness that you did and thought it would sound great with a rock base.
Lee: The world truly suffered a loss when Marcel passed. Allow me to share my belated condolences.
Jeff: Thank you for that.
Lee: He was quite a talent.
Jeff: It still is not real for me. It’s still hard for me to believe he’s no longer with us.
Lee: When did you guys start working together?
Jeff: Well, we started together in Yngwie’s band back in ‘84. That’s 25 years that we actually knew each other and started working in Talisman 19 years. Next year would have been our 19-year anniversary. It’s weird when you work with someone that long, they become such a fixture in your life. It’s not just someone you know and someone you work with. It’s someone you’re connected to.
Lee: And all of a sudden, they’re gone.
Jeff: Yeah. Like I said, it’s not like an illness or accident. The way it occurred, it’s difficult to just let go.
Lee: I first saw you at the Arcadia Theater in Dallas on the Marching Out tour in 1986.
Jeff: Wow, that was a long time ago. That was with Yngwie.
Lee: You were standing in the bar line in front of me, and I’ll never forget it. Just the day before, I saw your picture in Kerrang!, and the next day you were standing in front of me singing “Sink Your Teeth Into That” by Talas. Do you remember that?
Jeff: (laughs) I love that band. I probably was singing that because I really loved Billy’s [Sheehan] band and that was my first national tour, my first real outing in the rock field.
Lee: We were all incredibly impressed. Great show. I started following you with Yngwie and Talisman and even Eyes all the way through your solo material and Soul SirkUS. What actually brought the Soul SirkUS project to you? Did Neal seek you out?
Jeff: Yeah, Neal has this Planet US band. Those were the early stages of what is now Chickenfoot, but then Sammy and Michael were summoned in to do the Van Halen reunion. Neal had a lot of down time and was bored with Journey at the time. Every time he opened up [Web site] melodicrock, he read about Jeff Scott Soto.
And he wondered who this Jeff Scott Soto was and decided to find out. He got my number and decided to give me a ring. Of course, it was a huge thrill for me as Journey was a huge influence on my life.
Lee: I loved Soul SirkUS and really wished it would’ve lasted beyond one release.
Jeff: Thank you. I’m equally disappointed. We had a lot of potential for where it could have gone. People who were working with Journey at the time decided they’d keep Neal so busy there would have been no way he could work with Soul SirkUS.
Lee: I thought the reason was he wanted to jump-start the whole Journey machine again.
Jeff: No, that was Journey management that wanted to start it again. In fact, he wanted to walk away from it at that point in his life. That’s not what they wanted; they wanted to make sure he wasn’t ready to leave anytime soon because Journey is a cash cow. Whoever you put in singing, it’ll bring in revenue, but Soul SirkUS was unproven and there was no way they were going to drop something that was bringing in six figures a year to something that was going to have to grow and take years to get to that point.
Lee: Now’s the time that I have to say how miffed I was about how you were fired from Journey. Nothing against Arnel; he’s great in his role, but I really wanted to see how much you’d not so much reinvent the sound, but sort of enliven the legacy because your voice is different from our classic Steve Perry tenor.
Jeff: You and me both. It’s not so much the fact that I was let go from Journey, but how I was let go. To this day, I still don’t know the true reasons. I haven’t spoken with anyone in the band for more than two years except for Ross Valory who who came with the white flag, came to the TSO show in San Jose last week. I never had any problem with those guys.
Lee: That’s what makes it so weird.
Jeff: Exactly. Only they know the true nature of it. I’ve stopped losing sleep over it. It is what it is. More power to them. They’re doing great with Arnel and I wish them continued success.
Lee: I’m definitely glad that you’re at peace with it, but I definitely hope at the same time that one day you’ll get some actual closure. Like Neal calls you up and you get together and have a couple of drinks.
Jeff: It’s usually when Neal gets bored is usually when I hear from him.
Lee: When he’s bored, he scouring Melodicrock.com and then Youtube.
Jeff: The guy’s just full of ideas. Every day, he’s “Let’s do this, lets do that.” It’s amazing what makes that guy tick.
Lee: I wanted to touch on the Rock Star soundtrack. If memory serves, I saw the movie in the theater just before 9/11. My friends were having a great time. Those original songs were killer. How did you become involved in the movie?
Jeff: I’ll give you the abridged version. I’d done a lot of backing vocals for Tom Werman. A lot of people know Tom’s work from the ‘70s with Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Mother’s Finest. It’s just ridiculous how many people he’s produced. And in the ‘80s, he was doing bands like Poison and Motley Crue, Lita Ford and Steelheart.
I met him in ’91, I believe it was. No, I’m completely wrong. Don’t quote me on things. It was basically Stryper’s last album for Hollywood Records, Against The Law. They asked if I’d come in and toughen up their Born CD because what they’d done so far was more angelic sounding.
And I think I was one of the first outsider musicians that came in and actually did anything on the Stryper album. It was through that that I got Tom and created a new thing with “I’m doing a new album. Jeff’s singing background.”
I did five or six albums with him before he retired, but they brought him out of retirement for the Rock Star soundtrack. And one of the first things he said was, “I’m bringing back Jeff Scott Soto to sing one of the voices.” He knew that someday we’d work together for something with lead vocals instead of just singing backgrounds, and that’s exactly what he did.
Lee: I also heard that Jeff Pilson played a role, or was instrumental in landing the role for you.
Jeff: Yes, both he and Zakk Wylde. When Tom said “What about Jeff,” they said, “Oh, you’ve got to get him.” I’ve known Jeff for, oh my god, how many years now? Same with Zakk. It was one of those things where this was our own dream team for the band we were creating. Even though I wasn’t going to be in the movie with them, at least my voice was.
Lee: I want to close this by looking ahead. What can Jeff Scott Soto fans expect in the coming year? Will W.E.T. tour, and can we expect any other solo projects?
Jeff: Well, I’m kind of tapping a little bit of everything. I don’t think there’s going to be any new material in 2010. There’s no time. At this time, there are dates in Europe in January. And there’s talk about Marcel’s memorial show in Sweden in February. And from there, doing the next TSO show. So a spring tour for the Night Castle album from March until May.
From there, there’s discussion of me going out and doing some dates with W.E.T. and going and hitting the festivals during the summertime. So I’m pretty much busy until August when we I plan to take a few weeks off.. In October, I start rehearsing again for the TSO winter tour.
Lee: It never ends, does it?
Jeff: Exactly. There’s just not going to be time. But there’s discussion of doing an album with Steve Lukather. We keep talking about it. I really want to get something going on that. The guy’s really tremendous. I’ve known him over 25 years.
Lee: Awesome. Any idea what sound you two might go for?
Jeff: I had no idea. Steve said it’s going to rock and it’s going to have a groove.
Lee: Going back to Marcel, can we assume that Talisman is no more? I mean, Marcel was more than just a member, he was pretty much the heart of Talisman, right?
Jeff: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why any future releases … there will be no more with Talisman. The Talisman name is basically put on the shelf for life. It would be a bastardization of the name, blasphemous to go on without him. All the material came from his fingers. There wasn’t one Talisman song I brought to the table myself.
The whole marriage of that band was based on him writing the songs and me writing the lyrics and us finishing it that way. I would look into the prospect of doing a final tour or a memorial kind of tour to give a final homage to him, but more so to the fans. Like a proper farewell tour for the fans.
(note: After this interview was conducted, a Marcel Jacob tribute concert was announced for Jan. 30 at the Pub Anchor in Stockholm, Sweden)
Lee: This is one fan that would definitely look forward to it. It’s sad that Marcel’s no longer with us, but then again, just look at all the wonderful music he left this world.
Jeff: Exactly. That’s what I really want to do for this. We have such a body of work and body of music I didn’t’ want to see fall by the wayside. I really enjoy singing a lot of those songs and I don’t want to lose that part of myself. As long as I’m doing the Jeff Scott Soto band, I’ll include Talisman material in my set. It’s something I won’t let go.
February 14, 2010
Long Live Rock
Click HERE for the interview.
Reach for The Sky
Muirsical Conversation with Robert Fleischman
Robert Fleischman has had a fair old career in the music business.
But although the singer has released various solo albums from rock-orientated to ambient, been part of the bands Channel and the Vinnie Vincent Invasion and scored a number TV and film soundtracks, he seems destined to always be known as “the first front man of Journey” (preceding Steve Perry by nine months or so).
Hopefully however that often-used quote can now be superseded by “the front man of THE SKY,” the band project first announced by the singer in early 2009.
Because THE SKY are a breath of fresh musical air and their eponymously titled debut album blows the cobwebs off a somewhat stale musical state of affairs, certainly as regards current trends for glossy no substance pop and retro-rock.
FabricationsHQ got together with Robert just after THE SKY released their debut offering to talk about the album, the band and the singer’s interesting and varied musical career thus far...
Ross Muir: First of all Robert, thanks for dropping by FabricationsHQ and congratulations on THE SKY, both in terms of the band itself and the strong debut outing.
Robert Fleischman: Thank you so much Ross for your interest in THE SKY, especially coming from Scotland! Pleasure.
RM: When I reviewed the album, I described THE SKY as "high-energy with a vibrant, open sound that gives the songs room to resonate." Rock music with attitude, as opposed to the all-too-frequent manufactured or formulaic music that seems to be dominating these days…
RF: This is the first time I've recorded a band live. In the past I usually just kind of piece together everything in the recording studio one track at a time, where I think you lose that human element and energy. I think we accomplished capturing the spark. I would write three or four songs and pick the ones with the most energy and started compiling the record that way. It was a great experience having a band at your fingertips to workout ideas. So I loved the whole process of doing this record, more than anything else I've done.
RM: Vocally too, there is an attitude or edgy quality that suits the music…
RF: The Band really pushed me, giving me that adrenaline rush. Rehearsing for some time and doing a couple of shows before we went into the studio really helped me and the band a lot and gave me a lot of perspective. It's like trying to capture lightning in a jar. I would record songs at home then bring them into rehearsal and the songs would just explode with a whole new attitude and muscles. The band is just terrific.
RM: I’d like to feature a few songs from the album and it makes perfect sense to start with ‘All I Want,’ being the first song on the album and loudly and clearly confirming the “music with attitude” comment.
RF: I wanted to start the record out with ‘Broken Glass,’ because of the intro with the backwards guitars and all that, which would have started the record a little bit more dramatic and cerebral. But I think that would have lost the original idea, which was to capture the energy and hit you between the ears at the get go.
RM: The first few numbers on the album carry on from where ‘All I Want’ left off, keeping up the energy and intensity of the opener...
RF: The sequence of songs was definitely very important. Past records that I've done I would listen to later and thought why didn't I string all the songs with the most energy all together? Instead of a salt and pepper approach. So I didn't with this one. You live and learn.
RM: I also find there is a similarity between the THE SKY and some of the British guitar bands of the 90’s, such as the alternative rock of The Verve and the brash swagger of Oasis. Were such bands, or that musical movement, influences as regards the sound of THE SKY?
RF: Those are terrific bands but no, they had no influence on me. I'm a bit older than those bands and grew up listening to The Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks, The Who, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Bob Dylan, John Lennon. It's all great song writing and great guitar sounds in those bands. But today I like… Radiohead, The Killers, Noel Gallagher, Kasabian, Muse, Foo Fighters, The Shins, Keane, Damien Rice, Michael Penn, Neil Finn, Mellowdrone… but THE SKY music has been described as Modern Retro. Which I don't mind, because it has all those elements that I mentioned.
RM: Can you tell me how THE SKY came together and the gathering of personnel?
I understand the group was formed in 2009…
RF: After receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with Journey I was asked to perform ‘Wheel in the Sky’ with them at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. Standing on stage singing to all those people made me realize how much I missed playing live. A day or two later my friend Andre LaBelle Called me we met while he was playing drums for Vinnie Vincent. We were talking and I told him I wanted to put a band together. He just came out and said that he wanted to be in the band and that he knew some great musicians where he lived in Richmond, Virginia.
So I went there with my friend Mike Weeks who played guitar on Look at the Dream, a solo album of mine. The band sounded great but then I had to go back to Los Angeles. So it was a lot of talking back and forth from California to Virginia ‘til I finally decided to move me and the whole family to make it all happen and I'm very happy that I did.
RM: So it was the get together with Journey at the Walk of Fame in 2005 that rekindled you interest in getting back into live/ band work?
RF: Yes! It was it that kick in the pants I needed. And my wife being so supportive.
RM: How was it fronting Journey again, albeit in a guest role, and singing ‘Wheel in the Sky’ after some twenty-eight years?
RF: I was very surprised. They asked me at the sound check. Then that’s when the nerves kicked in. I was so nervous that I wouldn't remember the words. But once the music started it all kicked in.
RM: While we are on a nostalgia trip, I’d like to ‘Journey’ back from the Walk of Fame to your nine months with the band in 1977. You became the first front man for Journey when label pressure dictated that the band should move from lengthy fusion-based pieces to a vocally orientated with a more commercial sound. Although history shows it didn’t work out, primarily because of management issues, you were pivotal in what has become known as Journey’s transitional period. Are you proud of the part you played in that transition and/ or is there still a part of you that thinks “what if?”
RF: Yes, it was a short stay but a very fruitful one. We wrote some great songs together. ‘Wheel in the Sky,’ ‘Anytime,’ ‘Winds of March,’ ‘All For You’… had I stayed the music woulda been a lot more edgy than what it evolved into.
And I am so grateful for having those songs being played for so long to this day.
So yes, I am proud of the part I played and have no “what if?” It's all given me the luxury to experiment and be adventurous musically. So I feel I'm a lucky guy.
RM: As much as your departure from the band was fairly amicable, certainly amongst the band, Journey has a reputation for… let’s just say not handling the departure of singers perhaps as well as they could (laughs). In your case there is the wonderful story of the deception where Steve Perry was brought in and tried out while you were still part of the band. He was pretending to be the Portuguese cousin of then-roadie John Villanueva…
RF: Yes, that's a true story! We were playing in Chicago at Soldiers Field where the Chicago Bears played football. The stadium holds over 80,000 people. We went on and he stood on the side watching me and the whole show. Little did I know this was going to be the guy to replace me. We've met a few times during the years and had some good talks and a laugh. Some people think that we don't like each other but that's not true.
RM: As you just mentioned, you co-wrote a number of great songs with Journey and there were notable performances such as the Crater Festival in Hawaii. Some of that show was filmed and bootlegged audio of the full set exists, providing a great historical document of that transitional period as described earlier.
It also features three songs that would not appear on a Journey album – ‘Diva,’ ‘Just Her Way’ and ‘All For You.’ There are a couple of nice G (above the tenor high C) notes on display but what was your top note back then?
RF: I was told a high B.
RM: And you were always in full voice and never used falsetto?
RF: Always full voice, to this day.
RM: That’s pretty impressive. In fact it’s very rare for male singers to be able to reach such countertenor notes without reverting to falsetto. You recorded ‘All For You’ on your 1979 debut solo album Perfect Stranger, which featured some great melodic pop rock and roll. Ever had the inclination to revisit numbers such as ‘All For You’ or even ‘Diva’ and, if you did, do you still have that range and register… and are you still a falsetto-free vocalist?
RF: Yes, I've had a falsetto-free life, thank you. I can still sing ‘All For You’ and all the other ones. ‘Diva,’ I would probably have to practice a bit for that one. I like the way I sing now than back then. I feel I have a lot more emotion going on now.
RM: I would agree with that. And back then you were performing primarily in your upper register so I think you also have more depth in your vocal now.
I’d like to touch on a couple of other big-name bands you have been associated with, because they are interesting stories but not well known. But first, back to the present and another track from THE SKY. In fact the song you considered opening the album with… A couple of years before Journey came calling you were being considered for Genesis after Peter Gabriel left the band…
RF: Yes. I was working with this manager in Los Angeles that knew the Genesis manager. So I was recommended and talked to the management couple of times. They were ready to fly me out to London when I got a call. Genesis management told me that Phil Collins had decided to take a crack at it and the rest is history.
I was so young then I don't think I had the depth to be in that band. Plus being American, not a matching tie and handkerchief, but it was quite an honour to be considered. Like being nominated for an Academy Award!
RM: It’s certainly a great ‘considered for’ listing to add to the old résumé, as is another association… at one point you were talking to Carl Palmer and the rest of Asia members about the possibility of becoming lead vocalist?
RF: Yes, Geffen Records sent me to London to play with Asia. I rehearsed with them for about a week. The musicianship in that band was phenomenal. Carl brought me into the group. I met Carl while in Canada when Journey was opening for Emerson Lake and Palmer, so he saw me sing quite a few nights. Towards the end of the week I played the demo that they gave me to learn the songs from with John Wetton’s voice on it. I felt that he did a better job than I did and he was the voice of Asia. I told their management and I went back home to Los Angeles.
The record company wanted to do the formula rock treatment by putting a lead singer in front of the band like Journey, Foreigner, etcetera.
RM: In the 80’s you were part of the band Channel and later vocalist with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, but for most of the 90’s you were posted missing as regards the band-album-tour musical cycle. Had you become jaded of that lifestyle and the music business or did you just decided to step away to concentrate on studio work?
RF: Kind of all that. Channel was a bit of a disaster. It was a studio band, not a live band. Vinnie Vincent Invasion, that was the house on fire. Then I became a staff writer for Almo Irving publishing, part of A&M Records, for a few years. Then my son Austin was born and then the years kinda flew by. But I had a recording studio at home and I was constantly writing and experimenting with electronic music, wrote a piano concerto with orchestra and started the idea for a musical that I still work on called CobbleTown. I recorded a CD called Dreaming in Tongues, all acoustic guitars and cellos. Very orchestrated sounding CD. I loved doing it, with Cameron Stone playing cello. He played with a girl named Poe. Anyway, should check it out.
RM: I actually have a copy of Dreaming in Tongues in the old Muirsical collection and love the contrast it provides to your more rock-orientated releases. In fact that leads me nicely to your musical activities in the Millennium, which has seen some half dozen releases including THE SKY. It started back in 2002 with the release of World in Your Eyes, your first solo album since Perfect Stranger. That’s a great hard melodic rock album but I recall comments from you a couple of years after its release where you mentioned you wanted a sparser and more modern sound than you ended up with…
RF: Yeah, the project was taken away from me by Frontiers Records who kind of re-produced it and mixed it. I think they did a horrible job with it. That label to me is like a Venus Fly Trap. It just devours all these dinosaur bands.
RM: You certainly achieved that sparser and more modern sound on later releases like Look at the Dream. The title track of that album first appeared on World in Your Eyes and is one of my favourite Robert Fleischman songs. It’s interesting to compare the different treatments…
RF: I totally forgot it was on World in Your Eyes. I like the Look at the Dream version much better, a lot more pop to it.
RM: Well, as the artist and the composer, you will have a certain vision for the song. But as a listener I can appreciate both versions, primarily because a strong song is a strong song, but I certainly take your point. Let's take this opportunity to revisit a sample of both versions… You have also released a couple of ambient-instrumental solo albums and scored for TV and film soundtracks. You clearly have an eclectic taste and an appreciation for many forms of music – what music do you listen to or find inspires you?
RF: I used to listen to certain genres of music, for about a year, like African Jùjú music… King Sunny Adé. Ambient music… Eno. Classical music… Rachmaninoff, Aaron Copland, Prokofiev, Mozart, Shostakovich. Blues… Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James. After some time you learn the formula, the accent of all those types of music. Which build your musical vocabulary.
RM: And music is not your only creative medium as you also paint and sculpt…
RF: Yeah and I've been doing collage since I was 12 and still do...
RF: ...and I still paint but I haven't sculpted in a while.
RM: Do you paint and sculpt for your own pleasure or is any of your work on display?
RF: I do it for my own pleasure but I had a couple of shows in Los Angeles. Actually had a show with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. My wife wishes I would have a show and sell most of my paintings because they're all over the house, stacked against the walls. I just have a hard time giving my babies away.
RM: As we near the close of this conversation Robert, I’d like to finish as we started and talk a little more about THE SKY. We haven’t had much opportunity to hear the band in the UK but I have seen some live video. Tight band and it sounds like you have a genuine comradeship and musical chemistry there...
RF: I'm so fortunate to have found players that are so schooled and have a great work ethic. And we get along so well. It's a breath of fresh air because I've been in bands with a lot of drama. We just get along famously. Plus Steve Barber, who plays bass guitar, is also a recording engineer. He also mixed the album at his studio called the Freezer here in Richmond, so we’re a pretty self-contained band with me producing and writing and him engineering. It's great having all these elements in the band.
RM: I’d like to end with another song from THE SKY and appropriately it’s the album closer, ‘Sunshine.’ A slower but very uplifting number with a very Lennon-esque vibe and lyric…
RF: I wrote ‘Sunshine’ after the album was almost done to prove that the band was not one dimensional. Not only could we rock but we could do great ballads also, because your band is only as good as your songs. And I think this is a pretty good band.
RM: THE SKY has already performed live but are there any plans to get this band out on the road in 2012?
RF: Absolutely, I can't wait ‘til this band goes on the road. We’re looking into booking agents right now. So if anyone on your side of the pond would be interested, give us a shout!
RM: Will do and who knows, there may be someone reading this right now…
Robert, it’s been a pleasure talking to you about both THE SKY and your varied and interesting career. Long may it, and THE SKY, continue.
RF: Thank You! Once again Ross, really appreciate this opportunity and your kindness. Cheers! THE SKY!
Muirsical Conversation with Robert Fleischman
Robert Fleischman and THE SKY websites:
THE SKY are: Steve Barber (bass), Brady Cole (guitars), Robert Fleischman (vocals) Andre LaBelle (drums), Stephan LaJaunie (guitars).
|Jeremey Frederick Hunsicker
Click HERE for the interview.
March 30, 2012
Something Else! Interview: Gregg Rolie, of Santana and Journey
Click HERE for the interview.
April 4, 2012
Something Else! Interview: Steve Smith
Journey bandmates Steve Smith and Neal Schon reunite, find ‘an immediate chemistry’
Steve Smith left Journey to focus on jazz, his first musical love, in the late 1990s – but he has remained close with the band’s co-founding guitarist. That relationship was rekindled recently when Smith sat in on the sessions for Neal Schon’s forthcoming solo project.
Originally invited to put down rhythm tracks for four tracks over two days, the two reconnected on such a deeply resonant level that Smith ended up performing on 11 tracks as the session stretched into four magical days.
Interestingly, the results don’t so much mirror their sound together with Journey – which coincided with singer Steve Perry’s arrival and a shift into platinum-selling arena rock in the 1980s – as it does the incendiary fusion of the group’s original incarnation with frontman Gregg Rolie and drummer Anysley Dunbar.
Smith talked to us, in the latest SER Sitdown, about reuniting with his former Journey bandmate, about the way his passion for jazz informed later forays into mainstream success – and just how underrated that initial fusion-inspired edition of Journey still is …
NICK DERISO: I was very intrigued by the new pairing with former Journey bandmate Neal Schon. What led to that reunion?
STEVE SMITH: Neal and I have stayed in touch over the years and we’ve always enjoyed playing together. Neal has been very busy with Journey for many years now and, when he had a recent break from their schedule, he gave me a call to see if I wanted to play on a four tracks for a new instrumental solo album he was working on. I thought that sounded like a good idea, so I agreed to come to Fantasy Studios in the Bay Area and record for two days. I ended up playing the four songs in one day, so we started jamming because he didn’t have any more tunes written yet. I ended up staying three more days and we finished 11 tracks in that time.
NICK DERISO: Was it difficult to recapture that musical symbiosis after so long apart? I have to think that the open-ended instrumental format provided an encouraging environment for the two of you.
STEVE SMITH: Neal and I have an immediate chemistry so we got right into a creative zone. First of all, Neal is a prolific writer. Every time he picks up a guitar, he plays something new — and with a little work that idea can be developed into a tune. We did the kind of jamming that we used to do with Journey, and then we experimented with moving the ideas around to create arrangements and finished songs. The keyboard player, Ivan Lens, was there to help flesh out the songs and, between the three of us, we just let the ideas come. We came up with the entire album in four days!
NICK DERISO: In many ways, it harkens back to the era just before your arrival in Journey, when Schon and Co. were making fiery explorations into fusion rock. Is there a part of you that wishes you could have played on their first trio of recordings?
STEVE SMITH: No, I wouldn’t have been ready for it first of all, and Aynsley Dunbar did a great job with that music. In those years, 1973-76, I was mainly playing big-band jazz and small-group jazz and hadn’t played any fusion, let alone rock. Neal and I are the same age, but he was a child prodigy and I became a professional musician after many years of study and practice. I think Journey was ahead of the curve in those years because fusion was just happening then, so for a rock band to incorporate that approach into their music was daring and innovative. The first edition of Mahavishnu Orchestra lived from 1971-73; the fusion version of Return to Forever had just started in ’73, which was the same year that Journey started.
NICK DERISO: Describe that period in your own musical growth.
STEVE SMITH: During those years, I was going to Berklee and focusing on absorbing the jazz concepts of the ’50s and ’60s, by studying the work of drummers like Buddy Rich and Max Roach and playing music inspired by Miles Davis and John Coltrane from their innovations in the 1960s. It wasn’t until I started playing with Jean-Luc Ponty in October 1976 that I started playing fusion music. I auditioned for the Ponty gig and got it, left Berklee and jumped into fusion playing with both feet! Growing up in the ‘60s, I understood rock and funk on a cultural level; it was natural for me, not much study required. I had studied and absorbed jazz by putting in the work, plus there was still a certain amount of great jazz in the culture in those years. When you mix all of that together, you get fusion and that kind of playing came naturally to me. I saw the birth of fusion and was able to see the great fusion groups first hand. The point is, I wasn’t ready to deal with Journey’s music until the time that that I joined the band in September 1978.
|Margaret Oldsted Hernandez
By Marc Tyler Nobleman
July 13, 2013
The Girl in the Video: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” (1983) and “Oh Sherrie” (1984)
Click HERE for the interview.
By Joe Cingrana, Scott Shannon in the Morning, WCBSFM 101.1
August 17, 2018
Former Journey Front Man Steve Perry Explains Where He's Been This Whole Time
Singer, songwriter, record producer -- best known as the lead singer of the iconic rock band Journey from '77 to '87, and again from '95 to '98 -- Steve Perry joined Scott Shannon in the Morning for their 1,000th broadcast live from the Radio.com Theatre in New York City this morning.
After a nearly twenty-year hiatus, Perry announced his return to music in 2018 and just graced us with the first single, "No Erasin'" off of his forthcoming album Traces.
As soon as Perry sat down in front of the surprised studio audience, Scott Shannon asked the one question the entire room was hoping for: "Where've you been for 24 freakin' years?" After the crowd's cheers died down for a bit and the "Come back, Steve's" subsided, the legendary front man dove right into it.
"Wow! That's the question of the day," says Perry with a smile. "You know, the band was really really fortunate to be successful and at some point I got a little bit toasty, a little burned out, coupled with a serious touring schedule. And like I said, being crispy. Back in the day we all had a little bit of what we might call 'extra party behaviors,' maybe -- and when you put the 'party behaviors' together with a little bit burned out -- I was toast."
"It was an unpopular decision I came up with at the time," Perry explains, "which was just to stop. I told the band and they were not happy about it. But the biggest thing I was really concerned with was the fans. Because I knew it was going to be a painful decision for me to walk away, but sometimes you just have to take care of yourself, even if it hurts to do so."
Super-fans in the crowd appreciated the honesty and are certainly thankful Perry took the time to straighten himself up -- but obviously the question remains: Did he plan on being gone for SO long, though?
Perry says no, that wasn't his plan at all. "I went back to my hometown and hung out with friends. I rode my motorcycle on these country roads on the outskirts of Fresno where I was born and raised, and there was something cathartic about just stopping."
"Did I miss it? I must tell you, it was terrible! It was a detox in its own way, you know? The adoration of the fans everynight and the applause and being able to live the dream -- because I came from a small town. It was a dream to get in the music business to start with, but to be able to be successful like Journey was a dream come true, so walking was tough."
Watch the full interview above as Steve Perry explains how he learned to love leaving the spotlight behind and be sure to check out the brand new video for "No Erasin'" below.
Keep a look out for Perry's new album, Traces, set for release on October 5th, 2018.