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Interview:
Journey hasn't stopped believing in 43 years. Why should we?
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Forty-three years is usually enough time for most rock bands to wind down.

Not Journey.

The San Francisco group's, er, journey has been an eventful one, from the notoriety of the all-star credentials of its founding members (Santana, Steve Miller Band and more) to multi-platinum sales for albums such as "Departure," "Escape" and "Frontiers" to the YouTube discovery of Fillipino singer Arnel Pineda, who's been with the band since 2007. "We just love the band and the music we make. It's as simple as that," guitarist and co-founder Neal Schon says by phone from New York.

Journey's popularity is such that the quintet has remained not only active but newsworthy, even this far along in its career -- whether it's talking about a next album release or entertaining, with some eye-rolling, the umpteenth question about whether frontman Steve Perry will ever return to the ranks. With that in mind, here's what Schon and keyboardist-guitarist Jonathan Cain, who joined in 1980, have to say about a variety of topics:

On touring with the Doobie Brothers this summer: "We have played with the Doobies before. We've just never done a tour with them," says Schon, 62, who played with the Doobies' Tom Johnston for a King Biscuit Flower Hour all-star episode during the 70s. "I think the chemistry is really good." Cain, 66, a former neighbor of Johnston's in the Bay Area, adds that, "We've been wanting to work with them. Their manager was, 'We don't work with other acts' and blah, blah, blah. They were headlining all the time. He finally retired and our manager kind of took over their business, and he just said, 'This is a no-brainer. You guys have got to play with Journey.' So they listened to him, and now we're playing together. There's so many hits between us. It'll be great."

On drummer Steve Smith's return to Journey for a third stint: "He brings a while different dance to every song, and he always did," says Schon, who's used Smith on his solo albums. "It's been so many decades since the whole band played with him, for him to come back has rejuvenated the material again, and just authenticize it. Everybobody's got a different spin on the song, drum-wise." And though Smith, who returned after Deen Castronovo was kicked out due to drug issues that led to a domestic assault of his girlfriend, has been conentrating on his jazz career of late, Schon is confident that drummer isn't going anywhere fast. "He's loving it -- that's all I can tell you. I think that he's having such a good time that I'd be surprised if he didn't want to do it anymore."

On the potential for a new Journey album: There's a difference of opinion on another new Journey album to follow 2011's "Eclipse." "I've been trying to get new stuff going, and certain people in the band are like, 'Man, there's no reason to do it. Nothing is going on in records and you'll never sell any records and you won't get played on the radio,'" says Schon, who's been doing double time with the reunited early 70s Santana lineup and also released a solo album ("Vortex") last year. "Well, everything they said now has been proven wrong with this Santana ('IV') record, so I'm back on the path of, 'Let's get moving here. Let's move forward.'" Cain, meanwhile, is in the camp that just says no. "The music business has taken a dive and new music today almost doesn't make sense," he explains. "We have a lot of songs we have to play right now. We have, like, four albums that people barely know. Why make an album if you're lucky 100,000 people buy it. It's very expense for us to make a product like that. It's very costly, and we can't make the money back."

On an orchestral album collaboration: Journey is planning a symphonic album, building off a charity concert last June 20 with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. "It was unbelievable; People were just blown way," Cain recalls. The show was slated to be recorded and filmed, but those plans were scuttled after drummer Deen Castronovo's drug and domestic assault arrest a week before the show, with Omar Hakim filling in. Now, Cain says, "We want to repeat (the show) over in Europe somewhere and capture it on a DVD. There's a couple of symphonies I'm contacting."

On whether Steve Perry ever will come back: "There's no communication at all," says Schon, who was in brief contact with Perry via email during 2014. "I feel like I've reached out in every humane way I can...just to be friends, like we were. There's no reason not to be. I've tried to get his real phone number instead of talking through his attorney, but he will not give it to me, not even to say hello." Nevertheless, Cain promises that the door is always open for Perry with the band. "We reach out to him. We've got an open chair for him if he wants to sing a song, whatever he wants. We have said that all along," Cain says. "He chooses to remain aloof,and that's fine. Peace with him. We communicate on publishing, synchronization, licensing. It's almost 30 years since Steve's done a gig with us, so we're not holding our breath."

On Journey's prospects to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: With recent inductions of mainstream rock mates such as Cheap Trick, Steve Miller, Joan Jett, Chicago and Deep Purple, it seems like there might be an opening for Journey to finally get in. Schon, however, contents that, "I think there always has been an opening for us. Basically Steve (Perry) has not wanted to do it. I think he probably wants to wait until he releases his solo record, which is supposed to come out this year and is probably why I'm hearing that we're supposed to get in this year." But, the guitarist adds, Miller's criticisms of the organization this year left him unsure of whether he even wants to bein the Hall. "I don't really care right now one way or the other," Schon says. "I'd have to see what the situation is for real. I'm not about to pay money to anybody to get in anywhere. I would never do that. And at this point there's so many people in there that are not even rock 'n' roll, I don't really care about being in there at all. It's not going to make or break my life or who I've come as an artist or a person."

On Journey's near-term plans: A break is coming soon, according to Schon. "Maybe we take a hiatus for a year," he says. "Arnel (Pineda) would like to take some time off, then go at a couple more years very hard. So instead of doing two years in a row of hard Journey, maybe we do one year and we give it a rest and...let it sit for a second, and sometimes when you come back it's really, really fresh. Perhaps some people will be motivated to work on new material, which is something I know I need to do."

On upcoming solo projects: Cain is planning a Christian rock album, "What God Wants To Hear," this year, while Schon is working on more solo material, including a box set and is plotting more Santana dates. And Pineda has signed his own solo deal. "When people want to do side projects, I feel that we need to make time for them," Schon says. "We've been around a long time. We tour almost every year. So if every once in awhile we want to take some time off, I don't think there's anything wrong with it."

Journey, the Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason

7 p.m. Thurday, Aug. 4.

DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Auburn Hills.

Tickets are $45-$145 pavilion, $38.50 lawn with a $114 lawn four-pack.

Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.


Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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