By Jane Spietz
Iconic San Francisco-based rock band Journey is going strong with no sign of letting up after making energetic music for over 43 years. The band’s achievements include 25 Gold and Platinum albums and 19 Top 40 singles. Their Greatest Hits album gained Diamond status by going platinum 15 times. Some of Journey’s major hits include “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” “Faithfully,” “Open Arms,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Lights,” “Wheel in the Sky,” and “Any Way You Want It,” to name a few. Over time Journey’s musical style has shifted from fusion/progressive rock to ballads and pop rock.
Current members of Journey consist of Arnel Pineda – lead vocals, Neal Schon – all guitars/backing vocals, Jonathan Cain – keyboards/backing vocals, Ross Valory – bass/backing vocals, and Steve Smith – drums.
On a personal note: my knowledge of Schon’s early involvement with Santana before joining Journey paid off some years back. During a trivia contest that UW Oshkosh radio station WRST was sponsoring, I correctly responded to the question asking how old Neal Schon was when he began playing with Santana. Answer – age 15. I was delighted to receive my prize: a vinyl copy of Billy Idol’s White Wedding album!
Longtime singer Steve Perry’s departure from Journey in 1998 led to several changes in lead vocalist. Neal Schon became aware of Filipino singer Arnel Pineda after viewing countless YouTube videos while in search of a new lead vocalist. Schon invited Pineda to travel to the U.S. for an audition and the rest is history. Pineda’s transition from a humble existence in his native Manila to superstardom is a true Cinderella story. Pineda’s passionate, dead on delivery of Journey classics is not to be missed.
Journey will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 7, along with Pearl Jam, Electric Light Orchestra, Yes, Joan Baez, and Tupac Shakur. The band had just completed a month long tour of Asia when I caught up with Jonathan Cain who was between shows in Honolulu.
Jane Spietz: Hi Jonathan. How are things going with Journey?
Jonathan Cain: We’ve been crankin’ it. Just finished an Asian tour and we survived that. It was a whirlwind of flying and playing with hardly any days off. This tour was wild. We started in Osaka, Japan and ended up in Taipei, Taiwan. Now we’re here in Hawaii, so don’t feel bad for us. Three nights in Honolulu. Pretty amazing. We had a sellout last night – 9000 people. Hawaii loves Journey! Jane, you’re in Wisconsin. Are you with the Green Bay Packers? (Laughs)
JS: No, but I am a diehard Packers fan!
JC: I used to be in Chicago, so I know about the Packers. I remember eating steak at Brett Favre’s Steakhouse in Green Bay. Is that still there? I took the kids to Brett Favre’s. ‘Come on, we have to go see Brett Favre.’ (Laughs) I have to say it was pretty darn good. You know, I’m a big Aaron Rodgers fan. I was pretty impressed this year with his prediction of running the table, because they nearly did. He nearly got them to the Super Bowl. Very impressive, considering the number of players who were banged up. You guys had a heckuva season. I was watching. Just let the fans know I’m a fan!
JS: With all of the band member changes throughout the years, what do you feel has been the glue that has held Journey together?
JC: This is bigger than all of us. The music we wrote superseded any sort of ego. So, if you were part of this, you were in a brotherhood. That kind of makes you an ambassador to rock ‘n roll. And now it’s proven with Journey’s being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The love that the fans had for the band, it was just unprecedented. When I first joined the band, I saw the enthusiasm. They’re loyal, they’re diehard, they live and die by our tours. All of that matters. Also, we had this incredible force of people back in the day that helped to brand the band. You can’t get that kind of loyalty anymore. You can’t get this kind of army of people from the record company to the warehouse to the distributor to the radio programmers to the record company taking you to the radio station promoting all of your new stuff in your interest. Every little detail was seen to. And that just builds the big brand over the years. And all those people, that army of people, just really matter in the end. It’s up to you to do something with it. We always put on a top-notch show with top-notch production, lighting, and sound. We were one of those bands that never skimped and gave the people a great show. We actually brought video screens with our company. We were the first to think about doing that. We had great management and we still have great management. And the music matters and it’s relevant.
JS: I have repeatedly watched the documentary about Arnel Pineda, who has served as lead singer for Journey since 2007. His voice is so strong and he absolutely nails the Journey classics. Please share with our readers the amazing story of how Arnel was brought on board.
JC: The way Neal found Arnel was almost a miracle in itself. Arnel didn’t post the YouTube videos. His friend did, from Manila. Neal called me up and said, ‘Hey, this kid, he sings Journey!’ I said, ‘Yeah, but he’s in Manila. Does he speak English?’ (Laughs) When they first brought him over from the Philippines, I was a doubting Thomas. After hanging out with him for a week, I saw how it could work. The rest was up to him. He had to make a decision because he’d never been over to the States. He had a major adjustment to make. We were patient with him. We thought he was worth the investment and our time. We were certainly right about Arnel because he’s turned out to be a magnificent performer and has a heart of gold. He’s consistent. He goes out there every night and gives it his all. He really came through for us when we needed somebody to come through. We did Oprah Winfrey’s show, and who else should be singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” but a kid from the Philippines who didn’t have anything going for him? Who else but that guy? (Laughs) Arnel helped to raise his brothers, support his family during the hard times, and figure out a way to pick himself up and managed to find himself in Journey. He’s really been a huge plus for us in the resurgence of the band. I look back and I realize Journey really took off when he joined back in 2006. We released the Revelation package and he really took us to another level with that. It was great to see the fans respond in the way they did. There were some negative things said, but most of it was just very positive. Arnel is just one of those guys you can’t help but love. He looks like a kid, but he’s in his 40s with about four or five kids. A loving husband, just a really soulful guy. I always tell him, ‘you’re not filling anybody’s shoes, you bring your own.’ And that’s what he did.
JS: Journey is going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. What does this great honor mean to you personally?
JC: It was worth the wait. As I get older now, I think it sinks in a little more. You have a little bit more wisdom once you get older. You realize that you’re joining an elite group of artists who have really done soundtracks for people’s lives. And to be included in that group just cements the legacy. Steve and I started writing together back in the ‘80s. We were marveling at the Beatles catalog and their longevity. We were thinking how great it would be if we could possibly get close to that, have that sustainability. To be able to release something and have it go platinum. And here we are many years later kind of doing the same thing. It’s like being a Knight of the Round Table. You get the sword on your shoulder and now you’re representing the king. It doesn’t get any better than that if you’ve been a warrior all these years. To get that nod is a real honor. It’s a distinguished honor that I don’t take lightly.
JS: I am wondering if Steve Perry will reunite with Journey to be recognized at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
JC: It will be interesting if Steve Perry comes. Arnel and Steve will be looking at each other face-to-face. He’s going to finally meet the guy. We’re hoping that Steve shows up even if he doesn’t sing. He has been invited. We just don’t know where Steve is with it all. It would be great if he comes. We’ve asked him to sing. No telling what’s going to happen.
JS: Tell us about the origin of Journey’s rousing rock anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
JC: My father had given me the idea for the title to “Don’t Stop Believin’.” My dad was my mentor and my spiritual counselor. He always prophesied that I was going to be in this famous band and play for thousands of people. I didn’t understand that as a kid. Everything was a steppingstone. It got to the point where I was in Hollywood, appearing on the Dick Clark Show. It was looking like I might have a career as a singer-songwriter and then it all fell through. So I called him because I needed some money to stay there. I said to him, “Am I just living a pipe dream here? Should I come back to Chicago?” He told me, “No, don’t stop believing. We have the vision we shared together and I want you to stay the course.’ I wrote it down in my notebook. Words of advice from your dad. When Journey was trying to finish up Escape, Steve looked at me and asked if I had any more ideas. I went home, looked in my notebook and it popped out at me. I wrote a chorus, brought it in, and the rest is history. It comes out of weird but good places. That song’s really about wanting to be in show business, wanting to make it. I wrote that from the perspective of wanting to be a rock star. And it then ends up being in Glee and Rock of Ages. It has that ‘permission to dream’ kind of thing to it. Pretty lucky to have had the dad I had. He was amazing.
JS: I’d like to hear the story of how Prince asked permission from Journey to release “Purple Rain.”
JC: Prince’s people put him on the phone with me. I had listened to “Purple Rain” so I knew what they were calling about. The chords were identical to the end of “Faithfully” and even the woh-woh’s and everything you’ve got on there were pretty much a “Faithfully” kind of thing. I said, ‘Listen man, it’s not enough like “Faithfully.” I’m flattered that you cared enough to call me and it shows you have a lot of class. I appreciate it and good luck with that song of yours. I know it’s going to be a hit.’ It just shows you the kind of heart he had and that he paid a lot of attention to detail. He wanted to talk to me because I wrote it. It was my song. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to sue him. Prince said, ‘I’ll change something. I’ll change some chords. If you need me to change ‘em, I’ll change ‘em.’
JS: Can we look forward to any new Journey music coming out?
JC: We’re talking about doing some writing in May and June. Maybe come out with a single or an EP. Looking at doing that. Gotta live up to what we are and get it right. Gotta sound like Journey or we’re not releasing it.
JS: Where do you see Journey heading into the future?
JC: We’re looking at more of an international focus. Getting back to Europe again. Playing the big festivals. We’ve really been focusing on being a really great live band, and bringing great shows in front of some new crowds. We’re taking the brand international and maybe having some fun creating some new music along the way.
JS: Journey will be coming to the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin on March 27.
JC: It’s going to be a great night. The audience is going to hear Steve Smith. They haven’t heard Steve play with Journey in 30 years. We’re celebrating the Escape album’s 35th anniversary. I think Frontier’s is 33 years now. So we will be focusing in on those two albums. Playing a little bit more of that music. As well as some of our greatest hits and more recent hits. Really a mix. And if we have time, we’ll jam and play a little more than just all of the hit songs. I want to thank all of the fans for sticking with us. They’re going to see a really solid show, solid band. The band’s really clicking. It will be good to be back there and playing at a high level. We plan on bringing a great show to Green Bay.