It's been 8 years since the release of "Raised On Radio" and a full 10 since his "Street Talk" solo album as released but Steve Perry has finally returned with "For The Love Of Strange Medicine". The album is so good, it's been a long time since I heard an album with just so many good songs.
"Oh man, thank you very much. I appreciate those kind words, I really do."
There seems to be a "band" playing on more or less all of the songs.
"It is a band, I put them together we rehearsed live and just played live and went into the studio and recorded it."
So tell me about your guitarist Lincoln Brewster, what has he done before?
"Nothing. He's a young kid who I met who's 21 years old who I had faith in, I heard a tape of his through Sony and I'd heard every guitar player I needed to hear up to that point, I was just sick of hearing them, cos everybody had a lot of flash and a lot of technique but nobody had any heart in their playing. But Lincoln has done real well, he's really really poured himself into this project, and he's just about to turn 22 years old and that's enough to piss anyone off!"
He's got a great sense for melody, he's almost like Neal Schon.
"Yeah well we worked together on that, I used to work with Neal on melodies and it's the same thing, we work together."
What about your bassist, what has he done before?
"Larry Kimpel is just a brilliant bass player and I wanted him in the band but he had other commitments and so now we have Todd Jensen. But Larry is just a local player in Los Angeles."
So you have Todd Jensen from Neal's old band Hardline.
"Yeah he actually was for a while, he left Ozzy Osbourne to do this."
Moyes Lucas on drums?
Moyes Lucas Jr. is a drummer that was with George Michael for a while, he's done all kinds of stuff, but he's a really great slamming drummer who can play all kinds of different feels."
And Paul Taylor was of course with Winger.
"Yeah and he left just before that band sort of fell apart."
So are you going to tour with those guys?
"That's what we're talking about, we might go out by the end of the year. By the time I've done the radio promo tour we'll get together and put together a show and see what happens."
Do you think there will be a World tour?
"I hope so. We're talking about that now, I guess the album has been well received here so far and in Japan and it's about to come out there (Sweden) and some interest is going on in Europe and I guess if it does well then you bet."
To be honest with you the one thing I don't like on the album is the vocal production, there is an almost distortion of sound that I don't think your voice needs.
"I think a lot of that is just my voice. I think my voice has got a bit of an edge to it now. That "Journey" voice wouldn't work for this material."
But the album sounds a lot like Journey.
"You think so? Oh you're kidding?!"
To me is sounds like a natural progression from "Raised On Radio", a harder version of that album.
"Well, I do what I do."
Why did it take so long to make this album?
"The album only took 8 months to make, it took longer for me to find the honesty in myself to decide whether I needed to make a record or not, and if I was gonna make one then it had to be from the honest passion inside."
I've heard that one reason it took so long was that you tried to find another vocal style.
"No that's not true. I didn't sing for quite some time and I recorded some music, but the 6 or 7 years when I didn't make any music I had nothing to say. Why make a record if you have nothing to say. So I had to wait until I got to a point where I really had something in my heart and that's when this record started coming out."
What was the turning point?
"I don't know, it was a slow turning point if anything it wasn't one thing. Slowly but surely I realised that I'm a singer and I like to sing and that was one of the things that I thought I wasn't sure of anymore, that's how tired I was."
The song "Anyway" seems to be about your former band mates Journey, exactly what do you mean when you say "I'd like to make amends"?
"It's almost like I'd just like to say I'm sorry, you know? I'd like to ask for some sort of admission or forgiveness from my part of the insanity, I was no picnic for instance but nobody was a day at the beach, know what I mean? But I just wanted to stay on my side of the fence and say "I'm sorry, I'd like to make amends, I'd like to close my eyes and tell the truth but where would I begin". It's a complex story."
There's also a line "Wounded but alive, lost in my insanity, escaping to survive". Was it like that for you at the end of Journey?
"I think I wounded myself a lot and I think everybody does that. Life had taken it's hits on me, I'd lost my mother in the making of "Raised On Radio". Then I went back finished the record, mixed it, rehearsed for the tour, toured and by the end of the tour that was 10 years that I was in the band and I just had to stop. I felt wounded, I'm not complaining, those were the best times of my life but I needed to heal my wounds and on the road is no place to heal."
How do you hope the other members of Journey will react to this song?
"Oh I don't know what they'll do. It's not a negative thing, I hope they don't react negatively, it's a memory song with positive memories. We had a comradery between us that was like brothers or people who go out into some battle together, and somewhere along the line we lost it. I don't know how that gets back or if it ever can. I know that it has a lot to do with what we do or don't do to each other or to Journey from here on out."
One great thing about the Journey break up is that you broke up at your peak.
"That wasn't calculated, I just had to stop at that point. It was all I had to give."
What do you think to the rumours that Neal, Jonathen Cain, Ross Valory, Steve Smith and Kevin Chalfont are going to reform as Journey?
"I don't know, I think it's their decision to do that. I don't have an opinion either way at this point."
They say that they have to do it without you because you won't do it.
"My friend, I will explain to you very clearly. I have left the band after 10 years, I did not make a solo album for 7 or 8 years I didn't do nothing cos I had to quit. There would have been no better time for me to leap off Journey if I had plans to surface with a solo career than at that time. They went on and did whatever they had to do, they are doing what they're doing now because they want to, not because of me. It's like a girl telling you that if you don't marry her she'll marry someone else, what does that mean? All this time I had to spend to find the honest passion to make a record and they make every record they wanted to, and I can't bail on my honest devotion to this project and the people around me, no more than I would have bailed on Journey when I joined them, that would've been a slam to my integrity, but I stayed with them for 10 years, isn't that worth something?"
Didn't you make an album with Randy Goodrum that was never released?
"I did a bunch of recordings with Randy in 88/89 and some of it I am releasing in America on CD5, a CD single with extra tracks."
You also worked with Mark Spiro in 92, and Tony Brock in 91/92.
"Yeah and I loved some of that stuff and I have some of it in a lighter recording demo form that I may release also."
You also worked with Dick Wagner of the old Alice Cooper band.
"Boy, you've got every bit of it! There's a couple of songs we wrote and one of them my be on the next CD5, also a song I wrote with Nuno Bettencourt."
Did you work with anyone else that we don't know about?
"You sure seem to have covered it very well."
One of the reasons why it took you so long to make the comeback, might it be because you were on the "dark" side of life?
"Well I lost my mother in the making of "Raised" and then shortly after that tour had ended my grandfather got cancer and I spent the balance of his life with him which was about 8 months. And my life was just being pulled into areas that I thought were very important so that's where I went. When I started to write music it wasn't dark it was just sometimes a little melancholy, I've never been a writer who writes always one way, when I'm writing what I feel obviously I'm subjective to what's going on around my life. But some of that material I'm gonna release it anyway on the CD5s because I think it's important that it be heard because it's kind of an autobiography of those times which I was going through."
Is it true that you delivered several albums that were rejected by Sony?
"No I didn't deliver them, I made a lot of records but I didn't deliver them. There was a lot of recording going on while Columbia was being taken over by Sony so a lot of people didn't hear anything that I did."
Finally could you pick out your 3 favourite Journey albums and comment on them please?
"Well one of my favourite records is not a Journey album it's actually the "Street Talk" record, I would say "Raised On Radio" was one of my favourites because it was done when the band was in transition, in a changing place, it was growing and everybody was willing to grow with it take a chance. Had it been enormously successful then all the members would have stood tall but since it didn't take offyou know success has many fathers but a failure is an orphan! But it wasn't a failure it just didn't sell as many units as they would've liked. So I like that record cos it was an honest record too. "Frontiers" was another growth period for the band, changing from the "Escape" time, getting a little bit more aggressive, and of course the critics that down, but we did it anyway, "Escape" was a good album, one of the first that we did with Jonathen Cain, that was a great beginning."
"For The Love Of Strange Medicine" looks set to be top of many peoples albums of 1994, and with unreleased material promised for B-sides there is even more to look forward to.
Boulevard Magazine, 1994 Jorgen Holmstedt