A YEAR IS A LONG PERIOD OF TIME, ESPECIALLY IN THE LIFE OF A ROCK AND ROLL BAND. BUT IF, LIKE JOURNEY, YOU'VE BEEN IN CONSTANT CONTACT WITH ONE ANOTHER FOR NEARLY SEVEN YEARS, A YEAR APART AFFORDS YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO YOUR OWN THING AND REFLECT ON YOUR LOT IN LIFE. FOR JOURNEY THAT YEAR GAVE THEM THE CHANCE TO PONDER A MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE THEIR FUTURE AS A BAND.
GRANTED, IF YOU'RE AN ARTIST LIKE VOCALIST STEVE PERRY OR A GUITAR VIRTUOSO LIKE NEAL SCHON, THE DECISION TO CONTINUE A GROUP OR DISBAND IS DIFFICULT. AFTER ALL, PERRY ACHIEVED MULTIPLATINUM SUCCESS WITH LAST YEAR'S SOLO VENTURE STREET TALK AND SCHON HAD A BLAST ROCKING WITH SAMMY HAGAR ON THE HSAS PROJECT. THEY, AS WELL AS KEYBOARDIST JONATHAN CAIN, BASSIST ROSS VALORY AND DRUMMER STEVE SMITH, GOT TO LIVE OUT THEIR PERSONAL FANTASIES FOR AWHILE. THEN IT CAME TIME TO FACE REALITY WAS EACH INDIVIDUAL BETTER OFF WITHOUT THE REST OF THE GROUP?
"To be perfectly honest, I think the band is ready to get excited about itself again," stated Perry. "It needed something to rejuvenate itself, and I believe the hiatus was what we all needed. It's been healthy, very healthy, and the projects in between have been good for us all."
A hiatus from what, you may ask? All that success? All the financial rewards? From each other? Well, let's step back in time a year-and-a-half, to the tail end of Journey's last tour. It's no secret that there were some serious personality conflicts going on within the band. As an example, Steve Perry was taking a bus from gig to gig, while the rest of the band was going by plane; not the best way to promote band harmony.
"A group sees so much of each other and it can make things tense. People need their own space on the road," commented Perry. But the truth was, the guys were just not getting along. The magic had gone out of Journey. Basically the problem was that everyone was bored, creatively stagnant. So, at the end of its 1983 road jaunt, the band had to either take a break, or break up. Thus, after finishing tour obligations, each member packed his bags and went his separate ways, not giving much thought to what everybody else had planned, or if they would ever work together again.
"I don't know how the rest of the band feels about my album with Sammy (Hagar)," declared Neal Schon, shortly after the release of HSAS. "I haven't seen any of them. Maybe there are bad feelings and maybe there are good feelings, but I have to do what I think is right at the moment."
In retrospect, the hiatus proved beneficial. Things were hunky dory when the guys first got back together, but for a band like Journey, a group filled with talent and ego, the tension is always there.
At press time, Journey were sequestered somewhere amid the vineyards of the Napa Valley, working on material for their next album. Unfortunately, that work is not always together. Schon and Cain have formed a musical alliance, Perry is the lone wolf, and the contributions of Valory and Smith are generally neglected. Word has it that Valory even walked out of the preproduction sessions in a fit of anger.
"There are definitely run-ins with Journey," revealed Perry, "but that's what a band's all about. And the tension is good sometimes. It creates good music. We are a very strong-minded band, and I'm speaking of myself too. Collectively and individually, we're a bullheaded group."
Since they've contractually agreed to put up with one another for the immediate future, the band members figure they might as well make their union profitable. So they're going for the commercial jugular. As Schon explained, "We'd like to out-do Michael Jackson. We want 10 hit singles on this album." Then again, that musical concept isn't different from anything Journey's done in the recent past.
"Journey's style is exactly what you've been hearing all these years," said Perry. "It's capable of change, but I don't think it can fabricate a new style. The band still has to be itself."
In essence, Journey's forthcoming album, scheduled for release in June or July, will be more of what rock fans have come to know and love instantly memorable hard pop tunes with catchy hooks and soaring vocals. This time around, however, the LP's main input is going to come from Perry, rather than a democratic vote. After the huge success of Street Talk, Perry began negotiations with the band regarding the amount of creative control he would have on the group's future projects. The group, fearing Perry would forsake Journey for the platinum paradise of a solo career, gave into virtually all of the singer's requests.
"What I want to know is, who's going to produce the new album?" he jested. "I don't necessarily want more control over the band. I have no desire. The band has to be what it is or else it will die. You cannot make it into anything else except what it is or you'll choke it."
After the early summer release of the LP, Journey plans to head over to Europe and Japan to establish their popularity in areas where they've never been hugely successful. Their U.S. tour will not begin until late '85 or early '86.
"Journey has toured every year," observed Schon. "We've toured our brains out. We're not worried that the concert business won't be good when we come back because we've got a lot of roots. There are a lot of really cool people out there who dig us and have supported us."
For Journey the next year is well accounted for, but beyond that, everything is in question. For example, Schon still wants to work with Hagar, and Perry still views his solo career as his future.
"I can't answer anything about my future solo career, except that I would like to continue it," remarked Perry. "I don't know how much fun I'm going to have on this Journey tour. Who knows? We're going to try and enjoy ourselves and take it one step at a time. Looking at the next year, I can tell you what I'm going to be doing with Journey. After that year I'm going to be writing my next solo album. After that, I take a little vacation - whether I need one or not."
© Hit Parader, June 1985, Charlton Publications, Inc.