First some facts: Journey is the most successful American rock band of the last half decade. Their three most recent albums have sold over 15 million copies domestically, and their 1983 American tour grossed an estimated $20 million from the sales of tickets, t-shirts and other band-related items. Their incredible success has allowed guitarist Neal Schon, vocalist Steve Perry, bassist Ross Valory, keyboardist Jonathan Cain and drummer Steve Smith to explore a series of exciting business ventures including oil wells, lighting companies and extensive land holdings. Yet despite their incredible fame and fortune, there seems to be a number of cracks surfacing in Journey's platinum coated rock and roll machine.
During the last year, each band member has been involved in projects far afield from Journey's patented hard-pop sound. Smith released a jazz-fusion album, Vital Information, while both Perry and Cain are currently involved in their own solo ventures. Valory has busied himself with a number of film projects, one of which he hopes to have shown on MTV later this year. Schon, of course, has been in the public eye due to his successful partnership with Sammy Hagar. Their album, Through The Fire, has proven to be one of the most popular hard-rock LPs of recent months. Can all this outside activity mean that Journey's reign as rock's foremost commercial entity has come to an end?
"No way Journey's ending," Schon explained. "We're all too committed to this band to ever let that happen. In fact, one of the reasons we decided to go off in separate directions for a while was to keep the band as strong as ever. You can get sick and tired of one another after a while. That's only human nature. We lived with one another for nearly nine months last year between recording Frontiers and touring the world. You can get really fed up with anyone after that much time. Actually, it's rather amazing that we still feel as close as we all do."
Despite Schon's reassuring attitude, vocalist Steve Perry was very frank about his reasons for recording his solo album.
"Sometimes there are pressures within Journey that prohibit me from doing exactly what I'd like musically," he said. "I'm always trying to expand my music, and this solo project serves that purpose for me. I don't want to be known just as the singer in Journey I want to be known as a musician who can do more than sing Top 40 singles. Understand, I'm very happy with the band, and I'm thrilled by our success, but there's no reason I can't use that as a springboard for trying some new ideas."
While the band's management insists that there's no truth to stories of Journey's possible breakup, their record label admitted that they're not sure when to expect a new Journey album. "They're quite free to record and release albums whenever they want," a Columbia Records spokesperson said. "There's no way we can control then, nor would we want to. They're an incredibly important band to us, and while we would obviously like new product from them whenever we can get it, we'll never insist that they provide us with material until they're ready."
According to Schon, Journey's recording plans are very much up in the air, although the band hopes to have a new album out by July. The success of Frontiers was very rewarding to the group due to its more adventurous content and challenging approach. This attitude will again be reflected in the band's next vinyl effort.
"We have some ideas in mind for the next album already," the curly-haired guitarist stated. "Whether we can all agree on the type of material we want to do is something else again. We're getting all of our outside interests out of our systems, so I don't see why we can't get back to playing the type of music Journey is known for. If we didn't want to keep Journey in much the same vein as before, we would have channelled some of the ideas we had for solo projects into the band. That would have made us happy, perhaps, but it wouldn't have been Journey.
Schon also saw his involvement with rock luminaries ranging from Jan Hammer to Sammy Hagar as having little effect on Journey. "I love playing guitar, it's as simple as that. I don't need to keep playing for the money I do it because I enjoy it. Some guys want to take time off and go on vacation when they finish a long tour. I'd rather get together with some friends and make music. That's what the project with Sammy was all about. We had talked about getting together for years, but his schedule and mind never seemed to mesh.
"When the opportunity finally came to get together, we jumped at it," he continued. "I'm sure if we can pull it off again in the future we'll do it. We both get off on one another. He's a super singer and he likes my guitar playing. We inspire one another to try things that we wouldn't normally do. That's why I do the things away from Journey, it allows me to get a lot of things out of my system."
In contrast to Schon and Perry, Steve Smith views his solo work as an extension to his work with Journey. "I grew up on jazz, and I still enjoy playing it more than anything," the soft-spoken Boston native explained. "When I'm playing with my band, I feel I'm expanding my skills, which will only help Journey in the long run. I play with my jazz band for fun. No matter how successful it might ever become, I have no desire to leave Journey."
Smith's commitment to Journey is shared by Jonathan Cain, who has been lending a hand to his wife Tane's new group Tryangle. "I really enjoy working with Tane because I get a chance to experiment and try some things I can't do with journey. To me, experimentation is a key because that way you can never stagnate musically. I worked a long time for the opportunity to be in a band like Journey, so the group means a great deal to me. But that's no reason to turn your entire musical imagination in one direction."
While the band's members are involved in their outside projects, the group's management has already planned far into Journey's future. As soon as their new album is released this summer, the band is off to Japan for a tour. As soon as that leg of their road jaunt is finished, Journey will tour Canada, Alaska and Europe. The European junket is of particular significance to the group due to the fact that England, as well as the continent, remain the last resistant frontiers for the band.
"We've enjoyed a lot of success in Japan, and of course in the States, but we've never been that big in England." Schon said. "It's hard for us to understand, but it's not something that bothers us. We'll go out and tour there and see what happens. I'm sure we'll have our share of fans. But even if we don't sell out the places we play that'll be alright. It's fun to still have a challenge like that. Those are the things that will keep Journey going for a long time to come."
© Hit Parader, June 1984, Charlton Publications, Inc.