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Steve Perry’s Journey Continues

Steve Perry is the voice of Journey. That fact can not be disputed. It was Perry who took Journey from being a quasi-successful, quasi-progressive band to chart topping superstars. It was Perry who gave the band a signature voice and sound, so much so that the current singer, Steve Augeri, was hired solely because he sounded so much like him. As much as some fans hate to hear these statements, a fact is a fact. Hell, I am a Neal Schon fan. I liked Journey before Perry and I like Journey after Perry. I even subscribe to the opinion that Perry’s behavior and ego hurt the band during the Raised on Radio era and helped bring about the end. I am not alone as the debate over whether Steve Perry is a god or a devil is raged daily among the bands most spirited fans. That facts are these: Steve Perry delivered big with Journey and he also chooses not to be in Journey. Until the boys sit down, boot out the new singer and began to earnestly work on new material then the bottom line is that it does not matter what anyone thinks. Journey with Perry is history. Journey with Perry is something to remember and relive though the great songs the band made together. No one is going to be seeing Journey play with Steve Perry anytime soon. Or are they?

Rewind the clock back to 1981 and set the time machine for Houston, Texas. A fledging television network called MTV is doing it’s best to create a niche with the viewing public. Journey is riding high with the release of their album Escape. MTV calls up and strikes a deal with Journey’s management to record and broadcast the bands concert coast-to-coast. Television cameras come in, the concert sells out and Journey takes the stage.

Flash back to 2005 and Steve Perry once again finds himself taking center stage with the band. This time, however, he is watching himself on a monitor in a recording studio as he is producing and mixing a DVD of that wonderful night in Houston in 1981. Perry watches his former band perform songs live for the first time on stage and the images and sounds affect him. Emotions rush back in and for a moment he is filled with an odd mixture of awe, sadness, longing and pride. He finds himself more affected by this event than he ever dreamed he would be, yet he musters on as he is now more dedicated than ever to preserve this concert and make sure the world re-discovers what a powerful live event a Journey concert was.

In this interview, we discuss what it was live to produce the DVD as well as the Escape era. We talk about why the songs Steve Perry made with Journey are so special and how he handled the strong emotional baggage that came about as a result of producing this project. Perhaps Perry said it best when he told me, “Emotionally it was a real struggle to get through it because it was such a walk through something – I didn’t realize what it was. When you are in it, you can’t see it. But 24 years down the road – you can see it now!”


Jeb: You are releasing a new Journey DVD from the Escape tour of 1981. How did this come to be?

Steve: It has been in the vaults for a while. It originally aired on MTV. I understand that MTV started in August of 1981 and three months later, they were filming us in Houston. It is from the Escape tour. It was aired twice on MTV and then it kind of went away. We were on tour so we could not oversee the mixes of the music. It was mixed very quickly for television. It then sat in the vault. There were some bootlegs of it running around but none of them have had the original tapes pulled out and mixed like this one was. I mixed it in stereo and in 5.1 Surround plus there are interviews and a slide show featuring pictures that have never been seen before. It is kind of a collector’s edition with a DVD and CD of the show.

Jeb: Who contacted you to produce the DVD and CD?

Steve: I have not been in the band Journey since May of 1998. They came to me because they knew I was around and that I had produced myself. Sony asked me to produce it and the band approved and I agreed, so there it is.

Jeb: Sometimes things people think should be complicated end up very simple.

Steve: It’s not complicated.

Jeb: There are many types of producers. Guys like Tom Werman use their ears and have an engineer and then there are guys like Mike Stone who were very much into the equipment. What kind of producer are you?

Steve: I try to bring to a project what I think it really is. This particular project was a live performance so I really tried to bring my experience of standing on stage into the mixing process, along with Allen Sides. Allen is a great 5.1 mixer so we got together and made it a real environmental 5.1 mix, which is making it so you are standing right in front of the band and the coliseum is behind you. We made the whole thing sound and look like it did when you were there.

Jeb: Is it easier or more difficult utilizing today’s technology with older material?

Steve: I think you have a lot more choices than you have ever had before. As long as you use those choices in an organic way and try to enhance what the project really is then the technology becomes a wonderful tool. The moment you start to alter things too much then it becomes more difficult and you lose the focus of what you were trying to accomplish. In this instance, that would be a great live show that was captured on film and on tape. It was a pinnacle moment in 1981, on the Escape tour, when the band had, for the first time, performed “Don’t Stop Believing.” There were some songs on there that had never been performed live before and they were captured on film and audio.

Jeb: A lot of artists I talk to don’t listen to their old music very much. Was this like returning to the past and listening to some old songs or do you still listen to it?

Steve: It was very difficult for me to mix this stuff, emotionally. It was not difficult logistically as much as it was emotionally. I had my head down on the console several times because I couldn’t look up to the screen that we were running simultaneously. It was, for me, a flash of what it was like being there and reliving the experience. I was getting all full of emotion again and it was really tough. It was really because the performances were so good. I shook my head many times thinking it was really sad because we really had something really great – until May of ‘98, we were pretty good.

Jeb: I bought Escape the day it came out. I watched the DVD the first day I got it in the mail and I was jamming and the kids were jamming and I was living it up. I don’t think it was all just about it being a Journey concert. There was something special about this era of the band.

Steve: I think the band had turned another corner and was at another place then they were not at during the Captured live situation. It was more of an emotional performance by everybody.

Jeb: How long had Jonathan Cain even been in Journey?

Steve: This was his first tour. He joined the band, wrote the album and went on tour.

Jeb: How did he change your dynamics of song writing?

Steve: I think he brought in another perspective that we didn’t have. He is a good songwriter and I think I was able to sit down with him and really go for some different lyrical content. He really knew some great inversions, being a keyboard player. He allowed me to have some better melody changes that I had not had before. I think when you put it all together, it just improved the quality of the song writing.

Jeb: The song “Open Arms” is a classic. I have heard Cain offered that to the Babys and they didn’t want it.

Steve: My understanding is that he had most of it sketched. It was not finished but the opening line and the melody of [sings opening melody] was all sketched. He showed up at my house one day and he played it. I asked him what that was and he said, “This is just a song that I started. I played it for my wife and I played it for John Waite but he said it was too syrupy.” I told him, “Too bad for him and good for us.”

Jeb: How fast does it come?

Steve: That particular one kind of wrote itself. It went that quick. Escape was not easy; it still was hard. Jonathan and I had a lot of moments writing lyrics where there was difficulty between us. He would make a suggestion and I would say that I would try to sing it but then I would not be able to believe it, or own it for myself, so I would have to throw in a couple of changes or make additions to it to make it mine. That was fine with him; that is basically collaboration. I think it was always a collaboration with difficulties. I think there was a point in the band during Escape where it turned such a corner and it just started coming so fast. It is almost like it finally discovered something that it didn’t know it had.

Jeb: Did you find that when you started rehearsing the songs that this was special or were you just doing your job?

Steve: You’re just doing what you believe in and hoping that people will like it as much as you do. Unfortunately, that is the fearful driving force of my heart. Whatever I believe in, I just hope they believe in it as much. You wait for that moment, live, when they let you know if that is, or isn’t, the case. You get your validation from that. Whatever center you were believing in or feeling about the music, you find out quickly from the audience whether they believe it too.

Jeb: Earlier you said you had to put your head down on the console. Tell me more about that moment.

Steve: I was watching “Don’t Stop Believing.” There is a point in the concert where I say, “Here is some new Escape music for you” and then Jonathan starts playing “Don’t Stop Believing.” The crowd goes crazy. I remember how emotional it was for me to see the crowd know the song already because we had not played that song live yet. They already knew it, embraced it and made it their own. They were hearing it live for the first time and they let us know how they felt about it.

Jeb: In the back of your mind, did you think you would have emotional moments doing this project?

Steve: I knew that it was going to be a walk through a plethora of emotions because it was a long time ago. I knew it was going to be difficult for me but I had no idea that it would be such an amazing amount of different emotions; I really didn’t. Back in 1981 when I was singing with Journey, I realized that there was a drive and there was a passion and a real mission within the group to be the best they could be and to be one of the contributing forces in the music business. We wanted to write great songs and we wanted people to love them as much as we did. You lose sight of that after 24 years. I had to see this footage 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week because you have to listen to it and you work really hard on this stuff. You have to catch all the nuances in the music and you have to make sure all the nuances in the music correlate with the visual. It is like mixing a film; it took time. Along with taking time, it was dragging me around. It dragged me all through it again and I really did relive it.

Jeb: A younger man who gets hit with an emotional onslaught can make impulsive decisions. With maturity, we deal with it differently. How did you deal with it?

Steve: I had to keep my head down on the console when “Open Arms” was on. There is one line in the song that I always wanted to be a certain way. I have ideals about certain things. The line “wanting you near” – I just wanted that line to go up and soar. I wanted it to be heartfelt. Every time it would come by I would just have to keep my head down and try to swallow the lump in my throat. I felt so proud of the song that I had written with Jonathan. I felt proud of the performances we were doing as a band 24 years ago. It was something that I didn’t know I would feel.

Jeb: The way you are talking to me you sound as if you know it was 24 years ago. You sound grounded in the fact that it was 1981 and not 2005.

Steve: That is right. It took me there and back very seriously. I had to talk to a couple of friends of mine and tell them that the project was really great and that the performances were really great but that is was beating me up a little bit. It was really great and that is probably why I felt that way.

Jeb: This was the early days of MTV. Did you worry about the network not being proven?

Steve: MTV was three months and a week old. To be perfectly honest with you, I was always apprehensive when it came to having recording trucks in the parking lot and cameras on stage. I just wanted to go out and have a whole stage to perform to and go home – and then go do it again. All I wanted to do was roll and rock and rock and roll. When they would bring cameras on stage and bring recording trucks up, I am going to be honest with you, I would have arguments with management. It was difficult because you would have to worry about cameramen in front of you or behind you. You would turn around and someone would be there with a camera in your face; it can be a little bit disorienting. Management won the battle and, after hearing this concert and after mixing it repeatedly, they were right. This concert did need to be recorded and I am so glad that it was because I had no idea it was that good.

Jeb: Was Escape more Journey or more Steve Perry?

Steve: It has always been more Journey. Journey was able to do many things. When this band was together back in 1981 – if you think about it we went from “Wheel in the Sky” to “Lights” to “Walks Like a Lady” to “Anyway You Want It” to “Who’s Cryin’ Now” to “Open Arms” to “Mother, Father” to “Don’t Stop Believing.” I think this was a very interesting period in the band’s time; we had just turned another corner, creatively.

 

Jeb: Some fans think Steve Perry started to overtake the band.

Steve: Started overtaking what?

Jeb: The song writing.

Steve: Those people need to get a life. They need to find something else to do during their day.

Jeb: When you chose this project, you had to know that you were going to fan the Journey debate fire.

Steve: I took this project on because I wanted it to be great. I took this project on because I am here and they are out on tour doing what they are doing. The label wanted it done so they could release it for Christmas. When you put it all together then it happened the way it happened.

Jeb: Is this for the fans or is it for Journey or is it for historical sake?

Steve: This is for the songs. I think that the songs deserve every ounce of respect that they always deserved. When we went into the studio, we would record the music the way we heard it. Those master recordings have become timeless pieces of art. They are in a gallery of classics. These live versions deserved the attention to be mixed and heard the way I knew they sounded on those multi-tracks and not the way they sounded on MTV and not the way they sounded on those bootlegs. Those same tracks were blown into a hard drive and brought out through a beautiful console so you could hear all of the instruments with as massive fidelity as possible. It had never been heard that way before. I knew the performances payed great respect to the songs in a new way – in a way that I don’t think anybody has ever heard before.

I think it is for the songs. After the people hear them – if they make them they’re own then that is their decision and I am grateful for that. My job is to always fight for the songs. There were a lot of songs that I always believed in that were not hits. “Mother, Father” is an amazing song but it wasn’t a hit. “Still They Ride” was not a huge single but I love that song. “Stay Awhile, ” which we turned into a segue from “Lights,” I have always loved “Stay Awhile” but that wasn’t a single. You can go back to the first album

– “Too Late” was a great song but it wasn’t a hit single. They weren’t hits but that doesn’t mean that I am still not fighting for these songs. To answer your question, what really makes me want to do something like this is me fighting for the songs to have their moment in the light one more time.

Jeb: That is very eloquent. A lot of people would not be that involved with Sony putting out an old concert video.

Steve: What is the other option? I crossed these bridges within myself. The other option is to turn it over to someone else and let them do it. They don’t know what the original intention was or what the original heart was when we were in those studios when we recorded the original songs. They don’t know what it was like standing on that stage and they don’t know what the emotion was. Why shouldn’t I do it? I wasn’t going to allow somebody to take it over and send me a tape and say, “What do you think?” I didn’t want to do that.

Jeb: That would be like turning your kids over for somebody to raise them.

Steve: I have told somebody that every one of these songs is like a child and Journey had a lot of children. We had a relationship together and the songs are our children and that is what came out of our relationship. I still think they deserve to be protected and supported for their original strength and that is what I have always fought for.

Jeb: I can’t bring myself to ask you the Journey question but I do want to know if you still have the fire?

Steve: I just got back from the World Series with the White Sox. They adopted “Don’t Stop Believing” as their theme song back in July. The Monday before their first World Series game I heard that they wanted to get a hold of me and get me out to Game 1. The team played the song in the clubhouse after every game and they would sing it. I was hanging out with these guys and I ended up singing more stuff then I thought I would end up singing. They ended up winning the World Series and I had to sing it on camera. They asked me to ride in the victory parade with them and they asked me to sing at the end with them a little bit of “Don’t Stop Believing” so we all, as a group, sang it.

I love performing for people. I really always loved performing for people. If it was up to me, totally, then that’s what I would do for the rest of my life. It is just more difficult than that right now than I can explain. I have some physical limitations – my hip is fantastic. It is a tough question. Do I want to go out there and beat the pavement like I used to? Probably not. There are some places that you can find the tour schedule that this DVD was made from for the Escape tour. If you look at the schedule there were four days in a row where I had to sing two hours a night. There were sometimes it was five days in a row. There were four days on and one day off and three days on and one day off. It went on for over a year. That kind of touring? No, I don’t think I would like to do that kind of touring. Would I love to perform again? Of course, I would love to perform again.

Jeb: Do you still write songs?

Steve: I write all the time. In fact, I have a new sketch on something I just started yesterday. I am always sketching something.

Jeb: It is in your blood.

Steve: I think it is in me. Honestly, it is a love/hate relationship and I think it has been that way from the very beginning. I am being honest with you, it is a love/hate relationship that I have tried to put down and not do and then every now and then I catch myself just back in it again.

Jeb: The songs you mentioned earlier were all emotionally based. Writing emotional songs is difficult and runs the composer through the whole gambit of emotions.

Steve: Somebody told me one time that I wore my heart on my sleeve as a singer. You either like it or you don’t. It doesn’t matter because I am going to put it out there the way I feel it. There was a time that Journey used to get a lot of flack for what it was. They used to belittle us in the industry years ago. The critics were not pleased with it. You know, it doesn’t matter. The band member line up back in 1981 was a great lineup; it was a magical lineup. I think time has settled the historian question. Some of the music we wrote was timeless and I don’t think there is a goddamn thing wrong with that.

Jeb: Before we go, I have to tell you what my daughter said. My daughter watched the DVD with me and she told me that the music was a lot more timeless than the clothing.

Steve: [laughing] Your daughter is right! I have got to tell you that is true. When I was wearing Levis, a T-shirt and my tails that was cool but before that – holy mackerel, what was I thinking? That is where we were at the time. That is how we felt comfortable walking on stage. That is the best line that I have ever heard, “The music is more timeless than the clothing was.” I don’t think I have ever heard it put so well. I am going to take that, okay? I am having that.


Click on the DVD Cover to Purchase Live In Houston 1981 Escape Tour!

Click Here To Visit Journey online!       Click Here To Visit Steve Perry Online

Send Feedback to Jeb & Steve On How They Liked The Interview!

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December 28, 2005 - Posted by | ROCK

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