This is the interviews of Neal Schon on the November, 2000 isuue of BURRN magazine in Japan. The article is written all in Japanese ( of course !! ), so I re-translated it into English. Therefore, this is not what Neal EXACTLY said, but what he more likely meant.
Neal, Jon & Kevin Shirley
Journey is a legendary band who has established the Hard Rock /Commercial Rock type of style, that massively appeals to audience by its' beautiful melodies, well organized arrangements and pop sounds. "Trial By Fire", released after an interval of 10 years, was the album that realized fans' ideals. It was a commercial success as well, and has triggered the tons of re-union movements after that. Unfortunately Steve Perry, the singer & the main -songwriter in the band, left the band after the completion of the album, they got ex-Tall Stories and Tyketto singer Steve Augeri as a replacement and started touring in June of 1998 right here from Japan, to appeal the strong new line-up of JOURNEY to the fans. And finally, here comes "ARRIVAL" CD - their 2nd release after the re-union. Though it was four years of long break, they offers us no other than JOURNEY sounds that extremely high quality of Commercial type of Hard Rock. Steve Augeri, as 1998 Japan tour proved, is offering beautiful vocals filling right in the Journey style, and I believe the materials on this CD are better than the ones on the previous album. Let's get started on the interview with Mr.JOURNEY- Neal Schon, who revealed that he had taken the medical-operations lately.
-How are you feeling ?
I'm OK now. I have had the operations twice. I took the first one six years ago, and the doctor told me there's possibilities that the other muscles would also be hurt, because of the weight. The reason was, I had hurt there years before. But now I can walk around, and will soon be able to work out at the gym. I no longer have to worry about it.
-I'm relieved to hear that. Well.. about your new CD, ARRIVAL , its been four years since Trial By Fire was released. Do you think it was a necessary term to prepare for the album ? I guess it was a little too long for fans.
We had kept fans waiting for four years, but we completed the album just in three months (laugh). But I believe it was a necessary process for the band to move on. Particularly to make a great Journey album. Sure, it might have been long for fans, but we had to go through member changes and so on. We really wanted to start working on another record right after the release, but it took us two years to wait for Steve Perry's recovery. He didn't get well enough, after all... So we decided to step forward. These two years, Jonathan and I had kept writing to prepare the materials for our new album. Last year, we went out on road for six months, and got back to writing for another six months. We recorded the album in NY in three months.
Previous Japan tour ( June, 1998 ) was the first official
shows for the band after the release of Trial By Fire. Where else did you play at
after the shows ?
The Japan tour was the first shows for Steve Augeri, and he was extremely nervous. So we all were, but especially Steve. After that, we went out touring in America. But we had a hard time in the first place. Promoters were skeptical about doing business with Journey, since Steve Perry and Steve Smith were no longer in our lineup. But we did live shows in theater and sold them out without support. Meanwhile, probably after a few months, radio people started to come to see us. So we started doing live shows in Colosseum after taking some time off. The more we played, the bigger crowds we got, and the audience warmly welcomed Steve Augeri. He is the right guy for the band. He has also brought us freshness and more bluesy and R&B feel. Nobody denies the fact that Steve Perry is an outstanding singer, but it is natural to give the person the seat if there's a wonderful singer worth the try.
-During the tour, I guess you heard people saying "Journey without Steve Perry is not real Journey" type of opinions, didn't you ?
Well, people have their own opinions. But when we checked out the website after the tour with Steve Augeri, 99% of the feedback was positive. So did Van Haren, when Sammy Hager replaced Dave Lee Roth. Most of the opinions were positive and I believe ones for Gary Shelon were not bad. I didn't have any opportunities to see Gary fronting Van Halen show, but a promoter said that they were not well accepted in America. I met Gary when Journey opened for Extreme in Europe (* I think the translator mis-quoted Neal about this ), and he was a great guy. Probably being in Van Halen was wearing much bigger shoes for him. because he had to fill in both Dave's and Sammy's. I guess especially covering Sammy's materials was not easy. Oh.. sorry, this is not a interview about Van Halen (laugh)
- (laugh) On this CD, the outside song-writers are contributing to the writing process more than on any albums you have done so far.
Right. Kim Trible is from Nashville and writes incredible lyrics. We got him (* Japanese translation says him, but it sounds like female name to me..) because we wanted to have our lyrics have much more significance than the ones on previous records. John Kalodner introduced us Tayer Rhodes. We wrote rock'n roll type of stuff with Jack Blades. He's really good at it. I woke up and started writing with Jack around noon. In five hours or so, we had a song done. It was a great experience. I think working with the outside song-writers was very healthy for the band. As far as writing process is concerned, Steve Augeri contributed greatly this time. He' the person full of ideas. I tell you what, both Steve and Jonathan wrote the heavy songs, first. People around us said "It's too heavy " but I love the heavy stuff. (laugh) Though, I personally love Heavy Metal, that's not where this band is going. Our direction should be, let see.. hard rock meets a little bluesy feel or so. A little different from what Journey was before. We put Motown feel into the songs and that sounds different from rock'n roll Journey had done before. Steve is very talented as a blues rock singer.
- The album title, "ARRIVAL" seems to have a connection with the sequence of the previous titles such as "Infinity", "Departure" or "Escape".
Not only the title, but the art work does. I didn't want the one like "Raised On Radio". I don't like neither the title nor the art work. It must be the one identifies the album as Journey's at a glance. That's why I like the one word album title.
- It was the first time to record an album since Steve Augeri joined the band. How was he in the studio ?
Awesome !! He seemed to be a little nervous though. We are used to the studio work, and it's routine for us to start playing as the red light turns on. But I guess Steve Augeri had got some pressure and anxiety, - I mean the pressure for singing for Journey. I told him to be relaxed and have fun with it. He seemed to be getting used to it a little by a little. I think he will be getting better and better everytime he makes a record. He had recorded merely two albums before.
- In his case, he was not a new member joined the band right before the recording, but a new member started touring with the band first. You guys spent a lot of time together like family members, and got into the studio for recording. Didn't it bring some positive effects, did it ?
Yes. I think it enabled the album more stretched out. It's beautiful and well.. I should say "Journey meets Pink Floyd". Anyway, it's a satisfying album. Probably because we could make it as we wanted. I don't like to be controlled by people. Label people dictated us one after another, but I don't care. We always make a record that can be seen what will happen with. And so do we from now on.
- You had Kevin Shirley produce the album again. Was it because you liked his work for the previous record ?
Kevin is musically very knowledgeable. He learned music in school, and has got a throughout knowledge of classical music. He is the person with great ears. He knows what the songwritings and arrangements are, and therefore very flexible to every side of it. One of things we like moat about his work is his talent to edit the songs. And it's very fast ! When we come to the studio, the song we recorded the day before is always there done. It scares us. (laugh)
- The previous record was very Perryish, having a lot of ballads. Since he is gone now, I expected the record would be more rocker type and a lot more in your color. But actually this CD doesn't seem to be hard that much. What do you think about it ?
There were three more rockers I wrote that didn't make this new CD. I can't deny the fact that I had a feeling that wanted to make more of a rocker type album. But when it comes to the overall balance, I had to agree with everyone. Otherwise, I'd never expected my penned ballad (s) would make the CD. Since we spent two years for writing, we had almost 35 ~40 candidates. Everything is the balance in the album.
- Does it mean you considered it important to leave the strong signature of Journey into the music, such as pop sounds and beautiful ballads.
Well... it's hard to explain.. I believe we put only good songs into the album. But there was a great song I co-wrote with Jack Blades. Everyone liked it, and I really wanted to put it into the album. But..it didn't happen, since Kevin said "it's cheapy" <--not sure the exact word. According to him, it's like *****. <--I can't translate it well. Japanese translation says "not a great song sounds like Scorpions" type of thing. I was mad. It was certain that there was something I didn't agree with him. But I hope we'll be able to give the song a second chance like putting it on a movie sound track or so.
- In my opinion, this new CD is better than Trial By Fire, being in better balance, packed with better melodies and in better quality.
Thank you. I'm glad to hear that. I myself think it's better than Trial By Fire. Somebody says on the website that Trial By Fire was a great album or something, but it doesn't matter to me anymore. Because I know ARRIVAL is an album in much better quality. Rock tunes are way cooler. When I look back, there's many materials in the previous records, and some of them have never gotten played live. I want to play those songs live next time we're on road. I bet It'll be a great show. Of-course, I can't wait to play the songs from ARRIVAL CD, either.
- By the way, Santana, as your root in your career, has got great success recently. Doesn't it make you happy ?
Yeah !! I'm so happy about that. Calros Santana lives just a few blocks from my house. I don't see him often since he seems to be busy, but when I run into him, we talk a lot. I'm so glad the person like him came back in the main-stream. He is the man who has achieved tremendously by his guitars, not by the computer sounds. And since he collaborated with young musicians, MTV started playing his songs. I'd never expected his music to be played on MTV. (laugh)
- I've heard that Gregg Rolie, your buddy since Santana era, is really into Latin music lately. Personally, I really want him to come back as The Storm, and become a power house to re-build an era of Melodic Rock, though... Anyway, besides Journey, you too have any plans of playing Latin music as a side project or so ?
Actually, I have just played guitar on a record Gregg is working on right now. Recently big waves of Latin music are coming in America, led by Santana, Ricky Martin, Jeniffer Ropez or so. I also consider the record I previously made with Gregg is very valuable, so I hope we can re-issue the album somehow. It's the right time for the occasion. But now, I'll focus on Journey for a while.