They’ve just released a rocking new record and the band heads out on the road with fellow AOR legends Foreigner and Styx in June – so who better to launch the Rushonrock Rock Gods series than the legendary Journey?
We caught up with top ivory tinkler Jonathan Cain to talk Arnel, Glee, reinventing the rock wheel and that tour.
Look out for more big exclusives in the next few weeks as the Rock Gods series celebrates Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Mr Big, Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Judas Priest!
rushonrock: Eclipse has managed to marry classic Journey with a modern rock sound – was that deliberate or just a happy coincidence?
Jonathan Cain: Well we kinda set out to do that. We felt like it was time to move on. Neal had come to me and said this is the direction I see the band moving in and I shared his vision. We conceived the record together and, yes, it’s a little tougher and a little rockier than what people might call ‘classic’ Journey. And I was fine with that. There’s really no place else we can go at this stage of our career. It was the right direction for Journey.
rushonrock: Why do you feel that?
JC: Well for a band like Journey radio doesn’t matter any more. We didn’t want to play the pop thing just to stand a chance of getting a little airplay. We already have the pop thing in our set. It really is time to move on. Neal’s always wanted to create this type of album with a strong concept and in the end we all wanted to go with the mystical Zeppelin thing that we’ve got going on with Eclipse.
rushonrock: Arnel gets a credit as a writer on the new album – how important was it to involve him at this level?
JC: He didn’t have a huge input as a writer but he inspired a lot of the album as a person and that’s why he deserves the credit. A lot of what you hear on Eclipse is about who Arnel is, being a Buddhist and a man of faith. He’s a real renaissance kinda guy. The new record really plugs into the character of Arnel. At the start of the writing process he was off raising money for the charity he fronts to feed kids in Manilla. When he came back he threw himself into his work and made a real contribution to a couple of tracks like She’s A Mystery. He’s bringing something to the table in that respect nowadays. Neal had the music for She’s A Mystery and the two of us sat down with Arnel to complete the song. It was a very rewarding process.
rushonrock: Does Arnel continue to surpass all of your wildest expectations?
JC: He’s just great. His work ethic is tremendous and we just couldn’t ask for a more solid dude. I’d like to see him communicate more with the audience – he still gets a little shy with them. He’s getting a lot more confident with the people out front but that only comes with time. His singing, of course, is superb. He just soars. Every night we get an incredible performance from Arnel and he’s on fire on the new album. He doesn’t just nail the classic stuff but he is all over the new stuff. He just understands how to bring it and to keep it there. It’s awe-inspiring to think of where this his guy has come from in such a short space of time.
rushonrock: You’ve joined Neal and Kevin Shirley as joint producer on Eclipse – does Kevin still have that magic behind the desk?
JC: He does. He still has the magic touch. But because of that he’s just so busy! He ran out of time with us on Eclipse really – we were going to do the whole album with him but he had so many other commitments. The original plan was to make the new record in stages but once we’d started we just felt we needed to get it finished. So we just asked Kevin if we could take what he’d already done and run with it. It was really a time thing. We wanted to see it through because we had this vision of how it was supposed to end. At that point we asked David Kalmusky to put his mark on Eclipse in the mixing department. We wanted the sound to be different to classic Journey – we knew the latest album needed to have bigger boots. We felt it was so unique and so different and David shared that view. I also felt Arnel had been a bit rushed when he’d been laying down the vocals first time around so I git him back to Nashville for a week and it was there where he really nailed things.
rushonrock: When did you first become aware of the Glee phenomenon and are you proud that Journey’s music is synonymous with such a hit show?
JC: I think it’s great. We found out early on that there were plans to use our music. The producers of Glee were quite friendly with our management team and so they explained the concept to us at a fairly early stage. I think they might have seen the Rock Of Ages musical (Hold On To That Feelin’) and seen Don’t Stop Believin’ performed on Broadway. It was almost a natural progression. But my kids love Glee. They’re huge fans of the show. They told me from day one that it was going to be big – they said ‘dad, this is huge!’. I watched it and I was blown away by the quality of the production for a kids’ show. It’s also a show that the whole family can watch together – which is very rare these days – and different generations get different things from it. I just remember sitting there with my kids and thinking ‘genius!’.
rushonrock: What about the inevitable backlash though?
JC: There’s been criticism. I have heard people say that the version of Don’t Stop Believin’ is the worst cover ever. From a band point of view it succeeds in communicating our music to a generation that would never otherwise look at Journey. These days 10-year-old kids want my autograph – as well as their dad and their granddads!
rushonrock: So you’re quite enjoying the Glee years?
JC: For so long people dismissed Journey. But all of our songs are still around and they still mean something to a lot of people. For years the critics just dismissed us as a load of shit. Well they can kiss my ring now! All I’ve got to say to those people now is that the cheques are still coming! We got nothing but snubbed year after year after year and never even got a Grammy. Even at our height the most we ever got was a diamond award for sales. Now I look at the situation some bands find themselves in and I realise we’ve had a pretty good run.
rushonrock: As the man responsible for tinkling to ivories on Don’t Stop Believin’ how does it feel to have played such a significant role in the most downloaded back catalogue song on iTunes?
JC: In the end it’s been a great old ride with that song. Right from the start I knew the song had some substance but I never expected it would reach the level it has. I just remember the way we created it. It was improvised. It just all fell into place and it’s great when that happens with a song. Me, Neal and Steve started jamming and it was all very free flowing. That’s one of the great things about being in a band – you get an idea and just work backwards. When I joined Journey they were very happy for me to bring my own ideas to the table. They were all for me pushing the envelope and moving the band in a new direction. That’s what I brought with my piano!
rushonrock: Your tour with Foreigner and Styx must be an AOR match made in heaven for UK fans…
JC: We’ve worked with the guys in both of those bands before – we toured with Foreigner 10 years ago. We toured with Styx back in the 80s. It’s going to be a blast.
rushonrock: Ten years ago this tour would have bombed – why is there suddenly a demand for this bill now?
JC: I just think the music all three bands deliver makes people feel good at what is a pretty tough time. It’s positive and powerful rock music. Maybe some of the new music out there wears thin after a while but there’s an enduring quality to what these three bands do. This tour just reminds you of a simpler time and there’s an element of escapism. We take you back to when you were young and your whole life was ahead of you. For the younger generation it means something different. The kids want to see bands that can really play their instruments and we do that – they want to see a style and a sound that isn’t just dirge. With the three bands on this tour you get soul, style and swagger!
rushonrock: Following a band like Foreigner means you’ll have to bring you’re A-game every night…
JC: Each band can bring it – believe me! But we’re really good at what we do. It’s like Al Pacino and movies. He knows how to do it – how to steal a scene and steal the show. He has a certain style. So do we.