Interview – Jonathan Cain, JOURNEY, December 2012

By Shane Pinnegar

Originally published in edited for in XPRESS MAGAZINE, this is the full interview transcript, in advance of JOURNEY’s first ever tour of Australia, with Deep Purple in February and March of 2013.

Journey Jonathan Cain interview 02

100%: Good morning Jonathan, how are you today?

Hey, g’day. Doing well. We’re here in Vegas; we’ve got a day off, beautiful sunny atmosphere. Still, pretty good to get out of Canada for a bit.

100%: So are you guys on a tour at the moment?

We are, yeah. A couple more shows and we’re off to Hawaii for four or five shows, yeah.

100%: Nice one. So you must be pretty excited about coming Down Under for the tour in March.

We definitely are. It’s kind of wild. We’ve been wanting to come there for the last 10 years and one thing or another kept us from coming and finally we got the right package. The guys from Deep Purple agreed to give us a shot so we’re going to show you what Journey are all about.

100%: Fantastic. And it’s a great line up, as you just said. I spoke to Ian Gillan from Deep Purple yesterday and he said he was very excited about it and said that even he would go out and buy a ticket for this line up.

[laughs] Well you know, we got to play together in Europe at different stages. And Ian was at [a show] we did back in the 80s; I remember meeting him and his wife who drove all the way to see us and I was just thrilled and honoured to finally meet the legend, and what can you say? I’m a big fan of those guys and the music they did is just an awesome legacy they got going on and it’s neat to see that they’re still out there doing it, you know?

100%: And same goes for you guys.

Journey Jonathan Cain interview 03

Yeah. Well I think one of my first rock and roll records I ever bought was Hush when I was a kid; I went out and bought a B3 [A Hammond B3 organ, as favoured by Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord - Ed] just because of that.

100%: [laughs] Nice one.

I learned how to play that song. That was one of the songs my band… as soon as I heard it I said, “I’ve got to do that; I’ve got to learn that one.” And so I think we played it to death for years and years and years, but what a great band.

100%: So Journey has had quite a resurgence in the last five or so years, once you got Arnel Pineda in the band in 2007, and of course Don’t Stop Believin’ is the top selling song on iTunes ever, yet the interesting thing was it didn’t even top the US top 40 when it was first released in ’81. So what do you credit about being so special about the song?

It was just the right song at the right time. I think there was a lot of elements that all added up; The Sopranos picked it up as their closing song and Rock of Ages featuring it and Glee jumping on it, then getting nominated for a Grammy. It has always been a feel good song. It’s a song about the rock n’ roll dream, about… certainly my anthem in the Seventies trying to make it in the music business in L.A., you know, struggling and trying to figure out how to get myself situated in the rock & roll business. So it’s all about that throwback to those days when I wanted a career in the big show, you know, just looking from the outside looking in. I guess I was a figure in a smoky room so it gives somebody permission to dream… dream whatever they want to dream. I can only say maybe that’s what the song resonates with. Permission to dream is a good thing these days.

100%: Oh, absolutely! Now you mentioned Glee and Rock of Ages; I did a little research, there’s also been covers of it by Alvin and the Chipmunks and even Rock Sugar’s mash-up with Metallica’s Enter Sandman. How do you feel when you hear these really diverse cover versions of your song?

It just tells me that it’s part of the culture. When you can get a song that resonates with three generations and still is relevant through the culture of rock today, you’ve done something good. The song has a classic message and it has resonated with generations on generations and so what can you say? It has always been a song that the young people would come to the front of the stage for when we’re at the concerts, I noticed that early on.

This was when we put the band back together in ’98; it was the song that lit up the crowd. You could see early on, it was kids coming to see us and not just a bunch of middle aged fans out there, there was quite an interesting mix of younger people come to see Journey and I guess it’s got to do with the innocence of the boy next door kind of thing that we always kept in.

Steve Perry had a certain character he played and he sang about in all the songs. When I got in the band I realised that and I stayed true to it. It was never about sex, drugs and rock and roll with Perry, it was the boy next door and he was playing that.  So it would be very seldom that he would get the girl in the songs, you know, he’s always got a broken heart and he’s looking to fix it. So that was Steve Perry. When I joined the band I saw the character and we stayed true to it. I think I added the blue collar [element], if it was missing, in ’81 when I came in. Being a big fan of Bob Seger, I wanted to bring that… infuse that blue collar street guy into our songs.

Don’t Stop Believin’ was one of the first ones that we were really successful at achieving… especially having a hit. It’s got a lot of cool images and it’s a movie all to itself, so very happy we did that the right way, you know?

100%: Absolutely. You mention the name Journey to anyone and Don’t Stop Believin’ is probably the first thing they’re going to have spring to mind. Do you think it’s the best song you’ve written?

Oh I don’t know, there’s some good ones. I think because it has resonated so well with so many generations, it has to be the biggest one of my career. I wrote it with this bunch of guys, you know, Neal Schon and Steve Perry took a chance on it; I brought the chorus in and we wrote it backwards. Steve bought into my whole concept of restoring the lyric and felt that it was really done in an improv sort of way, so we really didn’t have a plan for it, we just flowed together with it and it was just how good we were. We just had a special… it was a special time. We had five/six years where we were just firing on all cylinders together; there was a synergy. They were keen on changing the sound of Journey and I was thrilled as hell to help engineer that… they already had a great group, we just needed to go to the next level and I think we did a good job of it. So Escape and Frontiers each sold almost 10 million records; pretty cool. And Greatest Hits for Christmas, well beyond 10 million now.

100%: Fantastic achievement.

85 million units sold so it’s a pretty amazing accomplishment to have!  It’s just a magical place where five guys got in a room and made it happen. It was kind of like winning the SuperBowl for me. I had come up from The Babys and Bad English and never had any success like that or achieved that kind of status early on. We were selling 250,000 units a week and it was unheard of – that was the album Escape. So we still lean on it heavily in our show; play a lot of the music from that and Frontiers – especially those two records, which I think will go down pretty good in Australia, if I’m not mistaken, right?

100%: Mmm, definitely!

Classic Journey, singer Steve Perry second from right

Classic Journey, singer Steve Perry second from right

We did pretty good with those [records]. And we had been asked to go play a couple of dates [in Australia] and Steve was just tired. I think in retrospect we worked too hard on this market [The United States] because it was easy to make money here, and the manager didn’t have the insights to back off here and maybe give us a little chance to go try some different territories. And then Steve didn’t want to do it, he didn’t want to travel and was tired and his voice needed rest; the last thing he wanted to do was get on a plane and do more shows. I wanted to, certainly, but it wasn’t about what I wanted. The rest of the band certainly wanted to try those new territories, it’s just that I think he didn’t get enough rest and he just was not going to want to do it [at that time]. In hindsight it was probably not a great move and I kind of regret that. If we did one thing over again, I definitely would have everybody look at that again and say, “Hey, let’s save a little gas for Australia!”

100%: Absolutely.

In Europe especially… in Europe and UK… we thought we had a huge following in the UK, and it took us just years and years to get there. But one of our goals in ’98 when Neal and I put this band back together was to become an international brand… that was one of our visions for this little band… well not really this ‘band’, more this ‘line up’. We had the energy to do it and so we have: we’ve done Scandinavia, UK, South America, we’ve just finished an unbelievable run in Canada. We’ve just had a terrific attendance, I think, selling out almost every show from Toronto to Vancouver. So that really, really made me feel good about Canada, and so now we look to Australia and New Zealand.

100%: Awesome. Well we’re looking forward to having you.

Now we have Singapore coming, we did a beautiful show in Manila that we made a DVD on, if you saw it, touring live from Manila; 2 hours and 15 minutes of hits.

100%: Oh wow. I haven’t seen it yet.

We played every song we knew that night, it was great.

100%: That’s great! You mentioned coming up from The Babys and Bad English. I don’t know if you know but John Waite will be touring the country in March as well next year, so… are relations strained between you, or would a friendly get together – or even an onstage guest appearance – happen if schedules allow it?

I don’t know. He’s been kind of… he said some stuff in the press that wasn’t so kind, so I don’t know where his head is at these days, I really don’t. He sort of dissed us in the press recently for no reason really.

100%: Yeah, I saw that.

It’s wrong to do it like that so I’m a little disappointed in his outburst. I think he should take another look at it, maybe think about what he said because it certainly didn’t make him look very bright, you know? Last time I checked, he didn’t look like Otis Redding any more, okay?

[laughs]

Don’t give me the soul card, you know what I’m saying? Because he was the one who wanted to sing When I See You Smile, okay, it wasn’t me; I didn’t want any part of it.

100%: Okay…

He was the one that had to have that song on the album and it really was the kiss of death for Bad English; it was the end of us, you know? Number One pop song, see ya. You know, that’s how it went. We were a rock n’ roll band and didn’t need any help, you know, we were doing just fine. So I wish him well, really I do, because he’s a part of what I’ve become and I’m proud of all the work we’ve done together and I hope he is too. I can’t speak for him but [long pause]… that is one song I wrote with him that I’m not proud of.

100%: So we won’t hold our breath for a Babys or Bad English reunion any time soon then?

No way. That is not going to happen ever. Well first of all I’m a father of three and I’ve got my card pumped!  I know Tony Brock tried to put together a Babys reunion but without John Waite, you know. He called me and asked me what I thought and I said, “Well if you get the singer, it’s possible” you know, and it was [a matter of] how it was going to work without John.  But the songs are great; it’s a great catalogue.

100%: Absolutely.

I certainly wouldn’t have been the songwriter I turned into hadn’t it been for The Babys, taking a shot at it. I still hold that – all that stuff, really great stuff, still rocks my world, you know? And the Bad English stuff; all great.

100%: So the movie Rock Star was loosely based on the story of Tim Owens getting plucked from a Judas Priest tribute band and joining the actual band. Do you think there’s a Hollywood movie in the real life story of how you found Arnel via a YouTube video?

We actually have a documentary coming out in the spring called Don’t Stop Believin’: Every Man’s Journey. And it’s quite an interesting job, made by an independent documentary filmmaker, Ramona Diaz; we let her in our camp and she filmed from day one. And it’s really, really good. We just saw it at the Tribeca Film Festival screening, and it’s going to be released next spring so there you go – we’ve already done it!

100%: Yeah, cool.

We had no clue… an independent documentary?  But we’re thrilled with the way it came out and it’s Arnel’s story and it’s remarkable; it’s something everybody should see.

Modern Journey, singer Arnel Pineda centre

Modern Journey, singer Arnel Pineda centre

100%: Excellent. Now a lot of Australians may not realise but you actually wrote Jimmy Barnes’s signature song, For the Working Class Man. Was that written specifically for him or did he hear it somewhere along the line and just sort of twist it to work from an Aussie perspective and make it work?

Actually Gary Gersh at Geffen at the time was a fan of mine and was excited to get Jimmy [on the label], and wanted a song from me and for me to produce it and he thought it would get Jimmy. So I heard a couple of songs that he had done in Cold Chisel and I heard his voice and I had the title in my head and sort of waited until the last minute to finish it. So maybe it was like a week before he got to the States to record, Gary kept calling to say, “Is Jimmy’s song done yet?” and I said, “It’s coming!” And I was out with my dog by the Bay where Steve Cropper supposedly wrote Dock of the Bay with Otis and I was throwing this toy down the pier and he was going to get it, and we played fetch.

I wrote the song in half an hour with my German Shepherd. I called Gary and I said, “I think you’re going to like this, it’s done.” I sort of loosely based it upon my admiration of my father and the working class kind of guy that I had been fascinated with my whole life. One of my big heroes is my father; self-made man. I thought Jimmy could really tell that story, I had no idea how he would raise it at the end. I had a great band that I put Jimmy with…let’s see, we had Tony Brock playing drums and then Randy Jackson from American Idol played bass on that, Dave Amato who is now in REO Speedwagon was the guitarist. We clicked and we got it in three or four takes. And we did two songs [American Heartbeat was the second –Ed]; they had such a good run with it, they called me back to do the Freight Train Heart album, so we did that together as well.  I just saw Jimmy four years ago and caught up with him, wrote a few songs, had a few laughs. He’s doing well and we’re trying actually… hopefully we could work with him [in Australia] but it just didn’t work out. So we’re proud to be with Deep Purple and finally get over there.

100%: Fantastic. You’ve certainly had an amazing life Jonathan; you’ve achieved more than the average bear. At a quick count, something like 20 or 25 studio albums under your own speed, let alone guest appearances and song writing and blah, blah, blah, blah and compilations and producing albums and all this. Is there anything left for you to keep creatively striving for?

Yeah. I’d really like to crack the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame, because I live there now, and they’ve sort of been really standoffish about working… I’ve been trying to get in that crowd and get with Keith Urban and sit down and be able to write or produce something. That’s my next thing.  I’ve sort of been knocking at the door and then you know, been left standing at the altar a little bit so I’m going to work on that.  I’ve just built a great studio in Nashville. I may make a lot more albums before I’m done, you know, but I want to make one solo album and I want it to be just pure rock & roll [laughs]. I just want to do one and get one under my belt that says this is Jonathan Cain, one lifetime. I don’t expect it to sell anything but now that I have my own studio and some of the greatest musicians in Nashville are my friends… [laughs] So I will make that record down the road at some point. I want to get my head around it and write some good country songs. My daughter is exciting; her career – Madison, has just taken off and she’s on YouTube and iTunes with a song called Dirt that I helped write and I couldn’t be more happy. It’s sort of like Jimmy and his daughter, you know. I think her name is Michaela, right?

100%: Mahalia.

Mahalia? There you go. So I’m just really super proud of what she’s doing and she’s a really talented songwriter; she’s way beyond what I was when I was 19, I’ll tell you that!  So I wish her the best and I’m hoping great things for her. The studio is a blast; I have a world class studio in Nashville called Addiction Sound and it’s kind of like my baby, you know? I go in there and it’s just an unbelievable sanctuary to make music in, so I have no excuse now! [laughs]

100%: Well I’ll look your daughter’s stuff up on YouTube mate, after we’ve finished.

Yeah, Madison Cain; the song is called Dirt. She also did a great cover of a Black Crowes song, She Talks to Angels.

100%: Oh cool. And are we expecting any new material from Journey any time soon?

Journey Deep Purple Australian Tour 2013

[laughs] The last one didn’t go so well. Neal put this rock concept to me and I went with him and it really didn’t sell. So I don’t know, we’ll probably do another one at some point when we get our heads in the right place. I’d like to go back and do a classic Journey album but I think we need to stick to what we’re known for and that’s what people want. But it’s hard, it’s very difficult when you have this catalogue that we have of 35 classic songs… who’s going to buy it [laughs], I just don’t know. It’s tough to break in. Once you can get in on a movie deal or something then… we’d love to try and get a shot at a movie and play and write in that context. That would be great but it seems like all the young bands get those gigs. It’s going to take a special scenario. Again, my studio is available and it’s… I think everybody will have a great time if we have the right material to make a really killer Journey album. I was really proud of Eclipse but, like I said, I don’t think it translated, people didn’t get it. It was a departure from what we had done before and I let Neal drive the bus so…  he drove it, and it didn’t sell, so… we have to do it together – it has to be the way we used to do in the old days.

100%: That’s the trick, I think, nowadays.

We had a number one song, a ballad with Arnel called After All These Years that I was really proud of. It was an easy hit and what can you say? To go number one isn’t bad, you know?

100%: Absolutely.  Alright, I think that’s our time up. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Nice talking with you. Your favourite Journey songs, quick, off the top of your head. What would you want to hear?

100%: Well obviously Don’t Stop Believin’, Faithfully is another big favourite of mine and my wife’s. As you said, you’ve just got 35 classic songs there at a minimum, it’s just impossible to choose a set list!

Well we’ve got a 75 minute set so we’ve got to put them in there and hope for the best. I don’t know how you guys… do you get any of the new music over there?

100%: Yes, absolutely.

Yeah, so Revelation and Eclipse, you guys have that?

100%: I’ve got Eclipse. I don’t think I have Revelation but I definitely have Eclipse, yeah.

Well Revelation is a great disc if you can get a hold of it because it’s got Arnel singing the classic hits and the new album and plus the video of what we were doing back then. So it’s a great… it did really well here in the States; we sold 800,000 of them. It’s probably our biggest [new] record, Revelation, and we might play a song from it.

100%: Awesome. We look forward to it. So we’ll see you in March!

Okay we’ll see you in March. Thanks so much for your interest.

100%: Thank you so much for your time.

Journey will be supporting Deep Purple around the country on their 2013 tour:

Tue 26 Feb – Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Fri 1 Mar – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Sat 2 Mar – Sydney Entertainment Centre
Mon 4 Mar – Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Thu 7 Mar – Perth Arena

 

Interview – Jonathan Cain, JOURNEY, December 2012

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About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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