Interview: Jonathan Cain

So, your tour…obviously you're happy with the tour at this point?
What looked like a disaster has really turned out great. It was really stressing to watch everything happen for Steve and the band. We were just at wits end you know, and when Jeff came out we were like a work in progress. We had never rehearsed together, we'd never played together.
I mean he kind of knew the arrangements and he'd been to enough shows, I guess the past couple years that he kinda knew what was going on and then there were no monitors and, oh my gosh, he was really tired from singing where he was singing. I thought oh no, another singer's gonna go down because he was struggling to get through the show at first, and then we got him some inner-ears [audo monitors] and things started coming together, and he did brilliant.
I mean, all considering, he just stepped up and nailed it. It was great, but not without giving us a worry.

You were thrown into a hard situation weren't you?
Yeah, we just threw him out there to the wolves and then there he was. He just responded like Rocky Balboa and started swinging and worked his way through it.
He really brought it together and I think every show he does gets a little better and it's impressive. What he's done is very impressive. So Jeff kind of saved us on the tour. I didn't know what was gonna happen.

You guys had to make a gutsy decision didn't you?
It was tough. It was a tough call, and yet I don't think Steve could have held up at the rate he was going. It's happened to several singers. You know the guy in the Spin Doctors had a similar sort of, it's a sort of a semi-paralysis where the cords just stop working. And he had this health issue with his pneumonia and all this other stuff that got in his vocal cords and whew, he had things going on probably in three different areas healthwise that effected this coming and he just couldn't, couldn't get it together. But Jeff coming out was great.

Everyone is now saying that you guys have got astounding energy on stage and I saw that last night. Like you said, it's kind of progressing as things got better and better.
Well that's it. I mean I didn't know what to make of the first few nights. It was like yikes!
It was so hard. There's a concern there that we wonder like, what are we doing to this guy? That's the thing, it's like what are we doing? We got this new guy and we just threw him out there and you know he's barely hearing what he's supposed to. He hasn't got in-ears yet and then he's not used to them. Then when we finally get 'em they're falling out of his ears…
I was just worried for him. Because I hate just throwin' people out there saying here go do it, you know. You have the concern that are we gonna be Ok. And yet every night he sort of pulled it out, and he got through it and he got better and better and better. And so then when he finally got used to the in-ears he was like 'Wow, this is really good' and we got him a good mix. And he got accustomed to the whole thing of our volume.
And you know he doesn't seem like much effects him. Then after we had our first break and he had two weeks off where he could rest his voice and he came back and started pacing himself and finding his groove and rhythm. I think how to be the frontman of Journey too. Finding his way that way. It's not easy, come on, but again rises to the occasion and gets it done and he's performed admirably.

There were some early reviews saying that you in particular looked concerned on stage.
Well that's what it was. It wasn't anything but 'yikes'...I'm so connected to all of that. I've always been part of the vocal part of Journey with Steve and even Steve Perry and I'd see him up there and I'm going, what is he listening to, can he hear? Oh man, I could tell that is that song right here, should we move stufff around? Is he gonna be able to get through this? The set's a bear.

But last night you seemed to be having a lot of fun out there.
I think it was after the, it was two weeks, and we got him his in-ears and got it mixed together. And then I could tell he was pacing himself. I just didn't want another guy blowing his, voice. You just don't want it to go out…


As you said – the set's a bear - it's tough material for anyone to sing.
It is tough material and I was concerned because I knew he was tired when he came out here. I could tell. It was rough you know. I go oh man, this is like, whew.
Because I know when he's singing, when it's healthy, you could tell that wasn't a real healthy voice he came out here with. That's what I was worried about. That's why I had the concern, 'cause I was like 'man we just need a break here'. I think it was probably two and a half weeks that we had to get through. Then we had the break, which was great. I think then I started feeling like 'Ok we're gonna be fine'. But it was stressful. Neal had just all the confidence in the world in him. And I was just like yikes, I hope…I hope he makes it through this.

Of course, and what would happen if you chose a singer that couldn't. You couldn't do three singers in one tour.
Well we had nothing to lose at that point. We had nothing to lose. He was all we had. You can't bring a new guy in like that in the middle of a tour. It's almost an unheard of, an unprecedented thing to step in. It even goes beyond the Rock Star [the movie] because here's a guy, you're just countin' on him to pull it through and so he did. And it was great and I'm just much more comfortable now that we've got him comfortable. We've got him rested and he's found his legs with us. We've found a way to be with each other on stage too. Because I'd never played with him before.

Of course not, but Neal's got that year with Jeff under his belt.
Sure, so he's used to it and Ross, I think Ross and I were both kinda like 'whoa where do we go?' His moves are different so we're bumping into each other on stage and we're like trying to find the rhythm with each other on stage.

Yeah, of course. Jeff's everywhere!
The moving, like, how do we be? And we had to do it in front of an audience!
It's not like a rehearsal where you can sit down and rehearse with a guy and go yeah, it's all groovy. It wasn't and we did it and we made some mistakes probably and the people were kind and knew that, the situation…most of them knew.
We had the disclaimer in the beginning, you know, we said due to illness and we did that for a long time.

And you've dropped that now…
By the time Phoenix came around everybody knew and there's no point in continuing on with that. So now it's just welcome Jeff and I think that works.

Oh absolutely it does and he gets a good cheer too.
Yeah, and that's, you know, so the band goes on and our songs continue to soar.

I thought he pulled off some really Perry moments last night, on vocals.
Yeah, that's the other thing. There's a certain range factor that…I assured him that his voice would stretch and would get up there, because he hadn't been singing in that register consistently. And I said give it time and it'll find it's way up there. Then sure enough in a few weeks it was keyed to go there and I said it will. And I said its a little less power singing and more finesse. 'We've got to get you thinking more finesse' and he did. It's different you know. It's like coming from Broadway to Shakespeare in that it's a different thing. You're a great actor, you've got great tools and then there's that adjustment period that has to happen for all of us. Unfortunately we had to do it in front of an audience.

That's pretty rare isn't it?
That's pretty rough. We all knew it and we were all very forgiving of all the little things that we did. All in all it was pretty seamless, certainly the crowds that first came saw good shows. So even if it was rough in spots I think they were happier to have the band than not have the band. So they realized that part of it and then you go and then we're mindful of what's just happened to Steve.

And you've booked the UK already, which is great. You're going to go back there.
I hear that we're supposed to do the March thing and then I hope they can get us into a few more territories once we get over there.
Who knows, at this stage of the game I'm just happy to be going back there and giving it our all.

It's a great thing. I've had e-mails from Germany, France, Austria saying please tell them that there are fans here who want to see them as well.
Yeah, it was great. This spring was fantastic. The response was like, for our music. In Holland they were louder than we were. It was just brilliant. Sweden, Germany and we played the hits, you know and the ballads and they just went whoa. So it was a good feeling. I'd never played in Europe and it was a joy. It gave me something to look forward to. So they couldn't be sweeter in that UK fanclub. They were just crackin', they were really on it.

Yeah, I've had a bit of contact with them, they are sweet.
They made us feel welcome and at home and you know so yeah, I loved it. I loved Europe, loved it all, loved Scotland.

So what's the '07 plan?
It's gonna be, you know uh, I guess sustaining. With a few bucks here and there, doing some gigs. Probably under the radar gigs. Sort of an under the radar year for us and then maybe, hopefully there's been some talk of some more summer festivals if we're lucky, If they like what they see the promoters might book us. We're not assuming that though.

I don't think you'll have any problem there.
We'll probably move into some writing sessions and some recording and gonna try to come out with an album for the summer of, not this summer but the following summer.

Yeah, so early '08.
Yeah, it'll be a summer release. Then hopefully maybe some television with a new single.

That'd be killer.
And just try to make a, you know, a statement with a record that might have some legs. We're gonna take our time with this one. I mean unlike Generations which just sort of had some great songs anyway on it. This one will be a little bit more studied and more deliberate. But again, you don't know. With this market place it's hard to say what people are gonna do. I think we do albums for our own core fans and for our pride and for our sound and our spirit. I certainly don't have any illusions about having huge amounts of success. Radio you know is just such, kind of a funny animal now and the internet is a funny animal. You can't count on either one of them you know.

You just do your best and then let it fly.
You know, really an album is a snapshot in time of where you are at the time. It's a picture of the moment where the band comes to. You take a journey and it'd being like going to Paris for two weeks, taking pictures and that's it. That's basically what an album is. You go on a musical journey together and then you have the songs to show for it. That period of time for the band, what they were able to do for that time.

Have you tried any writing yet with Jeff to see how that gels?
I'm not gonna do that because I think the freshness is important and to labor that kind of thing, no. Right now were on a really high energy wave. Any little thing will upset that, you know, and getting into all that writing, it just wears you out.

Sure. You haven't really got any time. You've got the shows and then the travel.
Yeah, so you jot down ideas. You might get titles. I write all the time, I write little bits and pieces of stuff. That's mostly how Generations got together. It was all the stuff I wrote and probably Steve and Neal and I. Neal probably had bits. Then we made songs out of his bits because he was gone with Soul Sirkus.
I really didn't have Neal for Generations. He was gone you know, so I took his things that he gave me and he left and I made songs with them and he was happy and off we went. That's basically how it went. It was really Steve's, you know Steve Augeri, with his wonderful songs on Generations that inspired me to do and album.
I guess if he hadn't had those songs sitting there, Butterfly and Believe stuff it wouldn't be a record. So I think they're probably the best things he's done in Journey, you know, those three songs for me on Generation are a nice growth thing for him as a songwriter, as an artist. I really, really admire what he did on those songs. The arrangement, whatever, I mean he did every stitch of everything.
When I heard him I was like, I won't change a thing. I just loved them you know, and Neal loved them and so good for Steve. So that's why I think Generations, um, was a snapshot, you know, in our moment of should we make a record or not.
Management called me and I said I think we've got some great songs. I had just finished Every Generation and I said I've even got a good song that I could sing. At that time, you know, we thought it was kinda cool to have everybody do a song and then we'd be doing that on stage. So we just pulled that into it and maybe we could have written some songs for people to sing but there wasn't a lot of time so we just went. We had our window, we went for it, then that was it. Then we thought you know we're making this for the fans anyway.

And I was thrilled, you know, with the way it turned out.

So now we move on and we will write we get time to write Jeff and Neal and I and the band will work and see...

See what comes.
That's what you gotta do. That's the next door for us and it's the next step. I've already familiar with, with what happens on a Journey record and...

You've made a few now!
Yes, so I think we know how to do it. What was fun about Generations is we kinda went back to what worked in Frontiers and Escape. And they really did work in the fact that it was all live and we did analog backing tracks. There were no edits and very few overdubs. Neal played most of the solos all live. We kept everything, um, it was lots of fun 'cause it was just so spontaneous. I think it's one of Deen's best albums.

Yeah, I love his stuff on there.
Unfortunately the drum sound to me could have been better. What we got at the plant sounded so good you know, raw just raw. Then by the time it got to Vancouver it just something just not quite as, the drums, I just, kinda for me I'd like to, I'd have preferred more.
You know we had trouble with the mastering actually and we had to back off. I think they tried to put too much level on it. The first swipe at mastering, I mean, was like 'Oh God', you know, so. It's not how loud the CD is, it's how good it sounds. So we had to tweak that a little bit. It's still a cool, it's the way we should make records. I think we know that we don't want to do another Arrival, you know.

Yeah, lose it in the making.
Beat it up, Beat it up, you know. Where the magic happens is at rehearsal. Because you try to get that going on and not wait 'til the studio and go 'hey well let's just experiment in the studio'. I mean you can do a little bit of that but I think for us, we like going in with guns blazing and we work all of our stuff out in the rehearsal room and then bang.
That's how we always made our successful records that did the best. They were sort of made that way, they were sort of approached with 'we're gonna get this right in rehearsal and then we're gonna go on'. There's a lot of recording that goes on in rehearsal and we listen and then we make decisions about the arrangements, you know what I mean. And then sometimes in the studio we'll go back and change something again because it's like it's not working when we hear it on the speakers.
At least everybody's ready and prepared and there isn't this whole learning process. But that being said I mean a lot of surprises come up. Like Faithfully was never rehearsed. So that was just a live take that you know they wanted a ballad for Frontiers and so that's what happened. We all played it, three takes, see ya.
So there's something to be said for those kind of moments. You don't want to beat a song up to death to where it's not fresh anymore. Like there's a danger of too much rehearsal. I think you know two weeks and then see ya, that's about all you want to rehearse it. You run over everything. Make sure everybody's got it together and then off you go. And just, you know, you want it to be fresh when you get in the studio to some degree you know.

Yeah, keep some energy in it.
Yeah, yeah 'cause if you beat it up too much, it's like I can tell when we're beating a song up. Because we're all like 'Oh God' you know. I mean I remember on some of these albums you know we played a song over and over. On Trial by Fire there was one we played for two days, the same song you know. I was just, 'what are we doing here', you know, we got it like twenty takes ago. Is it that much better? I don't know.

But anyway, so, I'm looking forward to it. I think we've gotta stand up and do something together. But this is the first test you know. On the job training.(laughs) I mean Jeff's got it, he's really been able to prove himself with the fans.
You know it's kinda like, I had a similar experience when I joined Journey. I had to jump right out there with them. I got to make an album which was just lovely, I mean. His experience is similar to what I went through with the Babys. Because Micheal Corby had just finished Head First and then off I went, you know. It's different when you're the lead guy though.

Everyone's watching.
Yeah, everyone's watching you, you know. So but um, it's great. He's just added a whole fresh new spin on the stuff, and it's great. And I'm honored to have him sing on my songs.

Great, great. Perfect. Thanks Jon.

c. 2006 / Andrew McNeice &