An exclusive interview with Journey's
By Rich Sutton
Steve Perry is outgrowing Journey. In 1978 when he joined the group, it was the perfect match. Journey, an established band, made Steve Perry famous. Steve Perry, a singer with tremendous appeal, in turn gave Journey the mass acceptance that the band had yearned for. During the past six years, the group has sold millions of albums and singles and in 1983 was voted the most Popular Rock Band by the National Gallup Poll. Unlike many bands plagued by internal strife and bickering, Steve, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain all speak highly of the group's strong bonds. In 1984, Journey is one of rock's most successful bands with no end to their enormous popularity in sight. Then along comes Steve Perry's solo record, Street Talk.
Steve Perry began his career as a drummer before sharpening up his singing and songwriting skills. He did time with Tim Bogart (Vanilla Fudge and Beck, Bogart and Appice among others) before Journey's manager got hold of his tape singing with Alien Project. The story is that Herbie Herbert was on the phone with Steve immediately after hearing the tape. The phone call led to Perry joining Journey.
In 1984, after solo records by bandmates Neal Schon and Steve Smith, Steve Perry said that he had a "lot of things musically that I wanted to do and I felt I wanted to surround myself with different players to pull it off." The result is Street Talk.
Street Talk is a killer. With Perry's vocals it has an unmistakeable Journey sound, but a completely different feel. It is an album full of the pent up energy that comes from years of wanting to, as Perry puts it, "run alone". It may even be more successful than any Journey record.
Steve was obviously anxious to speak about Street Talk even though it had been two years since his last interview. The press hasn't, generally, been kind to Journey and has been especially cruel to Perry. With the release of Street Talk, there can't be much but good words, and so Steve Perry loosened up to talk with us about Journey and, of course, about Street Talk.
Rich Sutton: What can you do as Steve Perry that you can't do as Journey?
Steve Perry: A lot of things. Journey can be Steve Perry and Steve Perry can be Journey. The band I have for the Steve Perry project is good for my solo feelings. Journey couldn't copy a Journey thing although with me singing it may be that we'd get away with it. I think it's all apples and oranges. They're different, but they're still good.
RS: Steve Perry's and Journey's names have become so synonymous. Do you want to shake that association for your solo career or doesn't it matter?
SP: I'm real fortunate to have been in the band Journey. I started with them in '78 and they gave me a chance to express myself on vinyl, as a vocalist, as a writer, and as a part of a group. They already had things going for a long time, yet we've helped each other all the way along. It's been a real collaboration to this point. I don't know what to say except something like that. I really enjoyed doing a solo album.
RS: Because you were brought in later on, did you ever feel like an outsider in the band?
SP: No, they did the best they could to always make me feel a part of the whole thing. They definitely had a camaraderie going on for years prior to my entrance. That still exists. I think there is a very tight allegiance between Neal and Herbie that will never go they are like brothers. That will always be there. We do all get along, it's a democracy, otherwise it doesn't work. Unless you're Sting and you're in the Police and it's not even fair to say that because I don't even know how important the other guys are to him. Obviously, it's very important soundwise as far as I'm concerned. The group is a democracy and it really has to work. There are five very strong individuals. Strong in their own right creatively and drivewise and that's what makes up what is one very strong Journey sound. Independently I believe that everybody is as strong as the Journey thing. But independently there's an infectious freedom of creativity that is easier for myself, for instance, to just go and do something or easier for Neal to hook up with somebody else. That's what a group is all about. For the most part it is definitely a workable situation.
RS: This album has more serious lyrics. Would you say that's a good way to sum it up?
SP: I think more honest, more American.
RS: Why do you call the album "more American"?
SP: Now that you've heard that term go back and listen to it again. But first, have a glass of wine, whatever else you like, maybe a cup of coffee, well, have a glass of wine or two or twelve and relax. It is an American album and I don't mean the current administration. I mean musically. America is the melting pot of not just nationalities and peoples and colours but it's a melting pot of music. This country is responsible for some of the strongest, most innovative drives musically, creatively and including the ones that are going on right now supposedly from another country as far as I'm concerned. In this country, people from Cleveland go over where the attention is and come back with maybe a different style of fashion and appearance, but they're from Cleveland! All of a sudden it's English. This country is very powerful as far as I'm concerned and something I have to call an American sound which is everything all at once. I really believe that and from that hodgepodge comes out some really incredible combinations and I think if you listen to this album you'll hear some of the original seeds and some combinations. It is an American sounding record.
RS: David Lee Roth once told me that the only difference between American and British bands is the haircuts and the shoes.
SP: I would have to agree with that 100%. I think he's absolutely right and I'd like to go on record right now. In spite of what David Lee Roth says about me, I think they're great. I like those guys.
RS: It does seem like he picks on you.
SP: Neal said something about him one time in a press review that, unfortunately, gave him a bad taste about the word "Journey". Great band, excellent live, excellent on record. I love the new record and I think they're great. I tried to get hold of Eddie to work on my album but they were busy doing this one and he never had a chance to get back to me or maybe he feels like David does! I don't know.
RS: At times Journey has been called a "faceless" band. Over the past year there have evolved at least three individual personalities from the band who are very recognisable. Yourself, Neal, Jonathan, Steve to some extent in his circle, how do you feel about that?
SP: I never thought we were faceless, I tried to read into that one but I caught myself reading into it and I said that was my first mistake and to hell with it. Listen, when they said that I sounded like a seal being beaten up with a club, I said to myself, "there doesn't seem to be any reason to read this anymore!" There are some people out there who are going to be destructive and attack a person and there are some people who are even going to like the band and write nice stuff. When they start saying, "well, I don't like it, he - this one - he's no good, sounds like a seal being beaten up with a club." That is really tasteless and shallow.
RS: What's your reaction when you walk into a restaurant and get mobbed?
SP: I don't get mobbed. Most people don't bother us. Sherrie (sic) and I go out to dinner and most people are pretty good. But there are some people who'll come up and you'll be coming from your plate to your mouth with the fork and there'll be a piece of paper with a pencil thrown under your face and you go ah - and they go "aren't you Steve Perry?" And I usually go, "not while I'm eating," or else "not 'til Monday at nine 'o' clock.," I'm just Steve Perry, out like you. That's a hard one because you don't want to be rude because I guess there is a certain price that you have to pay. People feel that you owe them something and in a lot of respects you do, yes, but then again it is nice just to have dinner. For the most part, really, it's not as bad as you think.
RS: What do you like about your audience the most?
SP: That's a big question. They seem to respect an element of determination or something. Maybe it's just what I wish they would be, maybe it's my projection of what I wish they would see, which is a dedication of how hard everybody works - collectively, individually and now by myself. I know that people think that it must be a great easy life man just open your mouth and turn on the radio and "wow, they must all be filthy rich." I gotta tell you that I'm not hurtin' for a place to live and I'm not hurtin' for money, no, but filthy rich - no. You've got six people in the band, you've got unions in this country, you've got people who want a big hunk of what you make all the way down the line. It's a big circus. It takes five semis and a lot of lights, a lot of sound, a lot of crew and a lot of busses and gas! When you talk 107 shows and you talk 30,000 miles, you're talking a lot.
RS: What is your biggest thrill in rock and roll?
SP: I know this may sound, whatever, but to do this album has got to be one of the thrills for me. It's been a long way since I began and I always thought that I wanted to record an album as a solo artist. I always thought that in the Journey group I was in a band. I am an artist in that band but I took the position of helping the group as a piece of the group. When my participation and my expected upholding of my portion of that group is delivered all my life I wanted to do this. When I first saw a magazine and there was a simple little article on me, a gentleman here at CBS Records said, "It's got a rhythm all it's own." I thought, "boy that's ok, I like that." I thought that was nice, I think I'll keep that.
© Song Hits, October 1984, Charlton Publications Inc.