Journey Force: Steve Perry - Back In The Groove
Journey Force Final Newsletter, 1993
Lora Beard and Cyndy Poon
Setting The Scene
Steve was in New York mixing his album. We were in San Francisco doing the fan club gig. Our mission, and we decided to accept it, was to rendezvous with him in Los Angeles for the final newsletter interview. Sounds easy, right? After a few days of bicoastal phone tag, we set a date. Steve had to cancel because of a last minute change on the album. Reset the date. Lora had to cancel because she got sick. Reset the date. Steve got the flu. Reset the date. Cyndy's got serious allergy problems and is barely conscious. Give her a pill and put her on the plane, we're going anyway.
It was Wednesday afternoon and warm in L.A. Steve picked us up and we headed out in search of lunch. Mexican? Nah. Hunan? Nah. Chinese? Nah. Italian? Yeah! We ended up in a little, Italian restaurant where we did the angel hair pasta thing, relaxed awhile, and then attempted to do the interview. There was too much street noise, so we went over to Steve's condo and all crashed on the couch.
Steve had barely recovered from his bout with the flu and Cyndy was under the influence of antihistamines, so it was a very laid back interview. As we were sitting there talking, we noticed an advance copy of Steve's CD lying on the coffee table. After he noticed us eyeing it longingly for several minutes, Steve agreed to play it. What an overwhelming 45 minutes of pure listening pleasure! There aren't any adjectives that really do it justice, so we'll just say it is brilliant. Steve never sounded better. The lyrics and vocals are inspired; the band is hot. In other words, we liked it very much.
After the most awesome listening experience of the past few years, we finished the interview, said our goodbyes, tried to swipe the CD (we got busted at the door) and flew back to San Francisco where we typed this up and here it is.....
Steve Perry - Back In The Groove
Steve: What's this? Two recorders?
Lora: We're getting totally efficient. We brought a back-up.
Steve: Okay, we'll put on ever here (points to right side of couch) and one over there (points to left side of couch) and start them at the same time. One will go faster than the other one, then it will slow down and you'll hear two mess talking.
Cyndy: Maybe you could take both tapes and mix them.
Steve: (pauses) I could mix them, but that would take too long. That would take forever. (laughs)
Lora: So how have you been?
Steve: I'm fighting a cold right mow. I came back from New York and got the latest flu. It was cold back there and I got sick. I can't figure that out. It really hit me hard. I was down for days with it. I did the fever bit, headache and praying to the porcelain god, which I haven't done for a long time. (laughs)
Lora: So, let’s talk about the new record. Do you have a title yet?
Steve: It's going to be called For The Love Of Strange Medicine.
Lora: How about a release date?
Lora: Come on, let's get more specific. Pick a year.
Steve: (major laughter) Pick a year. I love it. (laughs) okay, it will be the first quarter of the year. This year coming up, 1994. Probably in late March. (laughs)
Cyndy: Any plans to tour?
Steve: We hope to tour this summer.
Lora: How about introducing the guys who played on your record?
Steve: Okay. We'll start with Paul Taylor, who is the keyboardist. I met him through you guys.
Cyndy: Yeah, if I recall, it was because of an annoying, early morning phone call. (laughs)
Steve: Is that what it was? Oh yeah, you guys were staying at the Riot Hyatt (nickname of the Hyatt on Sunset in Hollywood). (laughs)
Cyndy: I had just gotten my cellular phone, and I gave you the number the day before.
You called my cellular early that morning just to hassle us. You were bugging me about 'the question' and I said, "Don't you have anything better to do, like write a song? Call Paul Taylor. He wants to write with you."
Steve: You said he was a friend of yours and he had just left Winger. I called him and we got together not too long after that. He's a very creative guy. He comes up with some of the most beautiful chord changes I've heard in a long time. We call him 'bridges while you wait' because he can come up with a bridge just like that. I'll go, "We need something right here. Don't think, just play it" and he'll do something great. It's been fantastic writing with him. We've got a lot of songs that didn't even get on the record because we never really finished them.
I found Lincoln Brewster, the guitar player, through Randy Jackson. Randy is now the main West Coast cheese for Sony Music. He knew I had been looking for a guitar player for a long time. There were so many people in this town that could play a lot of chops but they really had no feel. The more I looked, the more disappointing it felt. There wasn't a whole lot of heart in their playing. Randy called and said he was given this tape a kid had made in his home studio. The songs were unfinished, but they stood on their own; they were so pretty. I was standing here in this room listening to the tape and I could feel that there was something behind his playing. There was soul there. I called him and we talked for a long time. He was living at home with his mom at the time.
Lora: He must have had a major freak out when you called him out of the blue.
Steve: (laughs) Yeah, I guess. I don't think about things like that sometimes. Anyway, he came to Los Angeles and that was the beginning of me, Paul and Lincoln hanging out and jamming. The next guy we got was Moyes Lucas Jr, the drummer. Paul, Link and I were at a rehearsal place her in Los Angeles and we were just jamming and having a lot of fun. We were thinking we might put something together, but nothing was for sure. We were going through some drummers trying to find someone who would click with us. We went through quite a few drummers, but no one was right. One day we were jamming and trying people out when this guy, Moyes, knocks on the door and says he would like to audition. I looked over at the drummer that was playing at the moment and I realized that if I cut him a little short and then pushed the next guy back a little bit, we could work Moyes in. He came in and set up and we could tell from watching him tune up his kit that he was different. We knew right away. We started jamming and writing a song.
The bass player situation was interesting because we couldn't settle on anyone that fit in with the whole thing. It's not just the music, it's people. You have to get the people right and then there is good music. We used two great bass players on the record, one named Mike Porcaro, who's excellent and the other one is a gentleman named Larry Kimpel who is an equally excellent bassist. At this point I don't know what I'm going to do with the live thing, but I'm thinking about that right now.
Lora: You were in New York mixing the album when they had the celebrity roast up here for Herbie (Herbert). It's too bad you weren't able to be there.
Steve: Yeah, I was right in the middle of doing the mixes on the record when I heard about the roast. I couldn't make it, so I sent Herbie a telegram that said something like "hoping your roast is..well done" (laughs) I hope he got the joke. I heard everyone had a great time.
Lora: Did you like being in New York?
Steve: I love New York. I was there for two months and I had a great time. I was working long hours, but when I'd go out, there were so many places to choose from.
Lora: Who was the producer on the album?
Steve: Jimbo Barton. He helped us sound like we do, and in some cases a little different than we do. There were some songs that were brought into the situation that the band didn't write.
Lora: You wrote them?
Steve: Yes, with somebody else, so we had to organize them in a different way.
Lora: Have you ever thought about recording a cover tune?
Steve: Actually, I'd love to do a cover tune. It's sad that people get such negative press when they do cover tunes. Maybe it's because they destroy them. (major laughter) Sorry! (laughs)
Lora: I want to see the Steve Perry Does Sam Cooke record.
Steve: I would love to do a tribute to someone, but if you can't make it heartfelt, from the same place it came from...
Lora: But you could.
Steve: It can't be done with the same inspiration that the singer was drawing from at the moment, if you can't capture some of that then you shouldn't do it. It becomes an ugly free ride or something. I would never do that. Live would be a great place to have some fun with cover tunes, just like Journey did. We would cover a couple every night..."Stand By Me," "Jailhouse Rock," and "Reach Out" come to mind.
(tape recorder beeps)
Steve: Are we out of tape?
Lora: No, that's the end of the first side.
Steve: Did you bring extra tapes?
Lora: I think I've got one in here (digs through duffel bag.)
Steve: What!? You only brought one extra tape? You suck. (laughs) Everyone out there, do you believe she didn't bring more than two, little, cassette tapes. Geez. (laughs) So do I have to edit myself now so we don't run out of tape?
Cyndy: No, just talk fast.
Steve: Actually, I can talk fast. So, what were we talking about?
Lora: Your lyrics seem very personal.
Steve: The lyrics on this record are all about truthful experiences-things that are going on in my life. Each song is different. Paul, Link, Moyes and I did most of the writing. Sometimes Paul and I will start with a lyric and Link would come in and add something. Sometimes Lincoln and Paul would do the chord changes and the melody and then I will come in and start singing over it. I wrote some of the lyrics by myself, and one with Stephen Bishop.
Lora: Stephen Bishop? I really like his work. What's he doing now?
Steve: Making a record. He's a very talented guy. He's amazingly unique.
Lora: The rumor of the month is that you are engaged.
Steve: Really? Is that the newest groove? Engaged? To whom?
Lora: That's the mysterious part.
Steve: When you find out, let me know. (laughs) Is she nice? Am I happy? Is she sexy?
Lora: I'm sure she is.
Steve: No, not engaged. Not the last time I checked, anyway. (laughs) I don't know when I would have time to do any of that. I've become such a workaholic lately. So, are either of you ladies married?
Lora: Nope, but Cyndy's in love.
Steve: Really? You have a love groove thing going?
Cyndy: Yeah, with a drummer.
Steve: Awww ..you love a drummer. (laughs) Is he good to you?
Cyndy: Sometimes I can't deal with how good he is to me.
Steve: You don't feel worthy. (laughs)
Lora: I've only been around him a few times, but he's great- one of those conscientious, considerate, responsible guys. And a musician. What an unusual combination. (laughs)
Steve: What a find! (laughs)
Lora: So how come someone hasn't snagged you yet?
Steve: (pauses) That's a great question. When it gets close, I think I have an internal circuit breaker that snaps. Red flags go up and say run away. It's pretty frustrating. I was with someone for a long time but ... I can't see how anyone in the music business can have a real, domestic, committed relationship. My hat is off to them. The music side of it is so time consuming and demanding. It's hard to orchestrate both. I have tried and something always suffers. Maybe when I'm ready to let the music side suffer I can concentrate on my personal life. Some people can do both. Perhaps I just haven't run across the person who can tolerate or deal with that ... meaning my insane passion for my work.
Lora: You need someone who is pretty independent and happy with themselves.
Steve: I think you're right. Someone with a life of her own. Actually, I'd like that for about ten minutes. (laughs) Then it would be, "Wait a minute, I'm off work now. Where are you?" (laughs) I can be selfish at times, but I'm learning. Life's a good teacher if you listen.
Lora: Do you have a problem meeting people?
Steve: No, but I have a problem trusting people. I meet new people and things are going great and then there will be some point where I feel like I'm being worked, like they are using me. As soon as I feel that, trust starts to diminish. A lot of people know who I am and they'll come up to me and start talking like we're best friends. I love the fact that people feel comfortable with me, but sometimes I get confused and think I should know them. (laughs) Someone will come up and say, "Hi remember me? I met you six years ago. You were standing in front of a deli and I was there with my dog and you said 'Nice dog' and I said 'thanks.' Do you remember that?" (laughs)
Lora: People have an image of you.
Steve: That's interesting because sometimes I don't really know who I am. Nobody really knows who they are because it's a daily thing. I'm not the same person I was yesterday.
Lora: You think you know your limitations but when there is a crisis and it is there in front of you, you can do things you never thought possible.
Steve: That's true. You sell yourself short of what you think you are capable of all the time. I do it daily. I set these limitations on myself. Like you said, when something comes along that was unexpected, somehow you get the ability to rise to the occasion and deal with it. Had you thought about it before, you would have talked yourself out of it.
Lora: You seem like you analyze things a lot.
Steve: To damn much! (laughs) I think way too much. When I simplify my mind, I'm a happier guy.
Lora: When you called me the other day, the first thing you said was, "I've been thinking.." and I thought, "uh-oh!" (laughs)
Steve: (laughs) That's really true. I do think too much.
Lora: Do you have a hard time relaxing?
Steve: I haven't relaxed in a while and I'm about due. I'm going to take a couple of weeks to unplug and regroup.
Lora: Where are you going on your time off?
Steve: I'm going to Hawaii to spend six or seven days. For me, six or seven days in Hawaii is a long time. I like it there very much. I walk around, I veg, I hike, I go on the charted boats from the hotel. The hotel offers an introductory scuba diving course where you can check out an hour in advance, and then you can do a 45-minute dive. The water in the area where you dive is 40 to 50 feet deep. It's fun and relaxing and so peaceful down there. I go to a secret spot that is pretty quiet. I don't go to many populated places on the island. Some of them remind me too much of just another city with beautiful water.
Lora: Like Fisherman's Wharf. (laughs)
Steve: Exactly. I like places where the water is really blue and the temperature is moderate as opposed to chilly waters which you wouldn't want to dive into unless you belong to the Polar Bear Club. (laughs)
Lora: Do you still ride your bike?
Steve: I haven't lately. My Harley is sitting in the middle of California, in the valley there. The helmet law has affected my riding. I'm not saying you shouldn't wear helmets; I know they are a great idea. I don't think that law had much to do with people's safety, though. It had to do with lobbying, insurance interests and more lobbying. Insurance companies are just trying to decrease their responsibility. I rode a couple of times with the helmet on and it's okay, but it's really uncomfortable. The wind catches it and I get a stiff neck. Every time I turn my head to the left, the wind catches the helmet and blows my head to the left. With a nose like this, I've got to look straight-on anyway. (laughs) Now the weather has changed and it's cold there. The weather's nice here, but the traffic is not bike-friendly. There are too many people driving cars and the drivers don't see bikes. I haven't brought my bike down here for that reason. I don't want to get crunched.
Lora: Did you see Beavis & Butthead's bagging on "Separate Ways?"
Steve: (laughs) They said we were the Partridge Family and then they looked at me and said I was Barry Manilow or something.
Lora: They showed a close-up of Neal and called him a geek or something really rude. (laughs)
Steve: They are funny, but a lot of people don't dig them because of some of the violent stuff they do.
Lora: They moved them to a later hour so they wouldn't influence young minds.
Steve: Young minds are already influenced. They are already on course. I hope that eventually some of the fashionable aggression won't be so profitable. I'm not sure what residue it will leave for the future. It would be nice if some of the people would take some sort of responsibility for the things they say. I'm not saying you have to be super righteous, but it would be nice to have some positive messages of hope out there.
People work hard for a living and save their money and they want to go to a concert and have a good time and not worry about something crazy happening. Then there is a whole other segment that likes the aggression. I hope it will balance out.
Lora: I don't know if we'll ever see arena rock bands like we used to, though. You guys used to sell out five and six nights at places like the Forum. Bands now are lucky if they can sell out one show. I don't know if it's a money thing or because people are used to switching on MTV. Unless you've experienced a band live, you can't compare it.
Steve: If you have never gone to a concert and you've been raised on video, you don't know what you are missing. There seems to be an attitude now that everything has to suck so it's not cool. I'm not capping on Beavis & Butt-Head, but I don't understand how disliking something is cool. Liking something is not cool. It's the rebel without a cause no matter what syndrome.
Cyndy: Maybe when your record comes out you'll be totally uncool. (laughs)
Steve: I'm already uncool! (laughs)
Lora: Are there any artists you're into?
Steve: I've lost touch lately. There are so many music video channels and so much material coming at you that you have to pick a segment of music and zero in on it, just so you can like something. Otherwise, you are overwhelmed. There are so many new artists, record labels and videos. It's tough to write good songs and I think good songs are the key. I really struggle with it. Every now and then someone will write a beautiful song. Sting had one. I love "Fields of Gold." He had such heart and talent. I've never had the pleasure of meeting him so I don't know what kind of person he is, but I'm a fan of his. I would love to write a song with him. The other night someone suggested to me that I should do a duet with Sade. I hadn't thought of that before, but that would be great. There are a lot of people that I would like to write with, but now I just want to get this record out.
Lora: I don't mean to bring up sad news, but I heard you lost a friend recently.
Steve: Yes I did. His name was Carlo. Sometime around the writing and rehearsing of the Journey Raised on Radio record, I remember Neal's girlfriend at the time was working in an Italian restaurant in the Bay Area. Neal had told me that this place had the most incredible food and that we should all go down there, so I decided to check it out. I walked in, sat down and asked the lady who came up to take my order if I could have a bowl of marinara sauce to dip my bread in. Her name was Marie. She was Carlo's wife and we later became close friends. Anyway, she says, (in a heavy Italian accent), "We don't got no marinara. What you like? You like chicken? I bring chicken. You no like, you no have to pay. No worry." Then she left the table. (laughs) I was thinking, "What's going on here? Is it something I said?" Back in those days I had much more of (pauses) an attitude than I do now. (laughs) She brought me back this chicken with this incredible house pasta that was on the menu and it truly was the finest meal I've had in my life.
Needless to say, we started going there to eat all the time and we got to know Marie and her husband, Carlo, very well. We all became such good friends. I spent many, many nights there with them. It was the kind of restaurant where you could go late at night when they were closing and we would share their meals with them and just sit and talk. It had a very European feeling. They're such wonderful people and I can't say enough about them.
The bad news I got is that, out of the blue, Carlo had a major stroke, similar to what happened to my mom. He went into the hospital and they did surgery to try to release the pressure that the stroke caused, but he never came out of it. This morning I heard he had died. It was such a shock for everybody. So many people loved him. he is going to be missed. God bless him, I miss him already. (pauses) So, Cyndy, let's get back to the ultimate question you were supposed to be thinking of. (pauses) I'm waiting. (laughs) (pauses) Oh Cyndy, I'm so disappointed. It's only been two years since you were supposed to come up with a question.
Cyndy: I know everything I want to know about you. (laughs)
Steve: That's probably true! (laughs)
Lora: So, this is the last issue of the Force Newsletter. Any closing comments?
Steve: I didn't realize that the Journey Fan Club was closing until you called me. I guess it was a decision made up north. You must have an amazing archive of the stories accumulated over the past ten years.
Lora: Yeah, when we go back and read some of the old newsletters, it's amazing. We all went through so much together.
Steve: I guess it's just the turning of another page. It's not to say it's gone forever. Things happen and situations change. You guys aren't going anywhere; I know Fan Asylum will still be there. I'm sure you are busy working with your other clients. I'm sure all they guys in the Journey situation will be keeping in touch with you. I know I'll be there and I'll have my fan club through you guys. Your address will be listed on my record.
Lora: Our relationship with you guys has always felt more than a client/business relationship anyway. I think the bond between you and the fan club members is pretty unusual and special.
Steve: You guys did a hell of a job and you are still doing it. You'll never find a group of people like Journey fans. The support has always been there, whether it's a Journey project or any of our solo projects. There is such devotion there. I remember when we were touring, at the end of each show I would say, "You are the faithful ones." Then we would play "Faithfully." These people voted us into the position we were in. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have been able to do any of the things we did. We had the desire, but they gave us the privilege. You can't thank people enough for that. I just hope our music gave them what they expected over the years and made their lives as happy as they made ours. Hopefully, we'll see each other again soon.
Lora: Is there any message you'd like to leave us with?
Steve: (pauses) The message that I would like to leave you with is .... don't stop believin'!
© Journey Force Final Newsletter, 1993 - Lora Beard and Cyndy Poon