Interview with Ross Valory (Journey)

Mick Burgess caught up with a busy Ross Valory from Journey to chat about his side projects and forthcoming activity in the Journey camp.

Most people think of Ross Valory purely as the bass player in Journey, however, he’s got a few more strings in his bow than that. Over the course of this interview, he’ll talk about what he’s up to both from a solo point of view and with Journey.

Firstly, you have been involved in a project called No Nation and have just released Illumine, can you tell me about this?

That project is something that I’ve done in association with Stevie Roseman, who is an old friend and musician that I’ve been working with over the years on our own project called VTR. The No Nation project was something adjunct, something associated through Stevie Roseman who was working with a couple of people on his own and I was fortunate enough to become part of it. I have over the last 2 or 3 years laid down the bass parts, and at that time the songs consisted only of drums and keyboard catches as basic elements. They then developed the music after the basics were set. It evolved and became lyricised into a Melodic Rock Opera, and I was really quite surprised by it and very happy at how it turned out.

Who else was involved with the project?

Well, there was Stef Burns who is with Y&T at the moment and who’s also worked with Alice Cooper; there’s John Hernandez on drums, he’s worked with Peter Gabriel and Neal Schon in the past, and Ed Ulibarri, who was in a band called Alexis in the 70s, on vocals.

There is also an impressive list of guests on the album. How did you get Jon Anderson involved?

Yeah, he provided vocal parts on one or two tracks. John Hernandez is a Yes fan and also is a friend of Yes. He works with the Roland Corporation and he is their regional representative, and he’s also involved in providing guest list services and he knew Jon through these. He also brought in Mike Pinder from the Moody Blues into the project. So there’s a few named players on there, it’s an interesting album!!

As well as No Nation, you have also just released Cinema by VTR. This is a project involving your old mate from the first Journey album, George Tickner. How did it feel recording with George after all these years?

Well, George and I have been working together off and on for years and years. The VTR project began some time in the mid 90s, but it wasn’t called VTR back then, it just kind of developed into what it is now. George, of course, was one of the original guitarists and writers with Journey.

Although I got into the No Nation project due to my association with Stevie Roseman, the main project that me and Stevie were involved in was VTR with George. The Cinema album that we’ve just released was based really on a part workshop kind of environment and there was no particular direction in mind, we just wanted to create and record what we did. Over the years we collected a lot of arrangements and recordings and we sat down and sifted through and condensed some of the best of these recordings into an album. Cinema marks the first solo project of mine in probably 30 years.

How did you originally get to know Stevie Roseman?

I was actually part of a band where Stevie was the keyboard player for about a year or so before I was in Journey … so we go way back, about 35 years!!

Were you also recording No Nation at the time too?

Yes, that’s right and I was also working on the Journey stuff as well.

When did you sleep?

Ha!! Well these projects all took place over a period of a few years at various times. I also spent some time on developing my own Web site at Both the VTR and No Nation albums are available there along with a load of other projects that I have been involved with over the years. There’s the Sy-Klops Blues Band. There’s also something that Steve Smith and me did with guitarist Neil Zaza called Staring at the Sun. There are all kinds of things that I’m offering on my Web site, so it’s kind of a beginning for me as a solo artist and my ambitions of developing something on my own and it’s doing well.

VTR is very different from Journey, being a very mellow, relaxing, yet varied album. Does being involved in such a different project help to keep things fresh for you with Journey, and does it give you an outlet for a different side that could not be expressed in Journey?

Oh, yes!! I’d say between Journey, VTR, and No Nation, there’s quite a bit of variety and it keeps things interesting for me, definitely.

As you rightly said, the VTR project itself is very varied. I actually sequenced the album in three sections of three songs apiece. The first three are “Americana,” sort of Folk-oriented. The second section of three is the “Latin” part, which is your Reggae/Ska type of thing. Finally, the third section is more in the Jazz field. I just grouped them together to allow each flavor to be expressed all at once, then you can move from region to region. The album was a lot of fun to do and we’re just very happy to have some attention. You know, our hopes were just that some people would get to hear it.

“Carmelita Bonita” in particular is a beautiful tune … which is your favorite from the album?

I’d like to think that there’s something for everyone on this album, there’s quite a bit of variety on there. My favorite changes from day to day!! I really like “Nightflower” and “No One Wins The War,” but that opinion keeps changing.

Reading the sleevenotes to the album, it must have been a very liberating experience for you to produce this album without interference from the likes of a record company and other such distractions …

Right!! It was completely independent of anything. We actually had no particular direction with this — it just developed by a natural process. It’s been fun, a learning curve both musically and in dealing with changes in the technology that we’ve been using.

You’ve just re-released the Sy-Klops CDs which you did with an all star cast. Were they as much fun to make as they sound?

Yeah, we did have a lot of fun making the Sy-Klops albums, especially in view of the fact that its music that Herbie and I enjoyed listening to a lot over the years, a lot of the early Steve Miller tunes and Blues classics. It was a lot of fun to cover them after so many years of spinning them in the car. It was a lot of fun; you can’t beat a bit of the Blues, can you? So between the VTR, No Nation, and Sy-Klops albums you get a fair bit of variety there.

They have a very Bluesy yet rocking feel to them and sound perfect for a small club type of show. Did you play live with Sy-Klops?

Yes, I played with Sy-Klops for about a year and a half, just before I started working with Journey again on the Trial By Fire project. We played a lot on the West Coast in many of the Blues clubs. That sort of music is perfect for those small Blues clubs.

Can you reveal the identity of Sy-Klops? It was once rumored to be Steve Miller?

Yeah, right, he was the mystery artist wasn’t he? No it wasn’t Steve Miller, it was in fact Herbie Herbert, Journey’s former manager and he had a good run at that.

I’ve heard that you are also developing your own clothing line. What sort of stuff will you be producing?

I’m working closely with my manager, Mark and a bunch of people who are involved in clothes design and printing. It’s an unusual and original approach to clothing and we’re keeping the lid on it at the moment, but we are looking at ways of getting it manufactured and marketed. It is trademarked as “Mouth Man.” We’re looking at approaching a sports franchiser with a design that works with sports fans and also approaching the general apparel market for children. Hopefully we’ll be selling from major retail stores. It’s a different kind of enterprise for me; I must be getting ambitious in my old age!!

Will you be making the albums by The VU and The Storm available too as these are pretty hard to track down these days?

The VU CD is available on my site now and I’m working on getting The Storm albums re-released at some point, so that’s the natural progression for this site … to get those Storm material available again.

Talking of The VU and The Storm, you worked with Kevin Chalfant on these albums. How did you become involved with him?

Back in the 80s I was introduced to him by a friend and engineer called Steve Jarvis. We started actually, Kevin and George and I, just trying this out and it developed into a kind of Rock ‘n’ Roll thing, a project that George had been working on separately and we began bringing in Rock players such as Prairie Prince from The Tubes and Stef Burns and Tim Gorman from The Who, and that’s how that developed. It was very fine music and was actually fairly marketable at the time, and most of the record companies thought that it was good music, but that wasn’t what they were buying, which was more like the Punk and the Thrash sort of thing.

Both bands, but in particular, The Storm were consummate Melodic Rock masterpieces. Were you disappointed that they didn’t do better than they deserved?

There was a market for that type of music but there was no industry to offer it. There were a lot of people who would’ve liked to have heard it. The VU was a band that really didn’t get a shot, but The Storm got a better shot and had a tour with Bryan Adams. Unfortunately, the album was offered at a time when the industry really wasn’t interested in that kind of music.

Was Kevin ever in the frame for the vacant singers’ job in Journey?

He was considered at the time briefly, but we found Steve Augeri quite easily and he had all of the qualities that we needed and we quickly moved on with Steve. I’m sure Kevin would have been a great consideration, but we just didn’t have to look too far with Steve Augeri. He had a hard act to follow and those vocals are very demanding, but Steve does a great job.

What was the reaction to your comeback album, Arrival?

Arrival really just didn’t arrive!! It didn’t seem to receive much attention for some reason. Although Arrival is similar in many respects to the hits of the past, to some it’s just not the same, it doesn’t contain the same sentimental value. I really don’t know why it didn’t do better ‘cos there’s some great material on there. The DVD we put out, Journey 2001, did really well though.

Talking of DVD’s, any plans for another live DVD?

We’ve actually recorded a new DVD from last years tour, the Generations tour, and it contains 30 years worth of material. We’ve been playing the original material from the original band from the first three albums and first four years of performances prior to Steve Perry. It’s completely different to what we’re known for, we were more of a Progressive band back then. Our performance represented songs from that era and from then on after. The DVD was recorded in Dallas. That will come out next year as this year we put out the Escape DVD. Steve Perry played a part in the post production work and did a great job on it.

Moving onto your main focus, Journey. You are finally coming over to Europe after 27 or so years? Why such a long wait?

It’s a matter of the motivation of the industry. The promoters have to have a way to present a band and meet the costs of getting us over there. It’s taken a while I think because the band didn’t make it over to Europe and Australia in its heyday. It wasn’t an option that we decided to take back then, some of us weren’t happy with that, but it meant that we didn’t establish ourselves over there when the iron was hot. It’s since been a matter of being invited over by promoters and our marketability over there. It’s been a bit of a mystery to me why we didn’t make it sooner. We’ve now got some dates sorted in June in Europe so it’s about time … and it’ll be a good test to see how we do.

Are you looking forward to the Monsters of Rock, show in England in June?

We’re very much looking forward to playing over in England and Scotland and also some festivals over in Europe.

What sort of set list are you planning?

Well it’s going be fairly concise in the area of the greatest hits, and with some songs from our vast repertoire that maybe nobody heard even last year; there’s a lot to choose from. The main part of the show will be the greatest hits, we haven’t got long and you don’t want to lose the impact of the songs that most people want to see.

You mentioned other shows in Europe. Where else will you be playing?

Well other than the shows in the UK, we’ll be playing at The Arrow Festival in Holland, The Sweden Rock Festival and we’re also playing at Rock The Nation in Germany with Def Leppard. We’re actually doing a summer tour in the States with Def Leppard and we’re working on the details of that at the moment. That should be fun, that should be great!!

The tour with Def Leppard be a great package for the fans. How did this come about?

We’ve been entertaining this idea for a while and we’ve been courting them and we thought it’d be a great combination. It’s even something that we might bring over to Europe at some point. We are going to see how our market is in Europe and hopefully get back over there again soon.

Did you know that the Manchester and Edinburgh shows had sold out pretty much straight away? How do you feel about that?

Sold out already? Wow, that’s really great. You know we might be back over here quicker than you think!!

For anyone that wants to find out more about what you are up to, you mentioned you have a Web site with details of your projects and CD’s to buy?

That’s right, keep your eyes peeled on my website for all the updates. Speaking, of which, we’ll probably be releasing some new stuff pretty soon on there from my discography.



  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.