Interview with Jonathan Cain (Journey)

They have sold millions of albums worldwide; they have one of the biggest selling downloaded songs ever and they are back on tour in the UK with Whitesnake and Thunder. Mick Burgess chatted to Journey’s Jonathan Cain about the tour.

You’re coming over to the UK in May for your first shows in a couple of years. Are you looking forward to getting back here?

We have a great fan base over in the UK. The folks over in the UK have been very receptive not just to our old music but to our new material as well so we’re very much looking forward to coming back to the UK to play for you guys again. I think in The States we are categorised as a heritage band but over in the UK you are a lot more open minded and you accept our new ideas and new songs much more openly than back home. That’s why we like to come over because we can stretch out and play songs we can’t normally play on stage. We enjoy that diversity of playing in different places around the world.

We’ve been lucky to see you tour a few times since 2006. Are you making up for lost time where you hadn’t previously played over here since the 1970’s?

We’re certainly trying to make up for lost time. We always wanted to play over in Europe but we missed that window in the ’80’s and ’90’s so we’re hopefully making up for that now. When we came back over in 2006 we started fairly modestly in small theatres and we’ve been working hard, building the brand back up since then. We appreciate the welcome we’ve had from the folks in the UK.

You will be playing 9 shows with Whitesnake and Thunder. That’s a great line up.

We followed Thunder on stage at the Monsters Of Rock festival back in 2006. We love that band so it’ll be great to see them again. We toured the States with Whitesnake back in the ’90’s so we know David Coverdale and the boys well. It should be a great night.

Does following a band like Whitesnake on stage make you up your game?

They’re a little different to Journey so we’ll have to keep things edgier so we’ll give you the Rock version of Journey. They’re a great live band so we’ll have to be at the top of our game to follow them.

In Japan recently you had your daughter Madision and Neal Schon’s son Miles playing on the tour. That must have been a proud moment for both you and Neal?

We’re good friends with the promoter over in Japan. He suggested that they open the show. We thought that was a great idea as they could do with a little exposure and experience. It was a brilliant way to open our show. They were really good and we were very proud of them.

You know the pitfalls of the music industry. Do you feel protective over your daughter or do you want to let her make her own way in the business?

She’s faced a lot of obstacles already at the age of 19 and knows that the music business is a tough place but music is her dream so we’ll see what happens. I’ll help where I can but she’s determined to make her own way in life. She’s recently done a video with Clarke Gable’s grandson and her latest song “Big White Room” is a cover of Jessie J’s song and she does a great version of it.

Does having the “Dirty Dozen” songs which your fans expect to hear make it difficult for you picking a set list?

It’s difficult when the set is only 75 minutes long so it’s hard to pick the songs that everyone will want to hear. Having said that, as we are playing with two great Rock bands you will hear the edgier side of Journey. We have some great stuff from our Eclipse album that we’d like to play and the Generations record that rocks pretty good so we’ll probably do some of the songs from those as well as the signature songs that people know us for. We have to remember though that there’ll be Rock fans there that will want to hear the harder stuff so it’ll be a good opportunity to show them what we can do.

When you toured here with Jeff Scott Soto a while back you really dug deep into your catalogue with the likes of “Winds of March” and “Message of Love” from Trial by Fire getting an airing. They worked so well. Have you thought about putting them back into the set?

“Winds of March” is a great song. Neal and Arnel have been working on a little acoustic part of the show so that may be something they can add in for a cameo appearance.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” was a huge hit for you in the UK almost 30 years after its original release. Did that surprise you when that took off over here?

It surprised us all. It was a real shock when it took on so many lives years after it was originally released. The song is like the beetle on the front of our album covers, it’s the symbol for eternal life, it just keeps reincarnating in a different way whether it was on The Sopranos or on Glee or Rock of Ages and even on the UK’s X-Factor. It’s been one of our most successful offspring. Songs are like your kids. Some are successful and some just do OK but “Don’t Stop Believin’” made it to the very top. It is one of the most downloaded songs of all time.

Your singer, Arnel Pineda has been unwell recently. How is he doing at the moment?

He had a stomach issue a while back, a bit of reflux and that happens to singers but he’s back doing very well now.

Steve Perry and Steve Augeri have both suffered vocal problems in the past. It must be a physically demanding job being lead singer in Journey?

It’s such a demanding job for any singer. Arnel does so well and is very disciplined and looks after himself so he makes sure he’s in the right shape to sing those songs night after night. He has a lot of pressure in this band due to our history and also his family are in Manila and he has a new baby so there’s all that going on too but he’s such a hard worker and balances everything out. He’s been terrific for us and we’re just happy to have him.

Deen Castronova, your drummer, has an exceptional singing voice too. When did you discover he could sing as well as that?

He started off singing background vocals for us and when I first heard him in the studio I had no idea he could sing as well as that. He’s another great addition to our band. He’s not just a great drummer but an incredible singer too. I think he may take a song or two on this tour. At the moment he’s doing “Keep On Runnin’” but he also does” Mother Father” and “Still They Ride”. He really sings those so well.

The tale of how Arnel ended up in the band is like a fairy story. He had been living on the streets when he was younger then sang in a cover band in Manila when you discovered him. How did you find out about him prior to seeing him on YouTube?

Someone had mentioned it to Neal and he checked out You Tube and was amazed at what he saw and heard. He sounded unbelievable. We had management jump through hoops to get him over from Manila. When he was trying to get his visa the guy recognized him and asked him if he was going to be the new singer in Journey . He asked him to sing “Wheel In The Sky” which Arnel did. The guy stamped his visa and waved him through.

What was his first audition like?

He was really tired at first. He’d never been out of his own time zone so it was like four in the morning for his body when we asked him to sing. We took it easy for a couple of days and we knew he’d come around and it took about four days to get his breathing right. That was the hardest part for him, getting his body to adjust to the time changes but once he’d settled in he was phenomenal. Changing time zones is a bit like diving. The first couple of times takes a bit of getting used to but after a while your body gets used to it and Arnel is used to it now. I think the main thing we had to work on was for him to lay off the gas pedal a bit. In his previous band they didn’t have monitors so he had to sing with so much more force to be heard but he’s now learned to be more controlled with his singing.

You’re working on a movie about Arnel’s story too?

That’s right it’s called Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey. It’s a documentary made by a Filipino documentary film maker, Ramona Diaz and it’s a very moving film. They filmed him from the first day he joined us and you see how shy he was at first and then watch how he morphs into this great Rock star. It’s a great film and people will understand what an amazing thing he did. We appeared on the Oprah Show and that really broke the story wide open. That was so cool.

He’s now recorded 2 albums with you, the latest Eclipse, features a couple of songs that he’s co-written with you. Are you hoping that with the next album he’ll play an even more key role in songwriting with you and Neal?

Oh, sure. You can’t go straight from being a nightclub singer to writing in a band like Journey overnight. He has skills in that area but needs to know where he’s shooting. There’s plenty of talent in there though and I’m sure we’ll see more of it next time as he continues to develop and grow as a musician. We only had him for about a week during the songwriting sessions for Eclipse as he was out on the road promoting his foundation but we’ll hear more of him the future for sure.

Eclipse had a much harder, guitar orientated sound than that which Journey is usually associated with.

Eclipse was more of Neal Schon’s vision of Journey. He wanted it to go in a more guitar based direction. Eclipse wasn’t a great seller for us but then again it’s not really a great time to be making albums unless you want to be more of a Pop act. I’m proud of my lyrics on that record. If we go back in the studio it’s going to have to be something a little more centred and have stuff that Journey is known for. I don’t think our fans wanted to embrace that side of things as much as we thought. We need those classic Journey melodies and to play to our strengths. Eclipse was an album we had to make but the next one will sound more like classic Journey.

You have written many songs over the years that have gone on to become million sellers. Where do you start when you’re first beginning creating a song?

It’s a little bit of everything. I think you usually have to begin with the end in mind. Sometimes it’s the title, a chord change or a melody and ideas come in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s a band rehearsal where people are jamming and ideas come from that. It’s almost like a committee. When someone comes up with something you really like then you go away with it and work on it. Something like “Only The Young” was sitting around for months. It had this great guitar thing going on and it wasn’t until sometime later that the lyrics came to me and we worked on it together and knocked it into the song that you know now.

The Generations album was an interesting one with all members having at least one lead vocal. Is that something you might do again at some point?

That was more of an experiment. I enjoyed doing it but I’m not sure if we’d do something like that again.

One ex-Journey member who is pretty high profile at the moment is Randy Jackson from American Idol. Did you get a surprise when you first saw him on TV?

He was with us for Raised On Radio in the ’80’s. He wasn’t actually a member but more of a side guy and we paid him to play bass but he often likes to say that he was IN Journey. He’s a real nice guy though and we enjoyed doing the tour with him. He’s done a lot of cool stuff. I did the Jimmy Barnes record with him too and also The Hunger by Michael Bolton. He’s a talented guy and perfect as a judge on American Idol.

You must have many stories to tell is there a book lurking inside you somewhere?

There is. I’m actually working on a memoir right now that I’m just on with the finishing touches. I’ve got to edit it down a little but it should be finished soon. It will take us up to the Escape album so covers all the early days of getting screwed around by the industry. If people like it I may do a Part 2 if not, I’ll just leave it there. There’s a good story there.

What about photography. You’ve done some impressive work in the past. Do you just dabble in photography or may you get some of your work published at some point?

I’ve just photographed the landscapes that were used in the Lord of the Rings movies in New Zealand. I took a private plane up to the peaks to about 7000 feet and photographed the stunning mountain ranges of the region. You can see some of my photos on my website. I’m actually going to bring out a book of European impressions that’ll be a coffee table book of black and white photos that I’ve taken on my European travels. I tend to do more landscapes and scenes that move me.

You have a wine business too. How is that going?

That’s doing very well and I have a couple of new vintages coming out. It’s been fun working with different people. I act as a consultant and I have a winemaker who actually produces the wine itself. I’ve just come back from a wine tour in New Zealand and there’s some brilliant vineyards there so I take my wine passion on the road. You might even be able to buy a bottle on our tour.

It’s been a while since your last solo album Where I Live which came out in 2006. Do you have any plans for a follow up?

I’m thinking of cutting a Rock record at my studio in Nashville. There’s some great musicians there and I’ve got some ideas I’ve been working on so maybe when the Journey tour is over I might do that. I’d like to do something with a bit of an edge to it, kind of like the songs we were doing in The Baby’s with John Waite.

What about Journey. What have you lined up for the coming months ?

We’ll be touring for most of the year. We have some interesting shows lined up including some shows with Rascal Flatts, they’re more of a Country group so that should be pretty cool. We’ll probably take some time off later in the year and start writing for our next record and see if anything comes out.

Journey, Whitesnake and Thunder’s UK Tour starts on 18th May at the SECC, Glasgow and ends 29th May at Wembley Arena, London.


  • 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.

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