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Catching up with Jonathan Cain of Journeyby B. Thompson - Birmingham Weekly
August 06, 2008
Thanks to the inclusion of "Don't Stop Believin" in the final episode of The Sopranos, Journey's commercialappeal has received a shot in the arm. On Saturday, August 9, the classic rock outfit will return to the Verizon Wireless Music Center with fellow Arena Rock stalwarts Cheap Trick. Currently, Journey is touring in support of Revelation, a double-disc collection offering new material and re-recorded versions of the band's greatest hits. Speaking by phone from his hotel room in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Journey keyboardist/guitarist Jonathan Cain catches up with the Weekly's Brent Thompson.
BT: Jonathan, we're looking forward to Journey's return to Birmingham.
JC: We enjoy going to Birmingham - it's one of our favorite towns. It's always a pleasure.
BT: How is the tour going so far?
JC: It's unbelievable - we've had six sellouts in eight shows. It's nice to be loved I guess. It's sort of a renaissance for us - this music is red hot right now.
BT: For the recording of the new CD, Revelation, you've re-recorded songs from your back catalog. Given the size of the band's catalog, was it difficult to choose the material to be recorded?
JC: We looked at the greatest hits and added one song that's not on there, "Stone In Love." We thought we'd stay true to what we had done back in the '80s.
BT: Obviously, there are certain songs the band is expected to play at each performance. How do songs stay fresh for you when you've literally performed them thousands of times before?
JC:You've got to play them to the audience that's standing in front of you. You've got to realize that there are people there that have never heard these songs before. You've got to get past your own self. Playing the greatest hits is really about being in the "now" and there's a lot of kids that have never heard Journey play "Don't Stop Believin" and that's who you play it for. This is [singer] Arnel's [Pineda] first time in the states, so we're giving them something brand new. Every night for me is a different performance. You've got to say, "You've heard it, but you haven't heard it like this."
BT: You've seen tremendous changes in the music business during your career. In the age of iTunes, ring tones, satellite radio, [websites] myspace and YouTube, how do you view the advantages of technology coupled with the fact that anyone can now distribute their music and call themselves a "professional" musician?
JC: I think it balances each other out. What you're going to get is discovery of real talent. With the tools we have today, it's much easier to expose real talent. There's something for everybody and I think it's good for the pop music art form. I think the technology is in favor of it, not against it. I think what's suffering is the song - people are layering stuff on top of each other, but they're missing the song. It's kind of like seeing a movie where there's no plot. I went to see Batman last night and I was like, "What the hell was that?" There was no story - it was a bunch of effects and great acting for nothing. In music, you get great textures and layers, but is it a song? Songwriting is still about communication and great songs are still few and far between for me. That's what I see in the business - it's all fluff and there's no substance to it. We have to get back to the song. In Journey, my job is to keep the integrity alive as a lyricist and this album is about renewal and rediscovering who you are.
BT: It's my understanding that you found your new lead singer Arnel Pineda, then living in the Philippines, through the help of technology.
JC: We sure did. Neal and I were both looking on the Internet and we knew we needed to make a change. We knew the brand was going to suffer if we didn't. As much as [former vocalist] Jeff Scott Soto helped us out, he wasn't the future for us. We needed to find someone who was going to take us into the next 10 years. We didn't want a Steve Perry clone or a tribute band singer - we wanted somebody fresh. Neal found Arnel one night and called me up. I turned it on and said, "Damn, he's good. How do we get him over here?" The logistics of getting his visa took weeks. He sang "Wheel In The Sky" for some guy in the embassy in the Philippines. They guy said, "You're going to be in Journey? Sing ‘Wheel In The Sky." Arnel did, and the guy said, "Get out of here and get to America."
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