Journey continues to score with fans
By Naughty Mickie
I had just learned that the rock group Journey was touring yet again. I had spoken with bassist Ross Valory for the September 2001 issue of DaBelly (check our archives), but was interested in another perspective. Journey's lineup includes Valory, guitarist Neal Shon, vocalist Steve Augeri, drummer Deen Castronovo and keyboardist Jonathan Caine. It was Caine who offered to speak with me about the band, their fans and his own life as well.
I caught up with Caine during a break from a round of golf at a wildlife sanctuary in Santa Bell Island, Florida. He was actually on tour and currently resides in Novado, California. I asked him how his stint with Journey began.
"Back in '79 I was in a group called the Babys with John Waite and we were touring with Journey. They were touring on their 'Departure' tour and they were making 'Capture,' which is a live album," Caine told me. "Actually the first time I met those guys was in San Diego at the Arena there. We played together, the Babys opened for Journey for about three and a half months. Neil and I hit it off, we actually were pretty good buds in the end, we would go out and jam in the local clubs together and Neil and I especially would play a lot out and about.
"I got a call that summer saying that Greg Rolie, the former keyboard player, was going to retire and that I had the job. That was that. They said, 'We're going to make a new album and we want you here for October.' So that's what I did, I just moved from Los Angeles where I was living up to the Bay Area and started writing 'Escape' with them. Then six million records later, I had my first Platinum album," Caine ends.
Caine grew up in one of America's music cities, Chicago.
"I was playing accordion at eight, I played piano at 12 and I had rock and roll bands I played in in high school," Caine recalls. "I went to the Conservatory of Music at Roosevelt University, which is the Chicago Conservatory of Music downtown, for about three and a half years. So I had bands that played together and kicked around the Chicago area 'til about '72 when I moved out to L.A."
With blues so big in Chicago, I want to know what genre called to Caine.
"I was more of a pop guy," Caine replies. "I did play the blues and I saw a lot of great jazz there. I was probably more of a jazz player than I was a blues player. I played a lot of stuff. I did everything from polkas to rock, I put myself through school. It was a good vehicle for me and I guess I was kind of unaffected by it, but I started writing songs.
"When I was about 18, 19 I got my first record deal in Nashville of all places and it was a pop singles deal and I was working with Buddy Killen down there in the late '60s. I recorded a lot of tracks down there. I had a minor hit in L.A. of my own, I was on the Dick Clark show in the '70s, as Jonathan Caine and just kicked around as a songwriter. I found that that was probably the best thing for me to do, so I just wrote a lot of songs until I got lucky.
"But I had day jobs," Caine continues. "I got kind of sick of the music business for a while and I went and I sold stereos and I worked as a warehouseman, a forklift operator, and that kind of stuff. I came back to music through songwriting, back into the band things and then the Babys auditioned some people in '77. That's what I did, I waited for an audition. A friend dared me to go there and so I went there and I got the gig. The next thing I know, I was in Amsterdam doing TV with them.
"It was fun. I replaced a guy in the Babys, Michael Corvey, they had fired him, so I was replaced another guy. I've always been sort of the replacement keyboard guy," Caine chuckles. "In Journey, I've sold about 50 million records, so that's probably been my life work, with the Journey catalog. I've probably written over 140 songs that have been put on CDs, quite a catalog. We're still writing for Journey."
"What is the difference between writing for Journey and writing for yourself?" I ponder.
"You write for the Journey fan and you write for the Journey sound, so you're looking for Neil and the background vocals and the high keys and more of the signature things," Caine answers. "You've got to design them with that in mind and also the lyric has to be a Journey lyric, something with some positive, hopeful message. We don't write a lot of downer songs, so that lyric has to be there and we don't write songs about chasing women and drugs either.
"When I write for myself, I write about my kids, about my family, about my heart, it's a different thing." Caine goes on, "But 'Faithfully' was one example of a song I wrote for myself and ended up on a Journey record. I actually wrote it about being on the road with Journey, so it was kind of cool that it got accepted as a Journey song because it's probably the biggest song that I wrote by myself that was the most successful. That and 'Open Arms,' which I wrote about 80 percent of, that I wrote before I got in the band. 'Open Arms' was a song I wrote when I was married to my first wife. I wrote if for the wedding and played it and sang the chorus, I didn't have any verses yet, so then Steve Perry heard it and we cut it and it was a huge hit."
I ask Caine what it's like to be on the road touring so much.
"It's nice, you get away and you see things and you meet neat people and you get to eat at nice restaurants, nice hotels, but it's lonely," Caine says. "You have to keep it fresh. I work out a lot, play golf and go to the gym and try to get my sleep and stay healthy. When you don't get healthy on the road, you get sick and you're in trouble."
Caine keeps himself busy with hobbies and his family.
"I ski, I'm an avid skier, a downhill skier, and snorkel and scuba, that's about it. I used to play tennis a little bit, but mostly skiing and golf are my two main passions." Caine opens up, "I have three kids. I have twins that are seven years old, Weston and Liza, and I have a daughter who's turning 10, Madison, and a great wife, I've been with her for about 20 years, Liz. They're pretty musical. Weston, my son, he plays the drums pretty good. My daughter, Madison, sings, she's going to Sonoma State studying voice already, she plays the piano. And Liza is into dancing and singing. It's pretty cool."
We discuss the music scene.
"It's heading in a weird direction," Caine says. "I think there's some good things out there, I like John Mayer and I like a few bands here and there who have come along. But all in all it doesn't seem like a lot of excitement. There's a lot of choice and the Internet has sort of spoiled it. There's just too much music that's too available. But I enjoy playing live and I think that there's some good bands that have come along and have written some good songs. But I'm not crazy about what I hear, there's nothing that knocks me out."
I want to learn more about Caine's own projects.
"I've done a bunch of things, but nothing really seems to stick," Caine tells me. "I've done a lot of smooth jazz records just as a hobby because I get sick of trying to get songs on the radio and get them played. It's a nice diversion for me to just play my piano. I've done a couple of New Age records. I've got a studio at my house so I can put out records whenever I want. I have a little following on my Web site, jonathancaine.com, and we have fun with that. I work with the kids for a Christmas pageant at the school, we do a celebrations around the world concert and I write music and Christmas songs for them. We make money for the school district every Christmas. That's coming up, I'm going to be wrapped up in that.
"We do all kinds of international Christmas songs with the kids, we teach them Hawaiian, Kwanzaa and all that sort of stuff," Caine continues. "It should be pretty cool. They learn songs that I write and then we record them and we put the CDs out and sell them to their parents and then we sell CDs on my Web site too. I ship those CDs all over the country, it's pretty funny. And some of the weird places, like Belgium and Hong Kong and Germany, there's Christmas freaks that have to have it, so they come out of the woodwork at Christmas. I like to write Christmas songs. I had a pretty good hummer last year called 'If Every Day Was Like Christmas,' the kids learned it; it was just terrific. I get a kick out of that stuff.
"I'm really into working with the kids. I give them voice exercises and they laugh, but we get it done. So I've been enjoying that. It's great too because they don't have music in school. We make it about a six-week deal so there's a couple of practices each week and everybody gets pretty good," Caine goes on. "That's been very satisfying to me to work that way because I'm gone a lot. It's nice to come home and I'm with my kids in school and I get to be the director and we have a nice little presentation, it's a lot of fun. My daughter sings a lot in the studio for me."
Back to Journey, I ask Caine why he thinks they have remained popular.
"There's a combination of things." Caine explains, "I think first of all, it's pretty soulful music with a conscience and a heart and we make great records. That's a testimony to the players and the singing and the craft was done effortlessly, we make records that sound effortless. That's part of it because there's no struggle there on the records, so they still go down like chocolate milk to me. They still sound good because they had a pretty neat sound to them.
"The other thing is that Journey always worked a lot and they were good to their fans. We always gave them a state of the art rock show, video and great lights and great sound. There's no video this time because it's just us on the road, but we just finished a big production with Styx and REO (Speedwagon), where we spent a lot of money on screens and video and stuff. It's pretty cool doing that. I think people remember that," Caine says.
"And also, we have songs that were pieces of their lives and memories that have been imbedded in those songs. When somebody hears 'Don't Stop Believing' or 'Open Arms,' they can say, 'Oh my god, I was in school when this was big.' We're kind of like a time machine for them." Caine boasts, "I think our fans are the best rock and roll fans in the business, we have great fans. They're just really loyal and straight up. They don't throw up Jack Daniels at our concerts or behave badly, they bring their kids now and their kids bring them. It's cool, daughters bringing their moms to a Journey concert. A lot of women will go out and come see us just to relive their teenage days. It's kind of a 'Big Chill' thing."
So what's ahead for the band?
"We're going to try to make some new music again, take a stab at that. We have a video coming out this Christmas (2003) that's a compilation of all the Journey videos from day one and they're pretty funny, they're hysterical-- the really bad hair; Beavis and Butthead poking fun at Journey videos. They're really funny, but there's good stuff in there. 'Oh my god, what were we thinking?' videos, just the concepts were so bad, 'How did we let this director talk us into this?' It's tongue-in-cheek, we're going to have to grin it down, but mostly I'm grinning it." Caine adds, "We'll continue to give our fans what they're looking for."
I get the feeling that our conversation is done, but Caine has more to discuss. He begins by telling me about Journey's Web site, www.journey.com, which has merchandise, their tour schedule and a forum for people to write their thoughts on music and shows. You can also find the band's entire catalog there.
"If they want to buy a CD they can't find anywhere else, they can find it at our store. We have our own catalog and it's a vanishing thing now, in record stores you can barely find all the available CDs." Caine states, "The business is in a bad state right now because of a lot of bad planning. The Internet has taken the life out of it, so I don't know where we're at. I know that playing live my catalog has decreased over the years tremendously. I couldn't make it unless I was living on the road, these downloads are killing us. We did the 'Arrival' album in 1998, it was on the Internet downloaded a week after we finished it for free on Nabster. That broke my heart, that hurt.
"The record companies should have lowered their prices years ago, instead of keeping these CDs at such high prices," Caine continues. "If they lowered the prices and competed, I think it would have been a different story, but I think greed had the best of the music industry. They put all of their money into bands like Journey and Styx and Foreigner and you don't even have a radio station left barely that will play our new music. So there's hardly any radio for us any more. They pile all this money into these new bands, we're the ones selling all the tickets, so it's very disproportional, I don't what's going to happen when we retire. I don't know what Clear Channel's going to do with all their venues, when bands like us are gone, who's going to play in them. Who's going to fill up a stadium when Metallica goes away or KISS?
"You scratch your head and go wait a minute, even if you put out a new record there's no place to play it. No stations will play us because we're old school." Caine sighs, "It's disheartening. So we're kind of just making records for ourselves. We might do a concept album, something completely outside, because we can't get on the radio we might as well have fun. We'll do a rock opera or we'll go back to old school soul, I don't know. I'm not sure which direction we'll go."
I try to cheer Caine by asking him how the golfing is today.
"It's beautiful," Caine chirps. "It's stunning here, that's one of the great things here."
"So what's your par?" I ask of his game.
"Oh, not that great, a bogie plus today for me," Caine admits. "I hit a couple doubles so it doesn't make me smile too much. But I did a few good shots and that makes me feel good. I'm going to hit a few more before I go in and then I've got to go to sound check."
When Journey hit the Southland, they were met by venues overflowing with fans. Hey, it's only right, after all it's Journey who told the world "don't stop believing."
Return to DaBelly