The Never-ending Journey
Faces Magazine, April 1995
When you think of the band Journey, singer Steve Perry's extraordinary vocals come to mind. From 1978-1987 that Perry spent in Journey, the band sold 35 million records worldwide. Following their '87 tour, the band called it quits and Perry, a man who for years captivated millions with that illustrious voice, disappeared without a trace. There hasn't been a singer who before, during, or after Perry has ever been able to copy or recreate his style of singing-a rarity in a world where it's now commonplace for bands to borrow from someone else's sound.
But seven years have past and Steve Perry has resurfaced with a new record, For the Love of Strange Medicine, his second solo album since his '84 double-platinum Street Talk. So you can call off the dogs, the search for Steve Perry is finally over.
Faces: So where did you disappear to?
Steve Perry: Oh, a lot of places. You know, what happened was I was in Journey for ten years and I just had to stop because we worked hard. And a lot of things in my life towards the last two-three years changed-relationships, family members had passed, things were changing fast, and I didn't want to be a rock-and-roll casualty. I just had to jump off, and there's no easy way to do it without being looked at as a deserter. The fact is after ten years, how much more could I give? I just had to stop, and I did. The first year or so I didn't listen to music, I didn't write music, and I didn't sing anything because I just didn't have anything to sing about. I just hung out with my friends and tried to re-enter my life again. And at times it felt like I was re-entering the earth's atmosphere because I didn't realize how high we were. (pauses) After two years went by, I finally started to write music again. I recorded music and years went by and I just had to stay away. I just didn't know if emotionally, I had a place in any of this that was going on. I finally realized that I am what I am, and went back to what I am, and didn't let anything steer me off who and what I am. That's what finally made me make the record.
Faces: Do you remember the day that you left Journey?
Steve Perry: Oh yes. Very well. I made the decision probably somewhere in the middle of that tour that I didn't think that I would want to continue after that tour ended in Anchorage, Alaska on February 1, 1987. I knew that I just had to stop. Making that last record Raised On Radio my mother died. Before that Sherrie and I had completely exploded. My life changed real quick. I knew I had to stop. It was just time.
Faces: How did you keep singing night after night if you felt this way?
Steve Perry: Well, because I had a sense of responsibility to the fans, and the emotion that I sang into the music. I'm true to that and I can tap into it and forget everything. When I'm done it's like, "Okay, where was I?" The reality sets back in.
Faces: Who was the one person that influenced you into wanting to sing?
Steve Perry: I was three years old, and I was sitting in the front row of an auditorium in my hometown, and my grandmother was sitting with me and my mother was on stage because she was a dancer in this play. My dad was singing an Al Jolson kind of thing. I remember looking down at my little legs hanging, and looking up at him singing, and I knew that whatever I felt when he sang, inside of me I had that in there too. So when I sing, sometimes I go there because I always knew it was there. I tried to ignore it for eight years, but it wouldn't go away. It's funny, you can be successful and think you can retire, but if it truly was a part of you, like I realized, there's no getting away from it.
Faces: I noticed your album is very spiritual.
Steve Perry: It's definitely in there. It's got overtones of certain truths that have been existing through time. I believe in certain truths.
Faces: During the time that you were away from the music business, what did you discover about yourself?
Steve Perry: A lot of things. But the main thing is there's nowhere to hide, there's nowhere to run because where ever you are, there you are! Eventually, you've got to deal with this person called you. You've got to come to terms with the good aspects and the sh*tty aspects of yourself. It's definitely got to be addressed at some point in time, and hopefully you grow through the sh*t into some sunlight. It also helps to get your head out of your as*hole once in a while (laughs), which I've learned in the past eight years. I've learned that I'm no picnic in the park.
Faces: So there is a price to fame?
Steve Perry: There's always a price to everything. Sometimes it's always wanted it to be, but it does come at times in certain unforeseen situations. I never thought that bands would have a camaraderie and that we would be at each other's throats sometimes, and sometimes, we'd love each other and sometimes we couldn't even look at each other. Realizing that we'd be traveling that heavy, and that closely, and making that many decisions about our own personal lives only as it pertained to the sum of the total-so therefore, the decision was for the whole, not for individuals. It was definitely moving in one direction. But I gotta tell you, this is not a complaint session. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I wouldn't change a dam* thing that happened, not even the bad times because I wouldn't have the good ones, and they weigh heavier, the good ones than the bad ones.
Faces: Does one memory stand out most about the whole Journey experience?
Steve Perry: I'll never forget when I first joined the band and recorded the Infinity album. Neal had loaned me one of his velvet coats 'cause I liked it and I wanted to go to the Bammy awards-'cause we were up for an award. I was up for Vocalist Of the Year. Before the show started, there was an overture of all the music of the year by the orchestra and they were playing the melodies. I was in the bathroom, and I heard the overture start. As I was coming up the hallway to get back to my seat, they got to the part where they were playing "Lights" and I never heard my melody-'cause I wrote the song, on an orchestra before. It choked me to where I could barely breathe, and I was emotionally on the border of losing it. I didn't win that year, but I won five years in a row the next year.
Faces: There were rumors circulating years ago that you were having throat problems. What was the truth behind that?
Steve Perry: What happened was, when I was taking my mother around different hospitals to radiology, people would see Steve Perry sitting there. They didn't know what Steve Perry's mother looked like, but they would see me sitting there and put two and two together and they started figuring throat cancer. "He's got something wrong with his throat. He's not singing." So the rumor got going from there.