Journey on Steve Perry, Releasing New Music & Whether They'd Even Accept a Rock Hall Invitation

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Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon of Journey perform at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Aug. 17, 2011 in Wantagh, N.Y.

Steve Miller's dissatisfaction with his recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction may have Bay Area brethren and fellow '70s hitmakers Journey -- or at least co-founder Neal Schon -- thinking twice about whether they want to accept the same honor. 

Miller, of course, went off on the Rock Hall and the induction event, even alleging that the organization only provided tickets for he and his wife and wanted his band members to pay $10,000 a piece to watch the ceremony. With mainstream rock favorites such as Miller, Cheap Trick, Chicago and Deep Purple getting in, it seems like a door might also be opening for Journey, whose absence is considered by some to be one of the Rock Hall's greatest slights. But Schon told Billboard that if elected, he'll have to think before he serves.

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"After reading and talking to Steve Miller about what went on with him and how it was not a good experience, I don't really care right now one way or the other," Schon said. "I'd have to see what the situation is for real. I'm not about to pay money to anybody to get in anywhere. I would never do that. And at this point there's so many people in there that are not even rock 'n' roll, I don't really care about being in there at all. It's not going to make or break my life for who I've come as an artist or a person. I'm like an aspiring artist that needs to move forward and you don't move forward by settling in on what you've attained in your past. I think you're only as good as what you are right now."

That said, Schon acknowledged that he'd want to get in to please Journey's vociferous fan base. And there are indications they may not have to wait long, either. "I think there always has been an opening for us," Schon explained. "Basically Steve [Perry] has not wanted to do it. I think he probably wants to wait until he releases his solo record, which is supposed to come out this year and is probably why I'm hearing that we're supposed to get in this year." Rock Hall nominees are announced in the fall, with inductees usually revealed during early December.

Until that Rock Hall invite comes -- if it does at all -- Journey has plenty going on. To wit...

* The Journey crew has high hopes for its tour with the Doobie Brothers that gets underway May 12. "We have played with the Doobies before. We've just never done a tour with them," said Schon, who teamed with the Doobies' Tom Johnston for a King Biscuit Flower Hour all-star episode during the '70s. "I think the chemistry is really good." Keyboardist-guitarist Jonathan Cain, a former neighbor of Johnston's in the Bay Area, added, "We've been wanting to work with them. Their manager was, 'We don't work with other acts,' and blah, blah, blah. They were headlining all the time. He finally retired and our manager kind of took over their business and he just said, 'This is a no-brainer. You guys have got to play with Journey.' So they listened to him and now we're playing together. There's so many hits between us. It'll be great."

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* Journey is planning a symphonic album, building off a charity concert from June 20, 2015, with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. "It was unbelievable; people were just blown way," Cain recalled. The show was slated to be recorded and filmed, but those plans were scuttled after drummer Deen Castronovo's drug and domestic assault arrest a week before the show, with Omar Hakim filling in. Now, Cain said, "We want to repeat [the show] over in Europe somewhere and capture it on a DVD. There's a couple of symphonies I'm contacting."

* There's a difference of opinion on another new Journey album to follow 2011's "Eclipse." "I've been trying to get new stuff going and certain people in the band are like, 'Man, there's no reason to do it. Nothing is going on in records and you'll never sell any records and you won't get played on the radio,'" said Schon, who's been doing double time with the reunited early '70s Santana lineup. "Well, everything they said now has been proven wrong with this Santana [IV] record, so I'm back on the path of, 'Let's get moving here. Let's move forward.'" Cain, meanwhile, is in the camp that just says no. "The music business has taken a dive and new music today almost doesn't make sense," he said. "We have a lot of songs we have to play right now. We have, like, four albums that people barely know. Why make an album if you're lucky 100,000 people buy it. It's very expense for us to make a product like that. It's very costly and we can't make the money back."

* There's not, however, any shortage of solo projects in the offing. Frontman Arnel Pineda announced a solo deal with Imegen Records. Schon is putting together a box set retrospective of his solo work that will include unreleased and newly record material. And Cain, whose wife is a pastor in Nashville, plans to self-release a Christian rock album called What God Wants to Hear this year. "I was doing a country thing, but God wouldn't let me in the door with that one," Cain said. "I'm really proud of this and I had a blast doing it. The lyrics came quickly; I must've written it in four or five months. It's amazing how good it came out and I'm really excited about it." Cain is also writing a memoir.

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* All parties are excited to have drummer Steve Smith back in the band for a third stint after leaving in 1998 to concentrate on a jazz career. "It's a different spin on the band," Cain said. "It's a transparent kind of different sound. It's what we used to sound like in the old days. It's got a mighty feel to it." Smith initially said he only planned to spend a year working with Journey again, but Schon -- who's used Smith on several of his solo albums -- is hoping it's a more permanent return. "Steve's an amazing musicians and he's gonna bring it," the guitarist said. "He's loving it -- that's all I can tell you. I think that he's having such a good time that I'd be surprised if he didn't want to do it anymore."

* Journey is still mourning Castronovo's unexpected departure, too. "It was a true tragedy for me because I love my brother Deen," Schon said. "Unfortunately the demons got the worst of him. But everything happens for a reason. it was truly time for him to work on himself and get himself straight." Cain has been helping Castronovo do just that and even has him playing on his solo album. "He's got God. He's on the road to recovery," Cain said. "I've been putting him to purpose and we've been playing and believing that he'll get restored and turn his life around. Right now he's with his family and they're supporting him."

* Former frontman Steve Perry, meanwhile, remains an enigma to his former bandmates. "There's no communication at all," said Schon, who was in brief contact with Perry via email during 2014. "I feel like I've reached out in every humane way I can... just to be friends, like we were. There's no reason not to be. I've tried to get his real phone number instead of talking through his attorney, but he will not give it to me, not even to say hello." Nevertheless, Cain promises that the door is always open for Perry with the band. "We reach out to him. We've got an open chair for him if he wants to sing a song, whatever he wants. We have said that all along," Cain said. "He chooses to remain aloof and that's fine. Peace with him. We communicate on publishing, synchronization, licensing. It's almost 30 years since Steve's done a gig with us, so we're not holding our breath."