It's been a busy last few years for author Neil Daniels, as he's penned biographies of such legendary acts as Judas Priest, Robert Plant, Bon Jovi, as well as the popular 'All Pens Blazing' series. Now, he's set to release Don't Stop Believin', an in-depth look at the rock band Journey. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo recently caught up with Neil to talk about this exciting new book, which is set to release in May, 2011.
SoT: What prompted you to write a book on Journey?
Neil: Well, I had the idea to do a book on Journey when Jeff Scott Soto was in the band but it wasn't the right time and frankly there wasn't a single publisher interested in it. And then two things happened: they hired Arnel Pineda which gave them the most exposure they'd had since getting back with Steve Perry in the mid 90s and then there was Glee. Glee has done a huge favour to Journey. I don't really like that kind of show; it's just not to my tastes but it's given Journey a new lease of life and surely that is a good thing for AOR fans in general? When I pitched the book to Omnibus Press, 'Don't Stop Believin'' had claimed the title of the most downloaded song in history so they were very keen on the prospect. Plus there wasn't – still isn't – a single book on Journey for sale. Whenever books come out on bands on the back of something that's very successful (like 'Don't Stop Believin''/Glee) people (i.e. over-keen fans) always say things like "what a cash-in..." etc... Well, I can tell you that all books are cash-ins. All of them. Publishers will not commission a book if the artist is not popular. Nobody is going to write a book on The White Stripes now and be lucky enough to have a publisher commission it because they've split up. If ever they reform, only then will a publisher commission a book on The White Stripes.
SoT: Are there any existing books on either the band or any of its members?
Neil: The only one to my knowledge is a book from the mid 80s on Journey written by Robyn Flans but of course it is way out of print. I know there is a book on Steve Perry available through the POD company Lulu but I haven't read it. I'm wary of reading a book on Perry written by a woman. That sounds incredibly sexist but – as I found when writing my book on Bon Jovi – women are very subjective about their idols. I suppose men are too but in a different way. I hope I don't sound like a bigot? My book will be the first ever biography of Journey. Given publishers' snobbery of AOR and melodic rock, to have a book published by a major publisher on Journey is a great triumph. It really is.
SoT: Can you talk about the material that was used to put your book together? Were you able to interview members of the band , as well as use quotes and stories previously published? How about friends, family, and fellow musicians? I'm sure they all have plenty to say about the band.
Neil: Good question. When I was gathering all the research for the book I approached many former members of Journey and they all agreed to interviews except two people who I won't name. However, those who agreed must have told members of the band because they all dropped out when I tried to arrange the interviews. They have reportedly signed confidentiality agreements which basically state that they cannot talk to writers unless they are authorised by Journey's management. We all know who Journey is managed by, don't we? But what about freedom of speech? Well, that wasn't going to stop me as there is a wealth of info out there on Journey. I did have lengthy and very fascinating phone interviews with former manager and founder Herbie Herbert, original frontman Robert Fleischman and one-time frontman Jeff Scott Soto. The stuff Herbert and Fleischman had to say was really interesting but it may not be welcomed by Journey zealots. There is also a bonus chapter on Steve Perry's solo music and I got to interview the likes of Michael Landau, Bill Cuomo and Russ Miller et al. I think there is an even balance between first and second hand interviews which gives an overall picture of Journey's history going right back to 1973.
SoT: Are you tackling the story of Journey in a chronological way? Will you be doing breakdowns of their albums?
Neil: Yes, the story begins with Santana around 1969. To understand the foundations of Journey you have to know a little bit about Santana and Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon's history with the band. Journey formed in 1973 and the story of Journey is told in chronological order right up to 2010. Each album is reviewed track-by-track. Some people might disagree with my reviews of the albums but I think I have given a fair assessment. For example, I think Raised On Radio is an underrated album so I have given a fair bit of space to its creation and release. Journey's history is so epic and complicated that the only way to deal with it was in a logical and chronological fashion. As with most writers I was given a contracted word count by the publishers so keeping to that word count was pretty tough especially given how much there is to Journey's story.
SoT: Is there going to be much information on why Steve Perry decided not to come back on board earlier this decade, and what he is up to these days?
Neil: It's obvious Perry won't come back and whenever a proposed reunion is mentioned in the press every few years it's nothing but media hype. There's no way a man of his age will be able to sing like he did in the eighties, and he clearly wants people to remember him as the truly great vocalist he is. Journey's back catalogue is just too demanding and they have an insistence of playing those songs live in their original keys. Personally, I get goose bumps every time I hear Perry's vocals. He's a one in a million singer. You listen to once great singers like David Coverdale and Meat Loaf and they sound terrible on stage now; sometimes embarrassing. I think Perry wants people to remember him for how great he was and not for how much he struggled on stage in his final years. Sure, on record you can still sound great but the live stage is the true test. I don't think Perry liked touring much either. The Perry-Journey reunion will never happen. Journey need to move forwards not backwards...
SoT: Will there be much dedicated to the time Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto spent as lead singers in the band?
Neil: Oh sure, they are both very valuable people in Journey's history. Personally, I thought JSS did a great job and would have liked to have heard an album from that particular line-up. Even though he is one of melodic rock's most treasured singers and performers the band just felt he wasn't the right singer for Journey. He is a very nice, humble and articulate man and he had a lot to say. He isn't negative or bitter in the slightest. He has a lot of respect for Journey regardless of how they treated him at the end of his tenure. He's written an afterword for my book and talks about how important Journey is to him. Obviously there is a fair amount of space given to the Augeri years. Playing Journey songs – and it's a very demanding back catalogue as I said before – onstage night after night and for such long tours would drain any singer. He did a great job while it lasted though I am critical of some of the studio material.
SoT: Arnel Pineda has been a real great addition to the band-how in depth are you going to get with them finding him, and subsequently him helping the band become a force once again?
Neil: I interviewed Ross Valory for Powerplay magazine during the release of Revelation and he spoke about how Neal Schon found Pineda. It's a real life Cinderella story and it got a lot of publicity attention. Some felt it was nothing more than a publicity stunt yet here they are in 2011 with a new album and tour pending. Personally, I can't wait to see them with Foreigner and Styx in Manchester (England.) What a great bill!
SoT: Journey has gone through many changes over the years, starting out as a prog/fusion sort of band, then mixing elements of hard rock, to selling out stadiums and being labelled 'corporate rock'-how do you see the band, not just today, but looking back on their history?
Neil: I don't see them as rock stars but as musicians. There is so much to their music than labels. Being called 'corporate rock' is just a tag the press use. Those who are in the know are aware that Neal Schon is one of the greatest guitarists in the business. I don't think they're such an easy band to define. We call them AOR and melodic rock but those first three albums tell a different story.
SoT: What other projects are you working on that you can talk about?
Neil: I'm writing an illustrated history of Iron Maiden right now which will be published next year as a full colour glossy hardback coffee table book. As for the POD books, I've got a rock novel out later this year. I might also start work on the third All Pens Blazing but to be honest I had a bad time on the second one last year for reasons I won't go in to and I've lost enthusiasm for it. It's a shame as I got a lot of good feedback and rock fans are clearly interested in reading another one. I've done four POD (print on demand) books now: the two All Pens Blazing ones and two Rock 'N' Roll Mercenaries books. Journey is my tenth book in all.
SoT: Out of all the books you've written, what are some of your favorites and why?
Neil: It sounds arrogant but I'm proud of them all even the ones that didn't come out the way I wanted them too. Sometimes it's beyond my control; sometimes I make mistakes. I still think my Judas Priest book – which is now out in paperback – is a good book and I think I did a pretty good job with the Linkin Park one. I'd say my forthcoming Journey book is definitely the one I'm most proud of. Journey fans are going to criticise it because of the level of hysteria and enthusiasm they have for Journey, but I think it gives an accurate history of the band. Check out www.neildaniels.com for details.