Journey Could Be on the Brink of a Split After Latest Feud
Journey are apparently at another career crossroads. Founding guitarist Neal Schon spent the week taking a trio of bandmates to task publicly over their recent White House visit, capping a period of deep inner turmoil. By yesterday, Journey appeared to be breaking apart.
Schon claimed other members now want to tour without him, while he continued to assert his longtime leadership role. He responded by strongly implying that he intended to construct a different lineup of the band. “I will travel to new musical terrain that we never have and encompass everything,” Schon wrote on Twitter. “Hits are hits; we have a ton.”
Asked later if he’d be able to keep the Journey name, Schon said, “It’s not going anywhere.” He also posted an informational graphic, pulled from Wikipedia, illustrating that he’s the only member to have appeared on every Journey album.
These recent turn of events follow a visit by three band members to President Donald Trump‘s press room – apparently without Schon’s knowledge – in the days before the band’s tour finale at the Classic East festival in New York on July 30. Schon immediately began expressing surprise and dismay. Subsequent news reports then misrepresented the trip as band-sanctioned, which Schon angrily reiterated was not the case. (NBC, for instance, reported that “Journey Poses for Pictures in the White House Press Briefing Room.”)
“Wow, this is not the Journey I started in 1972 and have been fighting to protect since the beginning,” Schon wrote on Facebook on July 28. “I’ve discussed this many times with management and counsel, and they both agreed that there should never be anything to do with religious beliefs or politics with Journey.”
The White House photo op featured keyboardist Jonathan Cain, who has been married to Trump’s spiritual advisor since 2015; singer Arnel Pineda; and bassist Ross Valory, who co-founded Journey with Schon and singer and keyboardist Gregg Rolie in the early ’70s. Schon later confirmed that the group had met specifically to discuss the implications of such an official visit, and that he’d argued against it – “many, many times.”
Everybody have a Real Look at These Statistics of how long each member has been there in JRNY camp ✌z pic.twitter.com/XAoqZVzpS0
— NEAL SCHON MUSIC (@NealSchonMusic) August 4, 2017
The irony in all of this is that everyone in Journey’s current lineup, except for Pineda, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just last spring. They were also joined by Rolie, former singer Steve Perry and onetime drummer Aynsley Dunbar.
By then, however, Cain had already released a solo album titled What God Wants to Hear. As Cain became increasingly religious, Schon began pushing back, pointedly questioning whether they should associate a single faith with the group. Later, he re-posted some negative media coverage that focused on the ministry led by Cain’s wife. The guitarist even briefly changed his Twitter handle to “Neal Schon’s JRNY,” before switching it back to Neal Schon Music, giving a strong indication that a power struggle of some sort was unfolding.
“I believe our music is spiritual and uplifting and doesn’t need to be tagged with any one religion or politics. This is how we’ve always flown,” Schon tweeted on July 30. “It’s not about Trump at all.” He later confirmed that Journey had been asked “many times” to visit the White House during President Obama’s administration, and had turned them down as well.
Schon seemed most disappointed in the presence of Pineda at the White House; the singer was plucked out of obscurity after Schon found him on YouTube. “He’s living the American dream,” the guitarist said on July 28. “How quickly everyone forgets where they came from. I think the [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] has gone to everyone’s head. Not me.”
Ultimate Classic Rock reached out to Journey’s management regarding this report, but the band didn’t offer a comment. Cain apparently hasn’t specifically responded to Schon either, though some of the Christian messages he’s been sharing on social media could be construed that way. On Aug. 3, for instance, he tweeted an image reading “God protect me from ANYTHING that wasn’t sent by you,” while Schon was discussing Journey on his Twitter.
The band’s current lineup has been in place since platinum-era drummer Steve Smith rejoined in 2015. Was their show on July 30 at Classic East their last? Schon has been mulling that for a week now. “I’m not sure,” he said on July 28. “The last two years have not been easy. Was fine till then.”
When I hear my guitar I hear his voice. From Infinity on … Timeless Forever…The sound and soul of Journey pic.twitter.com/5FPhRzxRw4
— NEAL SCHON MUSIC (@NealSchonMusic) July 30, 2017
What remains unclear is who would own the Journey name, if Schon splits off. “It depends on what happens,” he admitted on Aug. 3. Earlier, however, he cautioned, “They will not tour with [the] Journey name. Trust me. I’ve spent way too long building to give up the brand.”
It’s also unknown who might be part of any possible new configuration with Schon. He has already made clear his interest in bringing back classic-era members like Rolie and Perry, if possible. For instance, the guitarist retweeted a message along with a picture of himself with Steve Perry: “This story is not over. It was just a comma, and not an endpoint.”
Schon and Rolie reconnected on a recent reunion project with their pre-Journey band Santana. Rolie was also onstage for Journey’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, though Schon says that wasn’t without a fight. “I had to hold out signing my release to insure Gregg Rolie would be able to be onstage playing,” Schon wrote on Twitter. “Jon and Ross didn’t want him.”
Perry also made a rare appearance with Journey during their emotion-filled induction. Asked specifically about a reunion with Perry recently, Schon tweeted, “I’d love to.” Schon has been dedicating “Lights” to his old bandmate; he also said his work with Perry represented “the true heart and soul of JRNY” on Instagram. On July 29, Schon admitted, “When I hear my guitar, I hear his voice.”
Schon had already been working with Smith on solo projects, before the drummer made an official return to Journey. Valory has been featured on every Journey record except 1986’s Raised on Radio.
Elsewhere, Schon confirmed that Journey will be dormant for a lengthy period, maybe as long as 11 months. He’s also still discussing a blues-based reunion with former Bad English bandmate John Waite. Whether that comes to pass or not, Schon aims to stay busy on his own. The guitarist recently announced that he plans to release not one, not two, but a whopping three new albums next year.
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