Journey: The 2005 Generations Interviews.

Part 5 - Steve Augeri. The "Good Guy" talks.

Steve Augeri has one of the hardest jobs in melodic rock. To fill the shoes of Steve Perry, arguably one of the greatest singers ever, yet refrain from being a clone and bring his own personality to the music – both new and the classics.
He also has to fit into a band with a very strong dynamic already established by its two principles, Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon.
All credit to hi, I don't think Steve Augeri could have done anything better. He's known as the good guy with a sweet attitude and this interview does nothing to dispel that!



Its Andrew Steve.
How you going man?

I'm great…how are you doing.
I'm doing great today. We are having a wonderful day off in Minneapolis, I have my family…we just rendezvoused here – I have them with me for a few days and I'm told that…somebody told me that I'm glowing, so they must have a great effect on me.
Now, we were supposed to get together a few days ago, I wasn't sure if I was calling you or you were calling me, but I guess it didn't happen.
I'm glad you called back.

Are you ok to have a chat now?
You bet.

Great to talk to you again, it's been too long.
It's nice that we are talking for a great reason. The band is very excited about this new recording and just having the opportunity to get together and write some new songs and put it out there for fans.
We're very excited about that.

I have a stack of questions here for you, but I made a point in my review that you brought the same amount of songs to the table this time as you did Arrival.
Just to let you know, I haven't read your review yet…I'm not sure I want to…haha…but just to let you know I'm not aware of your review yet.

That's fine, I'll tell you a little about it. It's a good review I think…
You were very kind to us last time.

Well, I like the band's music, but I noted that this time around you have two solo writing credits on this album.
I'm going to give you sort of an exclusive, because nobody has spoken about this yet. Seven years has past since I have been working with the band and I don't have to tell you that Neal has always had a love for playing with as many people as he can and have as many projects going on as possible – it has always been that way – it keeps him musically satisfied and always moving forward.
And so he has done both solo records as well as other projects and Jon Cain is the same.
So after the seventh year and no new record in sight for Journey, I decided I was going to start writing music just the same. Jon Cain suggested I pick up an Apple Powerbook which has this Garage Band program in it, which is ideal for a technical moron such as myself – I mean a kid could sit down and write a record on it – I was like a kid in a candy store when I got it. I couldn't get away from it – it has all the great instrumentation and great drum loops and this and that. So I had all these songs bottled up in me and all these ideas and the moment I got my hands on it I started writing at this feverish pace.
So it was during this time, during last year's tour that Neal took notice that I always had my head buried in the thing. So I laid some songs on him and he looked at me and to put it simply, I guess he was impressed with some of the musical ideas that I was coming up with.
And I think the wheels started turning, cause Neal's always turn, and he got the notion that he thought that at least with a small inkling of what I was doing, that a new Journey album was in the works – at least a start or seed of it.

Ok.
So from that material we started building and having some writing sessions and it went from several songs of mine that were being considered, to you know…the usual…
It's understandable, I mean when you have a team like Jon and Neal in the band.
In fact, the thing with Jon…Jon is a generous, giving person and all last year while we were recording the record he always seemed to be involved in one charity or one community group or getting involved in funding his kids school events and it wasn't until the last moment of doing this record that he came in - literally into the studio with a few masterpieces.
Honestly….frankly - it was one of those healthy competition things, which is wonderful to have this great healthy tension…I'm not saying rival writers; you can print that if you want.
He thought to himself that he needed to be represented – let's face it – Jon Cain needed to be on this record first and foremost before the newcomer Steve.
So he came up with some great songs that took front seat, and I'm glad he did, because it is a better record for it.
Just so you know, the fact of the matter is – whether anybody cares to listen to it or not – when we get off the road I am planning to get some of those songs together and putting together a record and releasing a solo record.

Brilliant. Long overdue Steve.
Well, you know what it is, there is a side of me that - take it or leave it, like it or not, writes just for the songs as opposed to just for the band.
There is a part of me and a part of every writer that writes just for themselves first and foremost, so for the music.
Whether it fits into Journey or fits into this band or that band is another story.
But that's tomorrow….right now we're in the present, we're talking about what's in the moment and that is Journey's Generations record.
We're really jazzed about that.

xx

One question I had for you that you have touched on there – is it frustrating for you trying to break into that Schon/Cain writing partnership?
Oh no…there is no frustration. Is it hard? The bottom line is you either write well or you don't and when you are surrounded by fine composers – that makes them sound like Rachmaninov and Bach – when you are surrounded by these composers it elevates you and you only learn from them. It's always a learning experience and if you don't, you are a fool. I absorb everything I can – whether it be work ethic, because both of these guys work so hard at their craft, so I've learnt a lot about that….so again, it's wonderful to work with them and that is just the bottom line.

You bring up another interesting point here – work ethic. Everything that I have seen and heard about Steve Augeri indicates that you Sir are one of the hardest working people out there!
I'll tell you what Andrew…

I heard you warm up for two hours before each show!
Here's the thing…I come from…my background as singer – the type of singing I used to do before I joined Journey was a rock n roll singer, not a crooner or…
I mean I was closer to, or I thought of myself more of a Steve Marriot style or Robert Plant style singer…this is my impression or what I would have preferred to sound like.
These are the guys I listen to. Glenn Hughes and Freddy Mercury – singers like that get my attention first and foremost., But I was more of a scrapper, a guy that would go out there and kill his voice every night, just lose it totally - just sing totally and go away and lick your wounds and hope you have a voice for the next day.
When I joined Journey, it was a completely different animal – a different singing style than I was used to and I had make sure I woke up the next day with an operational voice.

That meant getting in and having a vocal coach and I'm on the road now and I haven't had a drop of alcohol for four weeks and I haven't had a drop of caffeine for four weeks and I have stayed away from dairy for four weeks and these things pay off.
As far as warning up for two hours, my physical make up – my body is one thing and I have to alter myself physically…literally and warning up for two hours, if that's what it takes – gently – to stretch my vocal chords so I can sing in a high tenor voice, then that's what I have to do.
Some guys do it naturally – for example Deen Castronovo. This kid goes on every night of his life and he opens his mouth and it's instantaneous. It's incredible. I used to be able to do that when I was twenty. Now, at my age, what I have to do – it takes me two hours to do it and it's just a fact of life.
Do I wish I didn't have to do it? Yeah…I could do a lot more…I could watch TV for 2 hours; I could go play with the dog for two hours. I could think of a lot more fun things I could do than warm up, but that's the cross I bare.
It gets me from point A to point B and you would be that dedicated too if you were signing for a world class band such as Journey.

Tell me, in the first couple of shows there were noted vocal problems for yourself on stage.
Yeah, the simple reason is we are doing a three hour show and the first – I'm am singing the absolute last quarter of the first set and then I sing the second set.
So what happens is that I warm up – I don't have this lay over period. I warm up, hit stage and I'm going.
Now I have this period of time – 45 minutes – where I don't sing a note and I'm still trying to adapt to it. It's getting a little better as we go along but that is just the way it is.
For seven years I never did anything like it, so I'm trying to teach and old dog new tricks.
That's what it is – the human body…

I think it comes down to your good guy reputation again, but what the band is asking from you is quite a lot I think. Especially for a frontman to take a back seat for a certain portion of each show.
Sure. Sure.

How hard is that for you to deal with? Obviously you still are.
Obviously there is a degree of…initially that your ego takes a couple of short ones to the chin <laughs>
But, what we have done this year…we are celebrating 30 years of the band's history. I am literally – there might be more hiding under a rock somewhere – but I'm the fourth vocalist of this band – Gregg, Robert Fleischmann, Steve and then myself.
So with that, obviously we are sharing the workload vocally and especially more so in the first half.
So Jon has taken a great deal – he is doing at least half a dozen songs that Gregg Rolie would do, then to complete the other two hours or so, Deen Castronovo takes a huge workload off of me, cause quite frankly I would not be able to do four or five shows a week without Deen's help. And that is just the bottom line.
Initially it was a little bizarre but as the shows progressed and I saw how things were working out…and you know, this is about a band first and foremost – I joined a band, I walked into a situation where, frankly, they were tied of a lead singer…how should I put this…as diplomatically as possible – they were trying to resume being a band as opposed to a band with a lead singer.

Yes.
And I understood that when I joined the band and I think the least they can expect of me is to be a little understanding. Am I good guy? Yeah…maybe too good. I understand where you are coming from, but again, when you are surrounded by great musicians and great singers, it is a humbling thing and you can bow and say you can say yes, the spotlight cane be shared by everyone. So that's what we are doing.

I said the same thing to Neal and he said 'Steve is a team player…'
You know, I love being in a rock n roll band. And a rock band is a…Keith Richards said it was like a gang and a gang is a like a family and the minute you don't treat your band members like family and with that respect, things fall apart real fast.
So you know…we try and treat each other the way we would like to be treated. Give ourselves the mutual respect one way or the other and so far that's the way we have treated each over for the past 8 years and things seem to be working out well.

xx

I raised this with Deen also. He said you guys sat down and had a chat…when he started doing some vocals. I said it must have been a bit weird.
Yeah sure…but you know what, although he's not that much younger, he's a couple of years younger than me and one way or the other we help each other, on stage and off.
I'm like his slightly older brother and I could come to him with a couple of words of wisdom about retaining that beautiful voice that he has and I turn around and get some inspiration and energy from him, listening to him sing and play behind me that I wouldn't have if he wasn't there.
One hand washes the other.

I have heard of a few reports where you have at times signaled to Deen on stage 'take this one' or whatever.
Oh yeah…well, you know I learned that from watching one of my favourite bands from all time and that was Queen. I saw many tours where Freddy would just out and out take the low road and Roger would take the high road and there is no other way to last a tour. It's just the way it was. It didn't make Freddy any less of a singer and I'm certainly not putting myself anywhere near his league – don't get me wrong – but he is a great example and if he was big enough to do something like that then I can certainly take a cause from that, anyone should too.

That's one thing – what about sharing vocals on an album – that's an entirely different situation.
I'll tell you what started a lot of this. We had the pleasure of touring with REO and Styx a couple of years ago and we were impressed by the way entire band had shared the limelight as opposed to just having a lead singer.
Each and every band member sings and all have our different styles and I can take each and every on of these guys and tell you where their vocals qualities and strengths are.
And one thing would impress you more than the next. So we felt that way about Styx and we enjoyed that and the other guys thought that would be a good idea and why would I ever argue a good thing. It seemed to work with those guys and I think it has worked realty well on the record.

I must admit, I prefer one vocalist albums generally, but if you are going to do it, Generations is done pretty well.
Well, yeah…at first…again, having an ego, you take a step back and think about it. And when the tracks are cut and recorded…frankly there were some songs I preferred to sing and there were some songs I didn't prefer to sing.
Sometimes it is as easy and simple as that. I think that's usually the best reason you should do something like that.

Well, I couldn't imagine you signing lead on Gone Crazy, that's for sure!
Well, you know what, we did a version a couple of years back when Neal first brought the song in and it was more…It was rocking, but it was a different attitude. Ross brings in this whole attitude that he's got, but it was way up in the stratosphere this song, more of a Deep Purple, high tenor, Led Zeppelin kind of thing.

That's interesting.
All in all I think the song is better with Ross singing and it gives the album a different flavor on the record that we never had.

Yes…it certainly does that. It's a U-Turn.
Yeah, yeah…okay.

I tell you what I particularly like on this album. I think your vocals have an added angst to them…a little darker, a little tougher.
What I did before I sang on this record…I had a lot of people always coming up to me during the course of tours with Journey and they'd all bring their Tall Stories records.
And I was always so touched and so moved that they would bring up the record and say how much they liked this song and that song. I remembered what I did a lot more back then was sing a great deal more aggressively…well I had a lot more colour in my voice - just different moods and I wanted to recapture what I used to do with Tall Stories here.
Again, for better or worse, it would be less of a Perry comparison and more of myself and maybe that's what I liked about it.
So once again that's what I did when it was called for within the song.
Where there were tender melodies that needed to be sung, they were there too – just as important.

Beyond The Clouds is an amazing song and probably one of the best ballads I have heard you sing.
Thank you very much; I'm particularly proud of that song. One day Neal and I turned up for rehearsal and nobody else did and we were destined to sit down two feet from each other, face to face, two guitars, and write this song. So what happened was he started kicking around these great chord progressions and started spitting out a couple of melody ideas and we wrestled with it and wrestled with it and I took it home and I had a couple of different ideas.
Neal writes from that third stone from the sun…I'm more bare bones, meat and potatoes kinda guy. I play three chords on my guitar, he plays 33. I took this way out, intricate thing and made it…brought it down to earth a little bit. What I really love about the song – there was something I needed to talk about.
It's not a blatant and obvious thing, but the song was inspired by events of September 11, 2001.

Ok.
I live in New York City and when that day came and went a lot of songs were written about that day in history, some of them exploitive and some of them just to…I felt for myself that I had to have more respect and I wasn't ready to write anything, I wasn't ready to have that therapy session just yet.
But I found through the music and without blatantly adding verbatim talking about the trip, taking a trip from New York to San Francisco on this dark rainy gray day in New York City and rising above the clouds and into this beautiful sun shiny day. I thought what a great idea for a song. Everyone goes through a dark period, but if you just get above the clouds, beyond the clouds, it's always sunny and there is always optimism.
So it was an optimistic turn on a very negative and dark event that happened in out lives and it especially touched me because I was away from my family when this happened and I was just freaked out. To this day when I think about it tears still well up in my eyes because I was afraid, I didn't know whose funeral I was coming home to.
I had a cousin who just a week prior to that day was living on the floor above where the plane hit and she had just moved out.
Long story short, it was also dedicated to people around the world who also came to our aid.
Again, I want to shine a positive and bright light on what was a very negative day.
I happen to like the fact it closes the record and for me has a real positive tone. It's a very special song for me and I'm glad you like it I really touches me.


It's a great song. I really felt there was a strong Tall Stories tone to this record, which you have touched on…more obvious than Arrival.
Perhaps…as I said, some of the songs that I did, with the exception of Faith In The Heartland, were songs that were initially being written for a possible solo thing.
It was only by the band having the generosity to accept it into the Journey camp as a Journey song that they would even be there.
I had the pleasure of writing one of the songs with an old guitarist buddy of mine that I grew up with and the beautiful part of this story – here's a guy that I joined a band with who turned me onto Journey way back when and this guy used to rave about Neal Schon's guitar playing.
He was a big Steve Perry as well as Robert Fleischmann fan; he used to have everything that Fleischmann did. And so I joined a band with him and little would he know that one of his songs would appear on a Journey record.
He hasn't seen it yet, but he's just gonna flip.

Great story. I must admit, Believe is a curious song with the main melody carried by piano…I was looking for the Jonathan Cain co-write in there.
Well, I have a love and a desire to play the piano and I love the way Jon plays and I get a chance to listen to him every night.
So he has influenced my writing and my arranging. My favourite Journey songs have piano in them.

That's very cool. Steve – Neal has said, and this goes back to the team player thing again, but Neal has said 'The door is always open for Steve Perry to return to this band'.
What does that say to you, or how do you react and live with that?
You know what…Andrew, I wish there was a video camera on me right now, because honestly, as easily as…well maybe not as easily…but as easily as I was invited and accepted in this band I would accept that as well.
I say this with all honesty…I really mean that. I think life – destiny and fate…something is planned out for you and when it is meant to be, it is meant to be.
And I have been fortunate enough to be where I am, to be sitting here today talking to you, fortunate up to this moment.
If there is a turn of events that has that happening, I can deal with that just as well as accepting it happening to me.
You know what; I'd be the first one in line to buy a concert ticket for the show as well as a record.

That's awesome.
You know, it's not a line of shit…it's true. I have told this to Neal and Jon also…prior to signing with Journey, I had walked away from singing entirely and so I will always be thankful for them for giving me back the desire to sing again and the opportunity to sing I would continue doing that. And I'd always be thankful.
But that day has not come yet.

No!
And until it does or if it does, I'll just sit here comfortably <laughs>, still with a big smile on my face.

Ok, I definitely want to follow that question up as you know I've always been a fan of your voice, with Tall Stories and Tyketto.
So – if God forbid you are no longer in Journey – you would not walk away from music or singing. You mentioned a solo record? You would definitely continue working?
I absolutely would, yeah. Especially with technology being the way it is, I am starting to find my way around digital recording, so it wouldn't be as difficult to even produce myself.
So I'd welcome it and embrace it and would enjoy the process.
But, there is also talk…whether that happens or not…the thing is, I have also been in touch with my old band mates as well.

Gooooood….Gooood….
What we are trying as we speak, we are rifling through the old librarby to see if there is anything worthy of releasing.

There has to be, there has to be!
A long lost Tall Stories record.

Yes please Steve...
I have spoken to both Jack the guitarist and Kevin the bass player.

I knew there was a second album recorded, there has to be a release.
We are talking about it now. I have been approached by one of the labels overseas. We would have to agree upon it and if it were out there it wouldn't be just a bunch of demos.
Perhaps my efforts when I get off the road will either go to myself or perhaps a Tall Stories record. That is still yet to be seen.
But either way, we are all going to keep ourselves busy.
I was talking to Ross and he's resurrecting some old projects and all sorts of things.
As long as you stay creative and keep the creative juices flowing, you might just hit upon a masterpiece worthy of someone else listening to it.
We hope of that for the Generations record and I think we have a couple of winners on that record and we'd love nothing more than to get it into as many hands as possible and that's why we are giving it away this tour.
We'd love nothing more than to have them a week after owning this record put it on and say wow, 'I love this song…next time I see Journey I hope they play this song'
It beats not having something out there.

One other thing I wanted to ask you – you were obviously present at the Walk Of Fame presentation earlier this year.
It was wonderful…it was surreal actually.

Even Jon and Deen said something similar. You got to meet Steve Perry, but no one seemed to have a conversation with him. Did you?
No no…Steve and I were cordial between us, but nothing else was said, that's as far as it went.
I understand that Journey is and was a big part his Steve's life…I'm just talking for myself now, this is my little editorial.
Before judging anyone else I like to put myself in their shoes for a moment. And I do that and if I were Mr. Perry I would feel a little uneasy, a little awkward and I would feel that star is a big part of his life and he was very deserving.
And so that my friend, that's what I feel is the reality. I have him his space and he gave me my space and we left it at that.

I think it's great he turned up.
Yep, the fans loved it – it was what they were hoping for and have gave that to them and I'm thankful he gave that to them as they deserved it.
We do have the greatest fans any rock n roll band could hope for. To keep growing and keep coming back and growing more and more for the last 8 tears just impresses me and blows me away more and more each and every year.

The band have hit the US tour circuit every year – is it now time for a rest?
Well, we are talking about taking a rest next year. Personally for me, 8 years in a row is time to go away and recharge the batteries and do another record.
All the more reason to do something, some thing brand new and when we do come back, come back with a brand new record. I'd love to do that.
I'm sure Neal would love to get back on the road with Soul SirkUS and I'd love to spend one summer with my son before he leaves the house.
I saw him as a child, but I have not spent one summer with him or my wife in the last 8 years. Before he flies the nets and blows out of town, I'd like to have one summer where I can do a father and son thing like everyone else can.
But we won't go away…
The good news is we might go abroad…we might do some festivals in Europe. As opposed to 4 months of touring, we might do a maximum of 4 weeks.
I think that would be great for the band and it would be great to start circulating globally….and who knows, maybe we can get our asses over to Australia.

I think the European fans would love to see that. I know it's getting late Steve, I think that's all I have for you. Anything you want to add?
Well, for those that have heard the record and enjoy it – it's nice to know and gratifying. For those that haven't, I hope you get a copy one way or the other an just keep playing and listening to rock n roll, because, it doesn't keep you young, but it keeps you alive.
I'm not young anymore! <laughs> It used to keep me young, now it just keeps me alive! <laughs>
God bless rock n roll.

Couldn't agree more. Ok Steve – I hope we get to talk to you about a new Tall Stories record or a solo record next.
You be well, it was great chatting with you.

You too.
Ok, bye.