American rock veterans Journey have not stopped believing

Journey, which comprise (above, from left) Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, Arnel Pineda, Steve Smith and Neal Schon, at a press conference held at SPH News Centre yesterday.
Journey, which comprise (above, from left) Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, Arnel Pineda, Steve Smith and Neal Schon, at a press conference held at SPH News Centre yesterday.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

American rock veterans Journey have achieved much since they formed 44 years ago - hit songs that have become staples in the rock canon, worldwide record sales of 90 million and regular global tours.

But one accolade has eluded them all these years - a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

That long wait will finally come to an end in April when the band are inducted into what is arguably rock's most hallowed club.

Speaking ahead of the band's concert at The Star Theatre tonight, guitarist and founding member Neal Schon says the induction has been a long time coming. "We could have been up for it 17 years ago," the 62-year-old says in a telephone interview from Tokyo, where the band played several arena shows.

"When it didn't happen, I just moved it out of my mind, like this is never gonna happen, for whatever reason."

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The loyal support from their fans is a lot more important to him, he says, but getting the induction was "icing on the cake".

While songs such as Don't Stop Believin', Faithfully and Open Arms became some of the biggest rock hits of the 1980s, Journey went through a resurgence in recent years, thanks to the use of their songs in contemporary pop culture.

Don't Stop Believin', for example, was used prominently in popular television series such as Glee and The Sopranos, exposing their music to a new generation of fans.

"Our audiences are getting younger. I look out every night, no matter where we are. I see three and four generations of age groups out there and I see a lot of young people. It's really awesome for a band that's been around as long as we've been."

While Journey have never been critics' darlings, Schon reckons that their songs have wide and lasting appeal because they sing about universal subjects.

"They are love songs and there's a lot of love in the world, even though on the news, you look and go 'what is happening?'.

"But I think that lyrical content about hope, love and faith will stand true in so many nations."

Over the years, the band's line-up has been fluid, and Schon and bass player Ross Valory, 68, are the only members left from the original line-up, which first came together in San Francisco in 1973. The band went on a hiatus in 1987 and reunited in 1995. Singer Steve Perry, who joined in 1977 and sang on the band's biggest hits, left in 1998.

The band are now fronted by Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, former singer of a Journey cover band whom they discovered on YouTube. The band also comprise drummer Steve Smith, who joined in 1978, and keyboardist Jonathan Cain, who joined in 1980.

In a press conference held at SPH News Centre yesterday, Pineda, 49, says his life changed "from black to white" after he joined Journey 10 years ago.

"Back in the Philippines, I was trying very, very hard just to get noticed as a local recording artist. I tried for 25 years, nothing happened, until Neal found me on YouTube. That's changed the whole game for me. They changed my life for good."

Schon has history with another member of rock royalty - Latin rock band Santana, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. He played in the band led by guitar icon Carlos Santana in the early 1970s before forming Journey.

His music career recently came full circle when he played on Santana's album released last year, Santana IV. It was the first time in 45 years that Schon and Santana, 69, recorded together.

Schon says: "They were one of the biggest bands in the world when I was touring with them as a kid and it was quite an experience.

"To re-circle after all these years and come back to the beginning again for me was really special."

Besides Journey's 14-album discography, the prolific guitarist has also released nine solo albums, as well as with other popular rock acts such as Bad English, who were active in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

With plans to record a new song as well as a residency in Las Vegas later this year, Schon is confident there is no end in sight for Journey.

"Journey is not done, it will never be done for me. I have some new places I want to go with the band. I don't foresee Journey as ever being over. I see us continuing to grow and move on to new places."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline 'Journey to join Rock and Roll Hall of Fame'. Print Edition | Subscribe