Ross Valory ('Journey')
“All Hail The Court Jester of Rock!“
2005 started with a historic event on January 21, proclaimed “Journey Day” in Hollywood, CA, as the band had the honor of receiving a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not only was the current line-up in attendance for the ceremony (guitarist Neal Schon, bassist Ross Valory, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, singer Steve Augeri and drummer Deen Castronovo), but several band members from the past as well: drummers Steve Smith and Aynsley Dunbar, guitarist George Tickner and singer Robert Fleischman.
Perhaps the greatest surprise—not only to the fans lined up along Hollywood Boulevard, but to the band most of all—was the unexpected appearance of the group’s former frontman Steve Perry, who had not been seen anywhere with Journey since his departure in 1996 after TRIAL BY FIRE was released and earned the band’s first Grammy® Award nomination for 'When You Love A Woman.'
In March, Journey finished recording their highly anticipated 13th studio album, GENERATIONS. As a sign of gratitude to their devoted fans who helped put Journey in the top 30 best-selling music groups of all time (having sold over 75 million albums worldwide), copies of the GENERATIONS CD will exclusively be given away free with the purchase of a ticket at most of the concerts along the tour route.
In an interesting twist, GENERATIONS will be the first Journey album in which all the band members get a shot at being the frontman.
Having tried a week earlier to connect with bassist Ross Valory, but finding he had a bad ear infection, we tried again this week and were indeed lucky enough to be able to spend some quality time with the Journeyman himself. So, and secretly knowing what 'comedic name' he always books into hotels under, I first wondered whatever happens if the real **** ******* ever spent the night in the same hotel as he?! "Well, you know what, I've actually just made comment on this very subject and the point is he doesn't have that many fans! And he's not usually in the same towns as I am. And, I've never gotten a call for the real **** *******. I met **** a few years ago, back in the '70s when Journey was doing a program called 'Friday's' and he was a guest on the show there. Truly a friendly and gracious person. But the whole thing with hotel room names is that you need a name that's simple so people can remember ... and especially when one's wife calls up and wants to speak with so-and-so, and regardless of how much English the people at the other end may not understand, **** ******* is always one that is easy enough to understand."
So, what other names have you used in the past? "In the past, well, one of the first that I used in the beginnings of my relationship with my wife, was 'Vince Pinchalova'! And my poor wife would be in the gift shop of the hotel or be receiving room service at the door and would be signing 'Mrs. Pinchalova' while somebody at the other end is trying to do anything but laugh! Then I had another name, which was 'Les Mor,' but then we finally decided in the third round over the years to use a simple common name. And so we chose the name of a friend of ours, 'Steve Wagner.' And, I love Steve, but I just got tired of the name!"
How long have you had the name **** ******* for a hotel name? "Oh gee, oh probably three years now."
You know, most of these guys on tour now change their name EVERY hotel! "That's way too complicated!"
So, where did the new Journey album title originate from? "There's a song on the album called 'Every Generation' and found in the lyrics is sort of the description of what it's all about. The concept is that we've been playing for so many years for the fans that love the music, and have brought their children and in some cases have brought their grand children. There really is a whole dynasty of fans, so to speak, represented at our shows and among our music buyers as well. The lyrics of most of the songs represent the lives of our fans in various walks of life."
And this new CD will only be sold or given away with the price of the concert ticket at your shows? "Well, I must be very clear about this. Most of the venues in which Journey appears alone allow us to give away the CD with the ticket. There are other venues in which we are on a multiple billing where that is just not possible. The politics and the economics just don't work that way. Under those circumstances, the CD is available for sale at our merchandise booths where all our other stuff is sold."
"And while we're on the subject, a lot of people that have come to the shows have been unaware of 'Journeyville.' It's usually located in the vicinity of the merchandising area, somewhere near the entrance on the inside of the venue." [For more info on 'Journeyville' please see the bottom of this interview]
It seems that you've been in Journey since the dawn of time! "Well, actually I'm a co-founder. So, not only have I been in it, I've been all over it for the most part."
So, at what point did the Golden Gate Rhythm Section become Journey? "Well, it has to do with a concept and the motivation of our long-standing partner, manager, and creator, Herbie Herbert. Herbie was working in production and management and he was also in a competing rock band that fell apart. So he came over to us, but decided at that point not to be a musician, but wanted to learn all the other aspects of rock n' roll. So, he came over and brought his keyboard player to our band, which was called 'Little Timmy & The Big Timers' for a while. He then just went out and bought a truck and learnt how to put equipment together and all the other aspects of running a band."
"And then Herbie, Rolie and Schon all left the Santana organization and so Herbie had this idea of putting us all into the same room together along with Prairie Prince, the drummer of The Tubes and see what happened. And quickly a concept came up and it was that perhaps the Golden Gate Rhythm Section could be like the local sluggers - like there are in Nashville, Memphis and New York - and provide the vehicle for an artist to write and record an album. Well, we decided very quickly to do just that ourselves at which point we became Journey."
Did you truly set out to replace Steve Perry with a replica in Steve Augeri?! "No, he's different. He's different, but he does fill the shoes. I certainly wouldn't want the job! But yeah, he's close enough in terms of tone and range for the most part, yeah."
Were there any other singers in line to possible get this front man position? "Yes, there was one other singer from the band Queensryche [Geoff Tate]. A very fine singer. I was not present for that audition, but apparently he had quite a strong voice and quite a range, but it did not fit the bill in terms of style."
Tell me more about your old band 'Frumious Bandersnatch'! "Frumious Bandersnatch was one of the creatures mentioned in the film, 'Jabberwocky' by Lewis Carroll. "Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!" God knows what we are speaking of, but it is in print by a very famous writer. Actually, Frumious Bandersnatch existed in two generations and the bass player of the original band came up with the name. It was the '60s so you can take it from there," he laughs.
Tell me more about any side projects that you also have running "Well, I formed two bands with other people, in-between Journey's. The first band is VU and comprises a very fine singer in Kevin Chalfont who had performed with 707 and Steel Breeze, guitarist Steff Burns, who's played with practically everybody, keyboardist, arranger and composer Tim Gorman - best known to have performed and recorded with The Who, and last but not least, Prairie Prince; the original drummer of Journey and still current drummer with The Tubes and Jefferson Airplane."
"This music was created across a span of four or five years in the late '80s and that album that practically no one in the United States heard has been repackaged, and re-released, and is now currently available at www.RossValroy.com
"And, then there was another band that occurred chronologically right after VU. Kevin Chalfont and I joined forces with Steve Smith and Gregg Rolie of Journey to form The Storm. And The Storm recorded two albums; one on Interscope Records - we were the first band on Interscope Records - and the second went to a very small label called Miramar out of Washington State. We did one major tour opening for Bryan Adams, but for both of those bands it was a time in which record companies were too busy in picking up punk rock bands and the like for pennies on the dollar."
"Now, there are other things that I've been doing as well. Currently, I'm working on a project that is completely in-house at a studio that I own in California. Over the years I've still been working with George Tickner; founding member of Journey and another fine musician by the name of Steve Roseman. And, over the years we've been fiddling around with all of these songs that we thought maybe some day that it all comes together and we get ambitious, we may attempt to complete as an album and release it. Well, that's exactly what's happened and pretty much for the reason that I decided just a few months ago why not have a solo career? The name of the album is Cinema ... and definitely what we have in mind is music for film."
"And I intend also to include, in the store of goodies on my web site, the first two Cyclops Blues Band albums. I helped form the Cyclops Blues Band with Herbie Herbert and various other musicians, including former members of 'Frumious Bandersnatch'," he laughs. "And so I'm going to remanufacture, and re-release the first two albums on my site."
"The site is www.RossValroy.com and the advantage here for the consumer is that if they go and purchase any one of these CDs they automatically get a free download! So, they have the music as they download it and they'll then get the entire package in the mail."
What’s your own personal fav Journey song to play live ... "OK, if I were to name my favorites I'd have to name two or three: 'Higher Place' from the Arrival album, 'Nickel and Dime' from the Next album, and from the new album I would say 'Faith In The Heartland'."
... And which song are you tired of?! " 'Any Way You Want It.' It's just so popular, people love it 'cause it's got a message that just picks them up and takes them away, but I just don't think that much of the song!"
You ALWAYS pull funny faces on stage and squirt water from your mic stand into the crowd … why are you the only one that does that when the others look so serious?! "Oh yes, what a naughty boy! Well, I AM the Court Jester and as the Court Jester you are in a position of power and influence. But, at any moment you can be beheaded. But, I think I've now gotten beyond the potential of being beheaded, because everybody in the band recognizes what I'm doing affects the audience completely positively."
Finally, ... "What's my favorite color ... it's yellow, no pink, no blue, ... no," he answers before I can get the actual real question out!
No, ... finally, describe yourself in three or four words "Feet on the ground."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
“Journeyville,” a festive area located near the front entrance at most of the venues. Fans will be treated to continuous video playback on large outdoor screens showing various moments throughout Journey’s history such as classic music videos, behind-the-scenes clips and much more. They can also learn more about Journey’s history and sign up for the Journey Fan Club to get all the latest news, special merchandise offers and tour updates. The centerpiece of “Journeyville” will be a “30th Anniversary Journey Motorcycle,” created and built by Arlen Ness Motorcycles and featuring amazing artwork from all of Journey’s albums. Fans will have a chance of winning this beautiful motorcycle by making a contribution to Journey’s favorite children’s charities at the exhibit. One lucky fan will ride away into the sunset on this one-of-a-kind motorcycle at the end of the tour!
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