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Journey’s Jonathan Cain Talks Band Feud: ‘Let’s Hit Reset’

The keyboardist stayed quiet last year while guitarist Neal Schon bashed him online, but now he’s says its time to make peace

Journey's Jonathan Cain Talks Band Feud: "Let's Hit Rest"

Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain opens up about his feud with the band's guitarist, Neal Schon, and discusses the possibility of releasing new music.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Just a few months after they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, Journey went into complete meltdown mode. The trouble began near the end of their summer tour when guitarist Neal Schon began unloading on keyboardist Jonathan Cain via Twitter and a series of interviews. He was furious that Cain took members of the group to the White House and posed for photos with Donald Trump (Cain’s wife, Paula White, is the president’s spiritual advisor). He was also upset that Cain, in his view, minimized his contributions to key songs like “Don’t Stop Believin'” and that he was using the band’s platform to share his born-again Christian views with the fan base.

“I’ve stated how I felt about mixing religion and politics and how our music is not of one religion – Democratic or Republican,” Schon wrote on Instagram. “This is and has been an issue with myself Mr. Cain and his now wife, since he married. I’ve had to fight this whole time to protect the brand I built with Steve Perry, way before Gregg [Rolie] and I picked Cain to replace himself when he wanted to retire from the road back then. Well frankly, I’m tired of having to defend all by my self. [Journey bassist] Ross [Valory] is no help.”

For weeks on end, Schon slammed Cain and Journey’s management via the Internet. It was hard to imagine how that group could continue in the light of such a nasty public spat, and in December, when Schon announced a special charity show with former members of the group, it seemed like he was looking for an exit strategy. But last month, Journey announced a co-headlining tour with Def Leppard that will keep them on the road for much of the summer without any lineup changes.

Jonathan Cain said very little about the Schon feud while it was raging, but when he came into the Rolling Stone office to chat about his upcoming memoir Don’t Stop Believin’ (much more on that closer to its May 1st release date), we asked him about the whole situation.

What’s the status of your relationship with Neal? Are you on speaking terms?
At this point, I’ll see him at rehearsals for the tour. That’s the way we always operate. I move forward. I don’t live in the Bay Area anymore. I have a life with Paula in Florida. He’s got a life with [his wife] Michaele in San Rafael. We meet when we get on the road.

In your estimation, what caused him to get so angry with you?
You’d have to ask him. I can’t speak for him. It was just something that happened. We’ve had a tremendous relationship for 38 years. Any relationship that goes on that long, there’s bound to be bumps in the road. But I think the band and our fans are bigger than all of this stuff. When you read my book, you’ll see the mountains and the struggles that we had to overcome together. There were insurmountable situations where we were like, “How are we going to get out of this one?” Neal and I brought this thing, along with the rest of the guys, back to where it belonged. I’ll always be grateful for that. We’re brothers. I’m proud of that.

He says that, among other things, he’s frustrated that you don’t want to make a new Journey album. Is that right?
That’s not necessarily true. … I think there’s timing for everything. I just felt like the last couple of years wasn’t the time for new music. There has to be a time where it feels right, not only for the marketplace, but for us as a band. It’s expensive to go into the studio. I went through a divorce. The last thing I needed was to go spend a bunch of money. I’m trying to take care of my life and get on with it. So, when the time is right, yeah. But I mean, we have enough music. The Rolling Stones haven’t made a new album in years. I watched them and thought, “Well, they don’t make new music.” The business has changed.

Do you think there’s an audience for new Journey songs?
It’s small [makes a tiny circle with his finger and thumb] I’ve certainly been writing. I’ve got some killer new ideas, so maybe it’ll happen. I’m looking forward. If it’s going to happen, we have to all come together. And it has to feel like the right time. 

Is it hard to be on the road with someone that’s bashing you on Twitter day after day?
Again, it’s not hard. It’s something that you tolerate. It’s kind of like if you have a fight with your wife. You live in the same house. You have to weather it and overcome it. For the fans, the music is all that matters. We all have our private life and then we have Journey. You go through these things and you gotta get out the steam. Everybody has to vent. Then it’s like, “OK, you said what you said. You said how you feel. Let’s move on.” That’s how I feel. Let’s hit reset and make great music.

He was particularly upset about the White House visit. What was your read on that?
For me, it was a historical chance to go and it wasn’t political. I’m a history buff and was dying to see where all this history took place. I know Arnel [Pineda] wanted to meet the Filipino lady [Cristeta Comerford] that has worked as a chef there for 20-something years. And Neal and I weren’t on speaking terms during that time. He was bashing me, so I didn’t think he would want to come. That’s all.

I guess he saw the whole band there and …
It wasn’t really a band sort of thing. We’re friends with Sarah Huckabee from before the presidential thing. It was just an offer to take a tour. It wasn’t an endorsement. Not at all. And Ross decided to come and see the building that Eisenhower bowled in. I was like, “A bowling alley? How cool!” We got to see the loft where they make the cookies. The kitchen was so tiny. We saw all the little nooks and crannies and were like, “Oh, my gosh, this is amazing.”

Historically, it felt good to visit. But come to me. Don’t go to the fans about it. If you had a problem with it, talk to me. I never heard from him.

Are you anxious to sit down with him and hash things out before the tour?
Yeah, sure. Sure.

Do you think that’s going to happen?
Yeah. It will. When people read the book, they will see the kind of brotherhood that Neal and I forged. I think that’s unbreakable. 

By the way, which group is going to play last at those Def Leppard shows?
We’re flip-flopping. In the cities where they are strong, they’re closing. The cities we’re strong, we’re gonna close. It’s kind of half and half. 

In This Article: Journey, Neal Schon

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