Friday, May 02, 2008

Journey Manager Dishes More Dirt

A while back I posted a link to an interview with ex-Journey manager and nut job/music biz genius Herbie Herbert. This guy is an old school manager. Meaning, he believed in ‘building a brand’ from album cover art to relentless touring.

He had a vision for how to ‘make’ a band from nothing into a mega-success, and was not opposed to switching band members around (even singers) to make it happen. He also knew that it took years to do – maybe decades. These days that is not even an option. The industry doesn’t give you ten minutes!

There is a second interview on Melodic Rock with Herbert that is totally worth the read. In it, we get more Journey nuggets like:

...How old was Perry when he sang most of these songs, 30, 31, 32, 33, when you're in your 40s or 50's, forget about it...And for whatever reason, the band, Journey has always had an obsession with playing the songs in the original key. Despite the logic, the unavoidable logic, that if Steve Perry was still in the band, and I know that there's a giant public out there that would love nothing more, they're clueless to the fact that the guy can't sing anymore.

Or this music biz insight:

Columbia let Chicago and Heart and Journey and Santana and all these brands that they branded for so long, let 'em go away and they're a huge success. Heart at Capitol, Chicago and Warner Brothers, Santana obviously with Clive Davis but previously with Polygram. What the fuck are they thinkin'? What the fuck? This stuff took so long and so much money to cume up the gross impressions over such a long duration to become nigh onto, if not a household word. This is the hardest thing to achieve.

And the precipitous slide into the abyss, do you know when it started? When Steve Jobs took fuckin' a week to get every CEO, every president in the fuckin' music business to drink the Kool-aid. And give their entire catalogs, opening Pandora's digital box, and that shit will never get back in the box, and that's all master recordings going out digitally. And the way music is stored, distributed, sold and listened to has completely changed and they're not invited to the party.

They get paid for their catalog, a little bit, but the real beneficiary is Steve Jobs who really dominates the business from not only software and the delivery side of it but also the hardware and how people listen. The biggest mogul in the history of the business and I think he spent a weekend figuring out how to be the biggest music business mogul in history.

But one of the most interesting things are his comments about why bands re-record their older material with new singers, members etc. I posted a while back on the rumor that KISS was doing that. Journey is doing it as well. They have a 3 CD release coming out (exclusively at Wal Mart, like the Eagles blockbuster Long Road Out of Eden), with one CD of new tunes and another with re-recorded versions of ‘the classics.’ Here is what Herbert says about all of this:

...Sometimes this stuff gets re-recorded and is much better. It's much better. One artist and manager that took my advice and actually came to my studio to do it was Bill Thompson with the Jefferson Starship and Mickey Thomas and we took these records and these tracks and I remember one day we figured out that the average cost of each track of their greatest hits record was in excess of $150,000. Many of them were produced by guys like Ron Nevison and Peter Wolf and yadda, yadda, yadda, and I said let's come in, and I really believe in today's age with all of our new, modern recording technology, that in complete A-B comparisons we can smoke every aspect of every one of your greatest hits. Deeper, broader bandwidth, better stereo soundstage, better tuning and timing and record quality, reduce of noise floor and I mean the only thing that would be questionable is the quality of the vocal performance. If you can deliver that vocal as well or better than the original we can absolutely eclipse all the original recordings. And we did that and we did it for $15,000 for 15 songs. So when you have a second shot at it, you know like 'Boy would I like to have another whack at that.' And sometimes you can hit it out of the park.

I don't agree with that last bit AT ALL. I think there is magic in most original recordings and a lot of times even in remixes of classic albums, something gets lost. Maybe you can make them technically better, yeah - but not emotionally.

It will be interesting to see if the new singer, this upcoming CD and the Wal Mart thing can put Journey back on the map. Like I care.


peacegrrl said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog--I'm an NPR junkie, so I will definitely check it out!

VoxMoose said...

I have to say the interview style is rather rambling. He's all over the place. I'm with you on that re-recording nonsense. Who do they think they are, George Lucas (who managed to mangle his own original Star Wars with idiotic "improvements")?

Herbie Herbert rails on Steve Perry most of the interview, but oddly sticks up for him in a discussion of Open Arms. While was learning to slow dance in 8th grade, who knew all this angst and politics was going on behind Journey: I mean you know it was (whiney voice) 'Is that Perry Como, and its so frou-frou' and they're just teasing him awfully. I took Neal and Jon into the backroom and go 'What the fuck are you doin' man? He's obviously written a fantastic song.' Jon Cain goes 'He didn't write that, I wrote that.' And I was stunned. I just looked at him and my mouth dropped open, it go 'Just making your behavior all the more remarkable, unbelievable.' Sometimes man, you can write a brilliant song, (idiot voice) duhhuh, duhhuh, but if I asked you to think it might hurt you.