If you grew up in the 1980s, Journey likely provided the soundtrack of your formative years. And with tunes like Don't Stop Believing still occasionally taking a starring role in today's pop culture, a whole new generation is discovering the one-time giants of the FM radio dial. Hard to believe it has been 35 years since a group of jazz-fusion musicians came together in San Francisco to create a group they envisioned as a backup band for local artists. But their humble beginnings — and longtime indifference from critics — can't hide an impressive run of commercial success that includes nearly a dozen top 20 anthems and worldwide album sales surpassing 75-million. These days, the band has been re-energized by a new album — Revelation — and the addition of Arnel Pineda, a Philippines-born singer whose pipes are eerily similar to legendary Journey frontman Steve Perry, who left the band in the late '90s. Journey plays the Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa on Wednesday along with Heart and Cheap Trick. Bassist Ross Valory, one of two original founding members remaining (the other is guitarist Neal Schon), recently chatted about the band's history and reborn success.
Does it surprise you that Journey's not yet in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? You've been eligible since 2000.
I'm not surprised at all. I don't lose sleep over it. It's all politics. Without being either negative or positive about it . . . sooner or later it's gonna happen. I have a feeling it's going to happen sooner, but I'm still not going to hold my breath.
Does having Arnel Pineda on board put to rest the questions about Steve Perry returning to the band?
With the fans and the public, yes, that does put it to rest. Even if we hadn't found Arnel, it would not have been any more likely than it has been since 1996 that (Perry) would return to the band.
Did Journey really find Pineda using the Internet?
Neal Schon, our guitarist, was cruising the 'Net literally late one night, and literally in the 11th hour of completing our lineup for doing the record . . . and he was at YouTube and he just typed in "Journey singer" or "Journey vocalist," and there he is, watching this guy sing these songs. He couldn't believe it.
What was your reaction when you heard him sing in person the first time?
Goose bumps. And that's the way it was for all of us.
It makes for a nice fairy-tale year for you and the gang.
It's a Cinderella story. Even Rolling Stone, which has never liked this band, has a story. And that's not to be glib or superficial. It's just the perfect story for a band's comeback.