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Steve Perry on vocal health, performing live, and the one time he did drugs

KaiEllisKaiEllis Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 215
Was reading this interview with Steve Perry where he talked a lot about the wear and tear of touring and the psychology of singing live night after night. Would love to hear from anybody who's got experience singing live and taking care of their voice when there's ticket sales on the line. Was Perry just missing some self care tools, or is this what it's like for anybody singing live?

Perry: Well, what I’m about to say—I’m gonna come across as a prima donna, but if there’s any singers out there reading this at this point, they’ll understand completely. You must put that in there, the preface, because it’s important. Everybody thinks singers are prima donnas. And to a degree I guess we are. But at the same time, the difference between a voice and fingers, or hands, is neurotic at best. When someone’s fingers get calluses on them, the guitar doesn’t hurt so bad. It feels better. Same for the bass. Same for the piano player, when his fingers get callused and strong. When a drummer gets calluses on his hands, they no longer chafe and they no longer blister, and that’s fantastic. The moment a singer gets one callus, he’s finished. Singers live on the edge of being powerful, being strong, and not degrading their voice, and it’s the most difficult edge to walk. You feel like you’re on a high-wire all the time. And the pressure of walking in front of an audience every night, and wanting to be what you know they want you to be, and what you want to be for them, and to have this silly little thing in your throat that’s about as neurotic as you are, is difficult. So it can make any singer a little crazy. It can make you just live your life in a state of insecurity and fear. Until you walk out there and open your mouth, and you see what you got, and then it tells you if it’s gonna be a fun evening or not.

Interviewer: And I imagine it’s much harder to take care of it.

Perry: Well, how do you do that and use it at the same time? It’s a very fine line. Like I said, using it can cause the problem. Using your fingers makes ‘em better. So it’s always a fine, artful dance. So at the end of a night, you feel great. I delivered what I wanted to do, I hit the notes, I feel good about it—but you don’t know how much you used up until tomorrow morning. And the tickets have already been sold. The next show is sold out. Only one night did I have to have a shot of B12 with an anti-inflammatory. That was in Dallas, Texas, because I got to a sound check and realized that people were lined up outside and I had half a voice. So that night we got a doctor to give me a shot. Which singers will do a lot—but I only had to do it once.



  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,333
    There was no KTVA when Journey was out there with Steve Perry. Ken had not yet put together the methods he now teaches to prevent vocal blowouts. If Steve had had a vocal instructor who knew what Ken now knows and teaches, chances are that Steve would have never worn his voice out and gotten calluses on his cords. We would still have a Journey with Steve Perry in it, if they could have continued to get along well enough to not split up.
  • KaiEllisKaiEllis Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 215
    Yeah :/ whenever I listen to some of my favorite singers and hear how they've lost a little bit of their vocal glory, I almost want to send them a copy of KTVA lol

    Do you know if when Ken was touring a ton if he went through anxiety like Steve talks about? Do you ever experience this, Bob? And I suppose some of it not even about "Did I blow my voice out last night", but just "I have a huge gig tomorrow and who knows if I'll wake up with the flu..."
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,333
    You can always worry about "what if I get the flu next week" but that doesn't help anything. You either do or you don't. If you do, Yikes!

    When Ken was on the road, he had done most of his vocal training and was in the "proving it onstage" portion of his career. He did have to warm up in hotel rooms by singing into a pillow so he wouldn't get thrown out for disturbing his neighbors. But he didn't have problems with blowing out his voice, because he had discovered how to manage his air, and knew how to prevent vocal blowout, even when using screams and distortion. He was cutting back the air.

    Not a lot of people know this, but Ken was asked (by the band) to audition for Journey when Steve Perry left the band. The stars were not aligned correctly for that to happen, so Ken declined the audition. The contract stipulated that he would have had to go on the road for five years, (while his kids were teenagers) and be away from his family 11 months out of the year for that time period.

    The audition was a paid one, and if you attended and did not accept the full 5-year contract, there were severe monetary consequences. You did not have the option to decline if you went to the audition and were accepted.

    As a result, Ken did not accept the invitation to audition, because being away from his family for 5 years was not acceptable to him. Instead, Ken and his family went to several countries around the world and coached soccer for the teams his son played on. While in Italy, among other places, Ken also studied with some of the greatest Bel Canto maestros in the world.
  • KaiEllisKaiEllis Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 215
    That's an incredible story. And for anyone who doubts it's veracity, it's apparently the decision made by at least one other famous singer Journey wanted in the room with them. From the famous ebook by Ross Muir detailing Journey's departure from Steve Perry and the infamous lip syncing scandal that followed with Steve Augeri,

    "Although never confirmed by the band at the time (Schon would later confirm in an interview however), Jeremey Hunsicker, vocalist with tribute band Frontiers, auditioned in June. They couldn’t keep it off the grapevine though, and Hunsicker himself later confirmed on the Frontiers web site and his Blog page that not only did he spend a week with the band and record some demos, he was also offered the job. However after some serious soul searching he declined the opportunity when it was clear the offer would be retracted due to a “dealbreaker” (as Hunsicker described it) within the contract, probably relating to his commitments towards, and time required with, a young family. So on went the search for the lost (vocal) chords..."

    I'm curious, @highmtn. After parting ways with Steve Augeri - a true tenor, but with poor technique, so he just couldn't handle the touring schedule without blowing out his voice - Journey enlisted Jeff Scott Soto, who I know has done work with Ken, who also has a POWERFUL voice, but who also, like Ken... is a high baritone and not a tenor.

    Journey eventually parted ways with Soto, largely (the story goes) because he just didn't have the tenor range to handle some of the catalogue Journey wanted to perform. (Presumably it's not just about being able to produce the notes, but also about a tone that they want when it's sung.)

    Given those factors, can you speculate at all how Ken would have handled that challenge?
  • KaiEllisKaiEllis Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 215
    Oh also, for anyone interested, the GREAT ebook I mentioned from Ross Muir. This is essential reading for anyone who loves this band. For me, it was even better and more insightful than their VH1 Behind the Music episode.

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,333
    That's a little too far out in the speculation zone, so I don't want to go into hypothetical situations. Ken has told me the whole story a couple of times, and I asked lots of questions about how it all came about. There were also several other very well-known bands around that same time frame that were inviting Ken to audition. For one reason or another, mostly relative to the classic crazy Rock and Roll lifestyle conflicting with Ken's personal integrity, those situations did not work out, either.
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