Why Journey Decided to Strike Out on Their Own With ‘Red 13′
Journey's 2001 album Arrival became a victim of the then-new file sharing frenzy, and they suddenly found themselves without a label. That provided the perfect opening to try something different.
"Arrival was our last issue for the CBS/Sony contract," long-time bassist Ross Valory told the Toledo Blade in 2004, "and unfortunately, it was completed in August 2000 and within a week it ended up on Napster – seven months before its release date!"
The album stiffed, becoming their first since 1978 to miss the Top 20. In fact, it didn't even make the Top 50. "It's hard to say whether it was because of Napster or whether people were not interested in the new music," Valory added. "No one will ever know."
Co-founding guitarist Neal Schon was certain, however, that he wasn't going to accept a low-ball follow-up offer from his long-time label. Instead, Journey issued Red 13, an independent EP created just for their fans, on Nov. 26, 2002.
“We had just decided not to re-sign with Sony, because they brought us a ridiculous deal," Schon told the now-defunct Urban Tulsa Weekly in 2009. "It was terrible. So, we made that record up on the spot, and it was really an experiment to see how you can market yourself."
The EP also helped solidify Steve Augeri's place in the band. The singer, who succeeded Steve Perry in 1998, co-wrote all four songs with Schon and Jonathan Cain. Additional contributions came from Gary Cirimelli, Andre Pessis, Taylor Rhodes and Geoff Tate of Queensryche fame. Much of it – in particular, the expansive opening title song – harkened back to their more adventurous early days. They only slowed down for one ballad.
"It's very energetic, really pretty rocking new stuff – not quite as poppy," Schon told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2002. "It's more along the lines of when we were being a bit more experimental with the rock stuff on the Frontiers record. It's kind of cool now that we're not signed with Sony anymore, [because] we're in control of our own destiny – and I really love the feeling of that right now."
As much as their decades-long association bolstered Journey, Schon had begun to feel constrained by Columbia's expectations. "There was no one from the major label breathing down our necks, saying what we should be playing and not playing," Schon told the Toledo Blade in 2002. "We sound dignified again. Red 13 really showcases us again instrumentally as well as vocally. ... This is probably one of the most creative things we've done in a while."
Listen to Journey Perform 'Intro: Red 13 / State of Grace'
"The Time" was a churning, atmospheric rocker, while "I Can Breathe" built into a soaring plateau. "Walking Away From the Edge," the ballad co-written with Tate, was a hold over from the Arrival sessions. In fact, it featured one of Augeri's first vocals with his new band.
"That was absolutely amazing – just amazing," Augeri told Melodic Rock in 2003. "The week that I went out to audition, we recorded four Journey songs and we recorded about four new songs. And one of them was a song they had written with Geoff." Augeri described "Walking Away From the Edge" as "spectacular, stellar ... just brilliant. And it didn't make the record and I swore it would. It had a great ethereal, great moody vibe to it. It was very Pink Floyd-ish. It had that dark thing going on."
They might not have been able to take this expansive tack without an earlier moment of misfortune, Schon admitted.
"I was not thinking of the normal way when we go into the studio and think 'OK, we need hooks; we need to come up with a good chorus here, we need to come up with this and that' – and all of the elements you want to bring in to be heard massively all over the radio," he told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer in 2003. "I was not even thinking about getting on the radio. I was thinking about our live shows, which seem to be the most important area for us anymore, and these are songs that serve that."
Journey initially sold Red 13 through their website, but as interest built they got the EP onto stores shelves in time for the holiday season. "I think we've gotten great feedback for what type of EP it is," Schon told Melodic Rock in 2003. "It was never meant to be a commercial item, just some cool new tunes to add to the live show – and they've been going over great. When we put this out, we didn't intend for it to be sold in stores. We were just going to sell it on our website and at our shows exclusively."
Meanwhile, Schon continued to blame the Arrival leak on Columbia's parent company Sony. He said an employee in Europe gave an early test pressing to a friend, who then uploaded the album to the internet. More recently, he'd also come to believe that the label was more interested in promoting Journey's incredibly popular catalog items.
"I'm not so sure they wanted [Arrival] to do well," Schon told the Plain-Dealer. "Our catalog and greatest-hits package have been big sellers for those guys forever. I think they didn't want to confuse the issue with new [music]. So, when they came back to us and offered us a minuscule amount of money to do another record, I looked at the rest of the guys, and we all said: 'What for?' We decided to go our own way."
Journey didn't issue another full-length album until 2005's Generations, and when it also struggled commercially, they switched frontmen again. Journey finally returned to the Billboard Top 5 with 2008's platinum-selling Revelation, the first album with singer Arnel Pineda. By then, they'd signed to the Italy-based Frontiers label.
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