Journey have fired bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith, accusing them of launching an “ill-conceived corporate coup d’état” in an effort to take control of the band’s name.
According to court documents filed in the Superior Court of Contra Costa County, Calif., by a lawyer representing band principles Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, Valory and Smith attempted to gain control of Nightmare Productions, a band business entity they believed held rights to the group’s name.
The lawsuit filed yesterday by Miller Barondess, LLP, claims that “in 1998, Schon, Cain and [former singer Steve] Perry entered into a written agreement providing Schon and Cain the sole, exclusive, irrevocable right to control the Journey Mark, including the Journey name. They are, therefore, authorized to perform together as Journey, with or without anyone else.”
“Defendants Smith and Valory were members of Journey at various times during the band’s history,” the statement continues. “Collectively, they only have a very few song credits on Journey albums. Nevertheless, they were compensated generously for many years. Recently, however, defendants attempted to launch an ill-conceived corporate coup d’état to assume control of Nightmare Productions because they incorrectly believe that Nightmare Productions controls the Journey name and Mark.”
The document notes that Valory and Smith hoped that by taking over Nightmare Productions, “they can hold the Journey name hostage and set themselves up with a guaranteed income stream after they stop performing.”
According to the papers, Smith and Valory began their “campaign to take control of Nightmare Productions in December 2019 by conspiring to oust Schon and Cain from control.”
In addition to the firing of the two rhythm players, the suit says Journey are seeking damages “in excess of $10 million.” Schon, who co-founded the band in 1973 after a stint in Santana, is the sole remaining original member and the only one in the band to play at every performance. Perry joined in 1978, Cain followed in 1980, and the band rocketed to fame on the strength of a series of hit singles like “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Open Arms,” and 1981’s No. 1 album, Escape.
Valory, an original member, and Smith, who joined in 1978, were both previously fired from the band in 1985 for creative differences but were reinstated a decade later. Perry left Journey for good in 1998, and in 2007 the band recruited Pineda as its new singer. Smith also left the group in 1998 but returned in 2016.
The documents adds that “with their actions, Smith and Valory have destroyed the chemistry, cohesion and rapport necessary for the band to play together. Journey can only tour successfully and succeed creatively if it is united and the band members trust one another. The actions taken by Smith and Valory shattered that trust. … Schon and Cain have lost confidence in both of them and are not willing to perform with them again.”
Skip Miller, who serves as lead counsel, said that “this is not an action that Neal and Jon wanted to bring against two men that they once considered their brothers, but the devious and truculent behavior of Steve and Ross left them reluctantly with no choice but to act decisively.”
Journey will move forward by replacing Valory and Smith “with top musicians” to support “essential members” Schon, Cain and Pineda.
Valory and Smith have not commented on their dismissals. Journey are scheduled to start a summer tour with the Pretenders in May after a relatively light touring schedule last year, which also included Schon leading Journey Through Time, a show that featured former Journey members Gregg Rolie and Deen Castronovo.