Beginning this Sunday, April 23, and continuing through the 30th, Herbert is auctioning off some of his most choice Journey memorabilia (original album art, platinum record certifications, etc.; visit www.backstageauctions.com for more info), including the infamous Defender arcade game the band toured with during its triumphant early-'80s run. Because there's no such thing as a bad reason to talk to Herbie Herbert, we rang him up.
Sucka Free City: Did you catch the Journey article [Dan Reines' "Still They Ride," Feb. 9, 2005] that SF Weekly did about a year ago?
Herbie Herbert: Oh, I think I was the star of that one. I don't really interview very often and when I do, I speak my mind. [My comments] bothered a few of the guys. Neal [Schon, Journey's founding guitarist] was pretty upset when I said he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. And I said, 'Neal, are you claiming otherwise?' And he said, 'This thing about your dick growing a foot ...' And I go, 'Well, it's a fact, Neal. I hate to tell ya: It is more likely that my dick would grow a foot than you would have a hit record at this point. It has nothing to do with your ability to write and perform a hit song.'
SFC: So the biggest piece that you're auctioning is the Defender game. Tell us about that.
HH: That game preoccupied the crew and band for years and years and years on the road. I never missed a Journey show ever ... but I found myself ending up backstage playing Defender.
SFC: What was the game like?
HH: Defender was a very popular arcade game at one time. It had good action, you save your people, you're shooting things down, you can reverse and go really fast, turbo charge; you get a modification that turns regular guns into machine guns. The highest you can score is a million, but if you go over it goes back to zero. So I think my score on there is 975 [thousand]. [Drummer] Steve Smith has the highest score on the game, unless the memory's been erased or something.
SFC: Did [frontman] Steve Perry play at all?
HH: Perry? I can't really recall. He wasn't very socially active.
SF: What about Neal Schon?
HH: He may have played. Smith and [bassist] Ross Valory were probably the best.
SFC: Do you recall any other bands that traveled around with these giant arcade games?
HH: I don't recall, but I saw it all. I saw Emerson, Lake & Palmer touring with a dressing room setup so Greg Lake could go into his room and it was completely set up like a beach, with an umbrella, sand, a chaise lounge, sun lamps, stuff like that.
SFC: Is that one of the crazier things you saw?
HH: No, I saw far crazier.
SFC: What do you think the most extreme thing on a Journey tour was?
HH: Well, we're credited with getting so many things either started or taken to a higher level. We came out of an era when catering you were lucky if a promoter gave you a roll of quarters and a map to the candy machine. And where did Journey take it? Three meals a day and after the show a catered meal by the best restaurant in town.
SFC: Any other band-on-the-road type stories?
HH: I dunno, what do you have in mind? Hookers and horsies in Cleveland?
SFC: Perhaps some things are better left to the imagination.