Gary James' Interview With Joseph Cumia Of
Joseph Cumia is the guitarist / vocalist for the Journey tribute group Almost Journey. And when he's not in Almost Journey he's performing in his other group 2U, a tribute to U2. Joseph Cumia is a busy man!
Q - Joe, just how much work is there for a Journey tribute group?
A - We actually tour internationally. We just got back from opening for Shaggy, down in the Cayman Islands. We're in Europe quite a bit. We're all over the place. Every year we do the Sounds Like Summer series down in Epcot at Disney in Orlando (Florida). We've been doing this professionally for about seventeen years. I own the business. So, that's where we are with our tribute shows.
Q - You're pulling double duty in Almost Journey. You're Neal Schon in the group as well as being the manager. Do you have an agent as well?
A - I use multiple booking agents. I use a ton of them. We're not exclusive with any one agency because as a manager my first interest is in the welfare of the band and that's not always the case with agencies, so being our manager, I probably utilize anywhere from ten to twenty agencies world-wide to get our bookings, obtain some of our bookings. Others I do. The ones I can't kick the door down with, I usually get an agent and pay them a commission to do the legwork.
Q - Seventeen years you've been doing this?
A - Yeah. We've been incorporated and it's been done the right way. We've been playing collectively probably two hundred years between the four of us. We've been playing a long time, but as far as these bands, the U2 tribute and the Journey show go, we've been together about seventeen years.
Q - Were you a fan of Journey before you put the group together?
A - Oh, yeah. A long-time fan. We actually have quite a few close ties with Journey. The drummer that we use from time to time plays with Steve Augeri. He's in The Steve Augeri Project, which is as you know is the singer that took over from Steve Perry before Arnel Pineda came onboard. The lead singer of Evolution (Journey tribute band) is a guy I grew up with, Hugo Valente. Hugo was being tapped to be the replacement for Steve Perry back when Steve Perry left or Neal kicked him out, however that worked. What happened is, Hugo went on to continue to do the tribute thing and the four members of the old line-up of Evolution went to play with Steve Augeri. So, I've written back and forth with Neal Schon. We've been in touch with the band. They're aware of us. They know who we are.
Q - Is there just as much work for 2U as there is for your Journey tribute?
A - Yeah. Just as much for the 2U show as there is for the Journey show. We actually began the Journey show after the 2U show started and was underway. We realized that we all knew a ton of material.
Q - Journey is still out there performing, aren't they?
A - Yeah. Arnel Pineda is the new lead singer. He's the latest lead singer. He absolutely does an amazing job. He's a firecracker. He does real good.
Q - Why did you decide to do a Journey tribute?
A - Well, to tell you the truth, the lead singer that I have, a guy by the name of Gene Marchello, he's the offspring of a band called The Good Rats. The Good Rats were around for a long time. They were huge in Rochester, New York. They're from Long Island. But he was lucky enough to inherit his dad's vocal ability. His pipes are amazing. He's got a Teflon larynx, a titanium larynx. He can sing this stuff night and day, day and night, both U2 and Journey, as often as we need. His two favorite bands are U2 and Journey. Back in the '80s we were covering a ton of Journey stuff in another band I had. We decided to do it because everyone knew the material. I knew all the guitar parts and that's probably one of the toughest parts besides the vocal. So, the bass player and drummer were onboard with it. We were actually throwing part of "Don't Stop Believin'" into the song "With Or Without You". We were doing a match up which worked extremely well. The end of "With Or Without You", the chord progression lends itself to doing a verse, 'Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world', doing a verse and chorus of "Don't Stop Believin'" and crowds went crazy for it. So we decided, why not? It's another income stream. We pretty much buckled down and learned a couple of sets of Journey and the rest is history.
Q - Do you ever get tired of playing that material? Does it ever get to be a drag?
A - If it does I wouldn't show an audience and I probably wouldn't tell you. (laughs) Every musician that plays for a living, and I'm not talking about on weekends and going out and having fun, I mean doing it full-time. Not only do we play 'live', but I have a studio and I play quite a bit. Every once in a while you have to dig a little deeper. It was easy down in the Caymans when we were opening for Shaggy. Nice crowd. Active audience. Every once in a while you find yourself in a club with maybe a hundred people in front of you and you have one eye closed and you're kind of phoning it in, but you really need to be a consummate performer and professional and get the shows done right. People pay to see you, so you better deliver and be lucky enough to do what you're doing.