Hello Jeff – welcome to 2014! Hope you had a great Holiday break. Looking back on your 2013, what were some of the highlights that stand out? Wow – definitely the Dio tribute (which won’t be out til sometime in 2014)! Recording that was really fun and inspired. Oni, Brian, Jimmy and Rowan were fabulous and the music just flowed. Then, the fact that as we’re recording the song, a rainbow appears in the sky – is there any better proof that Ronnie approved? Magical!!!
Awesome – I remember you even posted a cool video of that moment on your Facebook fan page… what a great moment that was! Celebrating Ronnie’s music and legacy is an honor and I know everyone that’s doing that feels the same way. We all loved him as a person and all feel his music is timeless and should be honored forever. The only way to do that is to celebrate his music in tribute and passion. No one deserves that more. There’s hardly a day goes by where I don’t think of him or feel his effect. Somewhere he’s looking down and smiling his big contagious smile!
Your January schedule often includes a visit to the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim… Are you attending again this year? Oh yes, doing my annual signing at Dean Markley booth. I’m also appearing with Kelly (Hansen) at the Rapco Horizon booth for a signing – I just don’t have days and times yet… I’ll make sure and tweet and Facebook all the info.
We’ll look for that. What is your favorite part about attending the trade fair? Is there any part of NAMM you try to avoid? I really love the interaction with fans. It’s different from any other contact I tend to get. It’s not like a show meet & greet – it’s fast paced and often exciting. Then there’s looking at all the gear. I’m such a gear head… of course I love that. The only thing I like to avoid is street and freeway traffic, which at certain hours is horrendous!
Yep – traffic is a killer! NAMM is such an awesome celebration of all things music. One of the things I love about NAMM are all of the mash-up NAMM jams. Do you ever get included in the jam sessions that happen with the various artists? I often get asked, but they usually happen at the after hour parties which I rarely go to. I’m usually beat by the time they happen!
True – some of those gigs go LATE into the night… Your old friend George Lynch seems to always be active at NAMM… do you two have any plans to perform or meet fans together at this year’s event? We usually try to do some kind of a hang, but he’s so busy at NAMM shows. Besides, we don’t live too far from one another these days so it’s not like the old days when we were in different cities.
Of course that was a hint to lead us to your recent work together as T&N. What is the status of that project? We’re just waiting for the moment when we both have a chunk of time to do some writing. We were gonna do some writing in the break I have in January, but there’s so little time after you take care of all the things you have to deal with when you’re gone most of the year. Plus, I think George has been doing the KXM project. But I’m not worried, we’ll do it when it’s right – there’s no hurry. One thing I’ve had to learn is to accept that I just can’t physically do all the things I’d like… or I’d drop dead! I’m trying to be a little more relaxed about all the musical endeavors!
OK, that gives us an update on recording together, but many of your fans continue to ask regularly (on social media) about touring T&N as a band… if money was not a hurdle, would you book a club tour in 2014? If there was no hurdle I’d love to do an opening or middle slot on some package tour – but that would have to be during the prime months of touring (which is when Foreigner is going full tilt). So it’s not really money – it’s time that’s the hurdle! If someone could invent more of that, we’d be set!!! My feeling is that at some point there will be a break in the Foreigner activity that coincides with an opportunity for T&N to play some shows. I wish I know when or how, but I just feel that somewhere in the future. Again – I’m the most impatient person of all with regard to this so I’m having to learn patience and acceptance that the right thing will happen as long as I keep my energies and priorities straight.
Just for fun, let’s say you were booking a T&N tour… T&N included Mick Brown for all of the classic Dokken tracks – would he be invited to play drums on that tour, or would you invite Brian Tichy? So hard to say because there is no concrete plan right now, but we’d likely have Mick play live because the Dokken material would be a bulk of the live show and we do think the fans would want that. Plus, we love Mick and our chemistry together is undeniable. But having said that, Brian is a monster and if we did tour with him it’d be pretty scary (no pun intended!!!!). Gotta see what happens on that one.
That’s fair. Honestly, most of your fans would see any version of T&N with you, Mick and George as a Dokken band, minus Don. Is that fair? Does that limit your vision for T&N? Well to some extent, how could they not? If you’re a Dokken fan, that’s only logical and we understand that. But that’s exactly what the vision of T&N has in mind. That’s why we embraced our legacy on Slave (as opposed to running away from it trying to pretend it didn’t exist). T&N is meant to be a melding together of the old and the new. Plus that seems the most honest approach, and I’m all about honesty these days. With T&N you get us playing the old material with a fresh approach and you get 2 (or maybe 3) of the writers from Dokken doing new material so it has a hint of where Dokken would be in 2014. Now of course without Don it’s different from Dokken, which is why I say it’s a hint. But I feel that the chemistry George and I (and also Mick when he’s there) have is very powerful, relevant, and a key component to the Dokken chemistry and legacy. So the honest approach is to say that it’s related to Dokken, but does stand on its’ own. I think that’s very fair. But we never intend to slight what Dokken has been to all of us, that would be bullshit. I’ve actually been very pleased at how many people seem to see and accept that. That’s all we can ask for.
Straight up – I like it! You know, Don seems to have laid low following your Slave to the Empire release – even resisting the opportunity to publicly slay Mick for working with you two. Is that a good sign for any fans who hold out hope that there is still one last run with the classic Don, George, Mick & Jeff line-up of Dokken? I guess so. I’ve had email contact with Don and it’s all friendly… I don’t think that’s the issue. Again, the biggest hurdle is time. I would enjoy some kind of a Dokken reunion, but I can only be in one place at a time… so far!!!!!
Interesting. We’ve also read about George’s view of why this reunion has had so many false starts. Is it totally fair to say that the greatest limitation is your gig with FOREIGNER, or is it actually Don’s reluctance to split the band revenues four ways? It’s a little of each, but the Foreigner gig is the elephant in the room as far as time goes. It cracks me up that we’ve aired our dirty laundry in public when it comes to financial arrangements – only Dokken would ever do that!!!! LOL But since it’s out there, let me give a little clarity. Dokken, in our day, was always a case of everything split equally. That was done by our managers in the early days (very smart men) because they knew how volatile we were and they hoped it would give us greater longevity. It probably helped give us a little more time, but it did open other cans of worms, as you can imagine. Nothing’s ever that simple with Dokken! Anyways, what George, Mick and I have said is that as long as the reunion exists we should split things equally as we did. Then, following the reunion Don gets it all back like he has it now – no questions asked. Don feels he’s owed something for carrying the franchise, but our feeling is that because he gets it all back afterward, his greater share would come about through whatever the reunion accomplished, but on the strength of what we all did together. The truth is, I don’t know if that will be resolved or if there’s even a right time for a reunion. It likely wouldn’t happen in 2014 anyways. My time is pretty spoken for this year, and I would like to finish a 2nd T&N record if possible and we’ll be lucky if we get that done by the end of the year. So whatever happens is cool with me.
I get it. Here is the saddest part… we are now 30 years out from the release of what some fans still think is the defining release by Dokken – Tooth & Nail. Would you enjoy getting booked to tour a celebration of that release with your old band mates if a promoter could put a reasonable offer on the table? There have been offers and there’s a label that wanted us to do a commemorative DVD with a live show. That would be very hard to pull off this year now. But yes, that’s a bit of a shame.
And if not Tooth & Nail, another fan favorite – Under Lock & Key – is lining up for its 30th birthday in 2015. Could you ask Mick & Kelly for a schedule break that far in advance, or would that put your role in FOREIGNER in jeopardy? I don’t want to stand in the way of Foreigner progress – that’s my home these days. We have a band, crew and management who all make their living from this, so it’s not just me. That’s why I say, at some point there’s likely to be a break where either T&N or Dokken get to do something live, but the honest truth is I don’t know when. That’s why I stay focused on the music and keep the faith that the right thing will happen. Of course I need to apply patience to all that and it’s not THAT easy!
Speaking of your current band, here is an interesting fact – 2014 will mark a decade of touring & recording with FOREIGNER. What a run! Do you ever pause and reflect on any specific remarkable memories with this band that you can share? Just that it shows how unpredictable life can be. Only 11 years ago, I never would have dreamt this in my wildest dreams! But when you keep yourself open to possibilities, stay focused on what’s important, and live an honest life – you’ll find that you’re well taken care of. You just have to get out of your own way!!!!!! I’ve been real lucky on this Foreigner run to work with some amazing musicians, see parts of the world I had never seen before – and open for Led Zeppelin!!!!! Life does not always suck!!!!!!! Seriously I’m just a grateful guy for all this.
2013 was a long, hard year of touring with FOREIGNER… how did everyone hold up, physically and emotionally? We all got a little loopy towards the end, but we managed to hold up. No one lost a limb! But we are going to try to make next year a little more tolerable. 2013 was a killer!
Can you give us a preview of any FOREIGNER tour plans? Any gigs on the schedule that have you pumped up? We have a big tour which we will announce in February (mums the word til then!!!!). But in the meantime, we start back up at the end of January, go to Israel and Europe (mostly the UK) in March and April, and then the big tour. Also, an acoustic tour of Europe in the fall. All exciting stuff that has me VERY pumped up!
You always seem to be one of those artists who “can’t slow down” (pun intended). Do you have any interesting production work lined up for 2014 at the Pilsounds Studio? I’m actually trying to slow down a bit (pun also intended)! But one thing I have planned (other than an eventual T&N 2) is I’m working with a fabulous singer/songwriter by the name of Paul Gold. This record will be very different for me. Paul writes great storyteller songs and we have a blast working together. We have no planned release date, all we care is that the record come out great – and it will. It’s not really hard rock – but it does rock and the songs are fabulous. Troy Patrick Farrell (White Lion, Gilby Clarke) is doing the drums and I’m playing most of the instruments. It’s Americana rock, and I’m anxious for people to hear it. The other project I have is a secret, but I may be able to talk about it soon!
Let’s wind down with a reflection of a men you noted earlier who had a major influence on you as a musician and as a business professional – RJD. It seems foolish to ask if you miss Ronnie, but it would be interesting to ask if you could share a memory of a time with him that still stands out from all of your recording sessions together in the 90’s… One thing that stands out is the session where we did the basic track for the doing This Is My Life during the Angry Machines sessions. Tracy had originally written the music on guitar and it was quite lovely. But then at the studio we all started talking about what it would sound like if John Lennon were there playing piano on the song. Then Ronnie and I walked into the studio and just he and I laid the basic track, him singing, me on piano. He had been singing for about 7 hours so his voice was very spent – but the emotion on the take was incredible. I get goosebumps when I even think about it. Because the vocal wasn’t “perfect” and only meant to be a guide – he redid it and it did come out great. But somewhere I have a tape of that night and it’s so magical, I hope one day people get to hear it.
Did he ever look you in the eye and give you his advice? Yes he did give it. And one day always sticks out in my mind. I asked him how he always gets people to work so hard for him and he responded by saying, “I always give 150% 150% of the time – and if you do that people will kill for you – and you Jeff, you have that ability as well – use it”!!!”
I will never forget that as long as I live.
Physical death does seem to be inevitable, regardless of our beliefs in eternal life. Do you ever think about your mortality and the legacy you will one day leave behind? Every single day and I have to be careful not to dwell on what I HAVEN’T accomplished. That’s why I keep saying I’m trying to learn patience and acceptance. I’ve come to realize that what I think of as “I” isn’t really driving the ship, but it wants to “think” it is! When I get out of my own way things are fine! I also have really learned to be grateful for whatever part of the Dokken legacy I may be, and keep showing respect to that. To a much lesser extent, the same with Foreigner. There is a lot more I’d love to accomplish, but I have to accept that by staying focused and engaged, and doing my best – that’s all I can do. Might as well accept that and avoid the misery! Easier said than done, of course, but I do my best. I’ve been very lucky in my career, and I can’t lose sight of that.
Jeff, you have always chosen to show love & respect for the people who share your passion for melodic, progressive, hard & heavy rock music. As a fan, I can tell you that this is why you are so appreciated by so many people all around the globe. As we wind down this year’s edition of our “state of the union” with Jeff Pilson, is there any special message you can share with your thousands of fans? Just another huge thank you to everyone out there. No matter what any artists says, having people react to your music is the ultimate high. I believe music is an advanced and evolved form of emotional communication and it’s not a form of communication until it’s heard and causes a reaction. My high as an artist is when the emotional feeling I have making the music is a shared experience with someone listening to it. There is simply nothing more powerful. Yes you have to make music for your own enjoyment, and it has to be honest. But it is so incomplete if it’s not communicated and heard. I feel that’s the truth, so I’m extremely grateful and thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to share that with so many for so long.
Thank you again, Jeff – these interviews are always great, and we all appreciate your candor. Have fun in 2014, and please keep tweeting… but no twerking! You REALLY don’t want to see me twerk – I promise you!!!!