Jeff Pilson 2/2/2013, interviewed by Michael Regan
It’s been a while since we sat down to do one of these, and it seems like the right time to update your fans and friends on the magical mystery tour that is the life of Jeff Pilson!
First off, give us a quick review of Foreigner in 2012 – what stands out when you look back at the year in review?
2012 was just lots of touring with Foreigner. I think one of the big highlights for me was the Grammy Museum Unplugged show we did Oct. 30th. It was broadcast on AXS TV and it was a very magical performance. Plus having Mick there was great.
Foreigner has now officially been your touring band for 8 years – how have things changed with Mick, Kelly & Tom over that time?
I think we’ve just all come to know and trust each other in a deep way that not only works well, but feels very family-like. I’d take a bullet for these guys.
A lot of fans worry about Mick – he was missing a lot last year, and the reasons were never all that clear… can you tell us about how that impacted the band?
I think the main impact his absence has had is it’s brought us closer to the die hard fans- they’re getting to be like family now as well. But I also think it’s stands as a huge testament to how great these songs are. People have really accepted this band as Foreigner now, even when Mick isn’t there, and that’s because of the greatness and timelessness of the music. Of course Kelly doesn’t hurt things either!!!
How is Mick doing now – rocking as hard & loud as ever?
Nothing to worry about with Mick, his health is doing quite well and he’s doing fabulous. He still won’t be traveling with us all the time as travel doesn’t work as well for him, but when he’s there he’s playing at 100% and it’s fabulous!
You added a new drummer… is Chris worried that FOREIGNER has become a “Spinal Tap” band for drummers given the recent rotation?
I hope not- just don’t wanna have any “bizarre gardening accidents!”
Does it bother you when people bring up the issue of Mick being the only founding member of the band, and if so, why?
No of course not – Mick is the heart and soul of Foreigner, it’s his creation. I think what does surprise me is how well we’re accepted even when he’s not there. It’s as if his spirit hovers over us through the songs!
Let’s switch gears and talk about T&N. Last year RatPak was able to launch a really great “fan pack” for the new recording – are you happy with how they have promoted the record so far?
Yes, I couldn’t be happier. Wait’ll you get to experience my “Pilson Brew” coffee which RatPak will be releasing soon. It doesn’t get any better than that, promotion-wise!
A few fans seemed to get agitated when they found out that the record was coming out last fall with no tour to follow – why did not happen?
I sensed frustration and some disappointment, but no real agitation. In fact I thought people were surprisingly understanding. But I know WE were agitated it didn’t happen, and I’ll try and make a long story short. I had arranged with Foreigner to take 2 months off to tour with T&N. That was a big thing to ask for cuz Foreigner employs a lot of people and it was very gracious of the organization to give me that time. Well without going into detail or naming names, certain balls got dropped that made it too late for us to get a decent tour together. Now to be fair, that’s a very rough time of year to put a tour together, and I was responsible for some of the problem when I was unable to do the Loudpark show in Japan (due to Foreigner commitments). But it all resulted in no real tour. We certainly could have done a handful of shows, but that just didn’t justify the time and expense of forming and rehearsing a touring band. We won’t make those mistakes again.
You stated on many shows, including Eddie Trunk Live, that the band would be working to promote the band with a tour in the fall of 2013, following a T&N Part 2 release – is that still your plan?
Somehow, some way, we’d like to do some kind of touring after the next record. That is still the plan. But there aren’t really any specifics yet… way too early.
Now that some time has passed and you’ve had some time to process everything, how realistic is T&N as a band continuing to write & record new music in the future?
I think it’s extremely realistic, because it basically centers around George and my ability to write and record, which is something we love to do. Could it be full time? Probably not at this point, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s all about having a creative outlet for our writing, singing and messaging. That’s what’s important to us, not the money. In fact, not being dependent strictly on T&N for our living actually gives us a creative freedom that provides huge artistic satisfaction. And hey, we’ve been friends and musical partners for nearly 30 years now, what would lead you to believe that’s ending anytime too soon???!!!
How easy is it for you to write now music with George Lynch at this point in your career, and how often do you get together?
It’s as easy, if not easier, than it’s ever been. Our chemistry nearly always takes over and the music takes on a life of its’ own very quickly. We get together whenever we can. That’s the trickiest part, schedules. But we’re neighbors and I think both of us will go out of our way to work together- it’s that satisfying.
Your friends Glenn Hughes & Jason Bonham recently had to let their BCC project cool down a little after it was hard to mesh schedules with Joe & Derek – is that a problem you see with Brian & George?
The schedules, as I’ve said, are the biggest problem we have, especially in trying to pull a live situation together. But I do believe where there’s a will there’s a way, so we’ll make it happen eventually.
Speaking of those rather famous friends, have you been talking with and cool artisits recently about any potential collaborations?
Other than my producing the next Kill Devil Hill record (hopefully out in the fall) and my continuing to work with Adler, I’m also doing a Starship record right now which I think will be a big surprise to everyone. Several of my songs are on the record, and wait’ll you hear Mickey Thomas’ voice – it’s as strong and emotional as ever! That about does it for current collaborations. But there’s always something new getting cooked up!!!
That all sounds cool! Vinny is one of your old Dio buddies… Were you ever asked (or interested) in playing with the Dio Disciples project?
I think they know how full time Foreigner is, so they haven’t asked me to be in the band. But they did ask me to be part of the Halloween show. Unfortunately I couldn’t do it cuz we had to leave with the Adler guys for the Kiss cruise. But I could see at some point, if Rudy or James couldn’t do a show, I’d love to fill in. I love the organization and my feelings about Ronnie and his music are quite obvious.
Looking back, fans always ask about your War & Peace projects – what is the future for that side of your creative spirit?
Well actually, Cleopatra Records are rereleasing the “Flesh and Blood Sessions” which are from 1989 with Vinny Appice and Randy Hansen. Plus I found a track which hadn’t been heard since it was recorded in ’89 called “Heaven Knows” that has Vinny and Darren Housholder on the guitar solo. It’s actually a great track. That, I believe, is coming out in March. And who knows, it may lead to another W&P record at some point. I do have a couple songs lying around that I started when we were talking Dokken reunion a couple years ago. W&P makes a good outlet for that kind of stuff.
Nice! Your fans will need to add the Flesh & Blood Sessions to their collections of Pilsonsbrews… Fans also seem to ask about the original Dokken records from 1982-1988 – who controls the destiny of them ever being remastered?
Rhino Records (through Warner Bros.) owns those, so that would be a question for them. I would hope they would do something this year for the 30th anniversary of Breaking the Chains.
That would be great. BTC at 30… wow. Don has stated publically that he is no longer recording new Dokken music (after Broken Bones) – do you believe him?
Oh you never know. I think he wants to try some new things, and I certainly understand that. Don has a lot of talent that I could see going towards a new direction, why not give him the chance?
That’s Fair. Did you listen to Broken Bones, and if you did, what did you think of it?
I’ve only heard snippets, and the song that had the video. I thought it was good. I’d love to hear Don sing with more energy, but maybe that’s why he wants to try something different. I think he wants to sing music that isn’t heavy rock- and that could be very cool. I totally get that. He still writes great lyrics and does have a beautiful voice, it just seems like this isn’t a period where he wants to “rock out”. That’s cool.
So… if Don called tomorrow and said he was burying the hatchet with George, and money will not divide the band, would you consider a future Dokken tour?
I’d always consider it, and always have. But I was very upfront with everyone from the start a couple years ago that Foreigner takes up a lot of my time, so for me to commit to a Dokken reunion will take a lot. But you never know. Here we are 30 years later still talking about it, so there’s something to it. I think there is a little feeling of unfinished business we all may have with regards to a “last” record. Something to put the apostrophe on our legacy. If the time were right, I could see that happening.
I think your fans will agree with that. Tell us, how did Mick handle the process of recording T&N tracks with you while still drumming for the band Don still calls Dokken?
Frankly I don’t think he gave it much thought. When George, Mick and I get in a room to play, time takes a back seat. It just flows and we have a good time doing it. I bet there wasn’t one minute where he thought, “Oh gosh, I’m still in Dokken but I’m playing with George and Jeff – I’m so confused!!!!!” That wasn’t the vibe at all.
What is your greatest hope for the legacy of the Dokken band that you invested so much heart, passion & time with?
Honestly my biggest hope is that somewhere down the line a big movie/TV show picks up a Dokken song and we re-enter the lexicon through that. I’m seeing that start to happen with some 80’s music (Rock of Ages, etc) and I think some of our music still holds up and could really work in that setting. And from there if we were to do one last record that was a masterpiece, all the better. That would be my fantasy for Dokken, and it’s something I don’t think is necessarily all that unrealistic, with the right circumstances. But that’s a bit out of my control, so we’ll just have to see…..
That would be a great legacy… let’s hope that something like that happens! OK, any preview for plans this year involving your work?
Well I’m hoping the Adler CD can come out on a big label this year and get the push it deserves. Then I’d like to release another T&N record, and if possible do some touring with it (maybe not til 2014). I think the Starship record will come out late spring, and I’m excited for that. Then Kill Devil Hill in the fall. That’s gonna be an amazing record – what a band! All the while I’ll be touring worldwide with Foreigner all year. We hit South America in the spring, Europe in the summer, and we’re hoping for Australia (and maybe Japan?) as well. Hey – I’ll sleep when I retire!!!!
Jeff – thanks as always for giving us a snaphot into the life & times of the one… the only… Jeff Pilson!
Thanx Michael – always so good to talk to you and keep everyone posted. Your helping me with online communications has really established a contact with fans that I’ve never before had. The future looks oh so bright!!!!!