Hey everyone – it’s been a year since my last Q&A with Jeff Pilson, and I’m excited to run another “State of the Union” interview for you all. As usual, there is a lot to talk about, and I’ve done my best to cover the bases, but this one will certainly play heavier on the “State of the Reunion” due to the big announcement this week about DOKKEN! – Michael
Here we go…
- Hey Jeff – it’s hard to believe another year has come around since our last Q&A… I just want to start by thanking you for always being willing to update your fans like you do.
JEFF: No prob. It’s all about communication these days. Glad you’re helping out with it.
- Let’s dive right into the deep waters: Word is starting to spread that Don has finally agreed to an offer that brings back you and George with Don and Mick for a short run of six “classic DOKKEN” reunion shows in Japan this fall. How did this reunion finally come together after all these years?
JEFF: OK, full story. Tom Mayhue, (who in the 80’s was our crew chief but went on to GnR where he’s been ever since as Production Mgr) was contacted by Creative Man in Japan (the promoter). He was asked to contact us all to see about the possibility of a reunion. Once everyone agreed to the premise and their offer (which is quite lucrative), they then asked for my Foreigner itinerary to book the dates so it could work for me. How do you say no to that???? The problem really has been scheduling in our last couple attempts at a reunion, so this solved that problem and we went forward.
- Wow – that’s very cool! Clearly Creative Man knows Japanese fans have always been passionate about DOKKEN, and you guys had some amazing shows over there in the mid 90’s. Did “DOKKEN Live ‘95” capture the best performance from that era?
JEFF: Not necessarily, but it was certainly a good one. We had several really magical shows on that run, but it was great to record in Japan and it was especially cool of Mr Udo to do that for us. He was always soooooo good to us!
- Yes he was! Going further back, many fans hold “Beast from the East” in high regard as a live recording release. As time has passed, more and more bands have disclosed their studio editing to their live albums… how “live” was that DOKKEN release?
JEFF: Not as live as it probably could have been. Personally I think we may have gone a bit overboard in fixing it, but it did come out good. Funny thing is, I have the original live board tapes which, though there are mistakes, etc., actually have a better energy to them. Oh well.
- You know fans would LOVE to hear those recordings, but I digress… Would a 2016 setlist revisit that “classic” setlist from BFTE, or can we expect a fresh mix of classics, deep cuts, and newer songs this time around?
JEFF: Well of course there will be the classics, but we have talked about trying to bring out at least one deep cut, perhaps one we’ve never performed or haven’t in a very long time, but we’ll see. I’d sure like to have an acoustic section, maybe 4 songs. We all agree it has to be a helluva show.
- We know it will be! Here’s an idea… Many bands are now featuring a classic album anniversary by playing it live all the way thru… has anyone suggested you guys playing all of “Under Lock & Key” to celebrate 30 years of that release?
JEFF: That hasn’t been brought up, although it’s not a horrible idea. I just don’t see us doing that right out of the gate to start a reunion.
- Fair enough. As you look ahead to the run of six shows in Japan, what are your plans to connect with Don, George & Mick for rehearsals here in the US prior to departure?
JEFF: We do have a plan and there will be rehearsals. Of course I’m the guy that feels there’s never enough rehearsal, but we’ll make the best of what we get. It’s so hard with everyone’s schedules.
- I know you & George like to work together – what do you anticipate once you plug in again with Mick & Don at rehearsal?
JEFF: If I had to guess I’d say it’ll feel pretty damn normal!!!!! Mick came over to play drums and sing backgrounds for the T&N record in 2012 and that felt absolutely comfortable… in fact it felt amazing! You gotta remember what a huge chunk of all our lives Dokken has been, so it really is a familiar place. Deep down we all have a love for each other that is undeniable, even though, like families, it can get abrasive at times.
- I think most fans of this band believe that and understand the reality of the family dynamic. Once you get to Japan, do you and George have any Scrotum Sound Studio sessions planned back at the hotel for any creative work?
JEFF: Not really, but he did come over 2 days ago and we wrote the music to a new track that I sent to Don yesterday. The plan is, hopefully, to somehow record one song before the tour to include as part of the packaging. The song we wrote is awesome, I can’t wait to hear what Don does to it.
- Now that’s what I’m talking about – a new song! You know fans & promoters around the world will be hoping for more, especially if the magic is back in Japan – is that something you are even considering personally?
JEFF: Well again it comes down to, for me, scheduling. Foreigner has our big 40th anniversary tour next year, so that’s a factor. Plus Don is saying he’s really only interested in doing it in Japan, so guess that’s it. I’d certainly be open to doing more if it could work out, but if it’s just Japan- I’m fine with that too.
- Ok, but have you prepared yourself for what will happen if Don & George actually enjoy this and suddenly the light shines on you as the guy with too many commitments to keep this going?
JEFF: Actually no, I haven’t even thought of that – LOL! Don has made it pretty clear he likes his current lineup of Dokken, and I get that. Hey if that did happen- wow! But I don’t see that happening.
- How did you explain this whole DOKKEN opportunity to Mick & Kelly, and how did they react to your plans for Japan?
JEFF: I only spoke with management so haven’t actually spoken to either of them about it yet, but knowing it was conscientiously booked around Foreigner’s schedule, I can’t see them having a problem with it.
- Could you foresee a future where it would be possible to balance touring w/DOKKEN & FOREIGNER, much like Mick has done w/Ted Nugent & DOKKEN?
- That seems like a firm answer. What about recording with DOKKEN? Could that be a creative outlet for you & George to continue making great music with Don & Mick without the pressure of touring together?
JEFF: That’s something I would truly enjoy and know George thinks that as well. But let’s just take it one step (or song) at a time. I do hope this new song comes out as good as I imagine.
- Speaking of recording, you also have built a solid reputation at Pilsound Studios as a dynamic producer. Some of your recent work – like Last in Line’s “Heavy Crown” – has been your best yet. Any plans for new studio work lined up for this fall or winter?
JEFF: Warrant has asked me to do a record with them this winter, and I’m hoping that can work out. Plus when Last In Line does their next CD, I sure hope I’m involved. And of course George and I would love to do another T&N record if there isn’t a whole Dokken record to do. Just so much I’d like to do and too little time to do it in.
- What great problems to have, right? To bend a lyric from a Steel Dragon track, you seem to be living a life you were born to live. As you look ahead, what is your vision for your life in 10 years?
JEFF: A really really big garden!!!!! Actually, that is a fantasy of mine and fortunately Don Dokken happens to be an amazing gardener – so some brain picking coming soon!!!! But that’s something I can’t really let myself think too much about til I’m off the road so much – so no hurry on that. But on the musical front, if in 10 years I’m producing, writing, maybe doing TV and/or jingle work, I’ll be a happy camper!
- Your values about music seem to run deep and guide everything you do… what convictions would you say capture those deeply rooted values?
JEFF: Do what you truly feel in your heart. Do it to the best of your ability, and enjoy every second of doing it!
- With this DOKKEN reunion booked – even if it is only six shows as an appropriate final chapter – do you have more audacious goals in your musical career?
JEFF: I’m still trying to write the greatest song of all time – that’s all!!!!!! Until I do, gotta keep trying!
- How do you make decisions today about what you will do to make sure you keep your dreams alive and your musical choices lined up with your vision of the future?
JEFF: I’ve learned to listen to my gut a lot more. It seems like when I’ve gone the most astray it was when I did what I was “supposed” to do or what, on the surface, was the “correct” thing to do rather than what felt right. If I have a regret, it’s that.
- Jeff – there will be so much more to talk about once you walk down the road in front of you this fall. I hope we can circle back around in the next 120 days and explore what you are experiencing with the band, the music, and the tour. Until then, keep up the amazing work you do that we all enjoy so much!
JEFF: Thanx – yes let’s keep talking through all this. Let’s follow up as we get closer to the tour.