The classic rock band Foreigner will be playing the Hard Rock Rocksino on Sunday, May 1st. Current bassist and former original member of Dokken, Jeff Pilson chatted with NEO Music Scene to talk about his career and Foreigner’s upcoming appearance at the Rocksino.
Jeff Pilson: Hi Greg, how are you?
Greg Drugan: Great, Jeff! Thanks for spending a few minutes with me today.
JP: My pleasure.
Greg Drugan: How has this spring tour been going so far? Do you have an opening act?
JP: No, no. Sometimes we have a local act open up; but it’s usually just us with a couple of hours of banging music. It’s been great!
GD: How many dates do you guys usually play in a year?
JP: We used to do upwards of 140, but now we do closer to 120. We don’t take it easy! (laughs) But we are always on the road; it’s pretty much a year-round thing for us.
GD: You are headed to Europe this summer; how do European audiences differ from American audiences?
JP: Well, not as much as you might think; they pretty much react the same way. The Europeans sometimes have slightly different songs that they might play then they would in America that they tune in to. But they are great listeners and are die-hard fans. Once they’re a fan, they’re a fan for life.
GD: You guys have been headlining or co-headlining for many years, what was it like to open for Kid Rock last summer?
JP: It was fabulous…it was just great! We played sold-out shows every night; we played ten sold-out shows in Detroit alone. It was an incredible tour and we love playing for large audiences. Foreigner’s music is really made for big stages and big arenas. Kid Rock was wonderful, he was really supportive and we really couldn’t have asked for a better situation.
GD: Yes, and getting to re-introduce some songs that the audience may have forgotten about and have them say “Oh yeah, Foreigner did that song too!”
JP: That’s what we’re hoping for!
GD: How long was your opening set?
JP: It was sixty minutes.
GD: Wow! That’s a nice opening set.
JP: Yes, he was extremely generous and it was a great time.
GD: Do you guys change up the set list and throw in a song that you don’t play that often; or do you basically stick to what you’re doing for this tour?
JP: We pretty much stay with the set list that works for us. We sometimes make minor changes but, as a rule, we kind of have a flow to our show that works incredibly well. So we don’t mess with it too much.
GD: The last time you guys played the Rocksino here in Cleveland, Mick Jones wasn’t there; is he currently touring with the band?
JP: He goes in and out. There are certain shows he plays and other shows he doesn’t.
GD: Is it a health issue or is he just plays when he feels like it?
JP: He’s in great health, but nobody wants to take any chances. They’re probably just a little extra cautious. Because the band is working so well, even when he’s not there, he can afford to do that and it works.
GD: Are there any plans to record new music?
JP: Not immediately, no. We don’t have a lot of time to record, and when Foreigner records, it’s a very involved process. So it’s just a matter of making the time because we are always thinking about it.
GD: There has been talk of Lou (Graham) and Mick (Jones) possibly getting back together along with some other original members for a 40th Anniversary tour, what are your thoughts on that?
JP: My thoughts are that I hope that it happens! I think it would be great! It would be in addition to what we are doing…if it happens. There are no concrete plans yet. I know that Mick and Lou are friendly and I’m hoping that it happens. I would love for Lou to come out and do a few songs, I think it would be spectacular!
GD: Both Lou and Mick recently got inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, what are your thoughts of Foreigner getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? They certainly have the record sales and longevity to get in.
JP: I do very little thinking about that (laughs). I think that if it happened, it would be great. I wouldn’t anticipate our version (of the band) being inducted. But I certainly would love it if the original band got inducted. I think that would be great and I hope that it happens. Foreigner was never a “hip band.” It was more about the people and the record sales rather than being hip; which makes it a little more difficult for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame type of things. We’ll see! It certainly would be well deserved.
GD: You’ve been in Foreigner for over 10 years; how was the transition from going from Dokken, which was a hard rock band, to Foreigner which was actually considered hard rock when they first started?
JP: Right, well it’s not as difficult as you might think. Bands like Dokken looked to bands like Foreigner which was hard rock with great songs and great melodies. It was kind of a template for what we did. I was a fan and I looked at Foreigner as a high-energy rock band. I think more towards the later years that Foreigner looked more towards ballads; people forgot what a high energy rock band they could be. We’re bringing that back a little bit because people are seeing a high energy rock show. So it wasn’t that big of a transition because we’re keeping on the same principle: rocking hard, with great melody and great songs!
GD: Sure! What is your favorite Foreigner song to play live?
JP: I don’t have a specific favorite because there are so many songs that I love. “Waiting for a Girl Like You” I feel is one of the greatest songs ever. “It Feels Like The First Time,” to me is also one of the greatest rock songs ever written. “Urgent” has Thom Gimble’s sax solo which is really exciting. We have “Juke Box Hero” and then we have some jamming that we do that makes it fun and different every night.
So as far as favorites it’s kinda like asking: which of your children do you like the best? But they’re not my children; I’m just kinda babysitting them for a while!
GD: That’s a great analogy. When you’re not on tour, what do you like to do in your spare time to unwind?
JP: Believe it or not, I have an amazing recording studio on my property and I love to record. I love to write and record and do music. It’s my passion in life. Then I have my family. I have an 11-year old daughter where we love to do projects together. So basically it’s my studio and my family.
GD: You were in the movie Rock Star with Mark Wahlberg; do you have any other acting aspirations and how was that experience?
JP: It was a great experience! I did kinda get the bug because acting is fun. But it is also very tedious because there’s a lot of sitting around. Of course the bigger the role you have the less you sit around because you’re more involved with things. I would love to do something where I really acted. But that’s a whole other profession and it’s not a thing where you can say “Hey, I’m going to make a movie tomorrow!” But it was fun and it made me look at acting in a whole different way. But I’m a musician and I recognize that and I’m quite happy being one.
GD: Now, I love Foreigner but I am a huge Dokken fan and I saw you open up for Aerosmith in ’87, and Van Halen’s Monsters of Rock in ’88. I have to ask: are there any plans for a full Dokken reunion?
JP: It’s really hard to schedule time but we are all friendly now. We all talk and we are trying to figure out a way to make it happen. It’s very difficult with the limited parameters that we have. We’ll see! I would never say never because I can imagine it happening. Since we are all friendly now, it certainly is possible.
GD: That’s great news! What can Cleveland fans expect from the show; will you be playing any acoustic songs?
JP: We do play one acoustic song but as a rule it’s going to be balls to the wall rockin’ out! Lots of energy, lots of songs that you know, lots of singing along. You are going to be thoroughly entertained.
GD: Jeff, thank you so much for your time, it sounds like it’s going to be a fun show. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!
JP: Thank you so much, I appreciate it! Take care!
Check out Foreigner at the Hard Rock Rocksino on May 1st. You can purchase tickets at the Hard Rock Box Office or any Ticketmaster location.