April 10, 2018 Interview – Jeff Pilson Talks Dokken, Foreigner, & Life in Rock-n-Roll
Devoting all of himself to music, Jeff Pilson is what some may call a lifer. Finding a mass of success as an intricate part of Dokken in the 1980s, Pilson is as important to the band’s history as any member from their classic lineup. Going on to work with Dio for many years, as well as taking part in countless other collaborations, Pilson has comfortable found a home with Foreigner, now rockin’ with the band for nearly 15 years. Impressive, right? Well, if you ask him, he will tell you he is living a Rock-n-Roll fantasy! Recently we caught up with the accomplished bassist to talk his time in Dokken, their special 2016 reunion, his current career in Foreigner, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll professionally for over four decades now. From your time in Dokken to your time in Foreigner, you have attained a great deal of success. First, briefly tell us, what has the ride been like for you?
Jeff Pilson – The ride? You mean my entire career. (Laughs) You know what, it’s been great! I have been very fortunate. I have managed to stay working the whole time, I play the music I love and I get to work with great people. I can’t even begin to count how many lessons I’ve learned and things I have learned from the great people I have worked with. I feel like I am very fortunate, I have had a wonderful run. What can I say, I’ve been blessed!
CrypticRock.com – It really has been a great run. You remained an intricate part of Dokken’s success during the 1980s and into the 2000s. Between Don’s voice and the musicianship of yourself, George Lynch, and Mick Brown, the band was a force. What were those early days like in Dokken?
Jeff Pilson – They were great. It was very exciting. Right when I joined the band, it was right when the first record came out. I didn’t play on the first record, but we went out on the road to promote it. The excitement of getting out there on the road and start to experience all that basically put a fire under our butts to really start working. Right away, George and I would generally room up. As soon as we started touring, this was during the Breaking the Chains Tour, he and I would drag a bunch of amps into the room and we would start writing. Our chemistry was immediate, he and I have always worked together great. I have always worked with all the guys in Dokken great.
It was very exciting and it inspired us to do better and come up with better and better stuff. It was great, you could really feel our progress through those first few years, it was a wonderful feeling. We established something that a lot of these songs have remained timeless, that is why there is a demand for the band today. It was well-worth doing, it was a labor of love.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear and Dokken did put out a lot of great records. As you mentioned, the band is still in demand today. To many fan’s surprise, the classic lineup of Dokken – yourself, Mick, George, and Don – reunited for several shows. What prompted the limited time reunion?
Jill Pilson – Well, basically it came through an offer from the Japanese to do a tour of Japan. They kind of made us an offer that we couldn’t refuse. They even worked around our schedules very closely to make sure it could happen, we had been getting offers for years, but the biggest stumbling block for Dokken getting back together, had always been time considerations. The Japanese were very considerate and they worked with our schedules to book the tour at the exact right time.
Once the timing issue was worked out, we decided let’s go for it. Plus we did one warm-up show in South Dakota, which really helped because we were able to film, record, and rehearse there. It was just a win-win situation for everyone that we couldn’t resist.
CrypticRock.com – Awesome! Fortunately for fans who were not there, the performance was captured on film and is set to be released as a live CD and DVD on April 20th as Return to The East Live 2016. After some time apart, what were these special shows like for you and the rest of the band?
Jeff Pilson – It was great, it was good as soon as we got in the room together really, you could feel it. It is kind of funny to record a band that hasn’t worked together in 20 years, record it and put it out as a live record. There is a kind of chaotic energy about it that I really like. It is due to the fact that these songs are all a part of us. I think the chemistry of the band holds up even when it is kind of chaotic. We weren’t as rehearsed as we would like to be, but there was something in there, there was a magical energy in there that got captured. So yes, the chemistry was very much intact right away.
CrypticRock.com – That bleeds through on Return to The East Live 2016. You also actually did record a new song, “It’s Just Another Day” and it will also be a part of this release. Did the chemistry flow once again when you guys entered the studio?
Jeff Pilson – It was great, it was just natural. The original plan was to try and come up with a new song before we went to Japan, and we were going to record it live on stage. We had talked about that before, but that doesn’t always work out. (Laughs) That is actually not the best situation for recording a new song, but what did happen was George and I got together, wrote the music for it, we were quite happy, gave it to the other guys and they liked it.
We didn’t start working on it until we got back from Japan, but as soon as we did that, Don made some suggestions, he suggested we speed the song up. We did and we all liked that. The vocals then got nailed quickly. It was just one of the more painless Dokken recordings ever, which is great because it came out so fabulous. It was just a real positive experience.
CrypticRock.com – That is really nice to hear that it was such a good time. You did the reunion shows, you recorded the new song, but here is the burning question, is there a possibility of the original Dokken lineup to reconnect for more shows in the future and perhaps a full-length album?
Jeff Pilson – There is always a possibility. We have talked about it, again, it kind of comes down to scheduling. To do a full on tour and album, that would take a lot of work and time. We would love to do it, we’ve talked about it and we will probably continue to talk about it. I think we will keep looking for opportunities to see if it is possible, but in the meantime, it is very hard to schedule so there is nothing on the books right now. We will see, let’s see how the reaction is to this live record. If there is enough demand out of this, maybe it will force us to come up with a way to make it happen.
CrypticRock.com – You never know what the future holds. Giving fans this one song certainly will pique interest. You have remained actively working with George Lynch, you released Wicked Underground with him back in 2003. Do you guys still work together on and off?
Jeff Pilson – Yea, actually we have a project right now that is going to come out in early 2019. It is Mick Brown from Dokken, George, and I, as well as the singer from Warrant, Robert Mason. It is kind of a supergroup situation that we are very excited about. We have already written 11 songs for it. Like I say, that is going to be coming out in early 2019, it’s really exciting. It takes nothing to get me to want to work with George. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – Very cool! What can fans expect from the project? Does it have a name?
Jeff Pilson – It is called Superstroke at the moment, but there is the possibility we will change the name, we will see. It is a little bit like Lynch Mob in some ways, but then in some other ways it has a little more Dokken quality because there is quite a bit of harmony on it with Mick and I singing. How do I explain it… it’s Dokken and Lynch Mob morphed into a heavy groove band. I guess that is how I would describe it. George is playing his ass off! He is playing wonderful. It is a very musical record, a lot of very musical spots.
CrypticRock.com – That is something to look out for. You mentioned about hard work. Over the past decade plus, you have been a member of the hard working, tireless Foreigner. What has that experience been like for you?
Jeff Pilson – It’s been great! It’s a great band with great songs, great people, great management. It’s a great situation all the way around. It’s been nothing but a joy. It’s hard work, the traveling part of it is very tiring, but the Foreigner fans have been so wonderful and so welcoming. We do work a lot. The only way it’s possible to work as much as we do is if the situations were great with the fans and the shows, and they always here.
We are going to be an orchestral tour of Australia in the fall. Foreigner has a orchestral record coming out on April 27th called Foreigner with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. In May, we are going to go back to Switzerland, where we recorded it last year and do another show with an orchestra then.
There are so many exciting opportunities, we have the Whitesnake and Jason Bonham tour this summer. There is a lot of exciting things with Foreigner, it is just nothing but fun and excitement, and lots of great times.
CrypticRock.com – It does seem like Foreigner always has something going on. You did the acoustic tour, and the orchestral shows, the band mixes it up well. Then you have the Whitesnake run this summer with Foreigner. Summer is a good time for Foreigner.
Jeff Pilson – Summertime is a good time for most bands, we are not the only ones. (Laughs) This summer will be a real fun tour with Whitesnake and Jason Bonham. It’s going to be the event of the summer, I’m convinced. What a show! I love Whitesnake, I love Jason Bonham, it’s going to be great.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly will be a great tour. Foreigner has done a few albums over the past few years, but the last new studio album was 2009’s Can’t Slow Down. Is there plans for more new music in the works?
Jeff Pilson – Yea, we put out a record last year called 40, which is basically 40 hits in 40 years. On that, we had one new song called “Give My Life For Love.” Then we did a song that Mick Jones had actually written for a movie called Still Crazy in 1998. The song is called “The Flame Still Burns.” We recently revamped that song, we changed the lyrics, and we did a very Foreigner recording of it. For all intensive purposes, that is kind of a new Foreigner. That is what I see us doing over the years. I don’t see us doing a whole new studio record, certainly not anytime soon. It is kind of hard to do that when you tour as much as we do.
The record in 2009 took a lot out of us because we were on the road touring while we made the record. That is really difficult to do. Because the market is so funny now, it makes more sense for us to just occasionally put a new song out when we do some of these packages. That way we can concentrate on 1, 2, or 3 new songs and not have to worry about a whole record. Then we can really devote the time and attention it takes to do that right.
CrypticRock.com – That is a very smart move, especially the way it is now with the music world. On the other side of it, Foreigner has so much material, interjecting new music to a setlist may be very difficult.
Jeff Pilson – It’s tricky, no question about. I think we did really well with the Can’t Slow Down record and I think we managed to come up with a really great record in difficult circumstances. Maybe we don’t want to tempt fate. (Laughs) I think right now it’s more about 1 or 2 new songs. With the internet and streaming, that is kind of what it’s all about now. I think we are going to stay with that and we will see what we get.
CrypticRock.com – Again, very smart thinking. There is plenty to look forward to. Last question. We also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films on CrypticRock. If you are a fan of either or both genres, what are some of your favorites and why?
Jeff Pilson – I do like Science Fiction. I am not a huge Horror fan, never have been, because I scare easily. (Laughs) I will tell you what my favorite all-time Sci-Fi films is, and it’s kind of corny, but I absolutely love the original Total Recall from 1990. I love that movie and I have been waiting, somebody has to do the next part!
They set it up for another part and I want that to happen. Not a remake with Colin Farrell, even though he tried his best, but I want to have part 2 of the original Total Recall. Push that! They ended it off with the whole blue sky on Mars thing. They were setting it up for another movie, come on!
Jeff Pilson – Exactly! My point exactly, I agree. Maybe it will happen, let’s hope, at least I hope.