Jumping into 2015 with both legs kicking, Foreigner’s Jeff Pilson has a lot on his tablet for this year … which is actually not surprising since the man is a jumping bean of energy on and off the stage. A part of the Foreigner family since 2004, the other band members know to be on the lookout for the blonde bass player as he is prone to fly from one side of the stage to the other in the blink of an eye. Add in their equally as energetic singer Kelly Hansen and, well, let’s just say it’s never boring.
But for some time now, Pilson has been taking some of that energy and focusing it on being a producer. Glide caught up with the former Dokken rocker before Foreigner’s recent concert in Biloxi to talk about exactly how many plates he has spinning.
Last month Foreigner released The Best Of Foreigner 4 & More, a live album featuring the current Foreigner band members doing a majority of songs from the original 1981 album. Who put that into motion?
Originally, it was our manager’s idea and we originally started talking about it as we were approaching the 30th anniversary, which would have been 2011, and we were going to do it then, so it could come out for the 30th anniversary. And for various complicated reasons, it didn’t pan out then. Then it got revisited and several months ago the idea kind of came up again and basically Mick [Jones] said, “Yeah, I’d like to do it but let’s not necessarily do the whole record. Let’s find what we think really, really relates to this version of the band.” And that’s why we did seven and not ten songs; and we knew we were going to do other songs as well, like the other hits. So it just kind of evolved into, let’s take what we really, really can relate to on the Foreigner 4 record and make it work for this band and that’s what we did.
When did the wheels start to actually move to make it happen?
I’m guessing probably before the summer. It was definitely by spring, I would say, when it was kind of finalized, and we knew we were going to do it in Atlantic City cause the Borgata has been really cool to us.
Then it was done pretty quickly.
The recording went real quick. We recorded it in early October and it was basically culled together from two shows. Everything went very fast. We were well rehearsed, it had great energy and the shows were great so we had a lot of good stuff to go on.
I’m glad you did “Woman In Black.”
Me too. I love that song and I love how it relates to this version of the band. It’s one of the ones where I think it really fits this version of the band great.
Was there another song that you really wanted to record off of that album?
No, we covered the ones that I personally felt real strongly about. I mean, I love the whole record. Foreigner 4 was an important record for me as a fan but the seven that we picked, I just knew this version of the band could do a great job on. So I don’t feel like anything is missing.
You’ve been with Foreigner for a decade now. How have you seen the band evolve?
You know, it’s just gotten tighter and tighter and we’ve refined what we do more and more and more. I mean, it started off pretty good. As soon as Kelly got on board, we pretty much launched into being a strong band. We’ve had some wonderful drummers along the way and there have been personnel shifts but now I think we’re at this lineup for a while, going to stay for a while, and it just feels really good. You get to a certain level of telepathy with each other and that is really important when you really want to make music special. And I feel we’ve got that with this version of the band. So I’m hoping this version sticks around for a while cause I just think we’ve come to a place where we’re very sure of ourselves but we’re also very willing to roll with things, which is a good place to be. You can’t be so sure of yourself that you don’t listen to anybody, that you’re done growing, but at the same time it’s nice to know that you feel really good about what you’re doing.
Are you excited about the tour with Kid Rock this summer?
I am, yeah, it’s going to be really good.
You worked with Steven Adler on his band’s album Back From The Dead in 2013. You’re working with him again I hear.
Well, we just did one song and it’s not quite done cause we’re still messing with it but that’s not going to be a whole record yet. We’re just going to do this song, maybe a couple more. We’re talking about doing a couple more but we’re not talking about doing a whole record yet. But I’m sure that’s in the cards eventually. But Steven still feels so strongly about the record that we did, as do we all, it is a really good record, and so he’d like to see that get a little more of a shot and then use new songs to kind of call attention to the band to get that going. So we’ll see how that progresses. I’ll be anxious to do a whole record when that happens but I think we’re just going to do a couple songs at a time first.
How is Steven doing?
He’s doing fabulous
Your other big project is producing a Last In Line record. Who exactly is in the band that’s recording?
It’s the whole original Dio band. It’s Vivian Campbell, Vinny Appice, Jimmy Bain and Andrew Freeman singing. We just finished tracking the rest of the record so there’s ten songs tracked; not finished tracking, we finished cutting all the basics, which were done live, by the way, which is awesome. Vivian and Vinny and Jimmy playing live in a room is amazing. We only have three more vocals and a couple more solos to do and then we’ll be done so we’re making tremendous progress. We should be done tracking by the end of this month actually, cause I go home in about a week and we have four days that we’re going to finish everything up. Then there’s the mixing process. Not sure exactly when it’s going to come out, because they’d like it to come out at a point when it’s really opportune for them. And Vivian has got a very, very heavy year with Leppard coming up.
But I’ll tell you, it will be worth the wait because it’s just a fabulous record. The chemistry of the three of them is still so much intact and then you add this dimension of the singer, who is just a monster, it’s really great. And you know how hard it is trying to capture a vibe that happened thirty years ago and yet put your own spin on it and yet feel like it’s authentic and everything else. But it’s just so natural and the music sounds like it could have been Dio stuff. But then Andrew doesn’t sing exactly like Ronnie and he sings different enough in ways that really make it believable. It’s hard to explain but people are going to be knocked out. He really is an amazing singer and people are going to be flipped out when they hear this. And getting to hear Vivian just wailing again, it’s really, really cool.
Do you have anything coming up with George Lynch?
George and I are always talking and we’re going to try and record a record hopefully by the end of this year.
Will it be a T&N record?
I’m not sure (laughs). There’s a lot up in the air about that because T&N is something that, well, how do I explain it. T&N is something we’d really like to explore for the future and we would like to include Michael Sweet in that but George and Michael just put out a record this year so it sort of doesn’t make sense to do that right away. I think what George and I would do is we’d do another L/P record. We did an L/P record in 2003, and you know this is all semantics with names but it does kind of affect where we go direction-wise. You know with T&N, we covered Dokken songs, which was really fun. We wouldn’t do that if we did an L/P record. So it’s in a hard-to-describe middle ground (laughs) but we’d like to do some kind of a record by the end of the year.
Do you ever see yourself stopping live performing and just doing producing?
Sure, of course. I mean, I really, really enjoy producing. The thing is, Foreigner, there is still something very vital about what we’re doing so I wouldn’t stop now, but yeah, of course, I would love to produce, that would be great. I really enjoy doing it. I love making music, I love recording so it’s all good.