JEFF PILSON INTERVIEW:
November 23, 2012
Bassist Jeff Pilson is best known for his time in Dokken and most recently for his work with Mick Jones’ revamped Foreigner. When not working with Foreigner, Pilson has been producing acts and recently reunited with former Dokken bandmates George Lynch and ‘Wild’ Mick Brown in the band that was initially dubbed Tooth & Nail, after the popular Dokken track. Due to legal reasons the band couldn’t keep the moniker so they shortened it up to T&N and issued their debut album ‘Slave To The Empire’, which is a mix of newly penned material along with a handful of Dokken classics with some guest vocalists. Sleaze Roxx caught up with Jeff Pilson who got us up to speed on T&N and his other musical projects.
Sleaze Roxx: At one point there was talk about a Dokken reunion of the ‘classic’ line-up. It didn’t materialize, what exactly happened?
Jeff Pilson: (pause) Well we did talk. We didn’t get too far beyond the talking stages. To make a long story short — it was scheduling stuff, it was too hard to get things put together to make it happen. There needed to be a big commitment and because of my commitment to Foreigner it was going to take too much time. There was just no way it was going to happen.
There was some speculation as to how ‘real’ it actually was — it was never as ‘real’ as people thought. We were talking but we weren’t committed yet. There wasn’t a firm commitment on anyone’s part.
Sleaze Roxx: Were any of the songs on ‘Slave To The Empire’ potential Dokken songs at any point?
Jeff Pilson: George and I actually started writing for what would have been a Lynch Mob record. We did write a couple of things for Dokken but none of that made its way onto ‘Slave To The Empire.’ I was just helping George in the songwriting process for a Lynch Mob album. I may have played on it, I don’t really know — we didn’t get that far
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Slave To The Empire’ features five Dokken classics and seven original cuts. Why not an album of all original songs?
Jeff Pilson: We wanted to tie our legacy to what we’re doing now. We wanted to bring the two parts together — that seemed like a great way to do it. We watched what Black Sabbath had done with Ronnie James Dio when they became Heaven & Hell. They incorporated the old with the new. We liked that — we thought our fans would like that as well. That way we can focus on the old and the new and this is a great way of doing that.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re capable of tackling all the vocal duties yourself, so why bring in guest vocalists to sing the Dokken classics on the album?
Jeff Pilson: Well thank you. The thought behind that was to make it a more interesting record. To be honest, there are some songs where my voice probably wouldn’t be well suited for them. The idea was to bring in somebody that could do something really interesting with the song. That’s the beauty of a band like T&N which can be such a creative outlet — more so than we imagined it would be. These are singers that we’ve wanted to work with, so why not?
Sleaze Roxx: Is there a particular re-recording on the album that’s your favorite?
Jeff Pilson: (pause) I think they’re all great in their own way. I think Doug Pinnick’s “Tooth And Nail” is one of the most unique of the bunch. Doug really put his own spin on it and really made it an interesting piece. It’s very different from the original version but at the same time honoring it. I don’t know, I think all of them turned out fabulous.
Sleaze Roxx: I really like what Doug did with “Tooth And Nail”, but I also have to say that Sebastian Bach knocked “Alone Again” out of the park and I love what ‘Ripper’ Owens did with “Kiss Of Death” — it’s like a Dio meets Halford song.
Jeff Pilson: Yeah, I agree, “Alone Again” turned out great. And with ‘Ripper’ we didn’t know what to expect, and as you said, he took “Kiss Of Death” into that direction. That’s the beauty of a project like T&N, we can stretch out a bit more.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re a natural as a vocalist. In the past we’ve heard you take lead in Dokken, the Lynch/Pilson album and War & Peace. Have you considered becoming a full-time lead singer rather than playing bass and doing backing vocals?
Jeff Pilson: I’d like to classify myself as a ‘musician.’ Don’t get me wrong, I do love to sing but I love to play bass. I love to do everything, seriously. I don’t think that you have to classify yourself as one or the other. I just like to play music and whatever I happen to be doing at the time I thoroughly enjoy.
Sleaze Roxx: Did Don Dokken realize that you could sing early on? Do you think that Don was ever threatened by your vocal abilities? Your rendition of “Into The Fire” on ‘Slave To The Empire’ is true to the original while putting your own spin on it.
Jeff Pilson: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a little only ‘friendly’ competition, I don’t think it was anything that was too severe. I have to say, to Don’s credit, one of the reasons he wanted me in his band was because I could sing. He saw how my abilities would help the whole thing. Mick Brown is a great singer too, so we’re all an important part of what became the Dokken sound. I think to a degree there was a little of a threat but mostly I was an asset.
Sleaze Roxx: From a fan’s perspective yourself, George Lynch and Mick Brown appear to get along pretty well. It seems like Don Dokken is the odd man out in terms of personality. There’s been talk of the Don vs. George feud being a fabrication but it seems pretty real to me. Can you shed some light on the relationships within?
Jeff Pilson: There was a little bit of truth to that. Don was at times the odd man out. There was enough of that to go around, it wasn’t all just Don and George. The only light that I can shed on the situation is that we were a band with a lot of egos. Our egos got in the way and it caused some problems and it caused some harm. It wasn’t really that different from other bands with the exception that we aired our dirty laundry in public.
Sleaze Roxx: How weird is it to be in a band with Mick Brown who splits time between playing with you guys and also playing with Dokken? It seems like that might be awkward?
Jeff Pilson: Not that awkward actually (laughs). Honestly, these days you’ve got to do whatever you can to make a living. Mick jumping around — we understand he’s got to make a living. The point being, when we get together everything is smooth and everything feels very natural.
Sleaze Roxx: Will there be another T&N album and then a tour next year?
Jeff Pilson: We’ve recorded seven more Dokken songs with Mick Brown. They aren’t finished but they have been recorded. We haven’t written any new stuff yet but when we get around to that we will. Hopefully next year there will be a new T&N record. We hope to do some live shows to promote our music. That is part of our agenda to get out and do some touring in 2013.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there a possibility, like on ‘Slave To The Empire’, that the Dokken tracks will feature guest vocalists?
Jeff Pilson: Yes. That’s what we’re thinking right now, but that could change. And again, the next album will be half new material and half Dokken.
Sleaze Roxx: I imagine Foreigner is currently on hiatus? How is Mick Jones doing?
Jeff Pilson: That’s right, we’re taking a break. Mick’s feeling great, he’ll be joining us for some shows next year. We just did a live broadcast from the Grammy Museum on October 30th that aired on AXS TV. Watch for that if you missed it — I believe they will be replaying that again. Mick joined us for that and it was a magical show.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve worked with one of my favorite new bands Benedictum, how did you get involved with them? Will you be working with them in the future?
Jeff Pilson: I got involved with them through Craig Goldy (Dio), he’s friends with Veronica Freeman, the singer, and they were looking for someone to produce them. I did their first two records and it was a lot of fun. I actually just did some pre-production with them recently. I won’t be producing the next record because I don’t have the time to do that, but I liked what I heard.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you get involved with Steven Adler and his band Adler?
Jeff Pilson: Originally they asked me if I wanted to play bass on the album then they saw my studio and wanted to record there. It just naturally evolved from there. Most of the songs were written when they got to the studio, but I did get a chance to do a little writing once in the studio with them.