Exclusive interview for hellfest.fr: FOREIGNER [Jeff Pilson (basse)]
“If there’s anything I believe in it’s just that you should do what’s in your heart, stay true to your beliefs and follow your heart” – Jeff Pilson – Saturday 18 June 2016
So how the hell are you?
Great! A little tired from travel but other than that I feel really good. The crowd was great though. It felt like we could have played for another two more hours!
I was gonna say! Back in February you said to me that Foreigner could hold its own next to death metal bands and I wasn’t sure I believed you!
It’s definitely heavier and higher energy than people are expecting. I think people are surprised.
Where does that energy keep coming from?
We just love to play. It’s a great band. People love to listen and we love the songs. It’s all the right elements. Not every band has a lot of the elements, the great ones generally do. We just happen to have a lot of great elements in the band that make it work and the fact that we enjoy playing is great.
What are these elements?
Musicianship and singing of course. Listening is a huge one. Knowing what’s going on around you and being able to adapt. Feel, and having a good groove. The ability to perform. The ability to react to the audience – every audience is a little bit different. I can’t stand when bands complain about the crowd, but you have to react to a crowd and this band really knows how to react to a crowd. Having a great frontman is a key thing and we do!
How weird is it to go from the Lincoln Center to this?
I think it’s a testament to how great the songs are that they can do both. That’s one o the joys for me about the band. I love acoustic shows, I love festivals. If I’m going to be in a rock band this is my favorite thing to do – a big festival or an arena crowd. But to be able to also do something like the Lincoln Center because it’s so musical. I don’t like it when music is narrow I like it when it can emote. To be able to do it in both mediums means you are really soaking the emotion out of it and communicating.
Would you say you feel more capable of doing this with Foreigner than, for example Dokken?
I wouldn’t say more. With Dokken we did acoustic shows and it was pretty cool. It was really fun. We actually loved it, we weren’t expecting to love it as much as we did. When we go to Japan in October we’ve already talked about doing at least a few acoustic songs. Dio would never have done an acoustic set for obvious reasons. I will tell you though that when we were doing the Angry Machines record and we had a song Tracy Gene wrote and it was beautiful. When we got to the studio Ronnie and I were talking about it and we were like “What would happen if we used a piano rather than a guitar?” so we went into the studio and did the base of the song with just me and Dio. It was so emotional and powerful, it was a highlight of being in that band. Dio had been singing for days and he was so tired and his voice was beautiful. I have a tape of that somewhere. We redid it for the record but I wish we had left it like that, it was so beautiful. That was a great moment. That was a way of showing variety with something like that.
I feel like a lot of your career has been defined by variety…
I think I try to bring that to whatever I do because it’s natural for me. There’s a lot of people who just want to hear the heaviest thing they can. I was like that as a kid, obsessed with Deep Purple and Sabbath. But I think that as I get older having variety is important to me.
To circle back, how do you feel about your Hellfest experience as a whole?
I’ve only had a few hours of it, but there are a lot of great bands and people. I love festivals. To me heavier music is made for festivals. That’s when it really shines and I love it. The feeling of forty some thousand people getting into the groove of the music is the best high on earth.
What was your first major festival?
I honestly couldn’t tell you! (Laughter) The first thing that really stands out in my mind is the tour we did in 1988 with Van Halen, Scorpions, Metallica, us and Kingdom Come. That was the Monsters Of Rock tour. It was all arenas and that was really cool. Unfortunately that was when Dokken was starting to fall apart so some of my memories of the band during that period were not that great but the tour was a lot of fun. A little too much fun!
Oh just a little bit of imbibing! (Laughter) Five bands staying at the same hotel for multiple nights, there was a lot of debauchery!
Is debauchery key to rock and roll?
It’s not key. It’s not a necessary component but I think that it was helpful for growing up. I think it allowed you to loosen up and play better. Once you learn to do that though debauchery can be very destructive and for me it became destructive. It’s different for everybody, I was not one of them. (laughter)
Any final words of wisdom for me?
I would not pretend to have any wisdom! If there’s anything I believe in it’s just that you should do what’s in your heart, stay true to your beliefs and follow your heart.
Interview: Matt Bacon.