FOREIGNER is Rocking!
Interview by Michael Oshust ~ May 21, 2019
Foreigner is defined as "a person who comes from another country"
When we think of Foreigner, the band, the definition can be true as the band was formed by English musicians Mick Jones, Ian McDonald along with American vocalist Lou Gramm. Foreigner formed in 1976 and has been one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time with worldwide sales of more than 80 million records. .
(left to right) Bruce Watson, Mick Jones, Mike Bluestein, Kelly Hansen, Chris Frazier, Jeff Pilson & Tom Gimbel
© Photo provided by John Lappen
The band’s self-titled debut album was released in February 1977 with such hits as “Feels Like the First Time”, “Cold as Ice” and “Long, Long Way from Home.”
In July 1981, the band released their fourth album titled “4”. and had the hits “Urgent,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “Juke Box Hero.” The album, produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Mick Jones was a success worldwide, holding the No.1 position on the Billboard album chart for a total of 10 weeks.
Following the success of “4”, the band started writing their fifth album Agent Provocateur in December 1984. The album contains the band’s biggest hit single, “I Want to Know What Love Is”, which is their only No.1 single in the U.K. and the U.S. The song features backing vocals from the New Jersey Mass Choir affiliated with the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Dreamgirls star Jennifer Holliday, and featured keyboard work by Thompson Twins frontman Tom Bailey. The choir also appears in the song’s music video.
On July 25, 2004 in Santa Barbara, California Mick Jones appeared at a benefit show for muscular dystrophy dubbed “Mick Jones & Friends” that included: Jeff Jacobs, Thom Gimbel, former Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson, drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) and Bonham singer Chas West. West was the singer for that show only. Inspired by the event, Jones continued the search for a new frontman and eventually settled on former Hurricane singer Kelly Hansen who was invited aboard in March 2005.
In September 2009, Foreigner released “Can’t Slow Down” which is their ninth album. It was the band’s first studio release with lead singer Kelly Hansen (formerly of Hurricane) & bassist Jeff Pilson (once with Dokken and Dio).
In October 2011, Foreigner released “Acoustique,” which was a catalogue of hits and some newer tracks recorded in a stripped-down acoustic set.
On November 9, 2018, all surviving original members of Foreigner came on stage to play alongside the current line-up for a show at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, beginning a series of “Foreigner Then and Now” concerts that continued through to the end of 2018.
In January 2019 Foreigner recorded a special version of “I Want To Know What Love Is” with a Children’s Choir Featuring Select Shriners Hospitals for Children Patients.
Foreigner will headline the Miller Lite Carb Day Concert on Friday, May 24, 2019, to kick off the 103rd Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Foreigner is currently touring North America.
Kelly Hansen © Photo Music Speaks Louder
Photo Source: Michael Oshust
Mick Jones © Photo Music Speaks Louder
Photo Source: Michael Oshust
Photo Source: Michael Oshust
Mick Jones © Photo Music Speaks Louder
Music Speaks Louder caught up with Jeff Pilson of Foreigner in between tour dates.
Is there a building that amazes you every time you play in it?
Well, there’s a few I suppose but I think the primary one that comes to mind is from a couple years ago.
We (FOREIGNER) were able to play Carnegie Hall one night. It was an acoustic show, but that building there’s a reason why it’s a special as it is. It was just such an incredible sounding room. I mean you are just singing a note and it would just carry perfectly. I mean, it’s just the sound of the room is absolutely incredible. So and I think the fact that we got to do an acoustic show made it even more special because I couldn’t really hear the room. And another one that one comes to mind is Royal Albert Hall in London as being a very very special place. Those are probably two of the more special places we played as well as well as the Sydney Opera House, which is very cool. Those three are pretty cool.
As people will know you’re primarily the bass player but you’re what we call a multi-instrumentalist. Did you learn guitar or keyboard when you were younger, did you study classical or piano??
Well, I did take piano lessons for a minute, but I had already kind of taught myself to play like playing along Beatles songs and stuff and I’m not a great piano player. But I mean I’m and I’m mostly mostly self-taught on piano very the piano lessons were very short-lived. But I do enjoy playing piano, but no, I did'nt study classical music. I went to the University of Washington and my my major was string bass. Nah, and so I mean I did, you know, I did want to pursue a quote-unquote legitimate path and then Rock n Roll stole my soul. [Laughs]
Actually that reminds me of an artist we talked to a few weeks ago Lawrence Gowan. Yeah, very nice guy and he went on and graduated at the University level and then rock and roll took him.
That’s right. Yeah, Lawrence is very schooled. And and I mean, I think it’s that’s not the most important thing to have but it can be a very good tool in your arsenal to know the theory and all that other stuff and I’m glad I do. I don’t want to rely on it to do the work for me but having that knowledge does help.
Is there a song that the audience sings and you step back and go "Wow, here we are playing a song that is 30 years old and fans are still going nuts for it"?
Well, there’s a whole set worth of that yeah. I think the songs are more famous than the band. People come to see us they mentioned that all the time. They say, wow, I didn’t realize you did that many songs that I know and that kind of thing. Yes, there’s just so many songs that really resonate. I mean every time we hit that chorus of "Feels Like The First Time" , it doesn’t matter that the song was recorded 40 years ago. It’s still it could have been written yesterday. The song "I Want To Know What Love Is", I mean that’s a worldwide number one anthem song. I mean you you don’t get much more entrenched into the culture than that. So yeah, there’s so many of the songs that I can tell really resonate with people and you know, both rockers and ballads are like which is really really cool. We just try and do our best to be the greatest band we can delivering those those great songs. And I think the fact that people are still coming back means we’re doing something right.
With the stage production of Jukebox Hero, it seems FOREIGNER songs are timeless. More generations are coming to the shows.
We do actually notice that, yeah, we’re seeing younger and younger people. I just did an interview with somebody in Germany yesterday and he was commenting how he’s been seeing it for like the last 10 years and he’s noticed unlike any other bands, it seems like our own audience gets younger - I think that it is just the songs are kind of slowly creeping into the mainstream culture in a way. And I think they recognize it as being fresh and exciting. So it’s kind of I think it’s a testament to great music. I think that’s what happens with great music over time. It only gets better and that goes to a point.
Unlike some of the bands of the 80’s that are changing their format, FOREIGNER is showing that their music is timeless.
I think that’s the secret and I think it’s because the music is timeless and we just try and like I say we try and be the best band we can delivering that. Yeah, and and you know, there’s there’s a high standard in this band. I mean Mick Jones set a very very high precedent and we’re always constantly working to keep that precedent.
Releasing the Can't Slow Down album in 2009. It is the band's first studio release with lead singer Kelly Hansen & yourself.
I think that the record that we did in 2009 with Kelly certainly sounds and feels like a FOREIGNER record. We know what a great voice he has, and it was great that he got to do some songs to put his stamp on like I’m the singer of this song but the amazing thing is how well it fit into the FOREIGNER catalog and the the received acceptance. I mean, you know FOREIGNER wasn’t like KISS where it was about the image and the makeup and that kind of thing. It was always about the songs. So I think as long as we stay so true to the songs and give it so much heart and soul, the fans will be happy.
The difference is the band is having fun and the enjoyment shows when you play live.
Well, thank you. Yeah, I mean listen, we recognize it, you know, it is about entertaining people and having a good time and if we’re not having a good time, they’re not going to have as good a time. So I’ve been fact is we do allow ourselves to enjoy the moment and we’re just grateful to be up there man. I mean, wow what a great set of songs. Great audiences & great venues.
What do you enjoy the most live?
I love big big show’s! My favorite places to play are arenas because it tends to have a different sound. You have that sound that "Arena Rock" sound. I love that but big festivals can be really exciting and really as fun as well.
Well, thank you so much Jeff, and Music Speaks Louder will be reviewing an upcoming show.
All right, well, thank you very very much, and I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.
FOREIGNER tour dates are here
Special thank you to Jeff Pilson & John Lappen