Jeff Pilson is one of the most accomplished bass players in the rock scene, having played in bands such as Dokken and Dio and for the last fifteen years being a member of Foreigner. He is also a hugely respected producer. The latest project that he has been involved in is the band Black Swan; alongside Robin McAuley, Reb Beach and Matt Starr. I was fortunate to be able to talk with Jeff to chat about Black Swan and his other work via Skype on 30th January. The interview was recorded during Foreigner’s residency at The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas.

The first part of the interview focuses on Black Swan, the second part on Foreigner and in the final part we chat about The End Machine, Dokken, Steven Adler and more. The Black Swan album “Shake The World” is released by Frontiers Music on 14th February.

The interview was included on the Friday NI Rock Show on 14th February and this Show is now available on our MixCloud page - https://www.mixcloud.com/NIRocks/interview-with-jeff-pilson-on-the-friday-ni-rocks-show-14th-feb-2020/

 

 

 

 

The interview has been typed up and is posted below.

 

Playlist

CONJURING FATE – No Escape

H.E.A.T. - Dangerous Ground

COLLATERAL – Merry Go Roumd

GILBY CLARKE – Rock n Roll is Getting Louder

BLACK SWAN – Shake The World

Interview with JEFF PILSON Part 1 (6 min)

BLACK SWAN – Big Disaster

Interview with JEFF PILSON Part 2 (4 min)

FOREIGNER – Headknocker (Live)

Interview with JEFF PILSON Part 3 (10 min)

BLACK SWAN – Divided United

THE END MACHINE – Burn The Truth

SHADOW BREAKER – Fly Me

STORM FORCE – Age of Fear

FIRELAND – Banished

IRONHEART – Gods of War

IRONFLAME –Blood Red Cross

SERIOUS BLACK – Let Me Go

TOMORROW IS LOST – Wildchild

THE RAGGED SAINTS – Turning Cod

BOWLING FOR SOUP – Alexa Bliss

PSSR – Busted

THE WRECKLESS MAJORITY – Through The Night

DIABULUS IN MUSICA – The Misfit’s Swing

NIGHTWISH – Noise

BURNING WITCHES – Dance With the Devil

SONS OF APOLLO – Goodbye Divinity


 

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NI ROCKS – Hi Jeff, thanks for taking some time to talk to Rock Radio NI. We just played the track “Shake The World” which was the first single released from the new Black Swan album which is released on 14th February by Frontiers Music. What can you tell us about that track?

JEFF – Just that we’re trying to make a little statement there that we want to shake the world a little bit. I’m very excited about the new band and the new record. Frontiers picked that as the first single and we’re very excited about that.

 

NI ROCKS – The band features yourself, along with Robin McAuley, Reb Beach and Matt Starr. Where did the idea for Black Swan originate and how did the four of you get together?

JEFF – Basically, Serafino from Frontiers and I were talking and he has encouraged me to form some of these supergroups, kinda like The End Machine. I suggested Reb Beach and he said that would be great. So I talked to Reb and Reb was excited and into it. Then I immediately thought of Robin McAuley who, like Reb, is also a great friend and somebody who I have worked with before who I knew was great. And I knew he would exceed everyone’s expectations. Once the three of us were together we wrote and recorded most of the record and then Matt came in at the end and did an amazing job on the drums. And there you go, we have a group.

 

 

NI ROCKS – The four of you of course all have big commitments with other bands. I presume much of the song writing and recording was done at a distance rather than having the four of you together in a room?

JEFF – It wasn’t the four of us in one room, but it was always at least two in one room. None of the recording was done without somebody else there. All of it was recorded at my studio so I was there for all the recording. Yes, the guitars were done with just Reb and I and yes the vocals were done with just Robin and I and yes the drums were done with just Matt and I; but, it was a collaborative effort, it wasn’t like one of things were somebody would mail in tracks.

NI ROCKS – Which seems to happen quite a lot these days.

JEFF – Yes, of course, and I understand that but I personally don’t enjoy working that way if there is any way that I can avoid it.

 

 

NI ROCKS – What about the song writing? How did the song writing happen?

JEFF – Reb would come out and spend about a week at a time at my place and we would get together and work on the music. We would pretty much do a song a day. We would pretty much figure out the whole thing. Then we would send it to Robin and Robin would come in with a first draft of lyrics. Sometimes what he did we wouldn’t touch and it would be great as is, sometimes he and I would work on it together. All sorts of combinations. A couple of songs I did some lyrics for. Robin did the bulk of it and I think he did an amazing job.

 

 

NI ROCKS – How difficult was it getting together to do video shoots etc and do those problems more or less rule out the possibility of the band doing some gigs to support the album release?

JEFF – Scheduling is the toughest part with a band like this. Everybody has other gigs so it’s just really, really hard to carve out time to do shows. I did manage to carve out time to do show with The End Machine last year and I hope that at some point Black Swan does get a chance to do gigs. There has been some offers made, so the possibility is there. It’s just going to have to co-ordinate with our other schedules and let’s hope that it does.

NI ROCKS – Yes, even something like the Frontiers Festival in Italy. That would be great to see.

JEFF – Yeah, that would be great.

 

NI ROCKS – I appreciate that its very early days and the first album hasn’t even been released yet, but do you think that the four of you will do something else together again?

JEFF - Oh, I hope so. Basically, the reality is that it’ll depend on how well the record does -if the label wants to do more stuff. Hopefully it is going to do well enough that we can, because it was truly a labour of love and I’m really proud of the record and how it came out. I really feel that it’s a strong record and let’s just hope that people take to it and we can make more records.


NI ROCKS – From what I’ve heard so far, it’s a great album. The second track to be released from the album was “Big Disaster”, which came out just last week I think. We’ll play that song next. What can you tell us about that track?

JEFF – It was the first one that Reb and I wrote together, it was the first one that Robin put vocals to and the first that Matt put the drums to. So it was really the first track that we did and it really set the tone for everything. It was a track that we felt very strongly about right away and it’s funny; I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Matt on this one; when his drums came on it all of a sudden took on a life that really brought the track up to where it is now. I was very happy with the song, but when Matt put the drums on it just added that extra x-factor that it needed.


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NI ROCKS – You’ve been a member of Foreigner now for over 15 years. The band is currently in the midst of a residency in Las Vegas with two shows played and another two to go; with then six more scheduled for April. Have you done anything like that before and what has it been like?

JEFF- No, we haven’t done a residency before; and it has been great. We actually did our third show last night. It’s a lot of fun. Number one of course, it’s great to stay at one hotel for a week and a half. That’s pretty unusual for us! It’s almost like having a home and a life (laughs). I hope we do a lot more of this because it has been very enjoyable. The audiences have been great and the facilities here at the Venetian have been phenomenal. It’s a gorgeous room – it sounds amazing, they have amazing lights. It’s really a great place and like I said, I hope we do a lot more of these.


NI ROCKS - 2020 looks to be another very busy year for Foreigner with several tour announcements already including a UK tour and six shows with Whitesnake and Europe in May and June. That will see you on the road of course with your Black Swan bandmate Reb Beach. Are you looking forward to getting back to the UK?

JEFF – Of course I am. I love the UK and touring with Whitesnake is going to be fabulous. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m very, very excited about it.

 

NI ROCKS - We’re flying over to the Glasgow show as well as doing the recently added Belfast show which unfortunately Foreigner isn’t playing. I think you’d already been booked for a show in the Netherlands? It would be great to see the band back in Belfast sometime soon though.

JEFF – Yeah, I hope to get back there too. That’s my home country too you know.

 

NI ROCKS – The band plays ten more shows on the European mainland in June before flying back to the States for forty shows on the Juke Box Heroes tour with Kansas and Europe. That takes you from July right through September. Is that number of shows normal or is that an exceptionally busy time?

JEFF – That’s pretty normal for us. We do over 100 shows a year. We just don’t believe in taking breaks (laughs). Not much anyway! We do actually occasionally and that’s when I’m able to do these other projects. We work hard – we’re a hard working band, but it’s worked! Foreigner has been brought back to a high profile now and I know that’s due to the hard work that we’ve done; as well of course as the great catalogue of songs Foreigner has. We’re trying to strike while the iron is hot.

 

NI ROCKS – The last studio album from Foreigner was “Can’t Slow Down” back in 2009. You’ve stated previously that there are no plans for another studio album. Do you foresee any circumstances under which that might change?

JEFF – Well, I do think that there is going to be more new material. I don’t quite yet envision a whole record because as I said we tour year round, so it would be very hard. We have a lot of people employed and everything else. It would be hard to pull up the stakes and stop everything to write, rehearse and record a whole new record. What I do see us doing is some new material. I see a couple of songs being added to whatever package we come out with at some point in late 2020 or early 2021; something like that. I do think there will be some new material, just not a whole record.


NI ROCKS – The latest Foreigner release was the live CD / DVD “Double Vision – Then And Now”. I thought we’d play something from that next. Which track would you pick and why?

JEFF – I would pick; this is going to be an odd one, “Headknocker”. It’s just a really great version of the song. It was just one of those magical things – when we heard it back we went ‘wow, this is great’. We didn’t touch it and it’s raw, but really great. I’m very excited about it and I think it will be a fun track for your listeners to hear. It rocks!


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NI ROCKS – You have a long history of course of working with George Lynch since 1983  – from Dokken, through Lynch / Pilson, T&N and more recently The End Machine. Last year you released The End Machine album alongside George and former Lynch Mob members Mick Brown and Robert Mason. What led to the formation of The End Machine and are we likely to see any further albums from that band?

JEFF – It’s actually kinda funny. It actually started off with George calling me because he was asked to work on a Jack Russell solo LP. He said ‘I want to do this; do you want to write with me on it?’ I said ‘sure that’s great’. So, we got together and started writing, but by the time we’d got together to start writing the whole Jack Russell thing had gone away, and I don’t really know what happened to that! I never even asked Jack! I probably should one of these days; but anyway, we got together to start writing anyway. We love to write together, so it doesn’t take much of an excuse for us to want to write together. We started putting this material together and the first thought was ‘wow, is this like Dokken maybe’ or leading to Dokken? So we called Don and he said if it’s going to be a Dokken reunion that’s a whole other can of worms; and he was right. That would be a different situation. But then Serafino actually suggested getting Mick Brown involved, so we called Mick and he said yes that he would like to do it. We started sending the music to him and he started doing the drums and it came out amazing. By that point we had spoken with Robert Mason – I forget if it was Serafino’s or my idea, but I had just worked with Robert on a Warrant record and I’ve known Robert for years. I knew he was a great singer and all that, but when I was working with him on the Warrant record I was really impressed with his writing capabilities and his overall musicality. I knew bringing him into the project would really bring it up a notch, and sure enough he came in and just kicked ass. The guy is one phenomenal voice and a great talent. Once we had the record together it just flowed, it came out naturally.

I hope we do another record. We’re definitely working on trying to make it happen. Again, scheduling and all that stuff gets in the way. That was something that we did not see as just a one-off project; we wanted to turn that into a band thing, so hopefully we can get something together and do another record. That’s definitely something we all talk about. We’re all friends. I’m not sure if Mick Brown would be into it as Mick has kind of retired now. He showed interest in maybe doing it, but I’m not going to twist his arm. I want him to want to do it; not to be talked into it. So we’ll see, but in the meantime, George and I talk all the time, so something is going to happen.


NI ROCKS – I see Don and George are actually working together on some Dokken shows later this year. Would that be something you’d be interested in doing? If you were able to schedule it is that something that you’d be keen to do as well?

JEFF – I would be keen to do it if my schedule wasn’t a problem, but then that would make it a Dokken reunion (laughs), so we’d have to approach that differently; but yeah, who knows. It all comes down to scheduling.

 

 

NI ROCKS – We’ll play a track from The End Machine album later in the Show. Can you pick a track and tell us something about it?

JEFF – Personally, my very favourite song on the album is a song called “Burn The Truth”. It’s kind of an epic tune. It starts very melodically and then ends up real heavy at the end. I know that it’s all of our favourite song on the record, so I think that would be a good one to play.

 

 

NI ROCKS – That album from The End Machine was produced by you and you’ve a great reputation as a producer. With your commitments to Foreigner is it difficult to commit to producing albums for other bands or how do you try to balance those two things?

JEFF – It’s tricky; no question it’s tricky. Not impossible, but tricky. I’ve got really good at time management (laughs). I really have to make use of every second and be wise about how I spend all my time. It can be tricky but I tend to work it out. Fortunately, I have an amazing studio connected to my house so I’m able to....at least when I’m home....I’m able to do things at home and get a lot done. And I have a studio with me when I’m on the road so that I can get a lot of work done too. I just don’t believe in sleep! (laughs)


NI ROCKS – You produced the first Last In Line album that was released in 2016 as well as the second album which was released last year. I believe the band has now left the Frontiers label and have started work on their third album. Will you be involved with that album?

JEFF – I kinda doubt it. Again because of scheduling. And honestly, they can pretty much do it themselves at this point. Phil Soussan is involved with the band and he’s a talented producer on his own. I don’t think that they would need me. We haven’t really talked about it, but I think that they are going to be fine on their own. They’ve got plenty of talent within the band to do it themselves. I was glad....I love those guys personally, they’re all really dear friends of mine....and I loved doing the records. It was really great and inspiring and fun; and I’d love it if I did have the time to do another one. I also know that they can’t sit around waiting for me (laughs). I know they’re going to come up with a great record.

 

 

NI ROCKS – As we’ve talked about, you’ve got a pretty full diary for the next nine months. Are there any other recording or producing projects on the horizon that you’re trying to fit into that schedule?

JEFF – Yes actually. I just recorded a song with Steven Adler from Guns n Roses.

NI ROCKS – Yes, you performed on his comeback album a few years ago didn’t you?

JEFF – That’s correct. We’ve just recorded a song with his new singer; a guy by the name of Ariel Kamin who is just phenomenal. He is Argentinian. I was so glad to get that band in the studio and record. He had two great guitar players in Michael Thomas and AJ James. They’re great players and great writers. The track came out unbelievable. So I’m hoping that sometime this year  we can start and hopefully finish by the end of the year a new record with that. Steven is ready to go and he is playing amazing. The magic of his playing needs to be out there. He brings too much excitement to a band not to be making records right now.

NI ROCKS – I really like his previous album; I can’t remember the name of it off the top of my head!

JEFF – “Back From The Dead”.

NI ROCKS – Yes, that was a great album.

JEFF – Yes I know. That was another writing team who I thought were phenomenal – Jacob Bunton and Lonny Paul. Amazing guys. But his band now is a little bit closer to a Guns n’ Roses sound all round; especially with Ariel, his new singer. I think the time is right and hopefully we’re going to have a record by the end of the year.


NI ROCKS – We’ll go back to the Black Swan album for our final question. We’ve played two tracks already – “Shake the World” and “Big Disaster”. Was there another track on the album which really means something to you – either from the song writing perspective or just how it developed as a song?

JEFF – There’s a ballad called “Make It There” that I think is just phenomenal. It’s Robin telling a story and his vocal on it and the lyrics are just phenomenal. It’s writing on a par that few people reach. There’s also a song called “Divided United” which is the last song on the record and I’m really proud of that. It’s  an adventurous tune (laughs). It was inspired by....I literally came home from watching the Queen movie and I walked in the door and sat down on my piano and basically played what is the first half of the song. I recorded it on my cell-phone and then slowly, but surely came up with the words; although I was singing the chorus right away. It came to me right away. I’m really excited about that track. Alessandro Del Vecchio who mixed the record did an incredible job because it is a very complex tune – there’s a lot of stuff going on. He made it just flow and it just sounds amazing. Robin’s vocal on that track just kills me every time. I would love to have your listeners hear that song and see what they think because it’s an involved one!

 

 

NI ROCKS – We’ll play that one for you. That is all the questions that I have Jeff and again thanks for taking some time to talk to us.

JEFF – My pleasure and I hope we get to do this again

 

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Last Updated (Sunday, 15 August 2021 22:58)