Foreigner Bassist Jeff Pilson Talks New Starship Album, T&N and Dokken
Jeff Pilson is a busy man. In addition to his regular role as Foreigner's bassist, he's also been dividing his time with a host of other projects.
He's working with other former Dokken members George Lynch and Mick Brown on the next T&N album, and he's just finished producing the upcoming Kill Devil Hill album and Loveless Fascination, the first new Starship album featuring Mickey Thomas in almost 25 years.
Below, we discuss all the projects mentioned above and a whole lot more.
GUITAR WORLD: How did you get involved with Mickey Thomas' new Starship project?
It started off from a songwriting angle. I was working with another producer on a project, and he ended up hearing a bunch of my songs. He also was working with Mickey Thomas at the time and said, "What would you think if I worked these songs with Mickey Thomas, who's planning on doing another Starship record?" I loved Mickey and already had the songs available, so I said, "Sure, why not?" He started working with Mickey on the album, but things just didn't work out. That's when I got involved as the producer as well.
What's your approach to producing a Starship album as opposed to something by Foreigner, T&N or Dokken?
For every project you do, you have to respect it as its own entity. You just use your experience to go in and decide what's the best way to approach every aspect of making the album. From the songwriting and rehearsing, to the pre-production and recording. Each project has its own unique character, and it's one of the things that makes producing so fun. With Starship, it was a little different because they were using mostly my songs, so I had a clue ahead of time. I just needed to find out where Mickey wanted to go with them and then make it happen.
What was it like working with Mickey?
It was an easy, smooth working relationship. It was also very inspired, and as a result, it's very uncluttered.
Tell me a little about how you wrote the song "Loveless Fascination."
It started off in a hotel room a few years ago. I was just playing around and the opening riff came to me. I remember I was using a John Bonham drum loop to get me started [laughs]. A lot of the music I had worked out in my hotel room and then when I got home, I started working on vocal melodies. Lyrically, I always try to be honest with what I'm feeling. A lot of what I write is what's going through my mind at the time. Sometimes I'll try to get into a storytelling state of mind, and other times it's more social consciousness. I see what's going on around me and I react to it.
Can you give us an update on T&N?
George [Lynch] and I are planning to start writing again sometime in the fall. We've already completed recording the basic tracks for seven more Dokken songs [along with drummer Mick Brown]. We really have to write only half a record, but when George and I get together, we tend to write a lot. So we'll see what happens. The plan is to write half new stuff and then bring in more guest vocalists for the Dokken material with the goal of having it out by the fall of 2014. Touring-wise, it's difficult to commit right now, but we'd love to figure out a way to make it happen sometime at the end of next year.
What other projects are you working on?
I've just finished producing an album for Kill Devil Hill [Rex Brown, Vinny Appice, Mark Zavon and Dewey Bragg]. We just finished a few weeks ago, and that will be coming out sometime late fall. I'm very excited about that one as well. It's great music, songwriting and playing.
Have you always been a bassist?
The very first thing I learned was the cello when I was 11. It wasn't until the following year that I started playing bass. When I was 13, I moved from the Midwest to a little town on the West Coast, and it was there that I fell in love with playing. It became my outlet. That's when I really started to get serious about it. From that point on, I knew it was what I wanted to do.
Tell me a little about your current setup.
I’ve got a '73 P-Bass with '66 pickups that I run through an Ampeg SVT (AV, a limited model from a few years ago). In the studio, I use all my basses through Ampeg SVTs, and I also use the Ampeg SVX plug-in from IK Multimedia. It's by far the best bass amp plug-in out there.
Do you see the possibility of a Dokken reunion taking place at some point?
I never want to say never. The problem with a reunion is that it would be even more time-intensive, and right now it's hard enough finding time to do everything I'm involved with, and I know George is involved in a lot of other things as well. So I don't know if a reunion would happen anytime soon, but I certainly would never rule it out.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.
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