One thing I DO like about this MySpace page, however, is the blog integration for longer thoughts and interviews, like the one below. Michael Regan and I have done a few of these together, and I always enjoy them - he asks great questions and it helps me capture a lot of stuff in one swing.
A lot has happened since our last exchange, and I hope you'll enjoy the details... and hope to see you on the road this fall with FOREIGNER!
Hi Jeff! It's been a while since we've done an interview together, and as usual, you have plowed thru a LOT of work in the process... Seriously, where do you get all of your artistic energy from?
The love of music. It really is what propels me.
Most of your fans know that you started touring with FOREIGNER back in 2004, and the band has been an amazing force over the past 8 years together... What is the secret to this band's prolific success?
Great songs, no doubt about it. It doesn't hurt that the band kicks ass, but it really is the timeless power of the songs that brings people back.
Even in an era of touring to make a living, the band has still managed to get back in the studio and record together, most recently the "Feels Like the First Time" release. Any great stories from your sessions that give us a glimpse of Foreigner in the creative process?
My favorite story comes from the recording of the Acoustique portion of the record. We were recording at a very nice studio in New York, and Sting was in the studio right below us. As many of you know, I get very "into it" when I play, so when we finished a particular take, the guy from the studio came in and said Sting had asked for whoever was banging their foot in the studio above, to please stop. That would be me!!!! Anyways this studio is used to recording full-on bands all the time, so how my foot stomping was the louder than a drum kit is beyond me. But I guess Sting is very sensitive!!!
Some fans will also ask about the motivation to re-record the songs that originally defined FOREIGNER... What can you tell us about why some artists like Mick Jones have recently chosen this route with their classic catalog?
Originally Mick didn't want to do it, he worried it could be conceived of as cheesy or exploitive. But then the demand came from fans who have fallen in love with this line-up and really wanted to hear us do the classics. It really was out of devotion to the fans that Mick agreed to do it. And that's a big thing and says a lot about Mick. People probably don't realize how painful it can be for an artist (who also, remember, was pretty much the producer the first time around) to revisit such a huge part of his life and work. And it's not exactly like the original versions are easy to top. I think doing it was a bigger struggle for Mick than people realize. How do you replay your life's work and success without pain and a struggle?
Speaking of Mick Jones, how is he doing? The fans of his music have be incredibly grateful that he has kept this band going as a touring band, because these songs are just amazing in a live venue... Can you share any updates on his health or his future plans for the band?
He's doing great. I don't have all the details on his health, but I know he's looking and feeling the best he's been in years. We're hoping he's back soon, but only when the time is right. I know he's mentioned he's anxious to get "back in the saddle again"!!!!!
Let's shift gears and look at another aspect of your future by taking a brief look back... You have told us in the past about the good efforts to reunite Dokken in 2010, but most fans have now accepted that this may never come to pass. Any thoughts about ever working with Don again?
Well never is truly a long time, so I would never say never!!! I actually have a feeling that someday a situation will present itself where either myself or the band work with Don again. There's just too much history there. And it's not unfriendly at this point. George and Don see each other at mutual gigs and talk and laugh together. But it probably won't be any time too soon. These days plans have to be made fairly far in advance to coordinate effectively, so with Foreigner, Lynch Mob, T&N, etc., I just don't think it's a Don or Dokken time for me anytime soon. But that's not a negative, nor is it aimed at Don- it's just the way it is.
Clearly a positive experience from those efforts was getting you back in the studio with George Lynch again. Tell us about the original recordings you captured with George & Brian Tichy last year... How special is making music with your friend Mr. Scary?
George and I have a chemistry which has only grown through the years. He's really my musical soul mate- and I tell him so. Something magical happens when we concentrate- and it's a huge creative high for both of us. The genesis of this record (T&N) was that when the Dokken thing didn't happen, George and I had already started writing with Dokken in mind. In fact Don had even come out and worked with us on a few things- quite successfully. But when the reunion went away, George then asked if I'd like to write on a new Lynch Mob record- and of course I said yes! Oni was in Switzerland at the time, so the plan was to have all the music ready by the time he arrived (there was some kind of a deadline at that point) and he'd write and record the vocals and be done. So George and I got very inspired and wrote an album's worth of stuff. We then got Brian (Tichy) to do the drums and we had the music ready. Then one thing led to another, and Oni really couldn't get himself wrapped around the music. He wanted to start from scratch, so we were left with an album in the can- unfinished- but something George and I loved very much. I do, in retrospect, see where from Oni's point of view this wasn't really Lynch Mob material, but we did have a strong vibe about it nonetheless. Then it was Brian who suggested we do a record calling ourselves Tooth and Nail and getting Mick Brown. The name issue aside, I then thought it'd be cool if we left the stuff with Brian alone (his drumming is positively brilliant on this) but got Mick and redid some Dokken songs (gee- I wonder where I got THAT idea???!!!). Next thing you know, 12 Dokken tracks later (5 of which are on this first release)- and with the new stuff we had (we settled on 7), we have a record. By that point I had gotten all inspired and wrote a bunch of lyrics and melodies, then worked with George (and on one song with Brian as well) and finished the vocal tracks. We were over the moon. We then got guest vocalists involved, all of whom really delivered the goods, and now we have quite a record here.
At some point one of you decided to call Mick Brown and revisit some classic Dokken tracks... And then someone said, lets get dUg Pinnick to sing one, and Sebastian Bach, and so on... That must have been fun. How did the three of you feel back in that familiar studio territory together?
With Mick it was exactly as it's always been- which is great. The three of us had so much fun cutting these tracks, and I think it really shows in the arrangements. There's an energy that comes through in the music which can only be described as that "X factor"!!! And the vocalists- wow did they blow me away. Sebastian came in with a cold, but ended up delivering a vocal track that gives me goose bumps every time I hear it. He was amazing. Doug, a favorite of George and mine for many years now, was absolutely on fire. Ripper, Robert- all great! It was so fun watching these guys do their magic. Those are the moments that make me feel so lucky to be doing what I do.
So we have original tracks with George and Brian that feature your vocals, and then classic tracks with you, Mick, and George with guest vocalists... That's an interesting mix. What drove you to add Dokken songs to the process, and what do you hope your fans will experience when they hear this release from start to finish?
Well I really did get the idea from Foreigner, and seeing how much fans love that. Plus it's a great way to honor the legacy while introducing new material. Why separate them? I think enough time has passed where we can accept how important the Dokken material is to our legacy and fans, but still keep it fresh and alive. We did take a few turns on the material that probably couldn't have happened on a record in 1984, but which felt real and inspired today. That's one upside of where we are in our careers today- we can do that sort of thing. And I think as long as it comes from the heart, our fans are right there with us. Our hope is that when people hear this whole record, they hear new music and hear a relevance to the Dokken material that ties it all together.
Lets face it -today your tools in the studio are pretty amazing. Is it tempting for you or George to take a song written 25 years ago and completely change things or was there a consensus to work hard to retain the creative elements of the original recording?
On most of the songs we essentially started with the original arrangement, but then when we felt it, allowed our inspiration to take us wherever it was going. So we stay pretty true to the original recordings, but add a few elements that give it a freshness to keep it exciting. I'm very happy with the results, and extremely anxious for people to hear it.
With a whole batch of songs in the can, you had two major issues to address - naming the band and finding a label that would release the recording. Let's start with the name... That was a bit of a fiasco - what can you share?
The original idea (Brian Tichy's) was to call it Tooth and Nail, for obvious reasons. But let's just say we chose to call it T&N. That's a happy medium.
With the name now secured, tell us about the second step - distribution. Many artists today self record, produce, and promote. What led you to catalog these songs as a traditional CD and seek a label to promote the T&N brand of hard rock music?
We're not in a position yet where George and I could distribute a record as effectively as a good label, so it was important to find one. And I think, fingers crossed, we struck gold. In Europe we're on the label Foreigner is on, Edel Records, and they do such incredible work. They have the old school mentality of building an artist and standing behind the record, but they're savvy enough in the new school ways to get the record out there effectively. In Japan we're on a label I don't know much about (WHD) but have heard only great things. They've so far shown to really get the record and be strongly behind it. Then in America we're on a relatively new label but one that has us very excited and that's Rat Pack Records. Their owner is a visionary who is on a mission- and we want to be his army!!!!! There will be lots of exciting things happening for T&N this year!
Tell us about some of the tracks... I'm sure there is a story behind your lyrics. Are you inspired by the groove of something you and George create, or do you have stories waiting to be told and the music just brings them out of you?
What really drove us on this record is the inequality we're seeing all around us. The fact that poverty is starting to rise, people are out of work losing their savings, homes, etc. while banks and corporations are experiencing record profits- and holding on to enough cash to get a real recovery going- that's what drives us. With political Super PACs being able to contribute endless funds, we're really entering a dangerous era where money, more than ever, buys power and influence like never before seen. I believe there's a way we can come together, right and left, to stop the threat to democracy that our founders tried so hard to avoid. See, don't get me started!!!!!!
The release date is now aimed at 10/31 - the buzz is already starting... Will you, George, and Mick make time to promote the release with a winter tour or will this look more like your previous L/P project with George and Fro?
The plan is for George, Mick and I to hit the road in November and December while Foreigner has some down time. We're very anxious to take this band live.
Speaking of projects, you also had some fun this spring working on a new recording with Steven Adler. First of all, tell us about his band, then tell us about the music and the role you played in bringing Steven's style of hard rock out into a place where his fans can experience it.
That record was a true joy- and wait til people hear it!!!! His band is absolutely phenomenal! The singer, Jacob Bunton is not only a great singer, but a truly gifted musician and writer as well. He even did some of the guitar solos on the record- the boy can shred!!!! And Lonny Paul, guitarist, is Steven's secret weapon! He's a great guitarist, fabulous writer, and he's the one that keeps everyone together. I played bass on the record, but new bassist Johnny Martin (who joined after the record was done) is absolutely great. And wait'll you hear Steven on this disc. He really does have a quality to his drumming, that when he's locked into a track, it actually becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It's become so evident to me that he really is a tangible reason why Appetite for Destruction has the energy it has, and why it's appeal has become so universal. And isn't that what a recording is all about? Plus the songs are great. Jacob and Lonny are a wonderful songwriting team, and the whole band just has the right attitude. There's a rawness, ala old GnR, but a sophistication to the tracks that makes it all very timeless. I think their fans are going to absolutely love it- and it could appeal to a huge market. Needless to say, I'm very excited about the record and can't wait til they find a home (they're talking to labels now) and the world gets to hear it.
This raises another question, which comes from your many diverse relationships in 30 years of professional recording... You've clearly played with some monstrous talents, but let's focus on the pocket - who are some of the drummers who have truly pushed you to become a better bass player, and what is the secret to an amazing rhythm section?
Great question. That's one area where I've truly been fortunate. I think I've learned from most of the drummers I've played with, but this is what sticks out the most. Mick Brown was the first guy who I really got to learn about deep groove with. He really lived to serve the song which taught me a lot. People think he's a more simple drummer than he actually is, because to him it really is all about the groove. That was a huge lesson. Then with Vinny Appice, I learned heaviness and intensity and he took me to places I'd never been. A lot of magic playing with Vin. Lots of session work with James Kottack that really taught me quickness and intuitiveness- locking in quickly and naturally. Then with Jason Bonham I started learning how to swing in a track. He has such a unique and musical feel- we became quite close. And recently with Mark Schulman, we worked on combining an RnB flavor with a rock feel (I've been going through a "Motown phase" the last few years) that totally got me off. And of course there's Brian (Tichy) who is one monster drummer. Deep grooves, heavy and intense, but spontaneous and creative. Yes, I've been very lucky with drummers.
Beyond drumming, is there any artist that you'd love to collaborate with who you haven't yet met?
Does Paul McCartney count?
How about artists that are influencing your style right now... Whats on your iPod in regular spin cycle, and who are you planning to see in concert when you're not on the road?
I LOVE the last Black Country Communion CD (BCC 2) and can't wait for their new record to come out. That record has me more excited than anything I've heard in years. There are other relatively new things, Muse, Slash's new record, but for the most part I've been listening to a lot of oldies lately.
Ok, so we've covered Foreigner, T&N, and influences... Let's shift gears to another area of passion in your life - the political process. I think it's fair to say that you have, at times, been fairly transparent about your support for our President. He's up for re-election - has he earned the right to lead us for another four years?
While I have my disappointments in the President, I still think he's a far better choice than the alternative. I'm all for paying down the debt (I personally would love to see much of Simpson-Bowles enacted), but I think it's far more reasonable to increase the tax rate on the rich to 39.6% from 35% (not that that would solve nearly everything) than it is on making Medicare a voucher program that really only enriches insurance companies. I'm one of those that believe that the case for supply side "trickle down" economics has never been met. It only seems to increase the separation between rich and poor and usually leaves us in further debt. All the non-partisan analyses of Romney's budget say that, unless growth were to become vastly greater than projected, it would increase the deficit significantly more than Obama would. It only makes sense that decreasing revenue with tax cuts (unless they're vastly surpassed by spending cuts- which are politically difficult) results in greater deficits. Besides, we tried redistributing to the rich with W, and that didn't create the jobs we were promised under that plan. Those are just some of the stark differences that affect my decision.
Let's make it a little more personal... When do you suddenly decide to throw your ring in the hat at some level of public service? And if you did, what would make you a great lawmaker or leader?
I don't think I'd ever be much of an actual public leader, I'm not strong enough a personality. But I'd love to see George (Lynch, not Bush!!!) run for something. He's extremely knowledgable and passionate about so many things. He'd have his heart in the right place and he's willing to fight for what he believes. If T&N can just be a voice of support for true democracy, I think we'd be real happy. I encourage debate and think the country as a whole needs a lot more of it. Our biggest problem right now is that our leaders are so politically motivated that the good of the country comes second. THAT is wrong.
Finally, open season - as we head into the fall of 2012, anything you'd like to tell us about before we wrap up?
Just make sure and vote- but make an informed decision. Don't just listen to the sound bites- investigate. So much is at stake. With a much better informed citizenry, both left and right would have to act more urgently and practically. Yes it is my belief that Republicans in Congress- the extreme right in particular- have done a huge disservice to the process by making obstructionism a priority. But I don't believe I have all the answers, or that Democrats have been saints either. I think both sides need to be heard, but in a rational way- not so infused with idealogy and politics that nothing gets done. It all comes back to the people, remember We The People? That's still where the power can lie- if we don't allow apathy and ignorance to let it get away!
Jeff, you are a man of many gifts, and your fans have always appreciated your passion for music, your transparency about the business of music, and your ability to see beyond music itself - you really see the voice of the soul in this artistic expression. Thanks for all you do to share the love of hard rock music in the many diverse ways you are able to it - and thanks for your time!
Thanx so much. GREAT interview. And when they're like that, it's absolutely my pleasure and privilege!