The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

MARK TALKS TO JEFF PILSON OF T&N

 

ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM 'SLAVE TO THE EMPIRE', PLANS FOR THE BAND, DOKKEN REUNIONS, FOREIGNER AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

 

 

 

 

Mark: Hi Jeff, It’s great to finally talk to you. We love the new album: the sheer quality of the music on there is fantastic! How upset were you that the name “Tooth and Nail” was taken?

 

 

 

Jeff: Well, annoyed is more probably the word! But, you know what; I’ve come to adjust to T&N quite nicely. I think a name is what you make of it, and I think we are going to make it a good name.

 

 

 

Mark: Yes, it has the quality of becoming a long term project; I remember seeing you on “The Metal Show” with Eddy Trunk talking about this a while ago, and the chemistry was there between you three guys. Do you see it as a long term project, or is it a let’s do a couple of albums and see how it goes?

 

 

 

Jeff: Well, especially for George and I, it is something we’d like to take very far in to the future. He and I have always had a great chemistry and a great working relationship, so to have finally found something that looks like it could be a long term way of having a creative outlet together, we are not going to let go of that very easily. As far as Mick goes and Brian Tichy, we have already recorded seven more tracks with Mick Brown, so he’s definitely in, and we are both huge fans of Brian Tichy, so we’ll probably work on new music with him as long as we can as well. Thing is, George, Brian and I all live very near each other, so it’s fun when we record, and our daughters are real close, so it’s family and great musical companionship, and it’s also incredibly satisfying, so why wouldn’t we do this for as long as possible?

 

 

 

Mark: That’s the answer I was hoping for! As far as the new material is concerned, it’s definitely got that Dokken feel to it, or probably a little bit heavier. Your lead track “Slave to Empire”, is it a coincidence that the new Dokken album has a lead track called “Empire”?!

 

 

 

Jeff: Well, I don’t know! I can’t really speak for Don, but we weren’t aware of his, that’s for sure!! Our title, people have been aware of it now for several months, and I don’t know when Don wrote his song or when he recorded it. As far as I am concerned, it’s a big coincidence!!

 

 

 

Mark: Tell us about some of the new songs on the album. Our favourite “When Eagles Die”, is a particularly great song, the title track of course is another favourite and “Sweet Unknown” was a real standout. How long have these songs been around?

 

 

 

Jeff: Well, the ones that you have just mentioned and in fact seven of the new songs, started from the sessions that George and I did about a year and a half ago, when he approached me to see if I wanted to write with him for a Lynch Mob record. We basically wrote a whole album’s worth of material, in a set of sessions, quite quickly, and that’s where all the music to the songs got written. We did the drums with Brian, about a year ago, and so we had that music sitting around for a year, and then when it didn’t turn in to a Lynch Mob project, I guess around Spring, early Summer, I became inspired to write lyrics and showed them to George, and so it all kind of came together, it was a slow process.

 

 

 

 

 

Mark: Your voice is in great form, it’s been a while, what’s the secret?

 

 

 

Jeff: Listen to a lot of Glenn Hughes!! I don’t know! I don’t think I have a particular secret, I think I just love to sing, and I love to write, so when I can do the two together it’s a great pleasure for me. Also, when I work with George, I think he gets the best out of me. This was just a very inspired project, and so musically it was just where we were in our heads, it just sort of happened. It happened in a very organic way, which is where you want music to happen.

 

 

 

Mark: We obviously get the connection with Robert Mason, singing on the album. I particularly love the version of “It’s not Love” that he did. But people like Doug from King’s X, how do you guys know him?

 

 

 

Jeff: George, Mick and I have been huge King’s X fans forever! We have always loved Doug’s voice, always considered him to be one of the best, and so when the opportunity to get singers happened, why not call Doug? We knew it was going to be tricky to figure out the right song for him to sing, but we are just so excited with what he did and how it came out. He is a great guy and a phenomenal singer, and watching him do that song was really an event.

 

 

 

Mark; I think it’s definitely one of the most interesting of the covers on there, it sort of has a “bluesy” feel, and for a heavy song like that, it does sound really interesting, it’s definitely something new, and I guess you really want something that is not just a replica of the original. I have seen Don and his band a few times over the years and what is infuriating, is that he never plays a different set!! For an artist who is still releasing new material, not to play any of it is almost a crime!! So, when you guys play live, what other material are you going to do? Is it just going to be Dokken stuff?

 

 

 

Jeff: I don’t really know, anything could go at that point! The initial plan would be to play new T&N music, and Dokken music, which right there is plenty!! But you never know, some Lynch Mob, a Lynch/Pilson song, might sneak in there, who knows? The sky’s the limit, and that’s the beautiful thing about T&N, it doesn’t have the constraints that an ordinary band has. It has a much more open feel to it, this is partly by design and we wanted it this way. It’s a creative outlet and a labour of love; it’s not a business move, we want to do it for musical pleasure and to give the fans a little something back. So, why not do different things in fresh and creative ways.

 

 

 

Mark: So, will you be handling all the Dokken vocals on tour, or bring in special guests?

 

 

 

Jeff: We would get a fourth guy, definitely. Don’t know when that would be, as my work with Foreigner takes up a lot of my time. But when it does, we will be talking to Michael Sweet, of Stryper. Not only is he a great singer, he’s also a great guitar player. Some of the songs that I am singing, he can be playing guitar, which will be really cool. We know he’s up for it, so we are really excited about it, hoping that it can happen when T&N finally hits the road.

 

 

 

Mark: Are you looking at festivals or a tour? Anything solid at this stage?

 

 

 

Jeff: To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t know at this point, because Foreigner is a full time thing, so it kind of has to work around that. Plus, George has a lot of other things going on, so it’s probably not going to be until after the next record, so a little hard to say when and how that would be, but we’ll do our best to come up with something.

 

 

 

Mark: My friends in Oklahoma would kill me if I didn’t throw the name Rocklahoma, in to the room for you!

 

 

 

Jeff: Again, we would love to do all of that, it’s a question of timing and scheduling, and being able to put the band together. We’ll figure out something!!

 

 

 

Mark; Can I ask you a question that you probably get all the time?? Any chance of a Dokken reunion?

 

 

 

Jeff; Listen, it’s not like we are constantly against it, at all. It always looms as a possibility. There have been many times over the years when I have thought, I guess the demand is not there any more, but it appears to go on, so I could never say that it will never happen. What I will say is that, speaking of all that scheduling, trying to throw a Dokken reunion in there would be really difficult! With T&N, because George and I are neighbours and friends, it’s a little easier to connect with on so many levels, and even then we have difficulties doing all the things we really want to! With a Dokken reunion that would be a bigger commitment, and I just don’t know when that could happen in the immediate future.

 

 

 

Mark: We always hope that it will happen, but then Don always comes and says something!

 

 

 

Jeff: Well there are all those outside elements as well!! I think between the four of us, we’re pretty much past all that stuff. I get e mails from Don, we have our form of communication, it’s not really in a negative state, it does come down to the fact that it would be really hard to pull all that together. Plus, he just put out a new record and we did, so it’s hard to think about that, right now.

 

 

 

Mark: The last time I saw Don, was at the Rock in America festival in 2010, and George was there with Lynch Mob, and playing at the after party, but all Don said he was doing was going to bed! You always hope that you'll be there when things like that happen!

 

 

 

Jeff: Hey, I understand that, we are not getting any younger, and it is pretty tiring! There’s always bad stuff going backwards and forwards in this band because we are a bunch of nuts!! But, for the most part it really does come down to scheduling. Honestly, I’m really happy at the moment, I’m enjoying the T&N situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark: Let’s talk about Foreigner for a moment. You’ve been with them for a number of years now, and the live album they released recently was fantastic. How are things going on that front?

 

 

 

Jeff: It’s going great. We just did a live broadcast from the Grammy Museum, in LA the other night, and Mick Jones joined us for an unplugged set that was really special, really magical. That was aired on access TV, and was also recorded on film, so I’m sure that will come out some time next year, it was a real phenomenal performance. We are getting ready to do lots of touring next year.

 

 

 

Mark; Foreigner has been to Australia a number of times over the years. Any plans to come over again?

 

 

 

Jeff; I have heard words, and this is probably premature, that we may be coming to Australia in the Spring.

 

 

 

Mark: That would be amazing. We’ve already got Deep Purple, Journey and Black Sabbath coming over early next year, so Foreigner as well would be great news! If I could ask you a quick question about Ronnie, any memories of your days with Dio?

 

 

 

Jeff: Well, yes of course. There is barely a day goes by that I don’t think about Ronnie. He was such an amazing person and an incredible musician, and he was one in a million, there are so few people that are that wonderful deep human beings and he was. I miss him incredibly, and it was one of the highlights of my life playing in that band. When he, I, Vinnie, Scott and Tracy G were in the band it was a rocking evening!! We were powerful and at that point it was the most powerful thing I’d ever been in. It changed my life, it really did, it was one of the few times Ronnie ever had much background singing going on, as he used to let me sing backgrounds with him. It was mostly his voice, but I’d harmonise with him, and we would just look at each other and I could tell he was getting off too, and you just knew that we had something really, really special. So, my memories of him are so incredible, it’s a musical highlight that I will never forget! I’m grateful for it, and thank God his music will live on forever, because his spirit sure does.

 

 

 

Mark: If you could have been the fly on the wall for the creation of any piece of music, at any point in time, what would it have been and why?

 

 

 

Jeff: Beethoven’s Fifth, because to me that is still one of the most ageless, powerful, melodic, catchy pieces of music in history! I was in Vienna a few years ago and the apartment that he lived in when he wrote that piece is actually a little museum, and they still have the piano that he wrote it on. It’s one of the more magical situations I’ve been in, I always feel in a way, on some psychic level, I was there!! Usually he would take walks and that’s where the melodies would come to him, and he’d come back and work them out. So, I would have loved to be there, because that piece of music is timeless and people will still be listening to that a thousand years from now.

 

 

 

Mark: It’s amazing the number of musicians we speak to, who resonate with classical music in particular. Finally, our question we ask everyone. What is the meaning of life?

 

 

 

Jeff: The meaning of life is love and existence, and the connection that love can give to us all. I think meaning is something we interpret as human beings with our minds, so I think in a sense of reality I don’t think there’s really a meaning to life, but there is a connection to life. We can only hope we are evolving to a better place with all that.

 

 

 

Mark: When are we likely to see the rest of the material released? Is it something you are looking to turn over quite quickly?

 

 

 

Jeff: Not necessarily, it’s going to depend on when we get a chance to write. George and I generally write very quickly when we get the chance, so it’s a question of when we get together to write, and we are in no particular hurry. Our next order of business, is, we have a couple of unplugged things to do. On December 12th we are going to be doing a rock line, and play a couple of songs unplugged on that, and at the end of this month we plan on doing a video for “When Eagles Die”, which we want to make quite a statement with, so there’s going to be a lot of planning for that.

 

 

 

Mark: A great choice, it’s definitely my favourite on the album.

 

 

 

Jeff: It’s my favourite too, we are gearing up for that, then I’m on holidays, and then we go on the road with Foreigner. So, who knows exactly when, but when we get the chance to write, and record, and find some singers, actually Mick Brown has sung one and it sounds amazing. We need to finish off the tracks and get going!

 

 

 

Mark: Thank you so much for your time, it’s wonderful to finally catch up with you. Let’s hope T&N and Foreigner will both find there way over to Australia, I know George likes it here!

 

 

 

Jeff: Thank you, Mark, this has been a real pleasure, I really like these Skype interviews, and keep in touch.

 

 

 

 

By Mark Diggins