There is something to be said for reinventing the self and then also much to be embraced in sustaining a strong connection to the past. This is just what Jeff Pilson has done and continues to do.
Jeff Pilson began his musical journey at a very young age learning cello. Advance a few years and you would find him at college majoring in string bass. Fast forward just a little bit and he is playing electric bass in a heavy rock band, sporting the requisite 80’s hair and co-authoring a title track for one of the decade’s most successful horror franchises „A Nightmare on Elm Street”. The song, „Dream Warriors” (which he performed with his band at the time Dokken) was featured on their platinum album „Back For the Attack”.
The first trigger for change came soon after this success in the late 80’s. „I think the biggest challenge for me came at the end of the 80’s/early 90’s. Suddenly with the coming of the „alternative” revolution, all my work with Dokken was considered old and uncool- overnight. So I had to reinvent how I wanted my career to be.” On top of all this Pilson was battling a significant substance abuse problem at the time. „It took some doing. But with a lot of help, work and contemplation, it allowed me to fall in love with music again, and to listen to my heart. So far it hasn’t let me down.” That path saw him as a member of the heavy metal group „Dio” for several years during the 90’s while also recording and releasing 4 albums with his own band under the names Flesh & Blood and War & Peace. Yet another reinvention of self came to be when he was offered a role in the 2001 released film „Rock Star” where he played bass player Jorgen alongside Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston.
In early 2004 Pilson reinvented himself once again but this time by embracing the past. Foreigner was searching for a new bassist and Pilson took the position and has never looked back. „The best thing is getting to play those wonderful songs with such a great band night after night. For a touring musician, it doesn’t get any better than that!” Now approaching his tenth year with the band the next six months, not uncharacteristically, are busy. „I’m trying to finish 3 records off before the touring season gets really busy. I’m producing a Starship record with Mickey Thomas that’s coming out amazing. We’re hoping that’s done in the next couple weeks. Then I’m doing a record with Kill Devil Hill (Vinny Appice- Dio/Black Sabbath, Rex Brown-Pantera) which isn’t slated to come out til fall. We’re about half done. That record is sick. The songs, playing and singing are all stellar. Then I’m doing a record with singer/songwriter Paul Gold- which is a great collection of songs, and plan to start writing with George Lynch for the next T&N record. All the rest of the time I’ll be touring with Foreigner. Trust me, sleep is highly overrated!!!!” The next tour stops for Foreigner include South America, Europe and several dates in the United States.
As one can imagine, with so many projects on the docket and a touring schedule Pilson relies on some key pieces of gear to make it all work. He credits his new Radial JD-7 Injector (Guitar distro and splitter) with the sound he is getting on the new Kill Devil Hill project. „Mark (Zavon, guitarist) has some great amps and his sound is really a combination of them. I was trying other ways of combining amps and it was working, but very noisy and unpredictable. We also couldn’t keep the heads in the control room, which is a drag. Then along comes the Injector and suddenly it’s noise free and punchy as hell. It took the sound to a new level. And we could keep the heads in the control room which frees you in so many ways. It really wouldn’t sound anywhere near the same without it. This has given me the inspiration to want to try other things like reamping with multiple amps all at the same time, which the Injector allows me to do. How cool is that???”
Clearly not one to rest on his laurels, Pilson hopes to reconnect with the cello. „It’s such a beautiful instrument.” He then offers with more evidence of humility and a sense of humour. „Other than that, next I’d like to get really good at mixing – cuz right now I suck!”