Jeff Pilson

Interview-Jeff Pilson

Barbara Fara
MusicIncider Magazine

I got the chance to speak with Jeff Pilson (formerly of Dokken) recently. I found him to be perfect for MusicIncider. He is not afraid to speak the truth as he sees it.

MI-What is your birthday?

JP- January 19th

MI-When and how did you first become interested in music? How long have you been playing?

JP-I have been playing a long time. What first got me was that I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan like a lot of people in that era. I was a very very little kid and it freaked me out. I couldn’t believe it, and it just changed my life instantaneously. Although it was years later that I became a musician, I have no question that the seeds were planted firmly that first night. The man who is now my brother-in-law (he was my sister’s boyfriend at the time) had brought the album over and I already knew all the songs. When I saw them on television that was it. That was when the mindset happened.

MI-Tell me about your music history.

JP-I started playing when I was twelve as far as actually playing. I was in the sixth grade, and I was walking around singing songs on the playground. I remember some guys came up to me and said-hey we want to start a band and we want you to be the singer. We don’t have a bass player, so could you play bass as well? I said I don’t know. I don’t have a bass; I don’t know anything about it. ---One of their older brothers was somebody that was selling a bass and I had a paper route. So I saved up the money and got a bass and an amp. I just started playing, but that band never happened. As the years moved on, we ended up moving to the state of Washington when I was thirteen. As soon as we moved, I was very estranged. We moved and I was the new kid and that whole thing. So, right at that point of adolescence, music and I got married. That was the thing that saved me from that whole wile experience. It was a real culture shock for me. Music is what got me through it. So, during the course of junior high and high school I realized that this is what I had to do. This was my calling. There was no question that music was my thing. So, I played in various bands in junior high and high school. I started playing clubs when I was fifteen. My last couple of years of school were a lot of times playing five or six nights a week. I had cool teachers, and I still got great grades and they let me by. I decided I was going to go study music at the University of Washington. I did. I didn’t last more than a couple of years. I wanted to rock, but I did study music there. I got a little bit of a basis there even though I think most of my education has come from just playing. Then, I just played in various bands around Seattle. I went to San Francisco and did some stuff there. The first record I ever did was a thing called Black Justice in 1980 where I played the singer in this rock opera that actually didn’t go anywhere-but we did do a record on EMI and it was my first kind of foray into professionalism. Then I went on to play with a guy by the name of Randy Hansen who also did a record in 1980-in fact did it next door to me-and that’s where we became very very good friends-and we also knew each other from Seattle. Randy was known for doing a tribute to Jimmy Hendrix. When we started playing together we decided we would do a band where we did half his songs and half my songs. I would sing half, and he would sing half. We had a great time with that band and it was a wonderful experience, but it was 1982. Skinny ties and The Knack were in, Flock of Seagulls-and we were in trouble. We were playing really heavy progressive rock. Exactly what they wouldn’t have signed right then. So, I got very frustrated and in 1983 moved to Los Angeles. There was this amazing rock scene going on. That was a very positive experience, and within six months I joined Dokken. Dokken broke up in 1989. I did various things. I played with MSG for a while. I played with DIO for a couple of records and tours and that was great. I had a couple of my own bands, and then Dokken reformed in 1994 and I did that until the end of 2000.

MI-Tell me about your latest music project.

JP-The latest thing I am doing is this record with George Lynch. The record is called Wicked Underground. It came out April 22nd. We are both really excited about it. For us, it is kind of a dream come true, because it is something we have wanted to do since we started working together 20 years ago. We always had a real strong writing chemistry together. To be able to finally do a record of just the two of us has been really a dream come true. It has been a lot of fun. I think we came out with a great record. The response has been really a wonderful thing for me. Everybody seems to be really enjoying it and that has made a big difference to us. I would like to say I am just really grateful for the opportunities like this.

MI-What else do you do besides play music?

JP-I pretty much do that full time. When I am not doing that, I am doing more music. I have got a War and Peace record that I am pretty much nearly finished with. I have got all the songs written and most of them recorded. I am going to bring in guitar players to do the solos. I want to bring in various named guys to do the solos-so that still has to be done. I didn’t want it to come out to close to the Lynch/Pilson record anyway, so that works out fine. I’ve got that, plus I have been doing a lot of music production stuff. Music really is my life. Other than that, it’s the wife and the dog.

MI-Do you believe in psychics? Why or why not?

JP-I think there are a great deal of fake psychics out there. I do believe in psychic energy totally-and why? I think thoughts are a physical thing that exist on a far more subtle level. The ability to read thoughts is not at all that incredible a thing. I think it’s just a matter of having the receptives to pick up those kinds of subtleties. Thought waves are pretty much like electric waves, only on an even more subtle level. I do believe not only that they exist but that everybody has degrees of psychic awareness. Some have more than others. Those who are much more open and are less controlled by limitations and conditioning I think have a more open receptivity to psychic energy. So, yes I believe in it. Absolutely.

MI-Who are your musical influences and why?

JP-My last couple of years I have become a Radiohead fanatic-so Radiohead has become a large influence. I think the Beatles were my number one. Beatles, Zepplin, AC/DC. Then I went through a period of Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, General Giant, Genesis and all that stuff was my thing. Today, I love everything. I love the Queens of the Stone Age. I love the Deftones. I still love Radiohead-I am not as crazy about their last couple of records. I still love their music. Pretty much anything of quality. I just like good music. A good song. A good melody. I like the Dixie Chicks. I think they have great songs. It is less about categories for me, and more about quality.

MI-Have you ever inhaled?

JP-Oh, of course. I lived in Seattle, let me tell you that.

MI-What do you think about the war with Iraq? What are your thoughts on Eddie Vedder and the Dixie Chicks onstage actions concerning the war and the president?

JP-Honestly, I feel like this is an unjust war. I feel our place in this war is unjust. I think Saddam Hussein is a total scumbag. Him being out of office is not a bad thing. I think for us to go into a country and simply initiate a war is wrong. We pretty much did that unilaterally and without the UN approval. I just think it is wrong. As far as the Dixie Chicks and what she said, I totally understand. I think you have to be very careful when you make political statements. Making them onstage is always kind of a hit or miss situation. Honestly, I don’t think what she did was wrong. I think that the consequences of this war and the actions that the United States are taking right now are so severe and that this is such a critical issue-ordinarily I don’t like combining music and politics-but in this case, whatever it takes to get people talking and to get some kind of a debate going because I think our media is very one sided. Why is the rest of the world disagreeing with us-it is because they have different media. Our media is very slanted. I think the fact that we feel so different from the rest of the world should tell us something. I think we need debate. I am not saying we are wrong. I feel like we are wrong, but there is still room for debate. I think we need to do whatever it takes to get people talking. As far as Eddie Vedder- I am not all that aware. I just know he has been making an issue of it live. (I told him about the stabbed mask here, but you know I love Eddie. Everybody loves Pearl Jam. I just wanted to know Jeff’s thoughts.) To me, that’s the wrong way of reacting (stabbing the Bush mask). Only because it’s got a violent effect to it that is a turn off. To me, it is the violence that has to stop. It is the United States taking unilateral action of violence that I think is wrong. Truly, in my opinion, the United States is out for world control. We are clearly out to control the Middle East, or at least to have a much better place in it. As far as I am concerned, what we are doing wrong is taking violent action for our own agenda. Calling it some other agenda, calling it a weapons of mass destruction agenda, this that and the other thing…inferring that there is a 9-11 connection which still of course has not yet been proven…In my opinion, it is the violent things that the United States that are doing that is wrong. So, I think to have a violent reaction like Eddie Vedder did, if that is indeed what he did, I think that sends the wrong message. However, I totally endorse somebody having an anti-war sentiment, and if they need to express it, express it. Whatever it takes to get people talking.

MI- What is your favorite song that you have played on and why?

JP- Not to be cliché, but I think I am going to have to take one off of the Lynch/Pilson record, because probably at the moment it is my favorite song. It is called Ever Higher. It is one of those things where I couldn’t put it into words why but for some reason it just tremendously moves me. It is one of the most satisfied feelings of creative fulfillment I have ever had. It is not even that I am singing on it, although I love my vocal performance on it and I am usually very critical of my vocal performance. It just has to do with the song. The song for some reason-I think it is one of the best compositions George and I have ever done. It takes me on a journey, which is what I love all my songs to do. At the moment, I think that is one where we really really hit something. We really nailed it.

MI-What is the worst job you have ever had and why?

JP-Absolutely, it was drilling concrete. I had it for a week. It was at a furniture store. Why was it the worst, because it was-I mean I don’t know if you have ever been on a jackhammer, but it is incredibly uncomfortable. You rattle your body in these uncontrolled throbbing motions. It is just really horrible. I had just joined a club band and when the guy who was the leader of the band walked in to say we had a house gig at this club down the street I was the happiest guy in the world. I walked up and quit that job immediately.

MI-What do you think it would take for metal to make a comeback in mainstream music?

JP-First of all, I think it is going to take a new generation of people doing it. Kids need their own heroes. I don’t think we are all that far away. I hear bands like AFI and some of that stuff and there is definitely the hints of what metal does in there. Nickleback was not that far away to me from what metal bands were doing. It is melodic, but it’s heavy. What is the difference really? I don’t think you are going to see artists from my generation making it big in mainstream again because we are out of that generational loop.

MI-If a movie were made about your life, what would the theme song be?

JP-Maybe, In My Life by the Beatles.

MI-If you were god for a day, what would you do?

JP-Quit while I was still ahead.

If you had the chance to be any superhero, who would it be?


MI-If you had a chance to bring back one person from death, who would it be and why?

JP-John Lennon, because we need him right now.

MI-What is the happiest you have ever been and why?

JP-Happiest I have ever been is now. My life is in a real good place. I just got married to a woman I adore. I love my work. I love all the work that I am doing. I feel like I have the most outlets for creativity that I have ever had. We could always be more successful. We could always have more money. I think the key is to be happy in the present. I am very happy in the present right now. I have got plenty of ambition and plenty of things I would like to do, but right this very second I am incredibly happy. I don’t know if I ever really experienced the present like I have at this point in my life.

MI-What does success mean to you?

JP-Success means enjoying the present. Being in the now. I hate to sound cliché on that. If your success is always derived from material things, and the anticipation of more material things and/or gains and ambitions your success is disconnected from you. It is to do with external things. To me, success is an internal thing. I have experienced what would be outwardly considered success but internally it did not ever become a success for me. Now, in my life, whatever I am doing-if it something where I am connected to it-I feel more fulfilled which to me is success.

MI-Who do you think the greatest musician of all time?

JP-I think Beethoven was the greatest writer of all time because his music is so universal, so creative-there is so much emotion to it. For me-and this is strictly my opinion-music’s greatest asset is its ability to convey emotion. Beethoven’s music to me does that more than any other character I have ever known or have ever heard. He has obviously stood the test of time for 200 years. I hear Beethoven to me and the inspiration is still fresh. That is genius and that is magic. I think he had it-he was supposedly kind of a hack player. If you heard him in person he was supposedly kind of sloppy, but the ultimate in music to me is writing. I think what he did with writing not only had such an incredible effect on the world and just music in general, but like I said-it stands the test of time. You can hear the emotion in it as if it were immediate 200 years later. That is pretty phenomenal.

MI-Where were you when 9-11 happened and how did it affect you?

JP-I was in Phoenix staying with our Webmaster because that morning I was supposed to do a news show. I was promoting the Rock Star movie which had just come out two days before that, and I was in Phoenix to do this show promoting Rock Star when at six in the morning I got told that I was going to be put on the back burner-actually when I got told only one plane had hit the world trade center and then moments later the second plane hit. I was there-and the effect that it had? Well, it obviously took me several days to get back from Phoenix because the airports were all closed. -I think it made me very aware. I wasn’t as surprised as a lot of people were. I have always thought it was amazing how much the United States doesn’t get hit with terrorism when the rest of the world does and it seems like we were a country that was pretty strongly hated and I was surprised that we didn’t see more. Not that I wanted to see more. Certainly, not being in New York makes a difference. I have friends that were in New York. I have friends that watched the buildings actually crumble and they way that they were affected was actually much more traumatic. I can’t begin to have that same reaction.

MI-How would you design a memorial for 9-11 victims?

JP- It would be a pyramid. It would be something where the whole scene was universality; because to me the lesson of 9-11 was that we all live on the same planet now. I think we all had to become conscious and sensitive to that, which is why I am so upset about the route that the United States has taken which is basically get out of our way. I don’t agree with that. I think that is the wrong the to do. I think that is only going to escalate those kinds of conditions.

The memorial would be about universality. Tolerance and understanding. It would be a pyramid because I think that is the best spiritual design that we have ever been exposed to.

MI-What is your favorite movie of all time?

JP-I don’t know. I have different eras of favorite movies. I guess Hard Day’s Night, but that is not the same kind of theatrical experience that movies usually are for me. So, I just don’t have an answer for you.

MI-What is your greatest achievement of all time?

JP-I don’t know if I have done it yet.

MI-What is your favorite place to play a live show and why?

JP-Arenas. My favorite music to perform is hard rock music and arenas and hard rock go together. Arena rock to me sums up the whole reason why I do what I do. It’s my favorite. That is the best.

MI-Tell me what you think about what happened at the Great White show in Rhode Island.

JP-Besides the obvious fact that it is a complete tragedy. I think it is a situation where some negligence was involved but it is not possible to determine who. Let’s hope the courts do a fair job of that and let’s hope that rock music does not get a bad name and become a scapegoat as a result of this problem. I don’t want to get into the specifics of what I think happened as much as I hope rock doesn’t become a scapegoat for everybody. It kind of looks like its not going to be. I was really afraid of it at first. I think people are going to lighten up about it. It really looks like they are really coming down on the club owners more than anyone, and I think that’s a good thing because they obviously were negligent. Let’s use a little perspective folks. Maybe pyro isn’t necessary in small places.

MI-If you were on a desert island, and you could bring one cd, one book, and one person, what cd, book and which person would you bring?

JP-I would bring my wife. I would bring Yoga: The Eight Steps to Health and Peace by Richard Hittleman. I would bring Revolver by the Beatles.

MI-Will there be a tour for Lynch/Pilson’s Wicked Underground?

JP-We hope so.

MI-What were your inspirations on Wicked Underground?

JP-George and I had always wanted to do a project, just the two of us. We did a lot of the writing together in Dokken. We always had a real strong chemistry. We wanted a chance without having to work it into the rest of the band-not that that was a bad thing. It just made us hungry to want to do this. I just think it was something that needed to be done. Unfinished business, and it was tremendously fulfilling.

MI-Do you have a message you would like to send to your fans? If so, what is it?

JP-Just thank you for being there and I hope they love the record. Like I said, the response I have heard so far has been really wonderful. I hope people listen to it and I hope they enjoy it. It was something that we loved doing and it was from our hearts and it is some of the best music that I think I have been a part of in a long time. I just hope we get to share it with everyone and I hope we get to see you on the road.

MI-What is your favorite metal band of all time?

JP-I would have to say Led Zepplin

MI-What is your favorite quote of all time?

JP- Lars Ulrich from Metallica, “We didn’t go to number one, number one came to us.”

MusicIncider wants to see Jeff Pilson and George Lynch on tour. They have put together a piece of work that will give you a reason to bang your head again. Is anyone listening? They should go on tour, now. Not touring in support of this album would be a fucking tragedy of epic proportions.

MusicIncider Magazine is a wholly owned and copyrighted subsidiary of Barbara Ann Fara Productions, Inc.

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This article was written by Barbara Fara and is identified as Article #61.
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