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