Foreigner Turns 40: A Conversation with Mick Jones

Foreigner Turns 40: A Conversation with Mick Jones

Interview by Danny Coleman 

“No,” said a confident Mick Jones as he began to discuss the changes made to Foreigner, one of the biggest selling rock bands of all time. “I mean, there was one period  in the early ’90’s where we were shuffling a bit but the changes have not really been an issue. We’ve had this new line up for 11 years and I have to say that it’s the best line up we’ve ever had. I don’t mean that as a slight to the original band or anyone who has ever been in the band but it took me a long time to finally get it right and I really appreciate things now; not that I didn’t before but it’s something I guess that only come with age (laughs).”

The, “Foreigner 40, 40th Anniversary Tour, kicks off with two shows this weekend in Ontario, Canada and will be making its way to New Jersey at Camden’s BBT Pavilion on July 13. “We’re like a dedicated family,” he continued with a slight laugh. “This line up, we play the songs with a lot of power. This version is very much alive and dedicated to the Foreigner tradition.”

Hitting the road with another iconic ’80’s act, Cheap Trick and/or The Jason Bonham Experience, the band has a very busy summer ahead; just the way they Like it. “We’re in the middle of 10 days of rehearsals in Canada and that’s where the tour kicks off with a couple of shows then we start the U.S portion in Syracuse, NY and have 60 shows over the course of the summer and early fall. We are swamped but in a good way, we enjoy being out on the road.”

When one looks back over Foreigner’s long and successful career, songs such as, “Feels Like The First Time,” “Cold As Ice,” “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Double Vision,” “Urgent,” and the mega selling international hit, “I want To Know What Love Is” and countless others have emerged from their 10 multi-platinum records. Jones, himself an award winning and award nominated songwriter chuckles at the longevity of the band and his career overall. “Yeah, looks like it, wow 40 years; that’s something huh? I had no clue whatsoever that it’d last this long, I don’t think any of us did really. I figured when we put it together that we’d get a few, maybe two to three years out of it. Honestly? We didn’t even expect a second album (laughs). Remember, when we put out our first record the airwaves were full of disco, punk rock was making strides on the radio and in an underground type movement, we had a lot of competition. We made the album and it was far more successful than we could’ve imagined so we made another and so on it went.”

In retrospect, Jones enjoys those days for various reasons and openly admits that their 1977 self-titled debut album as well as, “Foreigner 4,” released in 1981 are his two favorite works. “I would have to say that our first album is one of my two favorites and for obvious reasons which I stated before. I listen to that album or play that material and it brings everything back to a very special time in my life. I remember things being so exciting yet unsettling for me and for us as a band because we didn’t know what was going to happen. Things were new, fresh and we were heading into unknown waters and when it did so well it changed our lives so I always look back on it as one of the greatest moments of my life. With “Foreigner 4,” I thought we had made an album that we always wanted to make and even today I still enjoy that album as well.”

The current Foreigner line up consists of Jones on guitar, Kelly Hansen on vocals, bassist Jeff Pilson, utility man Tom Gimbel (Guitar, keyboards, saxophone and flute), Michael Bluestein on piano, guitarist Bruce Watson and drummer Chris Frazier.  Jones stresses that this group has no “Ego issues” and that there are no attitude problems in the group. “Yeah, being a musician you can come across some real, well, some real $%#&#@$,” he said with a hearty laugh. “In this outfit there are none of those. This is the nicest most down to earth group of people and musicians that I’ve ever been involved with; no egos no attitudes.”

Jones lists the great recently passed Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly as two of his influences but also enjoys the work of his contemporaries as well. “I remember hearing Buddy Holly for the first time and how well he filled the in-between and then there was Chuck Berry who brought a totally different perspective to guitar and lead playing. I tend to like players like Pete Townsend and Keith Richards who don’t play real flashy leads but those who can cover lead, rhythm or anything that the song calls for. Sometimes it’s not what you play but what you don’t play that matters most.”

With the “40th Anniversary Tour” kicking off on July 7 and the aforementioned hectic tour schedule which lies in front of them, Jones says that the future looks very bright for Foreigner and may even have a twist in the works. “Right now we’re taking things one day at a time,” he explained once again with a laugh. “We recently re-arranged some of our songs and did them with a full symphony orchestra in Europe. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work but it went well, it was very exciting so we are thinking of doing some more that and of course we have the tour now and that is also very exciting. Actually, life couldn’t be better for me right now and I think the rest of the band would agree that it’s a great time for all of us.”

Foreigner’s first U.S date is at the Lakeview Amphitheater in Syracuse, NY on July 11 followed by the BB&T Pavilion show in Camden, NJ on July 13. July 14 sees them return to NY for a show in Bethel, July 15 in Hershey, PA, July 17 in Boston, July 18, 20, 21 back in NY and winding up back in NJ at the PNC Bank Center in Holmdel on July 22 before heading for the southern U.S portion of the tour. That’s a lot of rock ‘n’ roll and with so many hits, every concert is like a greatest hits compilation disc and one that should leave even a novice Foreigner fan satisfied.

To discover more about Foreigner, the tour and ticket information, please go to www.foreigneronline.com

Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)