Beast of the Bass: An Interview with Jeff Pilson

Jeff Pilson

The original lineup of Dokken reunited in 2016 for a string of dates in Japan. Recordings from that tour are being released this month as Return To The East Live 2016. The members include Don Dokken, George Lynch, Mick Brown, and the great Jeff Pilson on bass.

Pilson’s hard rock history is well documented. Besides being in Dokken, he laid down the low end with Dio and MSG as well as his own prog-metal band War and Peace. He’s been a road warrior as the bassist in Foreigner since 2004. As if that’s not enough, he’s been producing albums for Last in Line, Starship, Kill Devil Hill, Foreigner, and more.

We caught up with Pilson to get the scoop on the new Dokken album and his plans for the year.

What was it like getting on stage with Dokken again?

It was great. The chemistry was very much intact and it was surprisingly fun.

What did you do to prepare for the tour?

I ran through the songs myself a bit, then we had a week (well 4 days) of rehearsal in South Dakota together. It wasn’t as much as I’d like but we got through it.

What gear did you use on the live show?

I played a ’58 P Bass (it’s a hybrid of a real neck, body, and pickups that I put together but then used a Badass Bridge ), a new Fender P bass 5, then older SVTs with 4 8 x 10 cabs.

The bass line on “It’s Another Day” seems to have just the right amount of support and movement for interest. How do you work out where to add and where to keep it simple?

I just played it by feel and tried to find the right balance of movement and holding the bottom end. I wanted there to be a few bass hooks in it as well.

The acoustic tracks are a nice touch to end the album. How were those songs chosen, and is that a fretless you’re using on “Heaven Sent”?

I actually picked the acoustic songs and did the acoustic guitars first as a template to work off of. I thought they were both songs that would lend themselves well to the acoustic format. We’d done “Will The Sunrise” acoustically before and I knew it would sound big and lush on 12 string. “Heaven Sent” I just had a gut feeling would be really cool acoustically and I knew Don would sing it great. Yes, that’s my Breedlove fretless acoustic on that track. Amazing bass!

Original Dokken

Any plans for more original Dokken shows in the future?

No plans, but there are always offers coming in so maybe someday if the schedules line up again.

I know you keep plenty busy. What else do you have coming up this year?

Foreigner has our orchestral record coming out later this month (Foreigner with the 21st Century Orchestra), then a big summer tour with Whitesnake and Jason Bonham. Then we do an orchestral tour of Australia and New Zealand in October. Plus I’m currently producing the 2nd record from Last In Line which comes out early 2019 as well as a big project with George Lynch, Mick Brown and Robert Mason (from Warrant) which also comes out in early 2019. Both of those are coming out beyond amazing!

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