Metal Express Radio caught up with AOR legend Mick Jones for a quick chat following Foreigner’s recent European shows.

It’s been over 10 years since you last played in the UK. How does it feel to be back?

It’s great, it’s brilliant. It’s very important for me to play in England being English myself. I’ve lived in New York for a long time, but the two main shows for me are London, England and Madison Square Garden in New York. So, yes, it’s great to be back in England and it’s good to see we’ve got the weather for it too!

How did the shows go?

It’s been incredible. With the new band it’s just incredible touring, as everywhere we go the reception has been amazing. I was speaking to someone yesterday and they said that it was great that we all look so natural and like we’re really having a good time on stage and there are no egos. I think the crowd picks up on this too.

Things have changed significantly since you were last here, and probably the main talking point is the arrival of Kelly Hansen to replace Lou Gramm. First of all, at what point did you realize that Lou no longer wanted to continue?

After we did this thing in Belgium called The Night At The Proms, a sort of Pop concert they have there where you play in Antwerp for like six weeks and then travel around Germany, we tried to do some writing while we were out there and it didn’t really work. When we got back, Lou decided to go out on tour by himself and that was it. He didn’t want to carry on in the band anymore.

The choice was either call it a day and start a new band or bring in new members. What finally made up your mind?

Well, it was the new members really. The enthusiasm and the energy from Jason at the beginning is what set it off. When he and Jeff Pilson became the new rhythm section, I could tell immediately that it was fantastic. Then we found Kelly and it really put the seal on it as I realised Kelly could really perform these songs.

How did you come across Kelly?

He was in L.A. doing a few projects out there and he used to be in a band called Hurricane. He heard about me putting a solo project together and, at the time, I was sending tracks out to people to put on their vocals. He asked for one and he sent it back and I could see that there was something there, and we got him down to rehearsal and that was it!

Was there anyone else you had in mind at the time, and did you consider asking Johnny Edwards back?

I think he’s semi-retired now. There were a lot of people from England, The States, and all over who were interested, but Kelly was by far the best.

Journey have been in a similar position, but the arrival of Kelly does not seem to have split Foreigner fans to the same extent as the arrival of Steve Augeri for them. Why do think this is?

I was expecting some resistance. There was a little at the very beginning, but it’s disappeared to nothing. I think there’s a spirit in this band that is very powerful and I think that people are really convinced when they see us that we are totally into it.

Another key addition to the line up is Jason Bonham, which is quite a coup. How did you entice him away from UFO?

I met him a year before when Jason was in UFO and we hit it off, but he wanted to honor his commitment to them and he stayed with them through the rest of their shows. His dream had always been to play in Foreigner and now he’s made it!

Apparently he’s got a pretty decent singing voice too?

Yes, he has.

You’ve also got Jeff Pilson in on bass. How did Jeff end up joining, as it’s a bit different to what he’s known for?

He is just a great musician, and when I first met him I had no idea what he’d been involved in before. I just thought “Wow, this guy is really good!” After a while, I’d realized he’d been in those bands. He’s perfect for this band.

Jeff Jacobs has been with you since Mr Moonlight, but where did Tom Gimbel come from?

That’s right. Tom has been with us for a number of years. He used to play keyboards and sax with Aerosmith for a while before joining up with us.

Have the new members rejuvenated your enthusiasm for the band?

Oh, yeah, definitely! It feels great going out and playing with these guys … they are really up for it.

Does this give you more flexibility to play songs that maybe you haven’t considered before? Perhaps something from Inside Information or maybe “Running The Risk” from Mr Moonlight?

Well we’re doing “Say You Will,” but in a slightly different way. We never really played anything from the Inside Information album, as Lou didn’t want to do any of that. That was a difficult album to do. It was just like he came in to do his vocals and that was it. We also do “Break It Up” sometimes. “Running The Risk” is a good song, so you never know!!

You have a new live album, Extended Versions

That album is really a way of showing the public the power of the new band, and will give them a chance to hear how the band plays on stage.

Have you started writing new material?

Hopefully we’ll start working on new material next year or towards the end of this year, as we’re touring at the moment. The reason for all this intense touring is just to get our name back and re-establish the fact that we are a band moving forward again. It’s sad to say that there is some repair work to do by us after some sub-standard performances by Lou. I feel weird saying that, but unfortunately that’s what we’ve been up against. I’m just being honest about it. I’ve always been very proud of the band and am proud of the stuff that Lou and I did together. It hurt in the 90s a bit to feel that the band wasn’t gelling properly, and we want to put that right with the band I’ve got now.

What direction are you going in?

I’ve actually done a bit of writing already with Jason, but I’m sure we’ll all be involved in writing later on. Kelly and Jeff are good songwriters and Jason is excellent too. Jason is a good writer and arranger … he’s a talented lad! As far as a direction goes, it’ll be whatever it is. Obviously, if I’m writing it’ll definitely be the flavor of the band. I don’t think we’re going to go out and do Rap or something like that, but it’s going to be a real challenge to come up with something that’ll have a place in today’s music.

Your tour is sponsored by Wente Vineyards. That’s not a bad sponsor to have … are there going to be pre-show tasting sessions?

We do that occasionally, and we have a good laugh. It gives people the chance to meet the band before the show and have a glass of wine.

You got some good coverage in a UK Sunday newspaper promotion recently. Did you know about that?

Yeah, that was good. I think it’s given us some very good coverage. It was an interesting situation for us and our management came up with the idea. I think it worked very well for us. It let people know that we’re still around and on tour.

Can you believe it’s been nearly 30 years since your first album came out? Are you pretty pleased with how things have turned out for you?

I’m very pleased with how things have gone. There’ve been highs and lows, but it’s been beyond my wildest dreams. It’s a big thing in anyone’s life to achieve what we’ve done, and with that comes enormous pressure, but I’m just thankful to be here and to think that this is the best version of Foreigner that there’s been.

Looking to the future, what have you got planned for the next 12 months?

Well the tour will continue throughout the year, and we’ll then start to work on a new Foreigner album, which will hopefully be out soon.

For the latest Foreigner information, visit Foreigner Official website.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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