JEFF PILSON (DOKKEN): “We Wanted To Do Something A Little Deeper and Darker Than DOKKEN”

Having worked together in Dokken, Jeff Pilson, George Lynch and Mick Brown recruited Warrant’s Robert Mason to create something altogether darker and more varied than Dokken. Mick Burgess called up Jeff Pilson to talk about their new band The End Game and the making of their self-titled album.

Your new album with The End Machine came out a couple of weeks ago. Are you pleased with the reaction it’s received so far?

I’ve been overwhelmingly happy how people have responded to it. As it was a little different, we knew we were taking a chance in some ways but we had to do it as it was honestly the record that we wanted to make and getting such wide acceptance couldn’t be more gratifying.

When did the idea to put The End Machine together first come about?

Sometime in 2017, George called me as he’d been approached to work on a Jack Russell solo album and he asked if I wanted to do it with him. I’ll take any opportunity that I can for me and George to work together, so I said yes. That was the plan but even before we began work it started to fall away and I have no idea why. I don’t think there was anything bad, it just shifted on. George and I wanted to write together and Serafino from Frontiers asked if we’d get Mick Brown involved. We called him up and he wanted to be part of it.

With you, George and Mick working together did you ask Don to be part of it?

We did call Don to see if he’d be interested in doing it. He thought it’d just be like a Dokken reunion and that’d be a whole different can of worms. So, we did understand why he didn’t want to do it but we did offer it to him as the other three of us were doing it.

How did Robert Mason end up as your singer?

I just did the Warrant record a couple of years back and although I’d known him for years that was the first time I’d worked with him for a concentrated period. I was so impressed with him. George had worked with him in Lynch Mob and knew how great he was on stage so the thought of bringing in Robert was really exciting and from then on it just took on a life of its own

Did having Robert in the band and the fact that it wasn’t a Dokken record allow you to go into musical areas that you couldn’t go as Dokken?

Perhaps yes. I don’t think it was just because of Robert being there. Robert certainly gives you a wide-open palette but George and I were thinking that we wanted to do something a little deeper. We didn’t want to piss off our fans but we had to be honest with ourselves and do what’s from the heart. As we got deeper into the music and things started developing, we didn’t stop ourselves. We thought it felt real and inspired. We wanted to be musically adventurous because that’s how it felt. It was the goal to keep it varied and you’re taking a bit of a chance doing something like that but it’s so good to hear that people have responded so positively to what we had intended to create.

Did Robert bring in a fresh approach to songwriting for you as a group?

With George and I not really. We just kind of click no matter what happens. I was a little more conscious of what it’d be like with a different singer than George but I didn’t have to do much. Part of my job as producer is to keep the direction going but most of the music that George and I came up with came very naturally. I worked with Robert on the lyrics and melodies and that’s when I worked on shaping those for the band. Again, that happened very organically and I didn’t have to try, we just kind of did it. It did feel like a fresh approach for me and it felt really strong as soon as we started working together.

Were you able to sit down together and bounce ideas around or did you have to rely on fitting in writing sessions around your other commitments?

George and I got together and wrote the music. Then we’d send it to Robert and he’d listen to it. Then he’d turn up at my house with a notebook full of lyrics and melody ideas but nothing finished which meant that we could carve it out together which was a really good idea because it felt like a band that way. It didn’t feel like people sending shit over the internet if you know what I mean? I think we built it and constructed it in a way that was a band effort.

How many songs did you end up writing for the album?

We only wrote and recorded the actual songs that made the final album. We didn’t have entire songs left over but had little bits and pieces that we didn’t finish because we thought they were a lot like other songs on the record. We did want it to be a very complete record. We wanted a wide spectrum of sounds and feels with a lot of variation so we did try to avoid having similar sounding songs on the album.

Where did you record the album and how long did the process take?

We recorded it in my studio that I have at home that’s got a really nice set up. I can’t really remember the timeline for recording it though as it was done in bits and pieces. We started it in 2017 and finished it in the summer of 2018 so it was done between those times but it’s hard to say actually how long it took.

You’ve produced numerous bands over the years including the recent Last In Line albums. What sort of role do you take as a producer?

It’s different in every different circumstance. With last In Line I was active in the arrangements. They came in well-rehearsed and the songs were pretty much together. There were some loose ends on some songs with the vocals that we worked on but others, Andrew Freeman took control over what he wanted vocally. Arrangements and instrumentation are very important to me and adding little textures. It’s also about capturing the performance. Pretty much everything they do is great but it’s trying to capture that magical performance. A lot of my job is sorting out the performances and working on the layering.

Do you have any plans to tour to support the album?

We did three shows in April that were a great success but because of our schedules there won’t be anything else until late Fall. I’m full on with Foreigner right now and that’s going to be pretty much non-stop. You’ll have to see but we do hope that we’ll play some shows soon and we do hope to come over to Europe too.

Outside of Dokken you’ve worked with George and Mick in various bands including Lynch Mob and Tooth and Nail and go back many, many years together. What is it about the three of you that works so well together?

We have good chemistry. We all listen. We all love each other as friends and there’s a lot of depth in there. I think we can read each other’s minds. It’s comfortable and it’s right. Knowing that Mick was in the band was a big help to us as he gave us an anchor to work off. We know the kind of grooves that he can lay down so it gave us a bit of a roadmap for where we wanted to go.

You all last performed together in Dokken along with Don in 2016 for some shows and wrote It’s Just Another Day on the Return To The East live album. Was this just a one off or are there plans to work together as a unit sometime?

Again, that’s all down to the scheduling. We’re all friendly now and there’s communication between us so it’s not impossible but it’d have to be the right situation and as far as recording, I’d love to do one last, great Dokken record. I wish records were a more important part of the equation these days but money and time are hard and because of that it’d be really difficult to do another Dokken record but I really hope that we do someday. The song that we did for the live album was really natural and was one of the most painless Dokken recordings that we’ve done. It was pretty cool. I hope there’s another one. As far as shows, who knows? Let’s hope so.

With The End Machine’s album just out and with your touring commitments with Foreigner, do you have time to fit any other projects in over the coming months?

The only other thing I have coming up is a project with Reb Beach, Robin McAuley and Matt Star that we do have a name for but I can’t tell you yet as Frontiers wants to make the announcement. It’s coming out in early 2020. It’s all recorded and just needs mixing and mastering. I’ve never heard Robin McAuley sound so good and Reb is playing his ass off. There’s great songs, amazing performances and it’s a really, really strong record.

The End Machine is out now on Frontiers Records. See for more information.

Interview and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • 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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