Jeff Pilson - War & Peace

August 31, 2004

People always want me to ask the obligatory Dokken question of what's going on with the band here of late.

I actually haven't been in the band for four years but the band does still exist. They're still touring and they put a record out recently.

It only has Don and Mick on it though.

That is correct.

What happened to everyone else?

One by one, we dwindled away.

I talked to George and I know his situation. He and Don just don't get along.

Right. Yeah, exactly. For me, it wasn't fun anymore. It wasn't great and if music isn't fun and energizing to play, life is too short. I think you owe it to the people around you to be in the best spirits if you're going to play music. It's an honor to play music. It's not something I want to take for granted, let's put it that way. If it doesn't feel good, don't do it.

That takes care of Dokken. Tell me a little about War & Peace.

It's been blossoming into a life of its own. It's funny because I put this record out in April. It came out on a record label that's based in England. They wanted me to come over there to play which led me to forming a band. In forming the band, I came up with a band that I'm extremely happy with and it's led to more shows. It's led to the fact that when we are in England, we're going to record a live record and they want to do another studio record. It started off as one thing and it's blossoming into a whole new thing on its own and has a life of its own and it's feeling great.

You've worked on a lot of records with different people over the last 10 years. Now you're focusing on this. Is this going to take precedence over working with other people?

Not really. I don't see having to do that. I still do a lot of work as a producer so that's where a bulk of my time is actually spent. This is something I want to do for fun and as long as I can do it, great. The more shows we can do, great. Like I said, the way it's evolving into something on its own has been wonderful. It's been organic. I'm not doing this in lieu of other things but I'm doing this because I love it.

Who all do you have playing with you?

The band right now, on guitar is a guy by the name of Mitch Perry. Mitch has been around for a while but you've never gotten to hear him like he gets to play in this band. In this band, this guy is kicking some serious ass. Seriously, he is tearing it up. I'm so excited about Mitch's playing and Mitch being in the band. It's great. He's phenomenal. On drums is a guy by the name of Michael Frowein who played on the Lynch/Pilson record that George Lynch and I did last year and he also played on the War & Peace record. Great drummer, great human being, great musician. Just a stellar guy to be in a band with. Then on bass is a guy by the name of Brad Lang who is not only a great bass player but a phenomenal singer so we got really strong background vocals which makes it really exciting for me. I'm really excited to get this band out to play. Really excited.

By the way, congratulations on your little girl.

Thank you so very, very much. Very excited about that as well. She's just such a doll.

You co-wrote some of your songs with people like Jason Bonham.

Yeah, one of the tracks we did co-write together. We wrote it to be in the movie Rock Star that we were in together a couple of years ago.

I finally saw that movie.

You did? Good. I actually enjoyed that movie. I had so much fun doing it. It was a great experience. The scene that that song was written for got axed out of the movie so it didn't make it. That's where that came from and people heard an earlier version of it on the Net so I started getting a lot of requests for it. I thought I'd do that for the War & Peace record and it came out great. I'm really excited.

You also had Alex Masi play on "Stranger In My Own Land".

Yes. That track was actually recorded before the record was. It was recorded to be on a charity CD that came out a couple of years ago for the victims of 9/11. Then the record label that was doing it in Europe put Alex and I together and he did a brilliant solo on the song. They said I can go ahead and do what I will with the song so I included it on the record and it fit perfectly.

You also played on the new Dio record.

Yes, yes, yes. I was in Dio 10 years ago so we remained good friends and Ronnie was hoping to find somebody that could play bass and tour which I couldn't do because our daughter was born. To reduce the stress of trying to find somebody all at once, they just asked if I would play on the record and I said of course I would because I love working with Ronnie. It was a great time. It was a great experience and the record came out great.

Tell me a little bit about the new record. I love it.

Oh great, thank you. There's a variety of different songs. The opening track "Reflections" is basically about introspection as you might guess. The song "City In Flames" is a song that I had written on keyboards about 12 years ago and I wrote it about the L.A. riots. I rediscovered the song while I was doing the record. I thought I could rework this and make this a great rock track. I made it a rock track and that one's about the L.A. riots. The song "The Walls Have Eyes" is about child abuse and the darkness that surrounds that and everything else that implies. "Stranger In My Own Land" was written about the feelings right after 9/11. "You Haunt Me" was written about my wife. There's a lot of subject material on the album. There's some political stuff. I get into a little bit of politics in a sense. A wide spectrum.

Yeah, I'd say. Are you guys touring in Europe?

We're going to go do some shows over in England.

Just in England?

Just in England. It's a quickie. It's a quick in and out. We're mostly going over there to record the live record.

Maybe there will be more on your plate after that.

Well not in Europe right away but we're certainly hoping to go back to Europe. Absolutely.

You'll try to get around the States as well.

We're going to do what we can. We're going to just tour as much as we can. Our goal is to get everywhere because I would just love to have people see this band. We are doing a fair amount of Dokken in the set and a fair amount of Lynch/Pilson for the Lynch/Pilson record. It's a pretty all around inclusive set and a good evening of music.

You guys have a version of "Walk Away" with a string quartet.

Right. We aren't playing that live. That would be a little hard to pull off. Yeah, that was done as a bonus track for Europe. They wanted a bonus track and I've been wanting to do a song with a string quartet for a while so it just all of a sudden dawned on me to do "Walk Away". I thought harmonically it would work out real well with a string quartet. Heard all the string lines in my head and just laid it down and it came out great.

Did you use an actual orchestra or did you do it yourself?

The string quartet? I did it myself.

You did a lot of this yourself.

Actually, with the exception of the drums and the guitar solo on "Stranger In My Own Land" and one guitar part that was played by a kid by the name of Daniel Irmas who's an up and comer, I did everything else myself.

How difficult is it to do a whole album by yourself?

It's actually very rewarding. It is hard work but it's so rewarding. It's also the first time I ever mixed a record myself. I usually get mixing engineers to do that and I recorded it and mixed it myself as well which is probably more of a challenge for me. Playing the instruments and doing the vocals are easy for me. Mixing is difficult because I'm not an engineer but it was a good experience and it's a labor of love. I love to do that kind of thing.

What exactly is involved in mixing a record? You hear these terms so often.

Mixing a record means you're taking all the various tracks that are recorded. All of your vocals, your drums, your bass, your guitars. You have to remember that you're sharing it out of a CD which is a left and a right side. It takes mixing all the various tracks and putting them in a blend and setting all the levels for everything and placing where they are in the speaker placement to get the mix that comes out on a CD in stereo. That's a pretty involved procedure because it's very easy to make a record not sound good. Real easy. It's a very involved procedure.

Any other thoughts or comments?

It's been so pleasant talking to you Angela. Thank you so much. I really hope everybody has heard the War & Peace record or they get a chance to hear the War & Peace record. I hope they get a chance to see us live because it's a real strong band and it's a real good show.

It's hard to get really good music on the radio these days.

Yes, it is. Which is why there is the Internet and if you listen to XM Radio, make requests to XM Radio because they will play War & Peace and it's great. It's a show called The Boneyard. They've been playing it quite a bit which is very cool.

Jeff Pilson