By Rick Coates
Foreigner guitarist, lyricist and co-founder Mick Jones has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of the music business. He brings a reincarnated Foreigner to Interlochen Center for the Arts on Thursday.
Jones is the only original member left in the band that released 39 singles with 20 reaching the into the Billboard Top 20. Since their first release in 1977, Foreigner has sold more than 50 million albums, packing such hits as, Cold As Ice, Feels Like the First Time, Hot Blooded, Double Vision, Dirty White Boy, Waiting For A Girl Like You.
Along with singer Lou Graham, Jones penned the hits. He is also a respected producer in the business, and when Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth, Van Halen asked Jones to produce their 5150 album.
The group is touring support of their first studio album in 14 years, Cant Slow Down. Mick Jones took time out to answer a few questions and give his opinion on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Foreigner lineup, why it took so long to go back into the studio, and the future of Foreigner.
Northern Express: Why did it take so long between studio releases?
Mick Jones: There were several reasons, certainly the personnel changes were part of it. I kept putting off recording. It was a little bit scary after awhile as well. You start to wonder if people will accept your music. But finally I felt we needed to take the plunge. This lineup had been together for a few years and I thought we were ready. What I like is that when people listen to Cant Slow Down, they recognize it as a Foreigner record.
NE: But this is basically a brand new lineup. How were you able to accomplish that signature Foreigner sound?
Jones: It is a testament to these guys in the band. They are very conscientious and respectful of the past. They have a tremendous amount of dedication to the catalogue of songs that made Foreigner.
For me this has been a blessing. I got caught up with the demons of this business and left for awhile and really felt I was done for good. But eventually I came back and these guys in this band have really inspired me and I have people tell me I am playing better now then I ever did in the past. I have that same feeling I did back when I started this band, so it feels like the first time again. So this has been a good thing for me personally, professionally and for the legacy of Foreigner.
NE: Speaking of the legacy of Foreigner, you are on that list of bands not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that many believe should be in. Your thoughts?
Jones: I think a lot of us are confused over the criteria to get in. Look, I have no problem with Madonna being in, but there are a lot of rock bands -- again, emphasis on rock -- that are not in.
My sense is that there is a small club of decision makers who want to seem cool with who they select to get in. I am not sure that those making the selection have a very good handle on the last 35 years of rock music. There seems to be a lot of bands that had a major impact on rock music not in.
I do not know if we will get in or not; it would be a nice honor and certainly Lou Graham, myself and others from the original band would go and perform.
NE: One example of your impact is that a new generation of music fans has gravitated to your music.
Jones: Exactly, it is great to see all these young people at our concerts. They have the music of their generation, but so many of them are still gravitating to classic rock bands. I attribute that to their parents. I think a lot of these kids grew up listening as babies and young kids to what their parents had on the radio. It is weird when I am on stage and look out into the audience and I start asking myself what year is it? Its like deja vu; you think it is 1980 all over again.
NE: You mentioned demons in the 90s caused you to leave it all behind. What inspired you to reform Foreigner?
Jones: Well, it was not a good period for me. I was not in great shape and I decided to clean up my act. When I did get cleaned up I started thinking about the fact that I left a bad taste with Foreigner in my mouth. I realized that Foreigner was my lifes work and I didnt want the legacy of the band to go out on a sour note, so I decided to rebuild the whole image of Foreigner. This has brought me so much happiness; it is the best decision I have ever made.
NE: You have made music all your life and Foreigner has been big about supporting music programs at schools.
Jones: Yes we try to help out where we can. For the Interlochen show we have partnered up with radio station WKLT to select a high school choir from the area to join us on stage to sing I Want To Know What Love Is. They had the contest and Petoskey won, so in addition to joining us on stage we will give their music program $1,000. It is part of the VH-1 Save The Music program
NE: Well, you certainly are not going to wait 14 years to release another CD. What do see for the future of Foreigner?
Jones: We are tossing around a few ideas. One thing we have found is this group sounds great acoustically. We have done some unplugged stuff for TV, so we are considering releasing a greatest hits done acoustically. This group feels comfortable with each other, they have embraced the Foreigner spirit, so I feel good about us being able to offer new music soon.
Foreigner will perform Thursday at Kresge Auditorium on the campus of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Kelly Hansen, the former lead singer of Hurricane, has replaced Lou Graham who now has a solo career. Hansens powerful vocals have won over Foreigner fans since joining the group in 2004. For additional information on Foreigner go to foreigneronline.com and to purchase tickets go to www.interlochen.org or call the box office 231-276-7800