Q&A: Mick Jones back on track with revamped Foreigner

Sat Jun 21, 2008 10:15am EDT
 
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By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Billboard) - In 1976, Mick Jones found himself out of a job. The Surrey, England, native had a reputation as a guitar gunslinger dating back to his own band, Nero & the Gladiators; session credits for George Harrison, Peter Frampton and Johnny Halliday; and tenures with the Leslie West Band and Spooky Tooth. But after an angry departure from the Leslie West Band, Jones was at a crossroads and looking for his next move. He came up with a winner -- Foreigner.

Recruiting an old mate, Ian McDonald from King Crimson, and some unknown American players, Jones created a juggernaut that has sold more than 70 million albums worldwide and enough hits to fill a double-disc retrospective (No End in Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner," due July 15 on Rhino Records).

After a brief hiatus, Jone put together a new lineup in 2005 and has been touring steadily since.

Critics may not consider Foreigner the hippest band to ever tread the rock 'n' roll boards, but it's hard to argue with that kind of successful track record and the enduring appeal that Jones and his latest incarnation of the band (which includes late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's son Jason and former Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson) continue to enjoy.

Q: In 1976, when you formed Foreigner, could you have imagined still leading the band in 2008?

Mick Jones: I guess I have to say no. (Laughs) The life expectation of bands was pretty low. I didn't even think I'd be playing after the age of 30, 35. I guess the (Rolling) Stones and (Led) Zeppelin were starting to become "classic" at that point, but I had no idea. I wasn't expecting anything like the reception we got for the first album, even. I thought it was going to be a labor of love for the next few years to establish ourselves. I certainly hadn't set my sights past that. So what's happened has been ... unbelievable, really.

Q: How did you assemble Foreigner's first lineup?

Jones: First of all it was with Ian Lloyd, the singer of a band called Stories, who really helped me a tremendous amount at the beginning to flesh out the songs vocally. And one by one I added players. I had recently met up with Ian McDonald, and he became involved. And then I believe it was Al Greenwood, the keyboard player. Then we finally settled, after quite a search for drummers, on Dennis Elliott, and then eventually Ed Gagliardi on bass. Then, after about 50 auditions of singers, we ended up with Lou (Gramm).   Continued...

 
<p>CORRECTED PHOTO: Mick Jones, a member of the rock group Foreigner, arrives as a guest for the premiere of the new film "Still Crazy" January 20, 1999 in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Rose Prouser</p>