So, George Lynch, "Wild" Mick Brown and Jeff Pilson - the big three from the DOKKEN era you might say have come together and have assembled one of the most surprising releases of the year in Slave To The Empire on Rat Pack Records. T&N is a combination of intense organic rock, both melodic and hard hitting, thought provoking music with a purpose. In a time where corporate America, cultural imperialism, social inequality, and government oppression dominate society, their message is simple; you don't have to be a slave to the empire. "Don't think of this as Dokken without Don - that's misleading", adds Jeff Pilson.
"Think of it as a band with great chemistry coming up with new music that excites them, and also paying tribute to Dokken music which all the members all are heavily invested in emotionally." Slave To The Empire features 12 tracks, seven new original songs and five re-recorded classic Dokken songs that feature ripping vocal appearances by Tim “Ripper” Owens (DIO DISCIPLES, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, BEYOND FEAR, ex-JUDAS PRIEST, ICED EARTH), Doug Pinnick (KING'S X), Sebastian Bach (ex-SKID ROW), and Robert Mason (WARRANT).
BraveWords.com correspondent Matthew O’Shaughnessy from WVOX.com's Metal Mayhem
had the distinct pleasure of chatting with T&N bassist Jeff Pilson who was totally stoked to shed more light on the making of Slave To The Empire and recording again with old friends guitarist George Lynch and drummer "Wild" Mick Brown.
BraveWords.com: It really sounds like the creative process making Slave To The Empire was a fun time all around.
Jeff Pilson: "Yeah, we are excited! The creative process on this record was so much fun. George and Mick and I are very close and we have been for a long time. So, to get to work together again on Slave To The Empire was great. All is good in T&N land. We are some happy campers!"
BraveWords.com: How long was T&N in the studio and what game plan did you have going in?
Jeff Pilson: "Well, the process started about a year and a half ago when George came to me and asked if I would be interested in writing a Lynch Mob record with him and I said absolutely. So we got together and wrote very quickly an albums worth of stuff; what ended up happening for one reason or another it didn't work out that it was going to be Lynch Mob material. So, here we had this record sitting there and we thought let's make it another Lynch/Pilson record like George and I had done in 2003 called Wicked Underground. And, then, it was actually Brian Tichy who had already played drums on all the tracks who suggested to us, 'Why don't you guys re-record some of the Dokken songs with Mick Brown and call it TOOTH AND NAIL,' which we wanted to do but were unable to do for legal reasons. So we changed it to T&N. But we took Brian's suggestion and we called Mick Brown and did the Dokken tracks and got all the guest vocalists and really made it really interesting. And everything just fell into place from there. And before you know it, we had a record done. We are very proud of this record. And for us it was really truly a labor of love. It's not often you get to make music you just absolutely love to make. I mean I love music and all the music that I do but this was really, really from the heart. It was a tremendous thrill."
BraveWords.com: You produced Slave To The Empire at your Pilsongs studio. The chemistry with George Lynch and Mick Brown - musicians you have an obvious groove with - must have been amazing again.
Jeff Pilson: "You know, it is so second nature to us - it's easy. Yes, I produced the record but it was something kind of in a way that produced its self. It was just a natural result of the chemistry with us getting together; we have amazing chemistry. We can read each other's mind. We have fun doing it and at the same time I think we really bring out the best in each other. So, for me, it was as second nature as you could possibly be."
BraveWords.com: As far as choosing the five Dokken songs to re-work for Slave To The Empire, how did you ultimately pick out those tracks; 'Tooth And Nail', 'It's Not Love', 'Into The Fire', 'Alone Again' and 'Kiss Of Death'?
Jeff Pilson: "We actually recorded twelve Dokken songs and the others will likely be on the next T&N record next year. The reason we choose those five is because we contacted the singers that we wanted to get a hold of and once everybody said yes, we kind of threw songs at them and between the two of us we all sort of decided which songs they would sing; that's how we decided which five would go on Slave To The Empire."
BraveWords.com: T&N boosts some really a-list stellar vocalists.
Jeff Pilson: "How cool is that! Those vocal performances are really, really strong too. Sebastian Bach's 'Alone Again' is so emotional; I was blown away with how much emotion he was able to put into that track. And how hard he worked and how focused he was with coming up with this great emotional performance. Robert Mason sings the crap out of 'It's Not Love'. I mean he just belts it! Ripper Owens screaming his butt off! And Doug Pinnick - talk about a soulful singer with incredible feel. We just had so much fun doing the vocal with him and watching him sing and it was just an honor. All those vocalists just make the record real special for us."
BraveWords.com: Tell us again about that great bond you George and Mick have once again found with T&N.
Jeff Pilson: "It's just something that was there from the very first time that we ever played together. I guess it developed over time and got stronger and stronger and the bonds got stronger and we can read each others minds better. From day one we just had something that just clicked in and made music where the combination of what we're doing is stronger than the individual parts. And that's how you know the chemistry is right. And we have that with Brian Tichy as well. When George and I play with Brian, something really magical happens. The fact that these singers came in and did such magical vocal performances is really a testimony to when something is inspired and when it's right it just flows and comes out right...and that's how this whole record felt."
BraveWords.com: There are several themes on Slave To The Empire. On the title track, you and the band challenge the listeners to rise up against the system and think for themselves. You have commented, "This record is not meant to be preachy or overly political; we just want to encourage people that no matter where you come from - don't be asleep at the wheel."
Jeff Pilson: "Exactly, that is true. You know, more and more resources and wealth are going into fewer and fewer peoples hands. And when that happens, historically it's never been a good thing and I think right now it's a real bad sign of things to come. I think we really need to be careful and stay awake and keep involved in the process. Especially in a democracy like America or in many of the democracies in Europe. You've got to be involved or else it falls apart. So, be aware and get involved. That's our message. Don't let the system run you, let's run the system."
BraveWords.com: Is the band ready for the reaction that Slave To The Empire will garner once it hits the streets?
Jeff Pilson: "Are we ready? I don't think you ever are. But, you know, a lot of times you have to spend your time being very careful not to get so excited. We've been excited about this for a year and a half. If people respond positively than we are going to be real happy and that would be absolutely great!"
BraveWords.com: What do T&N's touring plans look like to support Slave To The Empire?
Jeff Pilson: "We were originally hoping for November or December; I'm still with FOREIGNER so that covers a lot of my time and Mick plays with TED NUGENT and George has other things going on. And without going into all the details, it was really hard to make that work. So, what we are hoping now after the next record sometime next year, we are hoping to go out."