In a new interview with music writer Joel Gausten, bassist Jeff Pilson (DOKKEN, FOREIGNER, DIO) discusses the upcoming release of DOKKEN‘s “Return To The East Live (2016)” of the classic lineup’s 2016 reunion in Japan, the band’s original 1989 breakup and the possibility of this lineup continuing in the future.
Joel Gausten: You mentioned “Dream Warriors” earlier. I’m not alone in being introduced to DOKKEN through that song. When you look back now, how do you think that partnership with the “Nightmare On Elm Street” thing ultimately impacted the band’s career?
Jeff Pilson: “In a big way, because you’re not the first person to tell me that. There are a lot of people who did get familiar with us through that. Our managers at the time were really great. Cliff Burnstein, one of our managers, was really close friends with Wes Craven, the guy who did the ‘Nightmare’ series. Those are the two who kind of concocted this idea. Not only was it a great thing to be involved in the movie, but the video that came out afterwards was the first time that a commercially released movie included a music video from the band that did the title song. That got us a lot of exposure. I would say that ‘Dream Warriors’ was a critical song for us as far as introducing us to a lot of people, and it is a very consummate DOKKEN-sounding song. It sort of established our sound with a lot of people, which was a great thing.”
Joel Gausten: Not terribly long after that, the band broke up. When that took place, did you feel satisfied that the band had indeed gone as far as it could?
Jeff Pilson: “Absolutely not! [Laughs] We did break up, but it happened as the result of Donleaving. I can remember having many a talk with Don. I would pull out statistics, like, ‘Only 41 albums went platinum in 1988, and we’re one of them!’ I was really trying to sell the idea of keeping the band together for at least a couple more cycles. Our management was trying to do the same; they were dangling large monetary carrots in front of us. Money was one of the reasons that I thought we should stay together, but I also felt like, ‘No! We haven’t taken this as far as we could.’ In retrospect, having broken up then probably eliminated us from being part of the carnage that hair metal received in the early ’90s. [Laughs] We were already gone by then. We did have a career after that; we were able to come back a couple times. That may or may not have happened had we continued then. Who knows? But I did not want the band to break up; I did think we had more to do. I thought had we done one more record, we could have really put ourselves in a much, much bigger position — which, again, would have suffered terribly in the ’90s, but maybe we would have had a better springboard to jump off of from there.”
Joel Gausten: My next question is the one you’re likely hearing a lot. Obviously, this new release features the classic lineup. Do you see a future for the four of you working under the DOKKEN banner?
Jeff Pilson: “You know what? You just never know. We talk about it all the time; we get along well enough now that we communicate pretty well. There are always offers coming in, and there’s always talk of it. A lot of it comes down to scheduling; it’s very, very difficult to schedule. One of the reasons the Japanese tour worked out so well is that they really, really worked around our schedules to make it happen. They wanted it to happen as badly as anybody. FOREIGNER happened to have a three-week break in that period in October [’16]. That worked out really, really well. There’s not a lot of that that happens. I don’t know how often our schedules would be able to coordinate so easily, but I would never say never, because the demand is still there and shows no sign of letting up. I’ll say that we’ll probably always entertain it and look into ways of making it happen, but who know when it is or if it’ll ever happen. We’ll just have to wait and see.”