We had a chance to sit down and chat with Tom Gimbel of Foreigner recently about the upcoming tour, being in the band, the choirs and one of his passions, golf. See the interview below and check out Foreigners 2017 tour dates. This is going to be a great year to catch them on tour. Enjoy!
Interview with Tom Gimbel:
YesterdazeNews: So the announcement came out that you guys are headed back out on tour. Tour dates starting on January 27th running through September with your 40th Anniversary Tour.
Tom Gimbel: Yeah.
That’s a long tour for you guys, isn’t it? You’re going to be really busy this year.
What happens is we tour throughout the year, and we also take little breaks to recharge our batteries and so forth. The big tour in the summer is the one that I think they might have announced some dates for, and that’s the one that includes Cheap Trick and Jason Bonham. So I’m not sure, it might start in June maybe or July. But up until then we’ll be doing our global stuff which includes playing in the States and playing all over the world. We’re going to go to Europe, we’re going to go to Iceland, crazy places but we always go there.
Oh, yeah, yeah. I caught you guys last year, you guys were out at Sweden Rock Festival while I was out there. So seeing you up on that huge festival stage was pretty cool.
Wow. Thanks a lot.
Then we covered you guys when you were here in Seattle later in summer. That was a pretty cool show too. I don’t think you guys ever do a bad show.
Glad to hear it. It’s something we strive for.
Although at Sweden Rock Festival, Twisted Sister moved their press conference time and they actually moved it the same time you guys literally started your show. So we were like, “Don’t do this to us.” So it was pretty funny.
We’ll have to thank Dee Snider for that. He was well aware. (laughter)
Dee was actually pretty funny, because he kept stopping the conference going, “Oh, those guys out there they’re making too much noise. Someone turn the radio down.” So it was pretty great.
It’s okay. We’re still fans. He’s an incredible powerhouse. His voice is outrageous.
He’s got a wonderful voice.
It’s outrageous. It’s out of control.
So when you head out on the first part of your tour what will be the difference between your normal stuff versus what you have in store for your 40th Anniversary Tour that fans can expect?
Probably just more cake, anniversary cakes and candles. (laughter)
Yeah. More cake. Everybody loves cake. (laughter)
I think we’re going to have a cake at every show this year, that’s the plan. But back to the question, you were asking about the first part of the tour or before we get into the triple bill?
Is there something that I guess fans can expect that’s going to be totally different on the 40th year anniversary tour, versus what they would catch on say, your normal shows you know that are part of the 40th anniversary?
I think in the summer, Mick (Jones) has announced, that he’s invited some previous members to come back and sit in for a song two. So that’s…yeah. I think that’s something that we’re not quite sure where, when, who, what how, but it is something that we have done in the past to a small degree. So now he’s extended his invitation and we have to wait and see what comes to it. But we’re talking about Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott the drummer and Rick Wills the bass player, stopping by and join together and jam again. So we’ve done that with Dennis and Rick Wills, but the last time Lou and Mick played together was at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. I think it was 2013, something like that, 2014. And that was really cool, we were there. And I got to be part of the band and sit there with Mick and Lou were telling stories in rehearsal and everything. So there’s still plenty of connection there. And so that’s what we’re looking forward to.
You joined Foreigner initially in 1992 doing some subbing for Scott, and then joined fully in 1995.
Yeah. Scott‘s my buddy, we went to Berkley together, he did a great job and then he called me back in ’95 or ’94, in the end ’94. And said, “I’m going to go my own thing. Would you like to come back to Foreigner?” I said, “Sure. I’d love to.” So I came back in 1995, I’ve been there ever since and it’s over two decades now. It’s crazy.
Are you doing side projects in between with what you do with Foreigner?
Not really. I find it keeps us so busy. We’re on the road 200 days of the year, and we’re doing 115 shows a year. So there’s a lot for me. I’m not that great at juggling. I can’t handle much more. I’ll have things with sax and guitar, flute to maintain during those times when we’re home. I have to sharpen up those skills, you know they’re like a garden. It requires continual tending to. So I practice a lot in my time off and maybe that’s why I don’t take on other projects because I want to keep doing that, I want to practice, I want to be really ready to go when we hit the trail.
You’ve worked with many artists over your career and worked with Aerosmith for a while. Throughout your career who would you has been the best or most surprising person for you to work with personally?
Mick Jones for sure. He sets such a great example and he knows…he tends to be someone who had written those kind of songs, sold that many albums, you know. We’re asking him, “How did you write those songs you know. What’s the magic?” And he won’t tell us. But he has a lot of really cool habits I hope they rub off on me. You know, he only talks about things when they need to be talked about, real minimalist. I love that, you know. He just boiled down, everything is condensed. So he’s just brilliant, his insight and his guitar playing, song writing and his singing too. I’m a huge fan of his singing. So anyways I just can’t say enough good things about Mick Jones.
That’s really cool. You’re also a music school graduate from Berkley. What would you tell your fans about going to get proper training in music or would you just tell them to start playing and practice where they’re at and go from there?
It depends if that’s something you want. In my case I wanted to learn all about the notes, and everything about music. I love to understand the language to the fullest extent. Other people are happy writing songs, strumming their guitar, and that’s okay too. I think whichever way you’ll really feel, it’s like a magnetic pull. The main thing is to listen to your favorite stuff and jam along with the records. That’s what all the greats do throughout history. So that’s really something all musicians should do. You should have your favorite stuff, and you should play along with it, and get inside of it, you know. Learn it. Even if it’s just singing. I suppose you love the Beatles, sing along with every Beatles song that you like, and makes you want to sing, and really understand the nuance or develop your own. And I think that’s something all musicians should do. But if you want to get more knowledge than that, you feel like you need more training, then absolutely, we all need teachers and you could take it to the level that feels correct.
You know Berkley has two programs, a two year and a four year program. I knew I wanted the four year program. I wanted to get as much as I could. I was just like thirsting for knowledge, you know, and so I love every second of it. But other people go there for one year or two year, and they get what they need and they’re on their way. So I think it’s really whatever the individual feels is appropriate for them, and a good teacher, there’s no substitute for a good teacher. Even to this day, I ask our singer Kelly Hansen for tips on singing, and he is so knowledgeable that I get to learn incredible tricks of the trade from one of the top singers around today. So yeah, we never stop learning and it’s an ongoing mission.
That’s great advice. Now being that I’ve seen you guys perform many times before, there’s always something special in the way you guys interact with your fans. I mean, I love how Kelly is always willing to jump out in the crowd and he’s out there running around with the fans. You know, it brings the fans closer to the band. How do you guys feel about your fans? I have seen such mutual respect between the band and fans. How important do you find them as part of Foreigner?
It’s definitely the reason we keep doing shows. Because we get that kind of connection, response and enthusiasm. That’s what keeps you going, you know. When we’re out there on the road sometimes you might hit the stage and you might not be in a 100%. Maybe just not feeling that great or you could be fighting a cold or something. But you get up there and the adrenaline starts. Then the energy from the crowd kicks in and that’s enough to really push you through anything. All of a sudden it’s uplifting and everyone’s feeling it. So that’s really the best two hours of the day for me is when we’re playing. The crowd interaction is the key to that. As much as I love playing with these guys and doing this music, if we were in a room together, it would be cool. But when we get to do it with the crowd, it’s unspeakably cool, you know, it’s just another level. It’s just so much fun, the energy. And that’s I think, as a band, is always the goal is to interact with the people and have fun with it. That’s really the joy that I see.
That’s great because I know every time I’m at a show covering you guys, I’m talking to your fans and they all have these great stories from years before when they’ve seen you. And they just have this energy that I don’t experience at too many shows today. And every one of your shows has that energy. And it’s just a very special feeling to be part of that.
I’m so glad that translates. It does start with Kelly, who’s really on top of everything. He’s so devoted and dedicated to making sure that his energy is right at 1 million percent. When he hits that stage, he always gives out that 1 million percent. I’ve never seen it below the million mark.
Absolutely. So I want to ask you outside of music, it’s noted that you’re an avid golf player. Do you get plenty of time to play on your days off while you’re on the road?
Sometimes in the summer. There was that year we we’re on the road with Kid Rock and we set up in Detroit, and it was like 17 sold out shows. So you don’t do them all on the road, there’s days off. So it turned it into at least 20 days there, maybe more. So at that point I made friends with the golf course, I knew how to get there. I was like, “Yahoo.” I actually unpacked my suitcase to the hotel we were staying in. I don’t even do that at home. But we were there long enough. Yeah. I set up shop, so in situation like that you bring your clubs, and you really get a chance to be outside, and playing in a different environment. I’ve played in so many crazy places. Even if you don’t have your clubs, you can rent. I played in England, in Sweden, in Japan, in Australia. It’s really fun to play outside the country.
You’ve had a really wide variety of courses. What would you are some of the best courses you’ve played on?
Oh, gosh. There’s tons of them in the States and that’s just down your preference. You could pick the city you want to go to and then find the best golf course, because in fact they are consistently that great. But if you want to go for the whole world then you have to start thinking about England and Ireland and Scotland. I have not played in Ireland and Scotland, but I have played in England. And I would certainly say that’s maybe one of the best places I have ever been to for golf. There was a club called The Belfry, pretty famous for a rider cup they had there. B-E-L-F-R-Y in England, and the people were so nice, everything about it was so nice. You go into that tall grass that looks like wheat. I think they call it heather which is kind of sexy right there. But anyway, you can hit the ball out of there, it’s not the end of the world you know. Like we see it on TV you’re like, “Oh no. The wheat field.” But it’s so cool, you’ll learn. The clubs just go, “Whoosh.” And you’re like, “Ahh.” You feel like you’re part of the nature, you know. One of the best days I ever had playing golf was at the Belfry. So that’s the one that I would recommend. But here in the States, you name it, any city I could probably think of a fantastic course to play.
Do you showcase a choir on every stop that you have and how do you find a local choir to perform with you?
Pretty much, nine out of 10 times. Our publicist is fantastic, and he will find out who the good strong singing choirs are. They send him some demo tapes. You know I think someone could just sit there with their phone and make a video and our publicist kind of does a contest where we’ll have a few schools submit and then pick out the strongest choir. There aren’t any bad ones anymore either, but he just picks the strongest ones. Then they come down and do the song with us and we make a donation to their music program. We’re trying to help the music programs in schools that have been decimated with budgets cutting them. It’s just like, the kids come to school band one day and they just go, “Hand in your instruments, it’s over.” It’s not like they did anything wrong, you know, but it’s just sad that a lot of programs are being cut. So we’re just trying to help in any way we can.
I grew up where we had choir, band and the arts. I don’t think I would have survived without them because I wasn’t one of the kids into the mainstream, you know sports or cheerleading. I was the art/music person and I’ve always been the art person. And it probably would have killed me in school to not have that available. So for me, I was really thrilled when you guys played out here last fall at the Little Creek Casino and you guys had a choir there with you. I was so thrilled when I was told that I could shoot during that song. I was like, “Oh good, this showcases this extra thing you guys do.” Now I have this beautiful shot with you guys performing with this local choir. It’s just one of those photos that sums up Foreigner. There’s something special about Foreigner and it really brings it home.
That’s good stuff. Glad to hear it. It’s very uplifting. Yes. You’re right and schools…kids, some of these kids…like you and I that was the one thing we could do at school. If you’re not going to be in the sports team, if you’re on a choir, that’s like a team if you’re in a school band. That’s like joining a team. So it’s so important and a lot of these kids, that’s the coolest thing about school for them. Might be a reason to stay in school. Sometimes it keeps kids out of trouble. I hate to keep using the word kids. Because we’re not really kids by the time we get to high school. Especially not now.
You know I really don’t think people reach maturity until they hit about 25 anyway. So… (laughing)
If you’re lucky. I’m still working on it. (laughing) I’m into stereos, and cars, and golf clubs. I think I’m at about 12th grade emotionally.
Is there anything else that you want to let your fans know?
Yeah. Just that we appreciate them. You know we go around the country and we see familiar friends and faces. We’re just so grateful. We truly appreciate all the energy and support, and I we’ll keep doing it as long as you want us to.
Well, all right. Thank you so much for your time today.