Interview- Tom Gimbel (Foreigner)

Tom Gimbel
February 2015

The man has been with Foreigner since 1995, a span of twenty years. The multi-instrumentalist has quietly been in the band longer than anyone with the exception of leader Mick Jones and original vocalist Lou Gramm. We had the honor of talking with Tom Gimbel (he prefers the simplistic T-O-M spelling these days) who brought us up to speed on Foreigner’s upcoming plans for 2015.

Rock Show Critique: When you graduated from the esteemed Berklee College Of Music how soon til you started to tour with Aerosmith?

Tom Gimbel: There was definitely some years in between there. I was working with a very talented guy named Jon Butcher. We were on Capitol Records and we made three albums in the mid-eighties. I didn’t get hooked up with Aerosmith until 89’. I was kind of working my way around the New England area. (Laughs) They didn’t just call me on my graduation day it was a long process. I learned so much and I feel really fortunate to have worked with some very talented people.

RSC: How did you end up landing the Aerosmith gig?

TG: It was because I was working with Jon Butcher and we had mutual friends that had worked with both bands. When they heard they were looking for a new keyboard player my name was recommended to them. So it was basically through the Boston connection.

RSC: Did you ever imagine after graduation that you would be where you are today?

TG: I’m not sure, I probably could have hoped, you know I was always hopeful. I always felt if you worked really hard and if you got some lucky breaks that maybe some good things would happen. I still feel that way. I still work hard and I hope things continue to go well for us. Nothing’s really changed all that much.

Foreigner group phtoto 2014

RSC: You have toured with so many acts/artists is there anyone you have on your wish list?

TG: I don’t think so. I honestly say that because Foreigner’s the perfect fit for me. I love this kind of music. It’s rock but there’s some complexity in there. There’s some hybrid chords, some very interesting harmony that goes with the rock element almost like the Who suspended chords. It’s really right up my alley. There’s not another band I know that has that blend of gutsy, rootsy rock almost like ZZ Top. Then there’s this complexity, I’m talking like the intro to “Feels Like The First Time”, where it goes from a “G” to this fancy G/F with a G in the bass chord. You just don’t do that on a rock guitar. Simply not done anyone who wants to try will see it’s not easy to do, it’s pretty hard. Mick has created this hybrid of music that is so marvelous that it fits my personality perfectly, plus I get to play the sax on “Urgent” and so forth. Is there anyone I would dream about jamming with would probably have John Lennon in it. Everyone has one of those bands.

RSC: You guys very quietly released a new live album recently. The Best Of Foreigner 4 and More. This was culled from a pair of shows from Atlantic City in October I believe?

TG: Oh yeah that was a festive evening!!

RSC: “Night Life” and “Break It Up” two great songs that you rarely play make this a worthwhile release in itself. What brought this about and will you be adding rare songs like those into the live show more frequently?

TG: This was something that we wanted to do as a tribute to that album that was so seminal in the Foreigner history. Obviously we do a lot of songs that are on Foreigner 4 every night, “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, “Urgent” and “Juke Box Hero. Yeah I agree “Night Life” is such a rockin’ song, we’ve done it occasionally over the years. Mick really enjoys playing that one. It’s such a cool riff. “Break It Up” was a perfect song for Kelly to sing, it was almost like he was destined to sing that song. He does the most amazing job on it. It’s really incredible just to witness how well he sings that song. It’s a perfect fit for him. so those two (songs) you’re right, they needed to be played they were working their way, itching to get out. So we wanted to play them live. Everybody loves “Girl On The Moon” it’s just a really nice kind of vibey song. We do an acoustic version of it, it’s just plain ol’ cool. We got a guy named Bruce Watson that plays slide acoustic with echo on it. It really created a nice texture that was just so much fun. And “Women In Black” is just power chords. This is a really cool rock side of Foreigner that hopefully people get another helping of buy checking out the live versions.

RSC: It has been almost six years since Can’t Slow Down….will there be a new studio album anytime in the near future?

TG: It’s possible but I don’t know if it would be a long extended play with eleven or twelve songs, especially now days. People are putting out albums that have three, four or five songs on them. So I think that’s entirely possible or sometimes fans will get a song in a movie. Mick is always writing. He’s been doing some writing with Sammy Hagar. He was working with Lou Gramm. They were looking at some old tapes they had lying around. Mick writes on his own constantly so we’re just kind of waiting to see how the music finds its way out. I do think its possible something new would be forthcoming in the next year or two. It’s just a question of seeing when, where and how.

RSC: So what does the band have planned for the summer and the rest of 2015?

TG: I think they’re working on a big summer tour for us but its not official and hasn’t been announced yet. Until that time we’ll wait and see. Every year we do go out on a big package. Last year was a ton of fun with Styx and Don Felder, so I’m sure there’s a good one cooking for this year too. It’s a tradition, its like having a BBQ by the lake.

TOMGIMBELSAX.jpg photo credit Emily Jones

Photo Credit: Emily Jones

RSC: You’ve probably been asked a million times who your influences are but what bands/artists do you like from the last five years to now?

TG: That’s a tough question, it’s like what do you do when you turn on your pandora Marvin Gaye, Al Green? People should ask each other that before they start dating. What’s your pandora set for? For me sometimes I like the techno trippy kind of house vibe, computer generated spacey music. I think that’s an offshoot from the Pink Floyd early days. I think people that love that kind of synthesizer, echo and atmospheric sound, you know you can’t keep listening to Dark Side Of The Moon. There’s only so many times. I still love Jazz, I listen to a lot of Jazz. There’s a lot of contemporary Jazz that’s going on too and some amazing players. Mostly I tend to go with the classics Miles Davis or Johnny Hodges, crazy stuff like that.

RSC: What aspirations do you still have to accomplish in the music world?

TG: Well I definitely do want to do some recording. I have all kinds of ideas for some fun stuff that I would like to do in a studio, where I would use the saxophone as a voice. Almost like in a singing duet with another voice, answering back and forth, what we call a call and response. I grew up in the sixties so I love Motown and one of the songs I want to try that on is a Supremes song so I can use my alto sax to play off what would have been Diana Ross’ part. When I was a little kid we loved the Supremes, The Temptations all that Motown stuff. It was a big deal. So anyway that’s just one of the projects I’m looking forward to trying when we get some time.

Foreigner will play the Seneca Niagara Events Center on Saturday February 21 8PM.
Click Here for tickets

About Joseph Suto

Location: Buffalo, NY Photographer/Reviewer
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