Double Duty, Double Vision
40 Years On, Mick Jones Looks at Foreigner's Past and Present

By Lee Valentine Smith

Foreigner has enjoyed over four decades of life as a rock band. From its initial creation in New York, with a distinctive half-American and half-British line-up, founder Mick Jones has kept the hitmaking ship afloat through the various fads and changing tastes of the ensuing years.

Last year, he corralled all the surviving original members with the current touring line-up and presented a series of shows featuring all the members on stage presenting the bands biggest hits. The resulting recordings are now available as Double Vision: Then And Now, a deluxe CD and DVD release that finds all the participants in fine form, offering definitive versions of every major hit, including "Head Games," "Waiting For A Girl Like You," "Hot Blooded" and even "Urgent."

Before he leads the current band on a UK tour next year with Whitesnake, Jones and company will offer a few symphonic shows as a bit of a warm-up for a busy 2020, including a lengthy shed tour next summer with friends from Kansas and Europe.

Jones recently called in to INsite from his home studio in New York.

It's quite a feat to bring the current and the founding bands together. How did this come about?

Well we happened to be here in New York and I was trying to think of something special we could do. I floated the idea of getting together out there to everyone. As it happens, there was a lot of enthusiasm for it. So we dove into it and it ended up being a great experience for everybody. For myself and for [original singer] Lou Gramm and the new members. I was a little iffy about it, of course. The original members hadn't played in some time. So I was surprised at how it all came together so fast. From the word go, it seemed that everyone was up for it and excited, so it was a good feeling to see it all come together.

As you obviously know, it's a lot of work to form a band and in your case to bring a band back together.

It was interesting to see how well [vocalists] Lou Gramm and Kelly Hansen worked together and the atmosphere was just great for this sort of project. It was conducive to the spirit of things. The fans loved it at the live shows and the guys loved it. It ended up being a very celebratory event for our 40th anniversary.

With you in the middle of everything.

Yeah, with me doing double-time!

It's like bringing every ex-wife together for a big dinner.

(Laughs) Yes! Well we took a shot and it really worked. So we've been doing occasional get-togethers since then. Nothing more this year but next year there'll certainly be some more of these kind of shows.

It's a good time to celebrate the legacy of the music.

Yeah well what can I say, it's just exciting to be in this band again after so long. But it's been good, we are having a great success with the current band and most of the shows are sold out. Not just in the United States, but around the world. So I have to kind of pinch myself and realize what's happened and what is still to come at this point. Having a bit of a rebirth for the band at this point is just sensational.

Foreigner songs continue to resonate in TV shows, films and even video games.

Yeah, I guess they can't hold us down.

A lot of your peers can't say that they are sustaining their popularity in the same way. Most of them are playing chili cook-offs somewhere in the Midwest.

(Laughs) That's right, but we're still here. We're actually planning a big shed tour for next summer. We'll definitely be in Atlanta, absolutely. We never miss Atlanta.

The upcoming symphony show in Nashville sounds interesting. Foreigner has been doing a number of symphonic shows in the last few years.

We have and we've been doing them for three or four years now.

How did you decide to combine the band with symphonic arrangements?

It was easy, really. We were playing an opera house and the promoters offered their services and recording facilities. They had a house orchestra and a 90-piece choir. They said they'd like to put all of it at our disposal if we'd decide to utilize it. I had to think about it a bit and then I thought, 'Well yeah, let's try it.' Everything was paid for and it really was a wonderful opportunity. I'd always had a sneaking feeling that I wanted to try something in that area anyway, because I thought the songs would really lend themselves to that sort of situation. It turns out they really worked well. At first, I thought it would be a nice experiment then it turned into full-blown rehearsals and arrangements. We spent ten days or so in Switzerland working on it and it turned out to be an enjoyable process. Since then we've done several versions of it around the states and now in the new year, we'll be doing it in Nashville with the symphony in the hall there. So it's been an incredible journey to take these songs and tour them for so long as a rock band and now to revisit them in the symphonic settling, it just shows how durable the songs really are. I'm enjoying seeing them being transformed.

Foreigner plays January 16-18 with the Nashville Symphony at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. For tickets and showtimes, visit nashvillesymphony.org.

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