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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Exclusive Interview: Foreigner's Lou Gramm Finds Joy Reuniting with His Original Bandmates & Exudes Peace as His Career Winds Down

Foreigner
Photo: Karsten Staiger

I honestly can’t remember a point in my life when Foreigner wasn’t one of the musical fibers helping to hold my memories together. I can easily flashback to when I was six-years-old, curled up in my dad’s ugly green chair with his headphones on listening to Foreigner, as I held their album in my lap. My father was a DJ back when stations were first changing over to an album rock format and he was happy to bring his work (in the form of vinyl imports) home with him. I always got to pick a song to listen to before I went to bed and dad was thrilled when “Feels Like the First Time” replaced “Disco Duck”. I quickly noticed that if I picked “right” he would let me keep his headphones on for a few songs and falling asleep to the first side of Foreigner’s eponymous effort happened to me more than a few times. 

It was the synth that first grabbed my attention but by the time I was a pre-teen I really understood how important each and every musician (Lou Gramm, Mick Jones, Al Greenwood, Dennis Elliott, Rick Wills, Ed Gagliardi) was to the band and how they all played a crucial part in creating that unmistakable sound. It’s a sound that regularly lives on in millions of households even now, forty-plus years later. 

Longtime fans were thrilled last year when the original band joined the current lineup onstage for a handful of shows. Those gigs were so special and well-received that “Super Foreigner” will reunite again in October for a few more Double Vision: Then & Now shows. I had an opportunity to speak with Lou Gramm, the man whose voice has helped to sell over 80 million albums. It's an interview that I feel like I've prepared 40 years for, and both his insight and his hindsight are uniquely valuable. 

Lou Gramm & Rick Wills
Photo: Cate Meighan

Cate Meighan: How did those first reunion shows feel to you and what was it like to have those particular audiences in the palm of your hand? 

Lou Gramm: “Well, to reunite was unbelievable. It had been a lot of years since that band had taken the stage together and so it felt really powerful. Everyone was playing terrific and from one end of the set to the other, there was a lot of joy onstage. I felt that it projected right onto the audience. I could sense that the audience was really enjoying it and the response to every song made the short hairs on my neck stand up.”  

CM: How is it different for you being on stage with the original band now versus back in the 70’s or ’80s? 

Lou: “Well, the band back in the day was awesome, but the schedule that we kept was hard. Just like everything else that you do in life, this was just as much work as it was a joy. That balance tends to numb things and you almost forget the little things that were so special, which is sad but it’s kind of the way that it is. So honestly on those (reunion) nights all of my senses were just piqued. Looking around at the guys, watching them playing and shooting little smirks at each other, it was all the things that we used to do and just took for granted. Those little things now have a huge meaning on these special nights. The shows that we did recently, we knew there would only be a few of them so we wanted to make the most of every song, interact and just be who we’re supposed to be.” 

Mick Jones & Lou Gramm 
Photo: Karsten Staiger

CM: Did you know there would be more shows after last winter? Was that something that was already in the planning stages? 

Lou: “We were hopeful but it was understood that everything would depend on how we were received. You know it could have really gone differently. We could have had a lukewarm reception and we could have walked offstage knowing that our better days were definitely behind us. Instead, we realized that our audience appreciates us as if it was 25 years ago. The people in the seats really create the energy of a show and without them and that energy there would be no point in continuing” 

CM: It was announced late last year that you were finished performing with your own band. Did the Foreigner reunion shows have anything to do with that decision? 

Lou: “At the end of last year I disassembled my own band and that was that. Different variations of that band had been together for 13 or 14 years and we had great shows. Whether there was a Foreigner reunion or not, I knew that it was time for me to put an end to that. This year I’ve played on and off with Asia. They do their songs and then they do arrangements of my solo work, plus Foreigner songs. They’re very good and we have a lot of fun on stage, but even that is coming to an end later this year. I’m in the process of winding down and I’m at peace with it. I’ve been doing this at a professional level, usually extremely busy and working hard, for 45 years. I can still sing; I don’t know if I’m as good as I was 40 years ago but I can still cut the parts. I’ve just lost the desire to be out on the road performing constantly, I’ve done enough. I’ve got a lot of other things that I’d like to turn my attention towards like my family and my obsessive hobby (laughing)- American muscle cars! I have a lot of fun with that and I’ve been into it since before I was old enough to drive. When you tour it’s usually in the summer so by the time the tour is over it’s almost too late to get the car out and drive it. I live in the northeast so come October that’s when everyone is putting everything away.” 

CM: Some of DailyBOOM’s readers had some questions for you. I liked this one- if you look at Foreigner’s whole catalog what songs are a perfect example of what this band really can do?

Lou: “Oh boy that’s really tough (laughing). I would say if I just shot from the hip, "Juke Box Hero" and "Urgent". Two songs that have very different feels to them but they’re both heavy-handed and pack a real punch.” 


Mick Jones
Photo: Babs Marks

 CM: Another great question- how difficult was it for you to transition back into the band after spending time focused on your solo work? 

Lou: “It was difficult because when I did my own thing it was to let my own creative abilities have the lead. I didn’t need approval, so to go back into that situation was almost unbearable at the time. Creatively I did very little on Inside Information because everything that I brought up was shot down. I just held on tight and I sang the songs. It didn’t turn out to be the kind of album that I had hoped that it would be.” 

CM: Here’s another one that I liked- what album are you the proudest of? 

Lou: “There are a few. Mr. Moonlight was released on an independent label and got very little airplay and very little notoriety. I thought it was a great album and even now, you have to be a fan to know that it exists. Some fans still don’t know that it exists (laughing). I also loved 4. There’s a lot that I loved writing and recording, plus then performing but if I had to pick it would be those two.” 

CM: Last one from our readers’- what was the motivation behind “Angel with a Dirty Face”? 

Lou: “It was a fun little song about a girl who made it seem like she was an angel but you could tell what was going on and that she no angel (laughing).” 

CM: Okay back to the present day “Super Foreigner”! How do you feel knowing that you get to reunite with both bands again for four shows in October? 

Lou: “I’m very excited to do it again. I think we rehearse 2 days before the show and I have to say, the current lineup of the band is great. They’re all nice guys and they’re thrilled to be doing what they’re doing and I’d be thrilled if I was them too (laughing). They are as helpful as they can be and I hold absolutely no ill will against them. They walked into a situation where they were asked to join Foreigner and how many people are going to turn that kind of offer down (laughing)? They took advantage of a great opportunity and that’s how things go. We genuinely get along really well.” 

Photo: Cate Meighan

CM: What would you like to say to the fans that are really looking forward to these reunion shows? 

Lou: “The original band loved performing back in the day when it was our time to shine and now all of these years later it’s still our time to shine. We’re going to lay it down as best we can and we’re going to rock them real hard. We take a lot of pride in what we do and in the songs that we’ve written and recorded. It means a lot to the original band to still play and every time we do this our pride is at stake! So, we’re going to perform just like we’re back in our heyday and we won’t let anybody down.” 

Check out Foreigner's Official Site for more info on Double Vision: Then & Now tour dates!









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