When you think of bands with staying power in the rock and roll world, there are a few that come to mind. On that golden list, Foreigner is definitely up at the top. With smash hits such as “I Want To Know What Love Is,” “Juke Box Hero,” and “Cold As Ice,” I have always found myself having one of their vinyls in my collection. Now, here in present day, they are celebrating their 40th year as a band, which is an incredible milestone for many reasons. They are hitting the road on a cool acoustic tour that comes to the Tri-State Area, which provided me with the honor to chat with multi-instrumentalist Thom Gimbel. We discussed longevity in this industry, touring past and present, what the future holds as a band and more. I can honestly say, he was one of the nicest, funniest musicians I have ever talked to, providing a lot of fresh insight for young acts today. Check it out below.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I am a big fan so it’s an honor. It’s crazy to see the band has been together for 40 years, that’s one heck of a milestone. How does it feel?
My pleasure, Maria. That’s very nice of you to say. Honestly, we are very fortunate to still be able to do what we love. It’s so cool to think that Foreigner has stood the test of time; we are still rocking with our fans from day one, and picking up new fans along the way. It’s a really cool feeling, one that we are all very grateful for.
I can’t even begin to imagine! Being through so much as a band, what would you say has changed the most in the music industry from when you guys first started out?
Wow, so much has changed. However, honestly, it’s for the better! My motto is, the more futuristic we can get, the better. Think of it this way: Years ago, when you were on your tour bus, you were isolated from everyone! There was no way to get in touch with your fans, family, or anyone, really. We sat in a bus and memorized the lines to Die Hard on VHS, over and over again. Nowadays, we can go on social media to stay connected to our fans with updates and such, stay in touch with our families. A few of the guys in the band are married and have kids and they can even FaceTime and help them with their homework.
Overall, it’s just so much better. I mean, I am still waiting for the days of flying cars, and I cannot wait. Hey, maybe I will even marry a robot! Talk about a mail-order bride (laughs). Seriously though, it’s so much better for us. Plus, you can access music at any time, which is pretty cool.
That’s so true; it sometimes becomes hard to remember a time where we didn’t have all of these communication devices. And it really must be nice to be able to stay in touch with your loved ones and fans, even though I do enjoy the occasional Die Hard on VHS (laughs). It’s always cool to say Foreigner are a big inspiration for a lot of younger bands today. How does it make you feel when people call the band “legendary”?
It’s an amazing feeling, honestly, that our music can still transcend to so many people, fans and other musicians. If other people feel as strongly about our music as we do, then there is absolutely nothing to complain about there (laughs). As I said above, it’s so great to see people from all generations getting on board, that’s one of the many reasons why this 40th anniversary is such an incredible landmark.
Agreed! You guys are hitting the road, kicking it off at the NYCB Theatre At Westbury. Having been all over the world, is there anywhere on this tour you are most excited to play?
Not in particular, we honestly love everywhere we go. Where we are playing that night in that moment is our favorite venue, you know? We’ve seen so many cool places over time. But of course, we are always excited to come back to New Jersey, which is where I am from originally!
And we are so excited to have you back! 40 years ago, I am sure touring was a lot different, trying to establish your fan base and get your band’s name out there. Is it much more relaxed now?
Well, I would say absolutely YES (laughs). When you are in your twenties, you party every night, and that’s how it should be. You know, at the age when you can bounce back to normal the next day; stay out all night, be fine the next morning, I am sure you know what I am referring to! When you tour at that age, that’s what you should be doing—enjoying every aspect of it, especially when you are first starting out.
But now that we are all grown up, it’s about longevity for us; staying healthy, fit, getting rest, and being in tip top shape for our shows. At my present age, partying is much less important than rest (laughs). But we progressed as we should, and now we just are all much more focused on taking care of our health and well-being!
That’s a great motto, and I respect it! What can fans expect on this tour? Will the setlist be the same every night?
Well, this is the cool acoustic thing we have going on. We have a few stops in your area, including the Theatre At Westbury, The Capitol Theatre, Mayo Performing Arts Center, and the Count Basie Theatre, which we hope to see you at. It’s going to be really fun; the audience can get very involved on this, as we tell stories, strip things down, and really let our fans get to know us. There will be a lot of laughs, sing-a-longs, and so much more. We are very excited about this tour, and we think our fans will like it a lot.
That sounds awesome, and yes, it gives your fans a whole new experience of Foreigner. Dare I ask, are there any bands out right now that you are really into?
I like a lot of stuff, you know. However, I still go back to some of my favorites who are putting out new material; artists like Al Green, Marvin Gaye, those guys to me just cannot go wrong.
Who can’t agree with that? One final question: Can you give any advice to bands that are just starting out trying to make it in this business?
Of course. The rule in the band world is, if you believe in it, stay with it. If it’s something you want bad enough, you will never give up. Also, once you start to get there, and every time something “major” happens, push harder. Never get too comfortable, especially in this business. That should always be a motivator. Also, take the time to master the instrument you play; pick artists you like, and try to echo those songs. Do you play an instrument, Maria?
No, the closest I come is my boyfriend letting me bang his drums every now and then. I always say that’s why I work in music, because I can’t play!
Hey, then you are in music! If you have an ear for it, and a passion for it, you’re in it. I asked because, say for example, you love a certain artist. Put on her CD, and try to echo their craft. Practice can never, ever hurt. Sometimes I pretend I am B.B. King and listen to his records; it really gives you a newfound respect for the instrument you’re playing. Honestly, just take control of your talent. As I said, if you have the drive, the work ethic, it can happen, you just have to stick with it. Plus, if you love it, that’s what you need!
Well that’s great advice, and thanks so much for your knowledge and insight. It’s been a pleasure talking with you, and I hope this tour goes great for you. 2016 seems to be kicking off just great for Foreigner, and I hope you enjoy the ride. Cheers to 40 more years!
Thanks so much, Maria. It’s been a pleasure. See you on the road!
You can catch Foreigner on their 40-year anniversary tour at the NYCB Theatre At Westbury in Westbury, NY on Feb. 11, the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on Feb. 13, the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ on Feb. 14, and the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ on Feb. 15. For more information, go to foreigneronline.com.