Foreigner Guitarist Tom Gimbel Discusses Soundtrack of Summer Album, Tour With Styx & Don Felder
Classic rock giants Foreigner may be responsible for some of rock’s most enduring anthems, with an arsenal of hits that include songs like “Cold As Ice” and “Juke Box Hero.” But on May 6th, the band will join forces with another legendary group, Styx to release the ultimate seasonal package— appropriately called “The Soundtrack of Summer”.
This new album collection features sixteen classic songs by both Foreigner and Styx as well as a brand new interpretation of one of classic rock’s most successful songs ever, “Hotel California”. Original songwriter and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder teams up with Foreigner and Styx for this very special collaboration as well as for a stunning new version of Foreigner’s massive hit, “I Want To Know What Love Is” (which will only be available as a limited edition vinyl disc and on iTunes).
The Soundtrack of Summer album will also coincide with a highly anticipated tour of the same name – featuring Foreigner and Styx with special guest Felder as the opening act!
I spoke with Foreigner guitarist and mult-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel about the Soundtrack of Summer, his early years touring with Aerosmith and how he got hooked up with Mick Jones and Foreigner!
What started this tour project idea and album?
Sometimes, management teams brainstorm about which combination of bands would work best during the summer. This one makes perfect sense – Foreigner, Styx and The Eagles [Don Felder] all go together so well. It’s something we like to call “traditional” rock music. Once we all decided that we were going to tour we thought, why not do a little bit of recording together to have something that would set the tone.
Tell me a little about the new version of Hotel California and the recording process.
The idea was to have each band involved on the song give their own little segment and then have everyone harmonize together. It’s all one big musical family. We were able to recreate so much by using a lot of the modern techniques of recording. Not having to wait for the tape to rewind was a really cool advantage! [laughs].
What are some of your own best summer memories?
When I was growing up I was a big fan of The Who. I remember listening to Quadrophenia and albums like that and just thinking “Wow! This is the kind of rock music that I want to get involved with!” Hearing it now really take me back to memories of being a kid. It was such a cool era of music.
Tell me a little about your days at Berklee College of Music.
When I went to Berklee it was primarily a jazz school. So it was a little too late for me to start learning jazz guitar. But I was more than happy to stay a rock guitarist while I was there and instead played the flute and saxophone. One of the things I learned while I was there was that if you wanted to get really good on your instrument, you had to spend a lot of hours practicing.
How did you get hooked up with Aerosmith?
While I was in Boston going to Berklee I was also performing in bands and hooked up with a guy named John Butcher. We made a few records on Capitol together and a lot of the people we worked with knew the guys in Aerosmith. That’s how I was recommended. It was a completely different world back in those days because someone had to actually give you their phone number. There was no Facebook or Internet back then.
Tell me how you got the gig with Foreigner.
That was another situation where someone recommended me. Kevin Williamson was a guy who worked at Atlantic Records and he was playing golf with Ricky Phillips, the bassist for Styx. Ricky’s a friend of mine and while the two of them were playing Kevin mentioned that Foreigner had an odd situation. They were in need of a guitar player who also played sax. That’s when Ricky said, “Hey, I know a guy who does that!” and he gave him my number. A few days later, Mick’s brother Kevin called me up and said “Let’s talk about Foreigner”; and I said “Yeah, let’s talk!” [laughs]! Playing guitar and sax was my dream come true.
Has there been any thought given on another new Foreigner album?
We did an album of all new material back in 2010 called “Can’t Slow Down”. Mick continues to write and is always collaborating with different people. I’m sure at some point there will be some new material. I’m not sure if it will be a whole album though. Maybe a two or three song package. We’ll have to wait and see but there will definitely be some new music.
You’ve been with the band for more than twenty years. What’s the experience like?
It’s been marvelous every step of the way. It’s a real pleasure to work with every one of these guys. This is one of those bands where everyone really respects and admires each others musicianship. We have monsters on every instrument. Mick sets a great example as our leader. He sets the tone. I look forward to playing with these guys every night.
Soundtrack of Summer Tour Dates: