Bassist and producer Jeff Pilson is best known for playing with DOKKEN and FOREIGNER, but he also toured with DIO in the 1990s and performed on three of the group’s albums — “Strange Highways” (1993), “Angry Machines” (1996) and the group’s tenth and final studio release, “Master Of The Moon” (2004).
During a recent appearance on the “Let There Be Talk” podcast, Pilson was asked how his involvement with DIO came about. He responded (hear audio below): “DOKKEN had opened up for DIO starting in ’83, actually. On the ‘Holy Diver’ tour, we played six shows with them, so that’s when I met them. And then, on our ‘Tooth And Nail’ tour and their ‘Last In Line’ tour, we did a big chunk of the tour together and got to be very close. So we all got to be good friends. Then when I pursued my FLESH & BLOOD band at the end of ’89, I got Vinny [Appice, original DIO drummer] to play on it. He and I had been really close friends for a long time anyway. So I had a lot of deep connections with the DIO camp and I’ve always loved Ronnie [James Dio]; Ronnie was always a good guy.
“Me joining the [DIO] band was a very funny story,” he continued. “I think Jimmy [Bain, original DIO bassist] was having some problems at the time and he was not showing up. And Ronnie, a guitar player by the name of Tracy G and Vinny were rehearsing, and they happened to be rehearsing down the street. So I’m at home one day, and my door knocks, and I go to answer the door and it’s Ronnie and Vinny. And they said, ‘Hey, Jeff, we’re jamming right down the street, and Jimmy hasn’t showed. Do you know anybody that would wanna play bass with this?’ And it was so funny, ’cause I had been working with Don Dokken for a while. For over a year, we had been writing what essentially became the DOKKEN ‘Dysfunctional’ record later on. But we’d been working together. We weren’t really sure what it was gonna be. There wasn’t really talk of a DOKKEN reunion at that point, so it was kind of up in the air. So when they said that, I said, ‘Yeah. Me.’ ‘You’re serious. We’re set up down the street. We’ve got all our gear down there. We’re playing. Let’s go jam.’ I said, ‘Well, I would, except that my sprinklers are broken and I’m trying to figure out what to do.’ And Vinny and Ronnie are both really handy guys — well, Ronnie was — really handy guys around the house; I am not. And Vinny is just really handy in general. So they were, like, ‘We’ll fix it.’ So Ronnie and Vinny then went about all through my yard, they fixed my sprinklers. Spinklers are fixed, we go down the street and jam, and then I joined DIO. [Laughs]”
Pilson went on to praise Ronnie, calling him “the best metal singer ever — hands down. He was incredible,” Jeff said. “And even beyond singing, his musicianship in general was just first class all the way. [He was an] amazing musician, incredible band leader and a really, really, really good friend. I mean, he was the kind of friend that would give you the shirt off his back; he was that kind of guy.”
In recent years, Pilson produced the first two albums by LAST IN LINE, the group formed in 2012 by former members of the original DIO band — Appice, Bain and guitarist Vivian Campbell.
Pilson is currently on tour with FOREIGNER, which is scheduled to play five more shows in the U.S. this month before launching a European run that will last through the end of July.