Foreigner By Bill Bernstein WebIn the first of a brand new series of exclusive interviews, RUSHONROCK editor and AOR fanatic Simon Rushworth talks to some of the biggest names in melodic rock.

To kick things off he catches up with Foreigner‘s former Hurricane singer Kelly Hansen ahead of the band’s UK headline tour with Europe and FM.

Look out for exclusive chats with Joey Tempest, Steve Overland and more…coming soon to RUSHONROCK




rushonrock: Foreigner have enjoyed some great shows in the UK in the last few years – how much is the band looking forward to the spring tour?

Kelly Hansen: We always do. It’s such a great country and the fans are so passionate. Their in-depth music knowledge is second to none. They ask questions and they have a real insight – I like that. As a musician it’s great to experience that kind of thing. Being in a different place and seeing how your music is appreciated is very special.

rushonrock: As an American do you feel as if you’re returning to rock music’s roots?

KH: I don’t really think about that when I’m in the UK. It’s certainly not one of the benefits of touring the UK as far as I’m concerned. I enjoy it for different reasons. We just come over here and do our thing and we’re accepted by the fans for doing that. The only hard part of what we do is the travelling. But even that’s ok in the UK.

rushonrock: You’ve also managed to be part of some memorable bills in recent years and played with some killer bands – are you excited about adding Europe to the list?

KH: We played with them at the London Roundhouse a couple of years back as part of the iTunes Festival. They’re writing some great new music now and it’s the perfect time to tour with them. It’s an excellent bill and of course we’re bringing FM along too.

rushonrock: Melodic rock and AOR continues to enjoy a sustained revival in the UK – what do you put that down to?

KH: It’s hard to say. These things go in cycles as far as I can see. But of course it’s exciting to see the resurgence right now and for Foreigner to be a part of it. We’ve experienced it more than ever in the last couple of years. But it’s been building and building in the States for the last six or seven years. Unfortunately there’s a dwindling number of radio stations prepared to play new rock music and that’s a frustration. They don’t like to add any fresh material even if established acts are writing new songs.

rushonrock: You’ve recorded one original album with Foreigner – could there be more?

KH: There will be work on some new material later this year. I don’t know whether that will be a full album or a few select tracks. You have to look at whether it’s worthwhile recording a full album these days when people prefer to download single tracks. It’s a huge undertaking in terms of time and finance. But there’s definitely new writing.

rushonrock: How important is it that Foreigner are seen to be producing new music?

KH: It’s important for so many reasons. Firstly it maintains your validity as a band. We don’t do it as a publicity stunt – we do it because we decided that’s what we want to do. And it’s good in terms of keeping us fresh as musicians but the problem is we’re so busy. The danger for the band is that we devote too much time to writing new material when we could be out on the road. I was gone from home for more than nine months last year. It doesn’t leave much time for stuff outside the live shows.

rushonrock: Have you felt unsettled about the Lou Gramm reunion stories that have been doing the rounds this year?

KH: The only time I really heard about Lou and Mick hooking up again was around the time they were inducted into the Hall Of Fame. I just don’t see that as a reality as far as Foreigner is concerned. Having said that I wouldn’t have any issues with it if it did ever happen. I have the utmost respect for Lou.

rushonrock: You’ve done everything possible to make the Foreigner gig your own – did you ever imagine it would go this well?

KH: I’m a realist and I don’t try to look too far into the future. I knew that my world would be changing as soon as I took the job. At the time I wasn’t touring – I was based in LA and had been for some years. I knew it would be a difficult thing but I knew it could be great. Even so, I don’t think I could have imagined all the things that have happened to me in the last 10 years with the band. It’s just been beyond the realm of what I thought possible. But it’s been an absolutely awesome experience.

rushonrock: Take us back to how you landed one of the top jobs in AOR…

KH: I was in LA and working pretty solidly on all kinds of things music-related. But a lot of these things didn’t have much to do with singing. I know it’s been tough for everyone in this business at some time or other but there came a point where I decided I’d start to approach things differently. I thought I’d be a little more proactive because I’d begun to get frustrated that nobody ever called me. I realised it was me who had to make the first move. I read an article about a charity event featuring Mick Jones and it sounded like it was going to revolve around a Mick Jones solo project. Of course I’d been around the scene for some time so I made some calls to people who knew some people and eventually got in touch with Mick’s management. They were thinking of revamping Foreigner. We had a chat and they sent me five of Foreigner’s biggest hits without the vocals and asked me to add my voice. It turned out the band was coming to LA to do some rehearsals and so I said ‘could I be the first guy you see on the first day?’. They didn’t have chance to take a look at anyone else! I jammed with the guys for an hour and a half and by 7pm that night I had the job. That was 2005!

rushonrock: You mentioned the band weren’t in the business of publicity stunts but you did issue a new ballads compilation on Valentine’s Day – was that an easy decision?

KH: Our goal is to have Foreigner playing in as many bedrooms as possible in 2014 – not just on Valentine’s Day. If there’s one band who could legitimately release a Best Of on that day it’s us!

rushonrock: What Foreigner song would you play in your bedroom?

KH: That’s not a fair question! I’m not sure whether I’d ever sing a Foreigner song in my bedroom. Maybe some Marvin Gaye? I think singing or playing Foreigner in my own bedroom would be a bit cheeky.