JEFF PILSON On DON DOKKEN's 'Hostile' Comments About Former DOKKEN Bandmates: 'It Sounds Like He Has Sour Grapes'

February 21, 2024

In a new interview with Thomas S. Orwat, Jr. of Rock Interview Series, former DOKKEN bassist Jeff Pilson once again addressed some of Don Dokken's recent claims about who was responsible for most of the songwriting during the band's classic era and the alleged drug use that led to the lineup's split. Asked why he thinks there is so much animosity coming from Don at this point, Jeff said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "You're asking the wrong guy. I don't know. I don't know what Don's thinking because I've seen him say some pretty hostile things, just some hostile things. And I don't understand why he's doing it. The only purpose I can think of is maybe he's trying to get a little more publicity now. He's got a new [DOKKEN] record [to promote], and in the past, the conflict about DOKKEN was such a part of the publicity package that maybe he thinks that he needs that again. I don't honestly know.

"I haven't really read anything negative that George [Lynch, former DOKKEN guitarist] has said recently. Maybe he has; I don't know. But I know George's feeling 'cause I talk to him a lot, and his feeling is, like, he's kind of hurt. It's, like, why would Don talk about our drug use, especially leaving out his own, which is awfully convenient. But that was years and years and years ago. Why would you dredge that up? I don't understand. It sounds like he has sour grapes. I don't know why.

"We're lucky people," Jeff added. "We had a very lucky opportunity. I mean, maybe there's somewhere in him where he feels a regret about how we kind of blew it. We had a chance to be a really, really big band and we kind of blew it at the time. Maybe [Don's] never lived that down, 'cause he is the one that broke it up. So I don't know.

"I wish Don well. I wanna see him do well with the legacy. And I'm a little concerned 'cause I read a lot of terrible things about him on web sites. And it kind of drives me crazy too. So, I don't know. As far as the hostile stuff, it just doesn't make any sense to me. I just wanna be thankful that we had the career we had because it's been helpful to me. I've been able to do a lot of things as a result of it. And I credit DOKKEN for a lot of my success. And I don't wanna tarnish that now, especially — we're old men now. [Laughs] Let's enjoy it."

Asked if it was an enjoyable experience getting the classic lineup of DOKKENDon, George, Jeff and drummer Mick Brown — back together in 2016 to play the Loud Park festival in Japan, Jeff said: "Yeah, that's the funny thing — it was very enjoyable. I don't think we were particularly great, I hate to say it. I mean, we rehearsed and I think we were musically strong, but by his own admission Don didn't feel good about his own performance during that reunion tour. So, I feel bad about that. I feel like we sort of cheated the fans a little bit. But we actually got along fine, and we actually had a lot of fun. There was a lot of laughs. I mean, we did a song together," referencing "It's Another Day", the first DOKKEN track featuring the group's classic lineup since 1997's "Shadowlife", "and the collaboration was very effective, and everybody was very engaged in the recording. I mean, Don had some great suggestions for it, and we worked with it, and everything came together as easy as any DOKKEN song has ever come together. And then to see somebody kind of forgetting that makes me — it hurts my feelings and it makes me feel sad. 'Cause I hate to look at somebody and feel like they look pathetic, but that's kind of how I feel, and that's sad."

DOKKEN's current lineup consists of Don alongside bassist Chris McCarvill, guitarist Jon Levin and drummer BJ Zampa (HOUSE OF LORDS).

DOKKEN's 13th studio album, "Heaven Comes Down", came out in October via Silver Lining Music. The follow-up to "Broken Bones" was produced by Bill Palmer and Don Dokken and was mixed by Kevin Shirley (AEROSMITH, IRON MAIDEN).

Earlier in the month, Pilson spoke to Full In Bloom about Don's recent claim that he wrote "80 percent" of the band's third album, 1985's "Under Lock And Key". Jeff said: "Bullshit. That's total bullshit. He did not write all the records. No fricking way. He is a valuable contributor. And he wrote much of — like 'In My Dreams', he came in with the chorus, and that chorus is great. But he had nothing to do with 'It's Not Love', nothing to do with 'Unchain The Night', pretty much nothing to do with 'Lightnin' Strikes Again'. He did not write the whole record. He had a lot to do with a lot of it, as he should, but to say he wrote the whole thing, that's absolute bullshit. And he knows it deep down inside.

"It sounds like he's been trying to stir up attention to himself because he's got a new [DOKKEN] record [to promote]," Jeff continued. "Because it seems kind of desperate and weak. I just have to laugh. I mean, I don't understand it. I think it's kind of weird. I know he's resentful of the fact that we split everything equally, but if you would have broken it down to what we did, I'm not sure — maybe he would get a little, yeah, he'd get more than a quarter if it was really broken up, but not enough more to make all the noise he's making now 30 years later, 40 years later."

When the interviewer pointed out that Lynch has said that he and Pilson even came up with a lot of the melodies and lyrics for DOKKEN's early hits, Jeff said: "Yeah, we wrote all the melodies and lyrics for 'Unchain The Night' and 'It's Not Love'. I will say the song 'Will The Sun Rise' is a great example of when we do collaborate as a band, because George came up with the music and then Don came up with that amazing chorus; I think the chorus on 'Will The Sun Rise' is amazing. I think the music that George came up with was amazing, but I thought Don's chorus was just amazing. And that's when DOKKEN was working, when things like that happened. 'Into The Fire', George came up with the music to the chorus, and Don came up with the chorus. It's great."

Asked specifically about whether he contributed to the songwriting of DOKKEN's classic ballad "Alone Again", Jeff said: "I did. Once again, Don had that great chorus. When a song starts with a chorus as strong as that, you kind of can't go wrong. And I contributed. I came up with the beginning thing, helped come up with the music for the — well, for all the music. But like I say, Don really did have that chorus. I give him a lot of credit for that. But let's be honest, you didn't write the whole thing. I suppose he could have — he could have finished a song with that chorus, but he didn't.

"At this point, it's just so ridiculous, for me, that he's resentful," Jeff added. "But that's dark energy that he's carrying around that he doesn't need to."

After the interviewer said that Don also allegedly said he wrote "80 percent" of DOKKEN's second album, 1984's "Tooth And Nail", Pilson fired back: "'Tooth And Nail'? You've gotta be kidding me! He had nothing to do with the song 'Tooth And Nail' except that we knew that that was gonna be the title of the record, so we wrote the song around that. But he had nothing to do with that. He had nothing to do with 'Just Got Lucky'. He did make valuable contributions to 'Into The Fire' and he made the most valuable contribution to 'Alone Again'. But then there's other songs on 'Tooth And Nail' that he — I mean, 'Don't Close Your Eyes' he had nothing to do with, 'Heartless Heart' he had nothing to do with. I mean, there's a lot of songs he had nothing to do with. So for him to say he wrote 80 percent of any of the DOKKEN records is crazy."

When the interviewer also raised Don's gripes about drummer Mick Brown's contributions to the songwriting, with the singer claiming that Mick got an equal part of the publishing when he had very little input in the creative process, Jeff defended his former bandmate. "For instance, on 'Tooth And Nail', George and I would be working all day, Mick would go out to the clubs, he'd come back at two in the morning and listen to what we did, and he'd very often have a great suggestion. So, to say that Mick was not involved is not accurate. Was he as involved as the three of us? No. And did he get a quarter of the publishing? Yes. Does Don have a bone of contention there? Sure. I mean, if you wanna get down to it, Mick got 25 percent and did not probably contribute 25 percent, but he certainly contributed somewhere between 10 and 15 solidly. And when you have a band, sometimes it's better to just eliminate the arguments. It was management's idea to split everything equally 'cause they saw all this coming, and I thought it was a brilliant idea. And I would say Don, George and I probably all sacrificed a little bit, although I kind of — I feel very happy with my 25 percent. That's kind of about where I land in my contributions. Maybe a little bit more in the totality of things, but I'm very comfortable with it. And I understand where Don would be resentful about that. But I mean, after all this time? Really?"

This past December, Lynch also dismissed Don's assertion that DOKKEN's namesake frontman wrote "a lot" of the group's biggest songs, telling the 80's Glam Metalcast: "[Jeff, Mick and I] wrote almost everything. There was a point where the manager… This is always a thing with Don. He goes off about how he wrote everything. That's bullshit. Jeff and I, and Don and Jeff wrote some things, and Don wrote a thing, something on his own here and there, and important songs, but the bulk of the material was written by Jeff and I, and that's just the truth. And even the lyrics and the melodies and the titles were… Jeff and I joke all the time. There was a thing called the TV Guide, and I would get all my titles and the lyrics, obviously, flowed from the titles, from TV Guide. So you look and see a lot of those early records, they were either reworked XCITER [George's pre-DOKKEN band] songs or new stuff that Jeff and I wrote — sometimes with Mick's help — and then we'd end up with Don too; we'd collaborate with Don at the end of the process. But for 90 percent of material, that was the case. And these titles were out of the TV Guide — they were movies."

He continued: "On 'Tooth And Nail' and the record after that, a lot of these were — I think especially 'Tooth And Nail'; I think it was allTV Guide titles, pretty much. 'Without Warning', 'Tooth And Nail', 'When Heaven Comes Down', 'Don't Close Your Eyes' — those were all movies. I remember looking at the TV Guide and seeing the names of those movies — they were old movies, usually. [And I'd go] 'Oh, that's a cool name. We'll name a song that.' So 'Tooth And Nail' was me and Mick and Jeff sitting around just going ''Tooth And Nail', okay. Run around the streets and start a fight.' Silly fucking lyrics, but whatever. It worked. 'Don't close your eyes or I'll be there.' I remember having that whole hook and that melody and everything in my head. And we based it on that. 'When Heaven Comes Down', I wrote that. I spent a whole night; I stayed up all night. And Jeff had gone home. We were working in Anaheim in my home studio. And I was really frustrated with the song and I wanted to finish it. And I had an idea for 'When Heaven Comes Down'. 'When Heaven Comes Down' was a movie. I stole the title from it. And then I came up with the lyrics. And then I sang it all into a harmonizer, an octave low, so it sounded like the devil, with all this echo on it… I was really proud of it. Of course, that got redone and everything, but… I can't sing."

In a recent interview with the "On The Road To Rock With Clint Switzer" podcast, Don explained why he and his DOKKEN bandmates decided in the beginning to split their songwriting royalties equally between the four members of the group. He said: "DOKKEN was a very unusual band. When I formed the band, even though I'd been DOKKEN for years and years before I met George and Jeff and Mick — I'd already toured Germany twice — but when we finally came together, I said, 'Let's make it simple. You write a hit, you write a hit, you write a hit, we'll just split it four ways. It doesn't matter who writes what. May the best songs win.' And that's how it was. Now, looking back, I could say it was a stupid thing to do, because I wrote a lot of the hits and I gave up 75 percent to the three of them. So instead of me getting four bucks, I got a dollar and Mick got a dollar and George got a dollar and Jeff got a dollar and the management took theirs and the accountants took theirs, and I thought, 'Jesus.' I go, 'I lost millions' writing 'In My Dreams' and 'Just Got Lucky' or 'Alone Again'. I mean, I can name a bazillion songs that I wrote by myself on the guitar and wrote all the music. But that's the deal we made. We were nobody. We weren't famous. Hey, if George wrote a hit, I get money. Jeff writes a hit, I get money. Mick's the one that scored. He didn't write. We rehearsed the songs for a week, go into a rehearsal studio, flesh it all out, pick the 12 best songs, Mick comes in the studio for four or five days, knocks out his drums and he goes to the drug dealer and then he heads off for the Rainbow [Bar & Grill in West Hollywood]. I said, 'Mick, you scored. You made millions of dollars and all you had to do was spend a couple of weeks playing drums.'"

Almost a decade ago, Lynch spoke about the breakup of the classic DOKKEN lineup in 1989, telling Guitar Interactive magazine: "Here's the things that happens in a band… especially in our era, in the '80s, and I don't know, even now probably… But if you have a record deal, or a master deal, for a certain amount of time, and you have increasing record sales, and then you get to the point where the deal ends, your managers come in and renegotiate and you get paid. Then you're set for life — possibly. That's when everything changes. That's what you worked for for those however many years. This is where all your… Everything you've invested in time and energy, you get paid back for. And the singer [Don Dokken], at that point, decided that he wanted it all, he didn't wanna share it with [the rest of] us, and he let us know that. So after this [Monsters Of Rock] tour [in 1988 with VAN HALEN, METALLICA and SCORPIONS], where we were gonna go out and play in front of hundreds of thousands of people and get paid lots of money, [he basically said] 'I'm gonna try to take the whole thing and run with it, and you guys are gonna get left in the dust, and if you're lucky, I might hire you [to play in my band].' And you have to go on stage like that."

He continued: "The reason that we were on fire before that — we were so dedicated, we kept persevering — was because we were all working for something. It wasn't even for the money, it was just to get to that point. And success on all levels — musically and financially, so we could be secure, and all these things, for all the right reasons. And we took care of each other, and we were an equal-split band, and I fought for that. And by Monsters Of Rock, when Don announced that he was gonna, basically, try to grab the negotiation brass ring and keep it to himself, that backfired on all of us. Financially, it backfired on all of us, 'cause we didn't get that massive… At that point, I think, that year MÖTLEY CRÜE got a 25-million-dollar deal, ANTHRAX got a 12.5-million-dollar deal, we would have been fine. Basically, we had a lot of leverage. We were gonna be a free agent, so it was really a shame. It just didn't go right for anybody. So I went on to form LYNCH MOB, which did pretty well."

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