FIVE QUESTIONSBy JENNIFER K. BAUER
With hits like “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Feels Like the First Time,” and “Cold as Ice,” Foreigner is one of the ultimate arena rock bands of the 1970s and ’80s.
Formed in 1976, the group took the name Foreigner because half the band was from England while the other half were Americans. Today, original member Mick Jones still leads the band with a cadre of devoted musicians carrying on its musical legacy.
Among them is Tom Gimbel, who has been with the group for 20 years. Inland 360 caught up with Gimbel by phone to talk to him about life with Foreigner before the band plays a sold-out concert at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 8 at the Clearwater River Casino.
360: You were a member of Aerosmith from 1989-95 and left to join Foreigner. What made you leave?
Gimbel: “In Aerosmith I did keyboards, singing and sax, which was OK, but was not my dream come true. For Foreigner it was guitar, singing and sax, and that was huge. Also, in Foreigner you get a chance to feel like part of the family. In Aerosmith it was the five original guys and then this extra guy, that was me. For Mick (Jones) and Lou (Gramm), when you come to join us you’re part of the family and we stay together. That really warmed my heart.”
360: Coming into the band did you find it hard to play the songs exactly like they were performed originally?
Gimbel: “The sax solo in ‘Urgent’ is really challenging. I did have to work hard; I still have to work hard. People know it and they sort of expect to hear it the way they know it. It’s one of the few sax solos people actually know. I’m glad. I couldn’t wait to get into it and play it. I still look forward to playing it every night. It’s indescribable, it really is. Part of it is the audience reacting and the growling too, you’re growling into the sax. You can hear the crowd respond to that growl. That’s indescribably delicious.”
360: Why is “Urgent” such a challenging song for a sax player?
Gimbel: “It has a skip of an octave and a sixth, musicians call that a 13th. It’s unnatural and very difficult. I think it may have been created in a studio by editing different parts together. It’s something no human would actually do, that’s what’s so very, very difficult. Aside from that, it’s really super high notes, that’s a whole study in and of itself. You need cheek, jaw, lip and lung muscles and, it sounds cliche, but diaphragm muscles and you have to keep them in shape. If I don’t keep them in shape I go for those high notes and nothing will come out.”
360: What is your favorite Foreigner song to perform?
Gimbel: “Probably ‘Urgent,’ not just because it’s a sax and I get to show off but because it’s got this funky beat and it makes everybody move. It’s got this R&B beat. When you see people’s hips moving, that’s when you know something good is about to happen.”
360: What can people expect to hear at your show?
Gimbel: “Make a list of all the songs you know by Foreigner and that’s what we’re going to be playing. … We do this acoustic version of ‘Say You Will.’ I get to play some really wild flute at the beginning of that. It’s always something I enjoy. Our drummer, Chris Frazier, does this incredible drum solo. The girls like looking at him and the guys like his drumming so he’s the triple threat. The aliens want him to be in their band.”
Not that you’ve read about Foreigner, you can vote in the 360 Arena rock Battle of the Bands.