Foreign friends make a fresh start

IT was difficult to know what to expect. After all there had been reports of falling outs, anger, resentment . . . but seeing the reunited pair of Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, it is clear that whatever bad blood there was in Foreigner has dissipated.

Jones has a continual smile tugging the corner of his lips and Gramm looks almost bemused to be back in the swing of things.

After a four-year split, they are back together with a new band and a new start for Foreigner, the band responsible for such hits as Waiting For A Girl Like You, I Want To Know What Love Is and Double Vision in the 80s.

The break has been good for them, says Jones, because it gave them time to think things over and come to terms with the prospects of a renewed partnership.

Even today, it is difficult for the duo to pinpoint exactly what went wrong with the band back in 1990. But the split was less than amicable.

'There was a lot of anger underneath and there wasn't a chance to sit down and talk at the time we broke up,' Gramm says.

'But two years ago, some mutual friends asked me: 'What is it between the two of you? Are you talking at all?' ' interjects Jones.

By that time, Gramm had been busy pursuing a solo career and Jones had successful collaborations with Billy Joel, producing Stormfront, and Van Halen on 5150. But both missed the creative chemistry they had as a band.

So at the height of the Los Angeles riots in May 1992, Jones and Gramm arranged to meet and work things out.

'It was just like talking to a brother or a friend again,' says Gramm.

When the talk turned to old times, they realised they still had unfinished business together.

'I was upset about the split - we both were - I think we've realised that the partnership we have between us is one of those rare things,' Jones adds.

With three new members - Bruce Turgon (bass), Jeff Jacobs (keyboards) and Mark Schulman (drums) - Foreigner returned to the studios last summer and have Mr Moonlight to show for their efforts.

Working on Mr Moonlight has given Gramm and Jones a chance to make a new start. 'As we worked on it, we were reminded of the initial goals of Foreigner and we had that to work towards,' says Gramm.

Relations were strained the last time they made an album; this time both worked in a full partnership with Gramm co-producing.

Jones and Gramm flew into Hong Kong this week to promote their new album and to be guest performers at the newly-opened Hard Rock Cafe. They are hopeful of Mr Moonlight's success and credit it as one of Foreigner's best.

'It's a pretty organic album . . . sort of like the swagger without the machismo,' Gramm says.

'I always felt that Foreigner never quite lived up to our own expectations. But I think with this album, we're taking a big step to where we want to be. I want this to be what it always should have been . . . and better than it ever was.' Jones feels it takes the band further than it has gone before although, in many ways, it is reminiscent of some of their earlier works. 'The music has a lot of different textures. There's a lot of light and grey, with natural guitars and natural sounds,' he says.

'But we've really reformed this band. Part of it is being driven by the new blood in the band and I think it's done us both a lot of good.' Gramm admits to being 'really invigorated' by the new band. 'I'm happy to have people who are creatively productive around me and who are not intimidated by us or what we have done,' he says.

'It's good to see members willing to contribute because it shows they have a vested interest in Foreigner and are not just there to play backup.' Jones and Gramm are serious enough about their new partnership to set up a recording label which they hope will help new acts establish a footing in the music industry.

'Both of us have had a lot of experience in the business and we'd like to pass it down to new artists,' says Jones.

'We'd definitely want to be hands-on with this new label. We're not going to stand back and keep our distance because it would be like what happened just before we split,' adds Gramm.

'We were losing control over our goals and what we were doing because everyone else was making the decisions.' However, they have hit a snag with the new label - they are still waiting for a name.

They tossed around a few, but they were all already registered.

'Do you realise how difficult it is to get a name?' Jones asks incredulously. 'I think in the US people just go around just registering these names. It costs a lot just to find that out.' The hitch means Foreigner is unable to release their album in the US since they cannot sign with a distributor until they have a label.

'It is unusual but quite good in a sense because the album has been released in Europe and Asia but the US is just getting the initial rumblings,' says Jones.

'I think of it as a courtesy we are extending to the rest of the world that we've never done before.'