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Five Minutes With Gregg Foreman of Cat Power

I had the chance to reconnect with an old friend from my Philadelphia years. Unbeknownst to me, in the early 2000s we would both end up in the City of Angels continuing to live out our respective dreams. I was an art school kid and I knew him as one of the biggest 60s/mod DJs spinning at all of the hippest underground parties. Gregg Foreman currently plays with Cat Power and Dragnet and has a lengthy list of production, writing and performance credits - working with legends like James Williamson of the Stooges, Alan Vega of Suicide, Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Pink Mountaintops, The Meek, Lydia Lunch, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Soko, and Delta 72 (where it all began). Those are just a handful of credits. Needless to say - a lot has happened since the year 2000 and Gregg has not wasted a single second. Read about his favorite recording set ups and what inspires him, then stop, and get to work - there is much to do.

Where did you grow up? Do you think that had an influence on your inclination to play music or was it someone / something else?

I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My parent's love of 60s soul, mod, rock n roll, reggae and dub combined with the dawn of MTV and 120 minutes were the influences on me musically. Also any midnight, cult, foreign or horror movie I could get my hands on especially "Breathless", "Blade Runner", "Wings of Desire", "Tami Show" influenced me as well.

Where did you spend your "coming of age years" - how did that influence you as an artist?

Philadelphia was where I came up. I would say the record shop Repo Records inspired me. They turned me on to the Peel Sessions, which really started a lot for me.

What instrument did you first pick up?

I first picked up a guitar, it was a Tiesco, then keyboard. I started with a Roland Alpha Juno. I didn't have any formal training with either instrument. My early influences were the Rolling Stones, Prince, Soft Cell, Joy Division, The Cure, and Black Flag.

What do you currently play?

Today I play a Fender Jaguar and Gibson ES 335 Roy Orbison Model with a Bigsby. My set up is a custom pedal board with a bunch of Earthquaker Devices pedals and a few other secrets. Those are run through a Roland space echo RE-201 to a Fender Twin Reverb .

For keys when I play live I use a Nord Stage 88 and Hammond Xk-3 through a trek Pedal to a Leslie speaker.

Musician Gregg Foreman

What is your favorite recording setup like?

I let the studio cats sort all that out. My favorite amps are usually Fender twins or Princeton's. I prefer vintage keys like mellotrons, Hammond organs run through Leslie cabinets, and other analog synths like Wurlitzer's, Rhodes, Vox Jaguars, Farfisa combos and Solina String ensemble.

I like vintage drum boxes and drums, I have a Maestro Rhythm Box I love. I love Resonator guitars and Tape Echo when recording.

Do you have an opinion regarding analog vs. digital recording?

Well I started in the analog era and eventually came the digital era. I love the way analog feels - the sound is warm and beautiful. However, when recording at home digital is fast and easy to compose ideas and sketches.

What is your favorite studio?

My favorite studio sound is the old Sunset Sound (Los Angeles) and Studio One (Jamaica). I also love Mute (London), Stax (Memphis), Motown (Detroit). 606 is also quite nice, I love Lou there. Plus, they have the old Sound City board.

Another great studio is Joe Cardamone's studio, Valley Recording, he has the old idea of recording, like Stax or Motown with an API board, but to Pro Tools. Readers check out Issue # 7 for an interview with Joe Cardamone of Icarus line and Valley Recording Studio

For me it comes down to the vibe of the engineer, the mics, the board and the compressors. A real reverb tank is a plus, too.

What is your writing process?

My process is based on energy and mood. I get inspiration from people, situations, things like trauma and poetic memory. Soundtracks and old Godard films help, too.

Which players should aspiring musicians study and learn from?

Steve Cropper (Booker T and The MG's) / Rowland S Howard (Birthday Party) / Robert Smith (The Cure) / Sterling Morrison (Velvet Underground) / Keith Levene (PiL) / Viv Albertine (Slits) / Sly and Robbie (Reggae / Dub Pioneers) / CAN / Booker T / Ike Turner / Link Wray / Carol Kaye / Jackie Mittoo / James Williamson / Wayne Kramer / James Jamerson / Brian Eno / Lou Reed / David Bowie / Glen Branca / James Chance / The Wipers / Sun Ra / The MC5 / Serge Gainsbourg / Ravi Shankar / Mute and Factory Records / Ronettes / John Lee Hooker / Junior Wells / Hasil Adkins / The Kinks / The Sonics / Small Faces / SUICIDE / Magazine / THE CRAMPS / THE GUN CLUB / THE STOOGES / THE VELVET UNDERGROUND / Wire.

What other instruments do you play (besides guitar & piano)?

I play sitar, bass, drums, synths, and drum machines.

Musician Gregg Foreman

What are you currently working on?

I'm working on a play, a single, some soundtrack music for film and television and my own music.

The play is based on the life of Sitting Bull with Guy Blakeslee of Entrance, Will Scott of Mooney Suzuki, and Erik Paparozzi of Cat Power.

The single is with Suicide frontman Alan Vega, with White Hills, and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

My music, Dragnet, which is a working title, alongside Sammy Warren of Nikki Sudden and Crash Worship.

What was a memorable tour?

They are all memorable. But, a couple shows stick out in my mind. Cat Power did a show with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Spiritualized at the Hollywood Bowl -that was a wonderful moment . We played an ATP with Alan Vega, Nick Cave and the Scientists, also amazing.

The Delta 72 played a particularly debaucherous festival in Portugal with The Fall, Troggs and Einstürzende Neubauten - pure mayhem and chaos. Mark E Smith cornered me like some Famous Monster of Filmland and said to me "you look like youuuuu're in the Facessssss." That was pretty perfect.

What is in your record player today?

Captain Beefheart - Upon the My O My - 45 / Suicide - Girl 45

Where's the best place people can find more information about you / your band(s)?

facebook.com/mr.pharmacist

 

Stephanie Nicole Smith is a visual artist and make up artist in Los Angeles, CA. You can find her work at stephanienicolesmith.com and follow her @stephanienicolesmith. She currently contributes to the Original Fuzz Magazine via her Five Minutes series.


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