Posted by: Necci – May 18, 2012
We declare our top-three favorite living guitarists to be as follows:
Number Three: Angus Young
Number Two: Malcolm Young
Number One: Gregg Foreman
If that’s not our truth, it’s pretty damn close (with apologies to the unending list of guitar gods, new and old, who make this a difficult list due to their refusal to die). And it’s pretty damn close because lists are personal, singular and unique – in such a way that we really don’t mind having a personal, singular and unique guitarist at the top of ours.
To give a biography of the life and work of Gregg Foreman would certainly be difficult and probably be pointless. As the current collaborator of choice for bands like Pink Mountaintops, The Meek, The Silver Chords, The Black Ryder, and now The Silver Chords, it seems we’re not the only one with Gregg atop our fantasy guitarist wishlist.
Further back in history, Gregg was the singer and guitarist for a band that people called The Delta 72, a band that some people now call legendary. Certainly, they were legendary among our small circle of college friends, with word of their incendiary live performances in the nation’s capital making its way down to our tiny corner of Virginia, alongside the Delta 72 demos and seven-inches and soundboard tapes and eventual albums that also filled our ears.
I had one chance to go and see The Delta 72 live back in 1996 but I skipped that chance for a girl. Instead of letting the The Delta 72 take flight with my rock and roll dreams, I blew off their show to go to a party where I was told that a girl I really, really liked might be. Sixteen years later, I’ve been married to that same girl for twelve years, and the legend of Gregg Foreman continues on, playing guitar and taking flight to those rock and roll dreams.
Austin Psych Fest 2011 gave us the opportunity to connect with Gregg Foremann after 16 years from afar – Austin Psych Fest 2012 will give our ears the opportunity to do the same at a much shorter interval, when he joins Pink Mountaintops on stage and probably your band, too. In advance of that appearance, we were fortunate to have Gregg answer a few questions about his life and music. Enjoy.
Who were the artists that early on stoked your interest in music in general? Can you recall what the first album you bought with your own money was? What do you think of that album today? Did you come from a musical family? How do you think that influenced your musical development?
To be honest, the first records I purchased were Damaged by Black Flag and Public Image – First Issue. Both records are still super important to me. My family were not super players of music but they loved the sound of the Stones and Motown, Morricone etc. Last year, I got to play music with Greg Ginn from Black Flag and it was inspiring for certain!
More specifically, when did you first pick up a guitar? Did you spend any time strumming a tennis racket or – like Hendrix – a broom before procuring a guitar of your own? What were the specific songs or riffs that made you determined to learn how to manipulate a guitar? Who are the guitarists that continue to impress or inspire you?
The guitar was around age twelve. I was listening to the Stones and The Clash, so I suppose Keith Richards, Mick Jones/Joe Strummer were the main inspirations. Well, while growing up I loved the playing of Robert Smith (The Cure), Pat Place (Contortions), Greg Ginn (Black Flag), John Valentine Carruthers (Siouxsie and The Banshees), The Reids from The Jesus and Mary Chain, Andy Gill (Gang of Four), Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine)… the main two, though, seem to be Steve Cropper (Booker T and The MG’s) and Rowland S. Howard (The Birthday Party)… Rowland is a true outsider!
Do you recall the first time you took to a legitimate stage – be it in a bar, a gymnasium, or a dump like the Safari Club – as part of a band? What are your memories of that experience? What did you learn about being in a band early on that helped you the most, or made the greatest impact on you, during the following years of playing and performing?
HA – One of the first shows I played was in an all-synth group modeled after Mute Records’ bands and things like Fad Gadget and Kraftwerk. Played the school talent show – the sporty fellas wanted to fight us, but their girl friends seemed to like us!
The Meek (Foreman at right, on keys)
What attracted you to the music of The Meek initially? What has been most surprising to you about how your relationship – musically or socially, or both – has evolved over time? We you initially terrified by the idea of collaborating with a group of musicians who are quite obviously deranged, psychotic and allergic to any t-shirt containing a color aside from black?
HA-hah! These are very good and humorous things you inquire. The Meek were loud and reverb-distorted, but I have to say I love Amy Lee and Aly, so when they inquired… (the same night, I was asked to maybe jam with a few other bands – one was The Black Ryder, who I now play for sometimes)…
How do you think collaborating with so many different musicians over the years has impacted your personality? Are skills like patience and diplomacy necessarily any more important in the life of a musician than in any other role? Do you feel you are more or less jaded about music – or more specifically, whatever passes as “music business” – than you were at, say, age twenty?
Well, for example, playing with The Meek is more refined in a set key, where as with Cat Power, it took me awhile to get that dynamic. It’s such a treasure to “get” to be involved with great musicians. That music business stuff and personal politics are not interesting to me. I never aspired to do major label music and still have no interest.
My favorite artists are outsiders like Suicide, the Velvets and Sun Ra and stuff of this nature… never thought I wanted to write pop songs. Well, unless “96 Tears” is a pop song…
Where did your connection with Pink Mountaintops begin? Do you think of your duty when playing with a songwriter as singular as Stephen McBean as to fulfill his vision, augment his vision with your own perspective, some combination of both or none of the above? Please show your work.
You are funny, Muldoon, which is why I enjoy you! Last year at Austin Psych Fest, I met Steve and we talked about playing. We bonded on stuff like hardcore and The Swell Maps and Roky! For the sound, I say I augment his vision with my own perspective + some combination of both… show your work, haha.
Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that you will spend your time at Austin Psych Fest this year not only performing with Pink Mountaintops and The Meek, but also opening your own clothing stand in the vendor area, filled with mod scarves, boots and jackets, to be called “Gregg’s For Men”?
Hahahahahahaha… no comment, but I do make crystal jewelry for promoting good energy!
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite AC/DC song of all time?
Man, I listen to a lot of psych and soul… Sharon (Shazzula) turned me on to The Master Musicians of Bukkake…? Pretty cool! Things like Rowland S. Howard’s last record! Lots of soul, always! Maybe Alan Vega and The Swell Maps. My fav AC/DC song would be “Live Wire.”
George Bernard Shaw – who I believe was once your bandmate in The Delta 72 – once said the following:
“I think I should have no other mortal wants if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.”
Hmmmmm … Yes, George was on “The R and B of Membership.” He was right and the famous Norse poet Rolke said, “Music is the wind beneath my wings,” or “that’s what she said,” etc.
The Silver Chords (Foreman is on the left)
What’s next for Gregg Foreman?
Well, Cat Power just got back from a tour, going to play some with The Black Ryder and Sasha from Spindrift ‘s new band, The Silver Chords… then Pink Mountaintops is off to Australia with Dead Meadow… then The Meek and Pink Mountaintops play Austin Psych Fest 2012!
By Ryan Muldoon/originally appeared at revoltoftheapes.com