P / P Interview: Gregg Foreman of Cat Power

Interview By: Jordannah Elizabeth

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I met Gregg Foreman at a Pink Mountaintops show a couple of months back in San Francisco, CA. Of course, I’d been hearing his name for years as we have a number of mutual friends and acquaintances. After the show, I said my goodbyes to everyone and Gregg was very kind and sweet nurtured. Because of his kindness, I thought it would be nice to learn more about his history, and to share it with all of you.

Gregg is an underground legend. He contributes his unique sound to a plethora of your favorite post modern psych, shoegaze and alternative bands. He shouldn’t only be a household name to musicians and promoters who have lived in L.A. (I am one of them), and international shoegaze and psych connoisseurs. His influence should touch the lives of anyone who has a taste and desire for great music and true rock and roll composition.

Foreman is best known for his work with Cat Power, which should genuinely answer any of your questions in regards to his relevance in contemporary music history, but again, take some time to learn a bit more about him. I was personally convinced to learn more because of his big brown eyes, but that probably won’t win everyone over.

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You’ve been touring quite a bit this year, what do you like most about traveling and playing shows all over the world?

The people and the connections I make. There are some very special people I have met over the years, those of which I would have never known if I was not doing what I do. Sharing music with people is really special and I’ve seen places I never thought I’d get to see.  I have a lot of  gratitude for all of the experiences I’ve had.

What are a couple of great experiences you’ve had throughout your extensive career?

Tough question, there have been many. The first thing that pops into my mind is Delta 72 playing a festival in Portugal with The Fall, The Troggs , Einstürzende Neubauten and Primal Scream. That was the beginning of a dark era, but that night was pure energetic Babylonian mayhem, as you would guess.

The next would be a concert with Cat Power and the Dirty Delta Blues band around 2007.  We played a magical show at the Tranmusicales Festival in Rennes, France. The band was really on fire, and that was the start of a wonderful relationship with the band and Chan.

Then we (Cat Power) did a show with Spiritualized and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Hollywood Bowl – that was one that was like a childhood dream. We became fast friends with the bands that night, and Nancy Sinatra made an appearance too.  That night was really special to me.

Cat power was also invited to provide the music for a Chanel Haute Couture runway show. Although that was not my world at all, I could tell this was an honor and something interesting. Marianne Faithful complimented my organ playing which really made me smile!!! Marianne Faithful!!

Receiving an email inviting me to play with the Stooges (James Williamson) was another epic moment.

In every moment there is something special.  High or low, up or down, 20 or 25,000 people, I am here to be a conduit of something bigger than myself and to bring a feeling of joy or escape, ya know ? It ain’t me doing it, it is something moving through me, and hopefully making a connection with people.

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Your guitar style is unique, how do you describe the way you express yourself musically?

To be honest, it is all about the vibe and something that feels real.  I just play the way I play. Technique is not important to me,  it is all about the energy and the sound that creates something real.

Which guitar players have influenced your style the most?

Clearly, Rowland S Howard ( Birthday Party), Kid Congo and Bryan Gregory (the Cramps), Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) and Robert Smith (the Cure).  Then I’m into a lot of soul, 60s mod and blues musicians like Steve Cropper (Booker T and the MG’s), John Lee Hooker and Hound Dog Taylor. For sure, Buddy Guy on the Hoodoo Man Blues LP, Junior Wells, Magic Sam,  Teenie Hodges (Al Green), James Williamson ( The Stooges),  Billy Strange ( he played on Bang Bang by Nancy Sinatra), Steve Marriot (Small Faces) and a ton of soundtrack stuff, Westerns and spy films.

I also love John McGeoch who played with Magazine, PiL and Siouxsie and the Banshees,  and of course, Keith Levine (PiL) and Greg Ginn of Black Flag and Wayne Kramer of the Mc5. The list is endless – Micheal Karoli of CAN and the psychedelic sound of the Seeds and Love – I like gospel too.

I play piano, organ and synths for a lot of bands.  I play bass, sitar and drums as well.

We heard through the grapevine that you’re going to be releasing a solo album; can you tell us a bit about that?

Haha, you must be tied to a very small and specific grapevine, but this is true.  I have been working on a project for several years, but when it seems to catch some momentum, I have another tour to play. Musicians and artists have to continue to work and tour. I’ve been a soul-post punk DJ since 1995, and I also produce records and do sessions. With that said, I think the music world has changed so much since my last band (the Delta 72), so where do I start? To me the music is the most important thing. It is important to create something real, ya know ?

I have been working with Will Scott (Mooney Suzuki , Pink Mountaintops) and a few other folks, and have a large back catalog , but hopefully you will hear something by the end of the year.

In the meantime, I do a radio show for the Dangerous Minds blog called, The Pharmacy where I interview musicians that inspired me (Alan Vega – Suicide, Kid Congo – Gun Club, Cramps , Bad Seeds, Lydia Lunch . The Zombies .  CAN . Genesis Breyer p-Orridge and Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 ). Occasionally I create a soundtrack for the show.

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Why has it taken you so long to write your own record?

Honestly, I have been busy with Cat Power since 2006; touring and recording with Chan Marshall and with other folks. However, I have recorded tons of my own music. Some of it was made into demos, and one or two are in art installations.  But after the Delta 72 ended in 2005 I had some internal exploring to do. Most of that period produced no music, but helped and continues to help me learn how to walk through this crazy, spinning, chaotic and sometimes beautiful planet, hoping to grow towards being a more useful and whole human being. I want to make a connection to something bigger than outside things (the material plane). That realization has helped me head towards this path.

Do you prefer playing with other bands, collaborating on songwriting, or writing your own music in a solo manner?

I love playing with other bands. There is something to learn from playing with other musicians. Really, I always play with bands I enjoy as people, along with their sound, and with whom I think I might have something to add.

The last few years I worked with bands like, The Meek , Pink Mountaintops, The Black Ryder and others. I also have had the opportunity to play with James Williamson and the Stooges on the record he is doing a revision of the Stooges music.

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