Monday, March 20, 2017

Evan Foster: A Sonic, Boss Martian guitar machine / Interview

Evan Foster with The Boss Martians. (All Cat Rose photos)

By Andy; Cat Rose photos

Play it loud and hard -- don't leave any sonic stone unturned.

That's the way Evan Foster delivers his rock and roll as guitarist for The Boss Martians and a powerhouse band that helped pave his musical path, The Sonics. Yes, it's dream-come-true time as the 45-year-old is shredding his six-string on stage alongside original member Rob Lind (sax, harp and vocals), Freddie Dennis (bass and vocals), Dusty Watson (drums) and Jake Cavaliere (keys and vocals). Upcoming dates are March 23-26 in Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit.

I spoke with Foster -- who I joined on the mic a decade ago during a sweaty Martians gig at The Comet Tavern in Seattle on a cover of The Dictators' "Cars and Girls" -- last Tuesday after he concluded a five-day recording session of Martians and Dirty Sidewalks tunes at Electric Wall Studios. (By the way, that intimate Comet gig featured Magic Christian with Clem Burke of Blondie on drums, Cyril Jordan of The Flamin' Groovies on guitar and Eddie Munoz of The Plimsouls on bass, so that was way cool.)

-- What was the first band or the first song that really lit a fire with you growing up?

What my parents told me is that the first single that I ever responded to was 'Louie, Louie' by The Kingsmen. This is when we lived in Chicago. I was born in '71, and when I was a couple years old, my parents got me one of those little portable plastic 7-inch players. I remember my mom and my dad would tell me, 'Man, you're just obsessed with that record. You would put it on and you would just play it over and over and over and over.' I'm sure it drove my mom nuts.

It's the same for my brother, it's the same for me... Music is something that was just there when we were growing up. For us, it wasn't any kind of a stretch or a struggle to find that it's important to be a musician.

-- ('Louie, Louie') well, not a bad one. It's right on par with where you've been and where you're at. That same style, that same raw energetic music, that stompin' music that's in your blood, I guess.

Yeah, I guess so. (laughs) Frat rock, man, for 40-plus years, you know?

-- Do you remember when you first picked up the guitar, what your first guitar was?

My dad always had guitars around. I never really sat down and attempted to play until maybe when I was about 15. My dad got me my first guitar and it was a Japanese Squire Strat that I really regret not having today. It was an incredibly playable guitar. Started out doing the lessons thing and stayed in lessons for about a year, but as in the case of a lot of teenagers at the time, there was other stuff going on, so I just didn't stick with the lessons. Just kind of picked it up and strummed for a couple years, and then by the time I was a junior in high school, I had started to try and get bands together. I started a little straight-edge hardcore punk-rock band (Feeding the Cause). Played a little bit and then came to the attention of a band called Brotherhood, which was a straight-edge hardcore band based in Seattle that I was a huge fan of. So when their guitar player Greg (Anderson), in summer of '89 he moved to LA, the band wanted to continue and they asked me to join on guitar.

-- Who were your earlier influences when you first picked up the guitar?

Oh, god, so many. First off, I gotta say, absolutely Chuck Berry. I'm a real big early Ricky Nelson fan-- his guitar player was a guy named Jimmy Burton and I just loved his playing. My dad, obviously born and raised in Chicago, our house was definitely a Chess Records house. Hearing everybody from Muddy, Howlin' Wolf, he had a lot of the blues guys, no question about that. I was never really into like the current rock going on. I was always looking back at more vintage stuff... just how sincere and real that stuff was -- it was always the beat, the pulse, the rhythm on that stuff that just blew my mind when I was younger.

As you get a little older, you start looking into some of the musicians that actually made those records with guys like Little Richard -- then you find Earl Palmer. Earl Palmer's drumming has been a huge influence on my rhythm playing, trying to work with some of his grooves and some of his pockets. It seems like most of the time with the bands I work for and guys that I play with, most people kind of see me as a lead-guitar guy, but the truth is, especially with the Martians, I spend just as much time playing rhythm guitar as I do leads. I'm backing myself up on guitar with vocals.

(Also mentions Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson, Dick Dale, Jim Masoner, Rory Gallagher and Taste as other main influences.)

Freddie Dennis joins the Martians for a tune.

-- With the Martians, you guys have done quite a lot. What are some of your top experiences with the Martians. I've seen a photo of you with Iggy.

Wow! Some of the things I'm grateful for, and that I continue to be grateful for, playing guitar for the Martians has opened so many doors for me that I literally am in a continual state of gratitude for the guys that have worked with me and the band. One of the things that I'm most grateful for is to be able to play with my younger brother (Erik) in The Boss Martians. It is just such a natural fit, and it's a really powerful thing to have family in a band.

Getting a chance to open for and do direct support for some of my favorite bands: Dick Dale, The Sonics, Iggy and The Stooges, X. I've gotten to know Billy Zoom. (He) actually built one of my reverb units for me. By the way, I gotta drop Billy in there... when I was in high school in around 1985 or '86, I heard X for the first time, 'cause my dad was funneling Slash Records to me. When I heard X, to me it was the most brilliant and most organic and most natural synthesis of rock and roll as I saw it and felt it back then and still do largely today. When I first heard X, I was like 'Fuck, yes, this is rock and roll to me.'

-- What was the thing you did with Iggy?

Iggy wrote some lyrics for a Boss Martians single ('Mars is for Martians'). We came to Iggy's attention because Iggy and me have the same publishing administration company (was Bug Music, which was bought out by BMG). My manager at the time, a guy named Art Bourasseau, and an ex-Seattleite that lives in Hollywood, she was one of the executives in charge of creative licensing at Bug Music. It was at their urging that Iggy and I work together. (Along with Iggy's old manager Art Collins.) Iggy had been hearing The Boss Martians a lot on Little Steven's radio show, 'Little Steven's Underground Garage.' In 2003, we had a single called 'I Am Your Radio' and that single was voted the best song of the year on his radio show.

Iggy was inspired to write some lyrics. It's kinda like the Iggy alphabet, it's unlike anything I would have ever thought to write, and that's why I just absolutely love his writing style. I wrote the music to the lyrics, actually -- usually I work in reverse, but it was an awesome experience. Me and the guys recorded it, and the first version was just me singing, and Art (Bourasseau) and I were like, 'Man, huh, I wonder if there was any way that Iggy would actually get on this.' (Since they thought Iggy would be a good fit singing his own style of lyrics.) We made the pitch and he agreed, and so Iggy called me, and he said, 'Yeah, I'd really like that Evan, that'd be cool. Man, just don't make me get on a plane and fly all the way to the West Coast to do this, will ya?' And I was like, 'No fuckin' problem, man.'

(Evan devised a mobile Pro Tools rig and visited Iggy at one of his homes in Miami in 2007 to cut the vocals.) I set up my little rig... It was classic Iggy, he's just an absolute professional, he just got on the mic, we got levels -- he took his shirt off, put the headphones on and we just nailed it in two takes.

--That's definitely a pinnacle moment, but leading into now, you're playing with The Sonics. What's it like being a part of that? That's gotta be a dream come true for someone like you.

Yeah. It's hard to put it to words as far as what that band's legacy and what they did and what they created as such young men. All I can say is, I'm in a perpetual state of gratitude working with them. Obviously, I was honored when they chose me, and to stand next to Rob Lind on stage and play my literal ass off and be completely drenched from head to the heels of my Beatle boots.

It's beyond an honor and it just means so much to me to be able to try and present that Northwest legacy. Even though I wasn't born here, I grew up here. Everything pretty much that I've learned about life I've learned while living here, so I definitely feel a very organic, familial bond to the Northwest. Where my brother and I write music and where we make records, and the Northwest style, all the bands that absolutely just meant so much to me. From the Fastbacks to the Posies to the Young Fresh Fellows, bands that have been a tremendous influence on me.

It means everything to me (playing with The Sonics). I'm up for the challenge--  and every single night that we go out there, I try to bring it harder than I did the night before. That's kind of a Martians thing, we've always been known for ... if it's 10 people or 10,000 people, you gotta go out and do it like you mean it, because if you don't, you can't expect anybody else to get on board and support the band.

Erik and Evan with the Martians.

-- What guitars are you playing nowadays?

With The Sonics, I travel with two Fender Telecasters. And I am incredibly excited and stoked and honored that my guitar tech for the last 25 years, a guy named Mike Lull, I ordered my first custom Mike Lull Tele, and it's being built to a speck that I've worked with him on. Teles are just bare bones, they're workhorses that were meant to be played by guys sweating on 'em and just gettin' down and dirty with 'em. (Add a fuzzbox and a Fender Super Reverb, and Foster's good to go.)

(Editor's note: After the upcoming Sonics dates, Evan and Erik are going down to Los Angeles to record and play on a new EP with their dad, Larry. It will be Larry's first recorded material since the 1970s and Evan has hired Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello and the Attractions to drum on the record.

Larry, 71, will sing and play acoustic guitar and piano on the tunes, which Evan described as sounding a bit similar to songs by Neil Young, Warren Zevon and Jimmy Webb.

The Foster family musical tree was rooted in the '60s, when Larry and wife Marita were in two successful bands together -- the New Village Singers and The Three of Us -- and served up their folk/electric stylings in NYC's Greenwich Village and beyond. Marita passed away in 2011.)

-- You, your brother and your dad playing tunes. You can't get any better than that.

They're my main dudes.

I'm grateful for what (my mom) passed on to me, what she gave me musically and as far as trying to be a good human in some pretty uncertain times like these. She's really central and really a part of everything that both my brother Erik and I do musically.

-- That recording session coming up, her vibes are definitely gonna be in the air because that's where it all came from.

Absolutely, there's not a question on my mind. (He noted that his intensity and focus take a backseat to being reflective and appreciative about everything he's received in his life.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fucked Up revisits epic 'Hidden World' LP / Interview

Fucked Up in Seattle (All Cat Rose photos)

By Andy; Cat Rose photos

It was a sight to behold.

Damian Abraham squinted his eyes as he pressed his mini butane blowtorch and carefully aimed it at his marijuana pipe. As the blue-gold-red stream of fire hit its target, the Fucked Up singer's eyes lit up and a satisfied smile formed on his face.

Bassist Sandy Miranda lifted her head up from her laptop, glanced over at Abraham's red-hot show and grinned. She turned to me and drummer Jonah Falco and noted that the colorful spectacle looked cool, as the faint smell of pot filled the air backstage at Barboza in Seattle before Friday night's gig.

About an hour later, Abraham might as well have had that torch in his hand while raging like cannabis ablaze to Fucked Up's wall-of-sound onslaught that leveled the sold-out crowd. If one of Fucked Up's faves Jerry A from Poison Idea was in the house, he probably would have coaxed Abraham into trying some fire breathing with that torch.

So the Toronto, Ontario punk band was in town for two shows to showcase its brain-gouging "Hidden World" LP in its entirety. The 13 songs clock in at 72:33, kicking off with "Crusades" and crushing everything in its path from there. "Carried Out to the Sea" is a standout track and the three-pronged guitar attack of Ben Cook, Mike Haliechuk and Josh Zucker nailed that one and the rest live on Friday.

I caught up with them for a spell to discuss what that album meant to them when it was released in 2006 and how it connects with them now.

The band’s latest 12-inch in the Zodiac series — “Year of the Snake” — will be released this week on Tankcrimes.

Interview below:

-- What's the significance of that album and why now? How does it feel to be doing these tunes? 

Damian: If feels weird to be doing it certainly 10 years on looking back on it. At one point, when 'Crusades' was written, it was meant to be 'Crusades' and 'Cascades.' We were gonna have two albums and those were gonna be the final things we were gonna put out. I just never thought, given that the self destruction of the band was sewn into its DNA, to be looking back on that song and that whole record 10 years later just feels completely surreal.

Jonah: For me, playing it 10 years later is like trying to go back in time with your body. The reason I say that is that I helped write some of the music on 'Hidden World' and was there for all the practices, crafting those songs and in the studio, but I didn't know how to play drums the way I know how to play drums now. And having to go back to things that you write as an inexperienced person and decisions you make and conclusions you come to as an inexperienced performer, it's kind of hard to recreate. It's really hard to play these songs, actually, as a person that 'knows what they're doing.' So 10 years later, it's kind of a challenge to codify all the loose information into something that translates to the way we are as a band now. It's a good challenge.

Damian: It's always kind of dishonest when a band goes back to their original sound years after the fact because it has to be disingenuous because you do evolve as a musician, as a player. Even me, with my lack of all musical ability, looking back on these songs now, I'm like, 'Oh, it's weird to see where I thought that should be placed in the song' or that phrasing that I tried there. It's almost like a naive brilliance that I think every band kinda has, and that's why no band is ever the same or arguably as good as on their first record.

-- What about the songs themselves as far as lyric-wise? Do you find when you go back to these songs, you get maybe a different meaning out of it  that you didn't originally intend or something that went on in the world that sticks with it now?

Damian: Yeah, definitely. I think that anyone who plays in a punk band, looking at the world in 2017 is kinda like, 'I told you so.' And a lot of rap artists, too. And metal artists, too. And regular artists. I think at the same time, I'm shocked at how undated some of the lyrics I wrote were. I think one of the good things about the way Mike and I both decided to write really early on is that the songs aren't really tied to a moment. We're writing about things larger than us and also writing about things that ... beyond the first couple songs we were writing. The early, early stuff was very tied to times and places in our lives, but as we were going on, especially by the time 'Hidden World' came around, we were writing about religion or writing about our relationship to nature or our relationship to religion. I think the only thing that does shine through is some of the drug references, and given how inexperienced Mike and I were with drugs then versus now. Where we are in some cases -- not mine -- psychedelic warriors.

-- (They've been playing the 'Hidden World' album on short tours for the last six months...)

Jonah: The first taste of this was when we were opening for the Descendents, which was also a really cool way to sort of ease into doing this whole 10-year shtick 'cause obviously, 10 years ago we were different people, and 10 years before that we were all finding out about the Descendents or really learning about what had happened in punk and what was still happening in punk. Being in their shadow every night and starting to play our old material was a really good warmup. For me anyway, it helped bridge the gap between being jaded and old and being a bit mystified by the horrible reality of what you've done... 'I have to do this again, oh, no!'

--- It's a good album to revisit? Do you find yourself thinking back about the time that you guys wrote it and where you were and where you are now? Has it been a growth process?

Jonah: When I think about where I was when these songs were written, I usually find myself sort of cringing or muttering something to myself, and I'm so much more comfortable as a player and a person now so it's really nice to sort of like conquer those insecurities. Definitely thinking back of being in the studio and getting upset about tuning or structures or have something that's supposed to happen-- it all seems really petty and really see the bigger picture now with these songs. It's not only that, obviously, time helps you evaluate things, but I do appreciate being able to draw back in on myself and everybody else.

-- It is a good gauge of time just to even think about it. For me, I work for a newspaper, so if I was to look back on stories that I wrote 10 years ago, I could probably say, 'Well, I'm much better doing this now than I was then,' and maybe back then there was something that went on in your life that you thought about.

Damian: I have no memories of 'Chemistry of Common Life' recording it whatsoever, and haziest memories of 'David Comes to Life' and pretty good memories of 'Glass Boys,' but I have very very vivid memories of 'Hidden World.' I can remember talking to Jade Tree at the time, and they were like, 'How much is it gonna cost you to make it...well the first two (songs) went really well, so probably wrap up after tomorrow, so I don't know, maybe $2,000,' and then it was like $10,000 at the end or something. I can remember, Jonah mentions the tuning, like it was a minor thing, but it nearly derailed the whole recording. I remember Owen Pallett coming in and doing his (violin) parts, I remember every detail of this record really stands out, and I think it was because it was our first (LP). Doing a seven-inch was something we knew we could do, but never an LP. (Editor's note: Fucked Up had tons of releases -- seven- and 12-inchers and more -- to its name prior to the LP.) The way we undertook this LP and taking the time, it was five years into the band. We wanted it to be this epic thing and we recorded at a studio that was well out of our reach at that point and we were like really swinging for the fences with it. All of it stands out now, it's amazing looking back on it, how ambitious we were.

Sandy: Well, it's been fun going back and playing these songs, that like Jonah said, we were writing when we were first getting to know our instruments really. So since then, I've developed my lines a lot and it's been fun to go back and dust those lines off and bring 'em out and rock on.

Damian: I love her bassing.

Sandy: I'm a better bass player now, but my stamina is not where it used to be. Since we haven't been playing so much, physically I'm just more tired than I used to be, sweating a bit extra hard. I enjoy going back and thinking of how things were and how there are now. The songs are really fun to play, 'cause they're fast.


Give dust to life, give life to dust,
Alloyed in a void, I am torn, I am born,
Ruderal roots tulleric shoots in cahoots
Making life out of death chthonic breath meristem,
Jubilee, I am free, so I rise from debris,
Other seeds who are weak need a spur so I speak,
Every word like a burr, so hoist my voice and rejoice,
Just a spark from the dark ignites a thousand to march
So we embark on a drive to split from the stem,
Divide out of the clade, a parade to invade,

Glory to grow as part of a whole,
We are roots, we are soil, we are leaves, we are souls
Broad canopy from the tree, a decree,
Blazon to the world we were born to press on,
Blank the sky with our kind, make the branches align,
Sing the spores to the throng, fill the fields with our song,
We are bright in our blight, full of poison and pomp,
Molded as one, we will outshine the sun,
Spread like vines as we climb, knots that can’t be undone,
The crusade has begun, turn the many to one,

Let the blind be led by the dumb
The Philistines arrive at the gates
Let the brave lie down on their swords
The devoted unleash their wrath

One ant is no ant, no branch is a tree,
Just a part of a plant I gave up to be free,
Rejoice in the life that I gave to a wave,
Of likes that will die and behave all the same,
To populate the terrain until all that remains,
Is our kind of one mind, evolved and refined,
Fall from the crown, I will rot on the ground,
Left by the march that moves on as the sound,
From their step fades, alone, for a purpose I’m placed
Born again in new roots that will rise from my waste

Not proud of it
Not proud of it
I’ve wasted a lifetime
Not proud of it

We died, then we’re born again.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Shake some action: The Cheap Cassettes and more in Seattle

The Cheap Cassettes (All Cat Rose photos)

Following our return from Nashville and Memphis and soaking up some honky-tonk and country sounds, we trucked down to our local haunt the Funhouse in Seattle last night to dig into the power-pop stylings of our pals The Cheap Cassettes along with Dany Laj and The Looks and The Scheme.

Cat did the pop and cranked out some photos:




Friday, March 3, 2017

Road trippin' to Memphis and Nashville

Sun Studio. (All TSHIT photos)

When you get outta town, you must do it right.

Memphis and Nashville resided on our bucket list for a long time, and we finally checked 'em off during the last week. Twas a stellar road trip with good friends -- a formidable dirty dozen -- one of whom was celebrating her 50th birthday, so you know how that's gonna go down, right?

Tunes, drinks, tours and BBQ galore. Plenty of laughs and wrecked bodies from walking and rocking all over these damn fine towns. (From closing down the bars every night, of course.)

A smattering of our musical journey included a visit to Sun Studio, which has an excellent tour guide dude, by the way; Elvis' Graceland; The Grand Ole Opry; Grimey's Too records; and a shitload of music at every bar -- some three stories high, like Tootsie's -- up and down Broadway in Nashville and Beale Street in Memphis. Gotta give a shout out to Lonnie's Western Room in Nashville, where we tore the place down with our karaoke (more like, scary-oke) stylings.

Shawn Mayer, back and front.

One of the musical highlights was checking out Shawn Mayer at the Whiskey Bent Saloon in Nashville.

The first thing Andy noticed were the words, "Be Nice, You Fucker," scrawled on the jacket wrapped around her waist as he strolled through the doors.

Yep, this was clearly the place to be. Three hours' worth of stellar, hard-edged country/rock originals and choice covers.

We especially grasped on to her own heartrending tunes that had you stumbling along life's rickety ride with her. There are threads of hope within her songs, and her soaring and searing vocals and demeanor can surely help plow through whatever stands in one's way. It was a cathartic experience to the hilt -- punk rock-type stuff.

Here's some more pics to document the trek. If you ever get the chance, give it a shot, for sure.

Gotta love an Arsenal/punk spot in Nashville: Fleet Street Pub.

Peace out, Nashville.