Dave Foster – A History
I started playing the guitar when I was six years old. My brother had started having guitar lessons and he started to get good really quickly so I asked my mum if I could learn to. She obliged, and one Saturday afternoon bought both my brother and me a guitar. She told us to make sure we stuck with it as the guitars were expensive and at the time money was really tight in our family.
My brother, Paul, who evidently has more balls than me, packed the guitar in after a few weeks and moved onto football, but I was reluctant to incur my mum’s wrath and chose to carry on playing, out of fear more than anything. But soon I began to improve and started to love playing.
I played that guitar for seven years before I heard Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ with Edward Van Halen’s amazing solo and then managed to convince my parents to buy me an electric guitar. Luckily for me, my dad found a Fender Bullet for a good price. It was such an inspiring time for me and probably correct to say that as I spent so long on the old nylon strung acoustic that my finger reach developed there.
What makes this brief history of my early playing a little heartwarming for me to read back is that my parents didn’t really listen to music and we hardly had any music in the house save for a cassette copy of Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits and the Beatles 1962-1966 (the red one) compilation, which I found and duly fell in love with. Fair play to my parents for allowing me the funds and the effort to get involved in something they later confessed to having no idea about. Thinking about it the first tune I ever learned was ‘Sound of Silence’.
During high school I found two bands that would change everything for me, U2 and Marillion. I loved the Edge and his delay guitar parts that sounded so ethereal back then. As for Steve Rothery, well I actually wanted to be Steve – his tone, guitar parts, coolness on stage (when I saw Marillion on Top of The Pops) ticked every box for me. I remember my dad taking me to Dawsons (a music retailer in the UK) to buy my first serious amp. It was a Peavey Classic Chorus, chosen because I read that Steve Rothery used a lot of chorus and reverb, which of course the Peavey had.
After leaving school in 1987 I found myself in the position of having no desire to do anything other than music. After a very badly played performance I was surprisingly accepted into Sandown Music College in Liverpool where I never fitted in. It was awkward to say the least as the players there were great, but the year ended with the administrators politely refusing my entry into the second year. This was unpleasant and for a sensitive soul like me this would normally have killed off any ambition I had.
But for whatever reason, I stuck with the plan, applied to another college and was ultimately accepted at Leigh Music College near Manchester. This was a lot more like it for me and after settling down I met some incredible musicians there, Shaun McGowan (singer and bass player in Mr. So & So), Leon Parr (drummer for Mr. So & So, Sleeping Giant, The Steve Rothery Band and also the Dave Foster Band), Kieren Twist (keyboard player for Mr. So & So) as well as other amazing musicians such as Neil Fairclough, who now plays bass for Queen, and Mike Outram, who is one of the UK’s leading jazz guitarists (and also played on one of Steven Wilson’s albums). It was here that I learned as much from my contemporaries as I did from the tutors, who it should be said were fabulous…I was taught for a while by Gary Boyle, an incredible jazz/fusion guitarist.
It was at Leigh College that Mr So & So was created, a band of players who got together due to a love of progressive rock bands. It was a period of my life that really sparkled. The prog adventure was vast and a challenge we adored. I’ve often said that we would just play with how music worked and if it ultimately did work we kept it, but if we broke something, we learned why. The intro to ‘The Hypnotic’ from Mr. So & So’s first album ‘Paraphernalia’ is a great example of this.
Mr. So & So very slowly started to get noticed on the prog scene and were offered a show by the Classic Rock Society in Rotherham and the guys there really embraced what we were doing. I think we played there about six or seven times and on the last occasion there as So & So we supported Moody/Marsden (Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake). In the audience also happened to be two people who ran the UK Marillion fanzine ‘The Web’.
Between Bonnie and Wayne and Bernie playing the band’s second album ‘Compendium’ a lot to their friends, Steve Rothery was eventually introduced to the band. Steve signed Mr. So & So to his then new label, Dorian Music and I think it was just a couple of bands on the label which meant he could spend time developing the bands.
Steve was brilliant throughout this time and was so supportive. He gave us all a big boost in our belief, me in particular as it became clear that he liked my playing style. We recorded an album called ‘The Overlap’ with Mike Stobbie producing and after recording that album the band went on tour with Marillion, supporting them on the ‘Strange Engine’ tour which was an incredible experience for a band so young at the time (I was 26), playing venues then that were, for us, so far away from our standing. It was very formative for me and a brilliant yet steep learning curve.
After the tour So & So sadly split up. It was a real shame but you could see it coming. Although we had grown up with each other, you could see the ‘musical differences’ manifesting themselves.
After the band split up I decided that I’d had enough of music. I put all my equipment on eBay, got my hair cut and got a job. My gear didn’t sell, thankfully, as after a couple of months Charlotte (Evans), who was in Mr. So & So convinced me to put a project together that became ‘Sleeping Giant’. I have really fond memories of this band. We had a good time and wrote some good tunes but what I will always be grateful for is that it re-ignited my love of music. Early on in Sleeping Giant I wouldn’t take any solos as my confidence was so low but over time the solos crept back in. The band slowly disintegrated but it left a hunger in me that had been missing since So & So split up.
Around about this time I had re-established contact with Shaun and we rebuilt Mr. So & So with new members Anthony Hindley (keyboards) and Stuart Browne (drums) and, amazingly we found the funding to record two albums ‘Sugarstealer’ and then ‘Truths, Lies & Half Lies’ (which featured Andy Rigler on keyboards).
As So & So ground to a halt (it’s only sleeping at the moment) I was invited to take part in Steve Rothery’s solo project ‘The Wishing Tree’ – what a great band that was. As an aside to the Wishing Tree was Steve’s British Guitar Academy, that involved musicians spilling the beans about being a working musician. It was nerve wracking for me, surrounded by legends but it was a fabulous eye opener for me and paved the way for what would become the first Steve Rothery Band gig in Bulgaria which has rolled on and on and given the band some incredible experiences.
Now I’ll have to backtrack a little here and introduce Dinet Poortman. I first met Dinet at the Marillion weekend in the Netherlands in 2007. Steve made the introduction to me on the Friday night of the weekend and we just got on straight away. Dinet has a similar musical background as me so it was inevitable that we would end up working with each other.
The Dave Foster Band has evolved in such a natural and organic manner that it’s been interesting and thoroughly enjoyable to see how it has grown into what it is now. The first album ‘Gravity’ began life as being one track ‘Paradox’ which was the first thing we wrote together. It was my sound engineer mate Al Unsworth who recorded the last two So & So albums that convinced me to keep writing and get an album out there.
I honestly didn’t think it would lead to anything and just enjoyed the process, but Gravity was really well received, and well enough to lead me into crowdfunding the next album ‘Dreamless’ which was a big step up from ‘Gravity’. We had so much positive feedback that it convinced me that we should take the project out live, which was a huge thing for a man who doesn’t have a lot of rock and roll confidence.
When we were writing and recording ‘Nocebo’, we had only one prerequisite which was to make the step from Dreamless to Nocebo greater than the step up that was from Gravity to Dreamless. We did this, big time!
‘Nocebo’ represents the band’s arrival into where we need to be.