"The Eighties were an interesting time, you know. There were all sorts of different things going on all over the place in the Eighties. It was full on in the Eighties. There are a lot of kids nowadays that don't listen to today's stuff, and would rather listen to stuff from the Eighties.”

Tony “Doggen” Foster is a musician, recording artist, engineer and anything he can put his vastly talented hands to in the music business. He is most recently known for his involvement in the band Spiritualized. Tony has worked on seven full albums for Julian Cope, and a whole string of session work for other artists all over the world. Considered an elusive character in the music world, especially in his home town of Nottingham where journalists are clamouring to get chat time, Tony is a generous, humble and altogether super nice guy to know. His guitar playing is superb. I was lucky enough to be doing the photos for Jed Southgate’s Deerstock Festival last summer when he and his “All Stars”, including Vince Eager and other select musical folk, rounded the weekend of with a mindblowing set.

Now settled in his hometown with his family, Tony is still forever on the road following his dream and making it reality, mainly on tour with the huge band Spiritualized. I managed to stick my boot in the door when he was daft enough to open it, and he graciously took time out to talk to a privileged Pennyblackmusic...and anyway it was cold outside and we had bought the coffee.


PB: Firstly I would just like to say thanks for doing this, Tony.

D: It’s a pleasure. I love music and talking about it. It’s not often I can get to have a relax and a cup of tea and a chat about it.

PB: I heard you had got involved with the first Jake Bugg album ('Jake Bugg', 2012)?

D: Jake Bugg...what a phenomenon! He first came down here when he was about twelve years old. My mate knew his dad, and he said he was from Clifton and that he was really good. So, anyway, he came in here to my recording studio and sat down there and he was! He was great! He did a bit of recording with me and my mate Jay, who used to help me run this place, who is actually Jake's manager now. Anyway we had ideas and we tried to create an old sound using tapes, a bit like that old Johnny Cash sound.

It was good fun because he was great and the sound was really coming off, but unfortunately Jay’s mum, who lived in Australia, passed away. At this point I’d known Jay for about fifteen years. He had a band, and we used to do stuff together too. So Jay went over to Australia, but before he went he packed loads of music with him. When he got there, he realised all he'd packed was Jake's demos and stuff which made him realise that he wanted to do something with it. You know, to try and help him get somewhere. Jay started out as a musician and had his own band. He also used to come into the studio here and help me out from time to time, but hed never had any experience as a manager. He’s a lovely guy and he just loves music. So, when he came back from Oz, he did loads of recording here in the studio and we got a band together for Jake.

Jake got his managers who managed him then to come down from the North East and give it all a listen. I remember they all came down here and asked Jake to play to them, so he played a load of songs to them in the studio. You could tell straight away that he'd got it. These guys said, "He’s got
something special there." And when I first heard him I thought, "Wow!" Just his attitude to it blew me away!

I came downstairs once because I was playing harmonica and some lap steel on one of his tracks, and it was one of those moments where he would sing something and I’d cut in with the harmonica, but he'd not sorted the vocals out so I didn’t know where to put the harmonica. So, I said to him, "We need to do a vocal, so I know where to bring the harmonica in," and he was like your typical teenager, "Oh alright then," and shuffling his shoes. So I got him recording and he said, "I am only doing it the once and that's it," and I laughed and I was so impressed that he’d got such confidence for a lad of such a young age. Most kids don’t know anything at that age, do they? But Jake had a definite confidence about him. Shortly after that he went off like a rocket!

It has obviously gone big for him. I just hope he copes with it all. I don’t know anybody of that age that copes with something like that, but Jake is a good lad. He smokes a lot though. But he’s a positive lad so he'll be okay. He’s out touring now. In fact I got asked to play because his support act had cancelled, or at least one of the guys had. They were a band called the Honeys and they asked me if I could stand in, but I’d just got back from touring for two years with Spiritualized.

PB: Was it a long session with Jake ?

D: It would have been for around seven weeks. At first I thought I’d do it because it would have been nice to get to do stuff with Jake. I would have liked to have gone just to see Jake's tour, but I was so knackered. We did Coachella Festival in April, which is in the American desert in California. It is two weekends of music. It’s like Groundhog Day, the second weekend! But anyway, Jake was on at that and he did really well.

PB: He could be breaking into the States then?

D: I think he already has. He’s got Rick Rubin producing him. They love him out there. He did all that Johnny Cash stuff and they were going crazy. Yeah, he’s laughing! He’s nineteen now, and when he came here he was this little lad. It’s insane. I think he went away and did some more practicing because his finger picking came on something brilliant.

PB: So, how did Jake get involved with Noel Gallagher then?

D: It just happened. He heard some of Jake's stuff and obviously latched on to him.
PB: And he’s just been up for awards too?

D: Yeah, he’s just been in that Mercury Awards thing. We thought he was going to win it, you know? That was just amazing for him.

PB: And he’s put Nottingham on the map a little more too...

D: Yeah that’s good. It’s been good for me too. I get people ringing up and asking to come and record here. Shortly after he got the management thing sorted he got a recording deal, and I remember Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics who the North East Management people knew invited him over to Austin. People are already picking him up, and they’re all over him.

PB: Do you get an accreditation on the album, Tony?

D: Yeah. The studio's called the Mousehouse, and that's credited. It’s been brilliant for me. Jay helped me out a lot during that time with one thing and another. I’ve known Jay for a long time. I was working with Julian Cope when I met him, and I was doing stuff with both of them and it was mental. I did a load of recording with Julian that Jay helped me with. We did stuff which was recorded as Brain Donor. We used to wear make-up and all sorts.

PB: Who was in Brain Donor?

D: Well, Julian Cope was on bass and vocals, and I played guitar with Kev Bales, the Spiritualized drummer. Now I’m with Spiritualized Jason writes everything and I do some of the arranging and write the bass lines, but the Brain Donor material I co-wrote it with Julian.

I don’t know if you can remember Olive? We had a single 'You’re Not Alone', a dance track? I wrote all that! We had a number one hit with it.

PB: Ah, we met Kev at Deerstock, great drummer.

D; Oh god, man, he’s an amazing drummer. We did loads of albums and when we go to the States we get kids asking after us. Our records are quite collectable now over there. I’ve still got a fair few of the Brain Donor records left. I brought this one because it was in the cupboard in the next room to show you.

PB: Wow, Tony, that’s you on the cover?

D: I know, ha! I look totally different now. I look like Laurence of Arabia or someone.

PB: Don’t take this the wrong way but I was thinking more of David Cassidy?

D: Ha! That’s what my fucking mum said when she first saw it! Wicked! All these records on the album came out on single, and someone told my mum that it was me on the cover once. Each single had a picture of one of the members in the band, and it so happened that the one with me on did really well, and one of her mates took her in the shop and there was me on every shelf! She said there were row upon row of David Cassidys!

PB: I remember the first time I saw you in Spiritualized was at the Big Chill Festival in the Malvern Hills.

D: Yeah, it was about six years ago. I remember it.

PB: Can you remember the old Maxell Tape advert where the skeleton was in front of the speaker and he got blasted with sound? It was like that!

D: Ha! Wicked! You see, being on stage you don’t get to see that. I'll never see that. I’ve been in the band fifteen years and always seen it from that side.

PB : Just changing the mood a little, I reviewed Six By Seven's new album, 'Love and Peace and Sympathy', and instantly thought of you.

D: Oh yeah! Really? I did quite a bit of stuff with them. Yeah! I went on tour with them when they were supporting Placebo. They share the same drummer. I know Chris (Olley, lead Singer with Six By Seven - Ed) quite well, and heard the album when they did the demos. It sounded a lot like their old stuff.

PB: I actually said in my review that it sounds very Spiritualized.

D: It does, does it? Very Spiritualized.

PB: I thought at the time it was very much Doggen's influence on that album.

D: Thanks, that means a lot. They split up about six years ago, and when they were at their height I thought they were a great band. And the thing is Chris has never taken his foot off the gas, and when they got back together I thought finally he’s got himself a decent band again.

PB For all the Spiritualized sound you had nothing to do with the album then?

D: No,I was just too busy at the time. To be honest I could see they were already on to something great anyway. I was in Bristol when they were recording so I couldn’t go. You know I would have thought 6Music would have been all over it.

PB: Where did Doggen thing come from, Tony?

D: Ah, that was my stupid brother. He went through a stage of rhyming slang and I was always on my phone as a kid growing up, so it went "dog and bone", "Tone"...and so now I’m sort of stuck with it.

PB: Do you find it easy to write music?

D: Yeah. No. That’s a real hard one that! I find it easy to write music and harder to write the words. I’m not a natural wordsmith. I find it real easy to write it though. I’ve done a few of my own albums where I’ve done the lot. Julian asked me once to do a type of 70’s album with guitars freaking out all over the shop, and I wrote it all out for him.

PB: What were you brought up on, Tony?

D: Well, my dad loved music as well, and I started playing guitar when I was really young because he hated the TV being on. His living room stunk of vinyl! It’s weird how you get to know the smell of vinyl. He would be listening to all sorts, reggae, Motown, rock, Spector, all kinds of stuff. Just the sound that they created was immense.

PB: Have you ever tried to create that sound?

D; Oh god yeah, many a time! We try constantly.

PB: And did it work?

D: No. It’s impossible! Ha! If you think of say, Amy Winehouse and when she tried to recreate that 50’s sound, which does sound like it to an extent, but you could never make a record that sounded exactly like those records. It would be close and you would relate to it, but it wouldn’t be it.

PB: Well, a lot of black music around that time of course was produced having a very low budget.

D: Exactly. It’s like Motown when they first started. I went to Hitsville in Detroit. It quite similar to this place. You walk down a staircase and into this room, and there is Stevie Wonder's drum kit! And then they had a loft with a reverb chamber in it. It was just a box in the ceiling with nothing in it. What you do is, if you’re recording you put one of your speakers in the loft, so it creates a massive echo and you pick it up in the loft as well, and it just creates a lot of reverb. Put that in with your dry signal and hey presto! Now it’s all digital and doesn’t sound the same, whereas you stand under that loft and clap your hands and you’ve got that sound.

PB: And lately?

D: I’ve not long finished doing some stuff with Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode. You know the Soulsavers? Well the last recording had Dave Gahan singing on it. We did a cracking gig with me, Kev and Dave Gahan in The Capital in L.A. not long ago. I really enjoyed that. The album is called the 'The Light The Dead See'. It’s a brilliant album. He’s a really nice guy and a brilliant singer. I’m quite proud of the album because when we did it we were on tour and we had a week to do it, so we all met up and just did it. We finished the album here in the studio.

PB: Finally what other artists have graced the Mousehouse?

D We’ve had Starsailor in here, and we did loads of Yoko Ono remixes in here for her. Of course all the Spiritualized stuff was done in here. We did seven albums for Julian Cope in here! I had Neil Young’s band jamming in here a while back when they played at the Ice Arena. Spiritualized toured with them. We got to know them so when they came home here we all piled down, and had a few cans and played a few songs.

PB: Thank you.











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23599 Posted By: Peter Stanley (Ossington, Notts)

A really top guy just don't get to see him enough.

23598 Posted By: Emile (Byron Bay Area, Australia)

Great interview with cousin Doggen. He's got cousins all over he world. Doggen lives and breathes music just like his dad my Uncle Mick- must be genetic. Doggen is an encyclopaedia of music and can play one wicked guitar. We look forward to his return to these far off shores and hope that he comes over with Spiritualized for their one off gig in Byron Bay later in the year.

23596 Posted By: DEANNA (Nottingham)

Fantastic interview Im very proud of my cousin Tony(Doggen) he is so talented and gifted but one of the most humble and loving people you could ever meet. He freely gives so much pleasure to all around him.


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