Interview with Jeff Foskett
By Chris Allen

Right: Photo by Jeff McEvoy

Question: I listened to your Tributes & Rarities CD, and liked it. Especially a few things I'd never heard - "Laughter In The Rain" has really beautiful background vocals. Do you do all the arrangements?

Jeff Foskett : I arranged all of the background vocals for this guys entire record. It was an all a capella album, and we only used one instrument in each song. I think on "Laughter In The Rain" we used the glockenspiel, is that right? And we did "Never My Love", we used a sitar, and "I Need You" - the Gerry Beckley America song, we used an accordian. But it was for the most part all a capella, just accented by different instruments now and again. It was for a guy named Kanji Chosi and he's a quite talented singer out of Japan. Extremely large vocal range. I did all the backgrounds and he sang the leads, because he wanted to do it in English as much as possible and his English, as is true for some of the Japanese people who speak English, his pronunciation of certain words isnıt all that accurate and he was very concerned with being extremely accurate, so he asked me if I would sing the backgrounds, and I did. It was very fun.

Question: You have a good range too, I was listening to "Little Saint Nick" and you were doing both Brian's falsetto and Mike's bass parts.

Jeff Foskett : I was doing all the parts on that, right.

Question: That's amazing. You don't often sing bass do you?

Jeff Foskett : On my own records I do. It's not something I do for anyone else, let's put it that way. I wouldnıt consider myself good enough to sing a bass part on anyone else's record. I will do it on my own because I'm patient with myself. More patient than other people would be with me. (laughs) Let's put it that way.

Question: On another track - "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" - it was nice to hear Taylor Mills singing lead.

Jeff Foskett : She's a doll, and I love her. She has a great voice and a really nice vocal range and it was nice to hear her sing a lead. I did that for an album titled United We Stand that my partner Gary Griffin and I produced right after the 9/11 thing came about. For some reason I didn't use my own name on it, I used one of my pseudonyms, so did Gary, so it's not credited to either one of us. But I used Scotty Bennett on "America The Beautiful" and I used Taylor on "Wind Beneath My Wings" and "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" - which was unreleased, and one other one and she sounds great on all of them. If you can find that record it's on Oglio Records and I know they have it on Amazon, CD Baby, places like that. But itıs all patriotic songs. I wish I had a copy! But I don't even have one. (laughs) I was never given any finished copies.

Question: You and Jeff Larson have been working on an album for a couple of years?

Jeff Foskett : We have, and it's a slow process of getting together and trying to work on each other's material. In some cases he would hand me an almost finished song and say "I'm having trouble with this part" or "I think these lyrics don't fit" or something like that. I'd bounce the same kinds of things off him, and in some cases he'd hand me a lyric and say "Put some music to these" - or sometimes he said "Here's some music, do you have any words?" or he would just say "I have a whole completed song, I want you to sing on it with me." That kind of thing, so we've done everything and every aspect of it and we're still working. I know he's working on yet another solo record and I've got several things going in the studio that I'm trying to complete. Another solo album, and I'm producing my daughter Katie's album, and I'm about to start a Worship album. So I've got three things plus Larson's record.

Question: You're last one - Twelve and Twelve - I guess your last...

Jeff Foskett : Legitimate release.

Question: That was beautiful.

Jeff Foskett : I appreciate that, I'm glad you liked it.

Question: I did, I liked it a lot. I think it's your best work. What's your take on the new recording sessions with Brian?

Jeff Foskett : I think it's going to be a really strong record and I think everyone will be extremely pleased, and some people will be extremely surprised at how Brian hasn't lost one step - when it comes to studio recording - from his glory days. I mean he is on top of it. It sounds great. I think of all the people in the band Paul Mertens has probably done the most hands-on work with Brian. Because not only did he perform sax and arrange some of the horns, but he also arranged a lot of strings. So he came out and cut strings with Brian at different times.

Question: He said that Mark's studio was a great place to work.

Jeff Foskett : I love it. I find it very nice - very comfortable. And remote enough that no one bugs you and close enough to good food hangs and things like that so if you get hungry you can step out and grab a bite and come back and relax. It's a very nice place.

Question: Any of the songs stand out in your mind?

Jeff Foskett : It has really great songs on it. The thing I like about Brian and music in general, is that everything sounds familiar. Y'know like when you hear the song for the first time you go "That sounds so nice, have I heard that before?" And you haven't, but he writes those kind of melodies. And thatıs how you write "standards" - they become instantly familiar to you. And I have heard some of those on this record. I think everybody is really gonna be happy when they hear this.

Question: Wild. Is it close to finished?

Jeff Foskett : As far as I know it is. I haven't done any recording in awhile. The next thing I'm going to do is - Brian has done all of the vocals, he arranged them all and he's sung every part. The last thing we're gonna do is, he said he was gonna call me to come in and do a little bit of vocal work, if there's something he didn't feel comfortable with, or didn't like the sound... I've experienced this, doing this a lot on my own records – when one person sings every part, it sometimes creates kind of a rub in the vocal blend, and so it's nice to have just one other voice in there to mix things up. So if he finds something like that he might call me in to do some singing.

Question: So most of the players that are on tour with Brian have played on the album?

Jeff Foskett : All of them, yeah.

Question: Any others?

Jeff Foskett : Yeah, there was Todd Sucherman - our original drummer - who came in and played some drums, and there were the string players and auxiliary horn players, I don't know who they were because I wasn't at the sessions. And I think there was another piano player besides Brian and Darian. I'm not sure who it was.

Question: You were the first guy who said something about there being a Smile tour coming up. You were asked to get some tapes together to try to assemble the songs? Is that right?

Jeff Foskett : Originally that was how it was planned but that's not the way it worked out. The way it worked out is that Brian actually went into the studio himself. Actually what I think happened is - this is my understanding because I wasn't there, this is second hand information so this is the start of the telephone game, and if it's inaccurate I apologize to anyone who is reading, but I think this is what I heard. Every song that was recorded between 1966 and the end of '67 - so there's an 18 to 24 month period there - every song that was recorded was written down on a 3x5 card. And what I think happened was - Brian said "These are the songs that were recorded specifically for the Smile album." And then someone, I don't know who that someone was, put the songs together in order on a CD. And then Brian fiddled with that order until it became what he thought was going to be correct. Then he said "That's what my original idea was - that's what we're going to do on tour." That's all I can tell you. (laughs) Because thatıs all I can remember, since I wasnıt actually involved.

Question: Have you guys started rehearsing those songs?

Jeff Foskett : We have not. We are going to start rehearsing October 1st. So we are definitely going to have some lead time in rehearsals, four months, not solid but -I shouldn't say that - we have been studying the music for quite some time. In other words, everybody in the band knows exactly what we're going to play. Everybody in the band has a CD of the music, in order. And we've all been listening to it and making it part of our souls – quote unquote. Because I'm a firm believer that the more you listen to something, the more it becomes familiar to you, the easier it is for you to then perform that music. And inherently you'll know if there's a mistake being made or something along those lines. And you know, as you can imagine, a lot of the songs that were on the original Smile album surfaced on later records.

Question: Right, and you've actually been doing a few of them.

Jeff Foskett : And we've been doing a few of those songs in recent concerts in the last year and a half or so. There will definitely be some surprising material, but there will definitely be some familiar material. But our actual rehearsals for Smile start in the first part of October. But we have been listening for probably about 6 months to this one particular CD.

Question: What's your general reaction to the music?

Jeff Foskett : Well it's a fascinating record obviously, and I'm a huge Brian Wilson fan, so personally I love it. And I'm really really honored and really really proud to be a part of taking this and bringing it to fruition in a live context. I think it's gonna be phenomenal. I mean, Pet Sounds was beyond belief, and I really think that this may be beyond that. I mean can you imagine hearing Pet Sounds performed live? Wasn't that a cool idea that Brian had?

Question: Yeah, I mean it brought the album to life really. Refreshed it for me. And he always says it's such a spiritual music, and Smile always struck me in a way like that as well.

Jeff Foskett : Hence the title. (laughs) I'm serious, y'know? When I think about God I smile.

Question: You give thanks to God on your records...

Jeff Foskett : I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Him! (laughs) I think itıs appropriate that I thank my Lord and savior.

Question: And Brian does it in his own way.

Jeff Foskett : He absolutely does.

Question: It sort of feels like God is some sort of musician, ultimately. Even though He's more than that.

Jeff Foskett : Isn't that cool? What a cool thought. That's a really cool notion - God is some sort of musician. (laughs) I think He could be if he wanted to... (laughs)

Question: Any final thoughts?

Jeff Foskett : Well, I think I've said it all before - it's such a pleasure and honor to be a part of this band. I've been in a lot of groups, I'm in a lot of groups now besides this one - I'm in two other ones extensively and, I just really love everybody in this group and it's such a nice group of people. It's strange because in Papa Doo Run Run we play a lot of Brian's music, but he's not there. So it's kind of a trip, and then to play it with Brian is so nice, and so edifying. And satisfying. Because I learn so much from him. So I really appreciate it and really appreciate him, and as I've said countless times, it's an honor to count him as one of my best friends.

Click here to visit the official Jeff Foskett website

The above article is from OPEN SKY issue #6, used with kind permission by the editor Chris Allen. To find out more about this fab magazine and to get a copy of the whole issue, visit