Panic Room guitarist Dave Foster is on a mission to bring prog to new ears
He's worked with a bevy of bands including Panic Room and the Steve Rothery band, and now Dave Foster has pulled together a melting pot of special guests for his second album Dreamless
Dave Foster has an unbelievable left hand. With his index finger on the guitar’s fifth fret he can stretch his small finger so it lands on the 13th. Any guitarist will tell you, that’s an impressive reach. As a younger player his bible was Allan Holdsworth’s legendary tendon-tearing instructional book, Reaching For The Uncommon Chord.
Last year Foster played Cruise To The Edge as part of the Steve Rothery Band, and Holdsworth was aboard too. “We got in to watch him soundcheck,” recalls Foster, in his ever-enthusiastic Northern brogue. “Within 10 minutes I felt he was playing a completely different instrument to me. But music’s all about tension and release, and with a lot of fusion stuff you just get the tension. The best solos really are the ones you can sing back. I go to all the Marillion Weekends, and the moment Rothers starts up a solo everybody in the audience is singing along.”
This intuitive grasp of what makes for good, memorable music explains why Foster’s steadily earning acclaim as one of the UK prog scene’s more interesting players and composers. “Dave’s one of the most exciting and original guitar players I’ve come across,” Steve Rothery tells Prog. “He uses unusual inversions in his chords which give them a distinctive sonic complexity, and he has a great approach to rhythm playing. He is also a demon shredder. Our styles really complement each other and there is a sort of musical telepathy between us, which makes writing pretty effortless.”
We meet Foster fresh from May’s Panic Room Weekend at The Robin in Bilston. Having been introduced by Yatim Halimi, mutual bassist for Panic Room and the Rothery Band, Foster joined Anne-Marie Helder and band in 2015, recording the classy Essence album with them that year.
Helder, Halimi and Rothery are all guests on Dreamless, Foster’s second, crowdfunded solo album, joined by the Rothery Band’s Leon Parr and Riccardo Romano, Panic Room’s Jonathan Edwards, Matt Cohen of The Reasoning and members Mr. So & So, the band Foster formed in music college in the late 80s. “The level of musicians I was able to get my hands on was outrageous,” says Foster. “I’m so proud of it. The best thing about writing is that you can create the songs that you wish already existed, and that’s what I tried to do. If I’d sold 100 copies I’d have still been happy, but I’ve had nothing but good feedback.”
Dreamless shows just what diverse influences and styles the guitarist can draw on. The sweep of Lingering owes much to Peter Gabriel’s 80s output, and the massive Black Sunrise channels Kashmir-era Led Zeppelin. The Muse-y Amitriptilyne is named after a drug he was prescribed for its muscle relaxant properties (he manages a bone condition called ankylosing spondylitis), while the largely instrumental Morphine Sleep has become a favourite among fans.
“I’ve been surprised by the reception for that one. I went for that Rothery/Gilmour soaring melodic thing, and I must have pulled it off!”