Jeffrey Foucault has built up a solid reputation over the course of four solo albums with Uncut magazine describing his songs as “beat-up troubadour folk, whittled to dolorous perfection.” Along with his solo work he’s been involved in several collaborative efforts including Redbird (with his wife, Kris Delmhorst, and Peter Mulvey), Cold Satellite with Foucault setting poet Lisa Olstein’s lyrics to raucous rock music and an album of murder ballads with Mark Erelli. A firm live favourite he commences a UK tour this week in anticipation of his latest release, Salt As Wolves. Commencing in Perth on Thursday 29th January he then plays Glasgow’s Celtic Connections on Friday before heading south for several dates ending in London on February 8th. Before heading on his way he was kind enough to speak with Blabber’n’Smoke.
You’ve got a new album, Salt as Wolves in the pipeline and you’re coming to the UK for an eleven date tour later in January and February with Billy Conway accompanying you on “suitcase drums.” What can we expect to hear and see at these shows?
Billy plays a suitcase kit and I play electric and acoustic guitars. I handle the singing and talking, though occasionally he says something under his breath, or moans in the middle of a song. We’ll cover all the territory between country and blues and the music that came from those forms.
From the three songs I’ve heard Salt As Wolves has a blues feel, quite gritty with plenty of electric guitar. I read in an interview you did with Americana UK a few years back that you were listening to Rainer Ptacek quite a bit. Was this an influence on the album?
Rainer has been a deep and ongoing influence on me, though I came late to his work. It’s his approach and the feeling of complete openness and intention in his playing that I can’t shake. My song ‘Rico’, which is nominally about the bass player on my Ghost Repeater album, is also about Rainer, and all the real ones who die with nothing half of the time.
You and your rhythm section (Billy Conway and Jeremy Moses Curtis) teamed up with Bo Ramsey for the album. Was this the first time you’ve played with Bo since Ghost Repeater and what was it like playing with a basic four piece band? Was there a temptation to go all “Crazy Horse?”
I got the Crazy Horse out of my system on the Cold Satellite records, and anyway that’s not at all what Bo does. Bo is an economical player, and the older he gets the less he plays. There’s a lesson there. He creates a lot of negative space and the interplay between the players on this record was the whole point of the ensemble. It’s a blues record – lean, dark, and tough.
I’ve been wondering about the title, Salt As Wolves. It seems to be a quotation from Othello referring to animals in heat. Care to elucidate on this?
The next line, ‘hot as monkeys’ is a reference to animals in heat. ‘Salt As wolves’ is reference to boldness taken out of context for the music of the phrase, for a record that I wanted only to be bold and loose in the making. I came across it in a compendium of literary references to wolves in Barry Lopez’s fine book, Of Wolves and Men.
You seem to have been busy in the producers chair with albums from Hayward Williams, John Statz and Caitlin Canty under your belt. Is this something you plan to pursue and if so are there any other folk you’d like to produce?
I’m sure I’ll produce a record now and then, when I hear something that moves me or that I can contribute to. It’s a hard job and if you would do it well you can’t do it for the money. I’d like to produce a record for my wife Kris Delmhorst, but I don’t think she’ll let me.
What’s the situation regarding Cold Satellite? Cavalcade was a great rambunctious mess of Faces’ like rock and blues. Do you and Lisa Olstein have any plans for a further collaboration?
We don’t. I love that band and I love those records, and I was pleased to collaborate and expand my sonic footprint that way. We may resurrect the band to get out and tour again sometime, if someone has about 5k they don’t know what to do with, but I’m more interested in writing and recording my own songs for now. I have so many kinds of records I want to make and there’s never enough time.
Along with Cold Satellite you regularly appear as part of Redbird with your wife, Kris Delmhorst and Peter Mulvey and tour with a variety of folk. Do you ever take time out or are you always thinking about the next project or tour?
I only tour about 1/3 of the year, and while the rest of time I have some work to get done, I spend time fishing and reading and doing chores, just trying to live as normal and human a life as is possible in this country and century.
Finally you’ve mentioned on your website that you’ve crammed for the UK tour by reading all twenty of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels in order to be primed to discuss the British Navy’s role in the Napoleonic wars. Is this something that often comes up in conversation in the UK or are you just taking the mickey?
Well, I am taking the mickey, as you say, though I did just re-read all those O’Brian novels in sequence. Historical fiction doesn’t get much better. But I doubt the topic will come up.
SALT AS WOLVES, Foucault’s fifth collection of original songs featuring his longtime rhythm section Billy Conway (Morphine) on drums and Jeremy Moses Curtis (Booker T) on bass and legendary electric guitar player Bo Ramsey (Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown), will be released later in the year.
01.29.15,Perth Inchyra Arts Club
01.30.15 Glasgow Tron Theatre Celtic Connections Festival
01.31.15 Bedford The Ent Shed
02.01.15 Nottingham The Maze
02.02.15 Cropredy The Brasenose Arms
02.03.15 Sheffield Greystones
02.04.15 Bristol The King’s Arms
02.05.15 Topsham The Bridge
02.06.15 Torquay Crown and Sceptre
02.07.15 Lewes Union Music @ Con Club
02.08.15 London The Green Note