MO FOSTER: In conversation with our features editor. Part 2 of 3 (22/02/21)

Q: Hi Mo. Was there a single catalyst that drew you to the bass? Was there one particular lightbulb moment when you thought "Yes, that's it, THAT's what I want to play"?

A: Different answers for different times. My school skiffle band — The Peasants — had too many guitarists and it was felt that one of us had to play bass guitar (double bass was inconceivable). I made one out of an old acoustic guitar, with a pickup consisting of two ex-military headphones and a soap dish. (See British Rock Guitar chapter 6).

When The Shadows arrived I was drawn to the sound that bassist Jet Harris made. It was the first time I had seen, or heard, a Fender Precision bass.
Eventually — when Affinity formed in 1968 — I was invited to play bass.


Q: Hi Mo. Who were your early performing style influencers?

Dave Ambrose
Ray Brown
Jack Bruce
Ron Carter
Stanley Clarke
Jim Fielder
Andy Fraser
Larry Graham
Jet Harris
Michael Henderson
Anthony Jackson
James Jamerson
Jimmy Johnson
Louis Johnson
John Paul Jones
Carol Kaye
Paul McCartney
Marcus Miller
Charles Mingus
Jaco Pastorius
Chuck Rainey
Leland Sklar
Steve Swallow
Stevie Wonder
Danny Thompson
Miroslav Vitous

H. A VERY interesting list. In addition to many of the above, I really engage with the style of Jack Casady, John Entwhistle, Bruce Foxton, Rory McFarlane, and a few more. Hopefully, in this series, we can explore the styles of a few of these quoted above … if you are willing?

Q: Hi Mo. Apparently, you started out as a pick player and then switched to finger-style. What made you switch? Do you ever use a pick these days?

At the beginning of 1971 I was still playing with a pick, but when I started doing session work I realised that the best sound comes from the fingers. The trouble was that this style of playing initially makes the finger-tips very sore, so I built this device to help me to harden the calluses when practicing away from the instrument.It consisted of a 6" piece of wood, one string, one tuning peg and a jack plug casing for a bridge held in place by two nails. It fitted perfectly in the large pocket of my ex-Swedish army officer's coat, and as I rhythmically plucked the solitary string it definitely helped me to develop the required hardness. I had to be careful though, since the repetitive motion of my hand inside my coat looked like I was having way too much fun, and could easily have been misinterpreted!

H Very clever. Did you consider putting it into production?

Unfortunately not. I didn’t have the time or the energy. I still use it.

Q: Hi Mo. I've heard you slap on a couple of recordings (e.g. the Minder theme) That was a long time ago and what do you think of it now as a technique.?

I think it sounds great. I’ve used it on several of my library music tracks (arthritis permitting). I once interviewed Marcus Miller who allowed me to play his bass. Unfortunately it sounded like me playing it.

Q: Mr. Foster. Have you ever played a six-string bass? I know you have a Fender VI but I'm thinking in terms of the 'modern' six-string. If you've played one, what did you think?

The aircraft carrier. It’s probably fun for a soloist, but it’s just annoying as a rhythm section instrument. Also I don’t like the sound of the high notes — a guitar sounds much better.

Q: Hey Mo. What is your approach to composition? Do you write on bass, guitar, piano? Do you have a particular procedure that you follow, e.g. starting with a melody idea and fleshing it out gradually?

I write with whatever inspired the initial idea. It could be an instrument, or just pen and paper. I’m often working on several pieces at once so that if I get bored I can swap.

Q: Mo … are there any of your own compositions that you are particularly proud of and if so, why please?

‘The Light In Your Eyes’. I recorded this track for my first solo album Bel Assis on Peter Van Hooke’s new label MMC. Simon Phillips is on drums and Gary Moore is on guitar. Engineer Simon Smart produced the perfect mix. I still love it.

Q: Ah ha Mo. Can you tell us about any one session, tour or gig that stands out for you as a particular career highlight?

1980 to 1981. Jeff Beck tour of USA, Japan, and UK. With Simon Phillips on drums and Tony Hymas on keyboards the whole tour was a remarkable and challenging experience.

Q: From what I can gather, streaming does no favours to musicians. What’s your take on this please?

The record companies are happy. The musicians and composers are not. It has to change, otherwise it is impossible for new performers to even consider a career in music.

Q: What would you say is unique about your fretless style?

I aim for a sound that is part bassoon, part euphonium, and part cello. On a good day it works.

Q: Any memories you’d like to share when you were playing with Affinity at Ronnie Scotts?

I was terrified. I’d only been playing bass again for six months after a four year gap when I played drums at university. In the audience were some of the finest double bass players in the country.

H. Thank you.

Part #3 follows later this week

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