An Interview with Gregg Foreman of
The Delta 72
For the past six years, DC natives and Philadelphia transplants the Delta 72 have been releasing some of the rawest R&B this side of the ’60s, simultaneously drawing influences from original R&B, Cream-era garage rock (complete with Farfisa organ break-downs), and blues-based punk rock. Their fifth (and newest) album, 000, features a new twist to their sound: live gospel singers. “Gospel singers make anything sound spiritual,” says 26-year-old frontman, Gregg Foreman. “Even us. Although I think our gospel singers sound more eerie than religious.”
How did you first get into playing music?
I think I saw Purple Rain. After that movie, I knew I had to have a guitar.
What were your musical influences growing up?
My mom had been an intern at Motown before I was born, so she liked all that soul music, and my dad was into Humble Pie and the Stones and kind of like country rock, like the Flying Burrito Brothers. He liked rock and country and reggae and stuff while my mom was way into soul and — not really funk, but Al Green, and stuff like that. So that’s what was going on in our house. So we had those records around, and some pop records, some new wave records.
So did you go through any sort of musical rebellion to get away from what your parents liked?
Totally. I could not stand that shit they were listening to after a while. I started listening to Black Flag — I bought Damaged by Black Flag, and I bought the Clash’s Combat Rock. Of course, when you listen to it now, the Clash didn’t seem all that different from some of that other stuff, but Black Flag was way off. I went through the whole punk phase. My parents didn’t care, though, and they probably liked some of it, which was even more frustrating for me. I think I went through one of those Joy Division kind of stages after that, gloomy punk rock stuff, like Gang of Four, Wire — early Britpop.
What do you think of the whole ’70s revival thing going on in the country right now?
I love That ’70s Show, but it seems like people have been having these stupid ’70s nostalgia projects since I was a kid. I remember ’79, sort of — I don’t remember any of the good stuff about the ’70s, but I know it wasn’t all disco. All the good rock happened before ’75. Disco killed funk, it killed soul, it even killed rock for a while. People were starting to [have] to make disco their music in order to make a living — it was a rough period for music. I resent that sort of music because it killed so many other kinds. When I was in high school, and all these people starting listening to the Doors, and Pink Floyd, and all that ’70s music, I just thought it was horrible, because that was what my dad listened to and I had to grow up with that crap. I mean, I like those records now, but I didn’t when I was a kid. I was this goofy Goth kid, with crazy hair and eyeliner, and only the chicks would talk to me — which was great. Guys at school wanted to kick my ass for wearing makeup, but the chicks dug it, and they told their boyfriends to leave me alone.
How did Delta 72 get started?
A couple of us were living in DC and decided we wanted to start a band that we ourselves would really want to see, and at the time, DC was really punk in the Fugazi way — which is cool, I moved there for that — but we loved everything from weird punk stuff to country, and we wanted to do something that was a hybrid of everything we liked and have an electric organ in it as well. So we bought this crazy organ, and started playing it with my roommates, and that was the first lineup. It just progressed from there, and we added different people and now it’s all different people than when we started out — except for me. And it sounds way different now as well. We’ve gone from sounding like bluesy punk to kind of like — it’s always had this soul thing going on, but it was a little angular for a while, a little less funky, and a lot more experiments of trying to find our sound. Even our first single, though, has had this kind of Booker T sound, and it’s even more prevalent on our new album. Still, though, the point of the band is to do things we like, play music we like to listen to without sounding like one or another specific music. We’ve written more than half of another record already, and I don’t know what the hell is going on with these new songs. They’re really funky rock, like early Sly & the Family Stone, and the MC5, with a little Al Green thrown in there somewhere. It doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s all over the place, but it’s all got that underlying groove thing to tie them all together.
So what do your parents think of your music now?
Ah, man. Well, I don’t see my dad anymore, but my mom just grooves on it. She comes to as many of my shows as she can — seeing your kid up on stage is like the rock n’ roll parent’s dream. Seeing my picture in Rolling Stone was a big thing to her, too.