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Charles Foskett Talks Ashtrays to Elvis

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock


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Charles Foskett is a talented musician, composer and producer with a wealth of experience within the music industry. He has joined us here at Music Gateway to make use of our connection and collaboration platform for one of his current projects. Charles is currently co-writing and producing with Grammy awarded song-writing partners worldwide for a number of different projects based both in the UK and abroad. But it is not just Charles’s creative talent that has set him apart in the industry; he also knows how to create a successful business.

SCHMUSICMUSIC Records is his brainchild and the label is working with talented new artists in development. The company also provides services to artists, record labels and the music industry. With a résumé that includes producing records for Elvis Costello, Mick Taylor and members of The Beatles, we wanted to find out what we could learn from such a qualified professional.

1. Charles, don’t take this the wrong way, you’ve notched up a few miles in the industry, in a few words how would you describe yourself?

I could say ancient but I’m not ageist – I could say lucky but I don’t believe in luck. I believe in making your own luck, but then is that really luck?

I’ve had people walk into my studio dazzled by all of the recording gear and instruments and the first thing they have said is ‘cor you’re lucky!’ – ‘Not in the least’ has been my reply – it’s all been down to going for it, making good decisions and endless hard work.

(Don’t know if that answers your question? I could have just replied ‘Knackered! Give me a good shot of B12!’)

2. During your career, you’ve worked with some great artists; I guess you have funny stories, anything you would like to share?

Yes – Tons of stories. I guess I’ll add a chapter from my unfinished autobiography ‘Ashtray on a Motorbike’.

From Elvis to Ringo

Elvis Costello, or should I have called him Declan (McManus) – it feels a bit odd calling anyone “Elvis” – seemed not half as bad and aggressive as all the Olympic studio engineers had warned. Bobby Tench one time singer with The Jeff Beck band and guitarist with Alan Price had stood there with a huge mischievous grin on his mush nodding towards the door of studio two.

“Go on, he’s in there, that’s him playing the piano” Tenchy had the demeanour of a school kid, nodding towards the headmaster’s office, attempting to get another unsuspecting innocent kid (me) into deep shit for barging into somewhere he wasn’t welcome.

“Is he in the middle of recording a session?” I asked Tenchy, The man with the baseball cap glued to his scalp. “No he’s just hanging around waiting of Nick Lowe to arrive and mix his track”

I wandered towards the half open door of studio two and glanced over my shoulder to see Tenchy and sound engineer Dougie Bennett, standing watching me as if I were approaching the lion’s den wearing a sandwich board advertising myself as lunch. Continue Reading.

3. Collaboration is at the heart of Music Gateway; this is something you have always done. What has changed in the last few years about the way you work?

The amount of different hats I have to wear (and wear comfortably!)

It used to be about collaborating with other musicians when I was a bass player and songwriter in a band wearing the bass player hat. When I quit touring and started living my whole life in a recording studio and became a music composer for radio and television commercials, it was about collaborating with the west end media directors and film guys wearing the music supervisor, composer hat. When I eventually took the plunge and started arranging and producing artists’ records it was often collaborating with the artists themselves and not forgetting the record labels that were footing the recording bill, so I was wearing the record producer’s hat.

When I ended up with an office in EMI as house producer for the band-aid double album ‘It’s a Live in World’(The Anti Heroin Project 1985/6), I also ended up collaborating with half the British music fraternity. (Record labels, record pluggers, managers, heads of A&R, marketing people, designers, MTV/BBC/ITV, Abbey Road Studios and every other decent top range studio in London; I even hung with members of parliament). I was pretty much driving the whole Live-in World gig and making all the creative decisions, so it seemed like I was collaborating with every Tom, Dick and Harry at the time and slowly being driven insane trying to be everywhere at the same time, serving everyone at once and always having to hit that bull’s eye straight on. It takes it out of you if you don’t keep fit, keep sharp and keep on top of it.

Today the shit has changed beyond recognition. Everyone seems to spend his or her time looking into a screen for the meaning of life, whether it is a creative musical life or something else, searching at every level for enthusiast to professional. Collaboration seems like the only way. Look at – it’s a great idea for drumming up funding to get projects off the ground and launched into the market place and proof of the collaborative venture pudding. We are all endlessly typing away and looking for help to buy the baby a new bonnet (whilst wearing all the hats!)

4. You write and work in various genres of music. Do you feel versatility is key these days as producer / musician?

It has always been the key if a producer and/or musician want to achieve career longevity. If you are known as that guy who specialises in making that certain noise and that’s your only noise then you will go out of fashion sooner or later, you’ll have your sell by date on the soles of your feet (you better get your socks off right now and check!)

Unless you are Keith Richard, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon etc or any of the other musical luminaries that have been there for the last hundred years, you need to embrace all kinds of different genres and styles in order to stay afloat and ahead of the game. If you don’t you won’t be missing just one trick – you’ll be missing the whole banana boat!

5. How do you see Music Gateway as a benefit to both grass roots & experienced pros like yourself?

I see Music Gateway as a great music networking tool, which I can dip in and out of between sessions and visits to the loo.

Networking is really everything for today’s serious musician, arranger, composer and producer. If you don’t get involved and speak to people then you don’t connect and if you don’t connect then you don’t work – if you don’t work you are out of the game!

We are all in the land of D.I.Y. now and having to stick up for ourselves without all the big percentage taking ferrets, scuttling around on our behalf, half of the time only managing to succeed in getting the scrap gigs for you anyway.

I have managed my own career for a couple of decades now because I cannot find a better manager than myself even at 25% plus! I have spent years attending the likes of ‘Midem’ in Cannes and ‘South by South West’ in Austin, Texas, talking the talk, walking the walk and rubbing shoulders with everyone that is seriously competing; flying around the globe to take face-to-face meetings.

It’s also bloody hard work networking around the clock in those trade fairs, wining and dining potential foreign clients, not to mention very expensive long-haul flights, top hotels close to the action for days on end and swollen feet. Then there are the offshoot meetings with other potential clients in other parts of that country whilst you are there. It does have to be done but we need to have all the potential possibilities of offers there in front of us first without simply treading willy-nilly around all the trade fairs year in and year out looking for a needle in a haystack.

Music Gateway is very new and looks really good crack. I’m sure in time it’s going to end up a premier networking tool for composers and musicians alike!

6. If you could have produced any album, and say “I did that”, which one other that your own would it have been?

Bloody hell! Now there’s a question and a half! Are we looking at creative merit here with endless Grammy awards or the success of the album’s sales?

Dark Side of The Moon (Pink Floyd) / Imagine (Lennon) / Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel) / Hotel California (The Eagles) / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Fabs) / Exile on Main Street (Stones) / City to City (Gerry Rafferty) / The Basement Tapes (Dylan and The Band) – there are many others I’d like to have produced, not because I could have bettered them but because I could have brought just as much to the creative table.

Lately, I’ve been blown away by ‘Elgar’s Cello Concerto’ especially performed by Jacqueline Du Pre and also ‘Rachmaninoff’s Piano concerto 2’. This stuff really rocks the socks off anything coming out of Radio 1 or Radio 2 at the moment.

This is important: Notice all of the titles I’ve picked here are of music that has been 100% performance based – No sampled programmed shit quantized to 16. ‘The magic of the performance can only be achieved by performing it’ – Don’t take this the wrong way – I’m right in the middle of producing a young artist at the moment and I’m dipping into the entire ‘Native Instruments’ menu none stop!

7. What advice would you give to aspiring musicians, producers and industry professionals, a top 5 tips to career development?

To aspiring musicians and producers:

Make sure you have a proper job to support yourself whilst learning your chops – there is nothing more soul destroying than playing in toilets to a bunch of drunks for a living and for your art and not having the dosh to buy new sticks and strings or a new plug-in.

It’s a business from the word go – never forget this. It’s firstly about the money just like any other business – this is a fact! Get your feet on terra firma and stop dreaming about the ‘Fame’ aspect of it all! You need to invest wisely, not just in your talent but also in the business of ‘Business’. If you don’t invest in your business and see a return then you will never get anyone else to invest in you either.

There are too many stargazers out there with their computers, a keyboard and a microphone thinking they have arrived and now are the new Quincy Jones. There are millions of them all wandering around with a CD of their latest hit. There they go hand in hand with all of the none-singers that were turned away from the X Factor. Maybe I had that T Shirt at one time?? I can’t remember now, it was so long ago!

8. Finally, you have embraced the Internet with open arms, using it to your own benefit, is this fundamental these days?

It is a must – unless you want to try using a carrier pigeon to deliver a song to your publisher?

Charles has been a founder member of Music Gateway and despite having a vast amount of experience and contacts within the industry, he stills sees the huge benefit of using a platform such as this to connect globally with talented people in the music industry.

Why not get involved with one of Charles’s current projects by finding him on Music Gateway here? Or easily set up your own project and start collaborating today!

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