Quarantine Creativity Interview Series: Patrick Foss

Ben Allen, music editor

Patrick Foss is a musician who resides in Portland, Oregon. 

He has an affinity bordering on obsession for rock and roll in its purest, unbridled forms. His musical tastes span a wide spectrum, but he tends to appreciate punk, garage and maybe even a bit of power pop.

In Perfect Buzz, Foss plays guitar and sings. The songs are concise bursts of raw power, with Foss snarling along in an intensive manner. Listen close and you’ll chuckle at some of the lyrical content, especially “Give Me Back My Haircut,” a track that seems to lament the style options presented by baldness. 

Foss also plays in the band The Suicide Notes, a group described as an “effortless marriage between Spector pop and vintage punk.” And it’s true. The gritty guitar and rough edges perfectly compliment hooky melodies and pop sensibilities.

Ben: Tell us about Petey J. Cool. Is this something you were working on before COVID-19?

Patrick: I’ve been using this moniker for over 20 years, but haven’t really done much with it. I did a couple of solo gigs as Petey J. Cool a couple of years ago. I played along to sequenced drums recorded to cassette and played through a Walkman. I thought that would be less lame than being accompanied by a phone or laptop, Those gigs were a bit disastrous and made me realize I really needed a band! All those songs ended up as Perfect Buzz songs.

https://peteyjcool.bandcamp.com/music

Ben: What does your process of recording entail?

Patrick: I’ve been demoing songs with Garageband forever and upgraded to Logic a couple of years ago. Usually I get a song idea in my head and I create a drum part in Logic first to have something to record over. I used to manually write midi drum beats, but I’ve gotten better at making the Logic virtual drummers play what I want them to. Now I usually start with the fake drummers and make edits to those beats to match the song. 

Because I’m typically just demoing to capture an idea or share it with my bandmates, I am pretty lazy about much of the process. I record guitars with virtual amps and often cut, paste and loop parts as I finalize arrangement. Vocals are generally awful and half-assedly recorded – sometimes straight into the laptop mic! 

On the original demo for “Microdancing” the vocals were recorded on iPhone earbuds out of pure laziness and convenience. When I redid the song with a real mic it didn’t sound right so I recorded again on those same earbuds! But for these recent quarantine songs I’ve been taking more time and watching lots of YouTube videos to learn how you’re supposed to do things.

Ben: Some tracks like “Microdancing,” sound as if you’re incorporating more accessible, pop elements into your music. Was that the intention? However, your most recent song, “Joint Forces,” sounds inspired by hardcore. What has the songwriting process been like for you?

Patrick: Well, most every song I’ve ever written is based on straightforward pop melodies and structures – just sometimes hidden behind loud guitar riffs I guess.

I suppose that by releasing songs as Petey J. Cool I can put out electro-pop songs or hardcore songs and not alienate my bandmates! Recently, because I’m not necessarily thinking about how the songs might be performed live, the writing process has been different and I can get a little more experimental. Most of these “experiments” aren’t ready for the public quite yet. 

Despite the PJC version, we’ve been working on “Microdancing” in Perfect Buzz, but those guys know I’ve had my doubts about finding an arrangement that works for the band. However, it’s turning into a different kind of thing which is still very cool. It’s a work-in-progress which has been paused obviously, so let’s see what happens with it when we get back together.

Otherwise, like many people recently, I’ve been feeling nostalgic as I’ve been sifting through old photos and demos. And though I rarely participate, I enjoy seeing all of these Facebook posts with people posting their most influential albums. Thinking of music that had a big impact on me, I remembered the unlabeled cassette tape someone dubbed for me in middle-school that introduced me to hardcore punk. At the time I thought it was all one band, but later figured out it was a mix of Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Negative Approach and Exploited.

 “Joint Forces” was inspired by that tape! I wrote and arranged that song literally in 10 minutes while taking a break from work. Tried to keep it scrappy and not overthink it. It was fun trying on a “tough guy” voice for the recording, but it was hard to pull off as I’m really a softie. I mostly love how it came out – my throat was pretty strained on some of it.

Ben: Many of my musician friends have been making playlists and discovering new music in quarantine. What have you been listening to?

Patrick: Mostly I’ve been obsessed with late-60’s/early-70’s rock and going down deep wormholes on Spotify and Youtube. There’s a sweet spot for me between The Beatles-influenced psych-pop and the heavy prog that came later. First Yes LP, Wizzard, Pretty Things – stuff along those lines.

I’m not a big playlist guy, but for the hell of it I just compiled the entire White Album made up of only cover songs on Spotify. However, there are no good covers out there of “Yer Blues” or “Don’t Pass Me By” so used alternative Beatles recordings for those two. Check out Marc Ribot’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”! It’s awesome.

Ben: Where’s the first place you’ll get a drink when this is over, and what will it be?

Patrick: The World Famous Kenton Club is a great bar and music venue and my lady and I are good friends with the staff and most of the regulars. We miss it dearly. Eager to sit on the patio with a whiskey neat and club soda back!

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