Interview: David Foral of Dirty Heads

Interview: David Foral of Dirty Heads


David Foral is a Long Beach, CA resident who has called Dirty Heads his employer since 2009 when he was brought on to play bass. His history goes far beyond his joining the band as Dave grew up going to school in the ’90’s during the height of the respected southern CA Hip-Hop and Ska movements. From crashing house-parties to see Sublime at night to appearing in a Reel Big Fish music video by day, Dave was inspired by the cultural melting pot of Long Beach’s musical diversity from hip-hop to punk rock and ska which led him to his first band, Chapter 11.

We had a chance to hear a bit of Dave’s background that has led him to where he’s at today, playing bass with Dirty Heads as well as producing his own music — “Paved The Way” is his latest single that speaks to this background as narrated by Hip Hop MC Big Nes. [You can find the song available below to stream]. Coming up, Foral will release Volume 2 of his new mix-tape series, STONE SOUP, that features a slew of guest musicians, DJ’s & producers that Dave curates into one long production you can vibe out to.

Outside of music, there are still many artistic layers to Dave with much of his background rooted in silk-screening, graphic design, drawing & painting, in addition to taking up tattoo work. You can find a lot of the art he has drawn and quickly sells out of at Press Play on Stone Soup Vol. 1 and enjoy getting to know a different side of David Foral with this Q&A below.

Interview: David Foral of Dirty Heads

How did you get started in music?
The Long Beach music scene was alive and flourishing back in the early-mid ‘90’s. There was an indie record store called Zed’s and on Thursday or Friday you could go there to pick up flyers for weekend activities. You’d see photocopied flyers for acts like No Doubt, Sublime and even house parties. I started religiously going there and it was a great place to hear live music and meet people that listen to similar music. I had a couple of friends that were also doing bands in High School. One of my good friends, Mike Long, was the bass player in a group called Pocket Lent; Which some of the guys in there went on to do Long Beach Dub All-stars; Tim Wu, Ikey Owens along with his brother Aaron Owens, who both unfortunately passed away. I would DavidNorrisDirtyHeadsMattressFirm7-14-17 (18)always go with Mike to shows. I would carry his bass into the gig because I figure if you come with a musician and you carry their equipment, they’re stoked and you get into the show for free. I think, just from going to so many shows and watching friends play music, at some point I thought “Maybe I want to try music.” The reason I picked the bass was because it had the fewest strings [Haha]. So I thought that learning an instrument with 4 strings as opposed to 6 strings on a guitar would probably be easier. But little did I know, it’s all the same struggle. So I just started teaching myself. I got into a bunch of noise-rock, experimental bands. We’d play shows and get kicked out of places [Laughter]. It was just a fun time to have a local music scene and there was a ton of places to play in LB like Fenders, The Orphium, The Golden Sails Hotel and The Seaport Marina as well as little hole-in-the-wall dive bars.

When you were going into Zed Records, you’d pick up a flyer to find the local show or party –- This is where you discovered Sublime?
Yeah, Sublime was “Long Beach.” Growing up here, you’d see them at a warehouse or a backyard party. These would be the type of events that Sublime played at. Five dollars at the door, five kegs and the cops would most likely show up and bust up the place. I was fortunate because I went to school in downtown Long Beach but I lived on the east side and my brother went to a high school that was on the east side. So at any given time, I had many options to choose from on a Friday night. Some nights there’d be two or three parties that we’d hit. I think there are five major high schools in Long Beach and we had friends that went to each one so they’d tell us where it was going down.

And Sublime would be playing at a lot of these parties?
Yeah, Sublime, One Eye Open, Suburban Rhythm, Reel Big Fish and many other local groups.

You were in Reel Big Fish’s first music video, right?
Yeah -– It was for “Sell-Out.” I was friends with Danny Regan and Tavis Werts, which were two of the original horn players for RBF. I remember they hit me up and asked what I was doing later and if I wanted to be in their video. Of course I said yes. The video was about the mystique surrounding record labels. They had all this power and you would sell your soul just to get on a roster to be a “Signed Band.” They DavidNorrisDavidForalDH-(1)needed musicians from different genres. Because I was from Long Beach they gave me a jumpsuit that said, “Rap Group” on the back. It was a silly video that we all had a lot of fun making.

That’s funny! So you eventually picked up the Bass and taught yourself to play, but you eventually went into DJ’ing as well, right?
Correct. I grew up in the inner city and back then it was called House Music — it’s not the House Music that you hear today labeled EDM. It was more like the R&B and Hip Hop that DJ’s would spin at house parties. I remember we had one High School dance and we hired DJ Jazzy Jeff to come in and DJ and everybody lost their minds. [Laughter] Most of the parties I went to in high school were just DJs. This was a big influence on my music path. When I graduated high school, as a gift to myself, I bought a bass guitar. I started thumping around on that but at the same time, the next thing I bought was two turntables and a mixer. That led to DJ lights and a set of speakers. Then I had to get a truck because it wouldn’t fit into my car. We also had to lug around crates of vinyl.

Was it not long after you got set up that you got involved with Chapter 11? Was Chapter 11 your first foray into the Reggae-Hip Hop world?
Yes. While growing up in Long Beach, there were three big albums that really changed what people listened to. The Chronic by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style and Sublime’s 40oz to Freedom. That kind of set the tone for the music that I was getting into. I think what resonated with me so much about Sublime was I understood exactly what they were doing. I had friends in so many different scenes that had influenced my music listening habits. I was into punk, reggae and hip-hop. The minute I heard Sublime, I got it. I thought to myself, if I started a group, that’s what mine would sound like also.

So my noise-rock group broke up and I joined Chapter 11. We were listening to Sublime, the Fugees, a lot of different hip-hop acts like Gangstarr and A Tribe Called Quest. There were 4 people that DJ’d in Chapter 11 so we were very open to music. We never said we’re gonna come out and make one type of music. Chapter 11 David Foraldidn’t even have a guitar player for many years, but when we would start to write songs, it would just come out as a Reggae-Hip Hop song. Josh Barlow, aka Jungle Josh, the drummer, is really good at producing and making hip-hop tracks so we’d always gravitate toward using sampled beats. You didn’t have to go rent out a studio and set up drums. Because of that, I bought an MPC2000XL and started messing around with beats and samples.

Is that where it started with Chapter 11 in writing a lot of the production, because it wasn’t just for Chapter 11 back then, you were doing production with other artists as well as graphic design…
I think one of the bad things is I was going in so many directions that I wasn’t able to focus on one thing. I started a t-shirt printing company and anyone who’s started a small business understands how time consuming it is. Then after that I started a design business doing websites and graphic design. I was doing that for a while up until I joined Dirty Heads. That was a trip because I finally started to focus on one thing and all of the sudden I was touring with the Dirty Heads.

You were with Chapter 11 for a long time. You guys put out a few albums, but you ultimately left the group & it wasn’t long after you left that you joined Dirty Heads?
I had been with Chapter 11 for ten years, from 1998 – 2008. We all started when we really didn’t know how to play instruments. It was just more of a hobby and getting together with like-minded people to create art and experiment. We saw it build. We started selling out local venues that held a thousand people. We thought this could turn into something. I think the band just hit an expiration point. It took years to build that following. We never did extensive touring and that was part of the reason we plateaued. After awhile – That was my jumping off point. At the time, I was handling a lot of the band’s business and I started to take a step back and realized I’m not getting out of this what I’m putting into it. I decided I would leave and within 3 months, I got a call from Duddy B.

How did that come about exactly? I remember at that time, around 2008, Dirty Heads were touring with a DJ and the line-up included Duddy B, Jared, Jon Jon & DJ Rocky Rock. Then they decided they wanted to tour as a live band – and somehow you meet them and you do a try-out following your departure from Chapter 11?
I think they tried out a few bass players but it’s not just being able to play the bass, you have to connect with people. I had an audition with them, but my name was dropped from a couple different people through my workings with Chapter 11. I feel that me coming from a reggae-hip hop background made a big difference. I remember leaving my old band, thinking “I’m done playing live music” but when I got the call, Dirty Heads was the only band that I would have agreed to go back and revisit the whole live music scene with. Had it been any other group in the scene, I would have probably declined. They were the one group since day one that I actually believed in the music they were making. There was something different about them.

I understand the tour life back then wasn’t as comfortable as what you guys have earned today? You’d never really been on the road with Chapter 11 before so tour life was somewhat new to you.
My first tour with Dirty Heads, we were in a van and trailer, driving ourselves. We did a North American tour in the winter, driving through blizzards. It was rough. You get out of the venue by midnight or 1am and you take shifts driving through the night. Your reward for driving through the night would be to sleep in the driver’s chair. But I never complained about anything because I realized we’re building something. DavidNorrisDavidForalInterviewsocialmedia (2)We were investing time with a focus. But I held myself accountable for growth. And it didn’t matter how big the growth was, there just had to be growth. With Dirty Heads you could see the progress. Even to this day, every year it grows.

When was that first tour you referenced, 2009?
Yeah, I got linked up with Duddy in December 2008, and then it was the ensuing February we did the Mishka tour. That was a month and a half long tour. After that, we did the Warped Tour that Summer. We wrote “Lay Me Down” right before that.

And “Lay Me Down” was the first song that you wrote with the band, right? It eventually goes Gold but not before setting a record for an independent release at 11 straight weeks #1 on the Billboard Alternative & Rock charts. Sounds like a good start to a new band…
Yeah, that was cool, too, because we were about to go on Warped Tour and it was the week before we left. We had just gotten a sponsorship from Hurley and they had a studio at their headquarters in Costa Mesa. They asked us, “Hey, we’ll give you a free day of studio time if you guys want to come in here and record something.” We were getting ready to go on tour. We had nothing written. I remember we were going to go in on Thursday to record and on Tuesday we were scrambling, like, “Let’s just get together at Duddy’s and we’ll write some songs.” I brought my laptop over and set up a mic in his backyard. We were messing around with ideas and we got a couple of guitar licks and Rome Ramirez humming a melody. I took it home, created a simple beat, wrote a bassline and sent it out to the rest of the guys on Wednesday so everyone could write verses to it. On Thursday, we went in and cut it out at the Hurley studio. Then we left for Warped Tour, we came back and listened to it and thought, we can get better drum sounds. And then we went to 17th Street Recording Studio and re-cut drums, bass and vocals.

Fast Forward to present day and you’re producing music with a mix-tape series titled Stone Soup. Volume 1 was 26 minutes and featured members from Ballyhoo!, Passafire, & you had Josh Barlow from Chapter 11 with some production. How did the concept of Stone Soup come about?
I wanted to make an EP consisting of 6 or so songs. I thought, “You know what, instead of doing just six songs, I want to do a mix-tape, and blend stuff together.” Now, I know DJs do this all the time but they’re taking music that is not written in the same key or even at the same Beats Per Minute (BPM). Nowadays you can alter Stone Soup the BPM, you can slow stuff down, speed stuff up to make it all fit. So, realizing that, I thought, “Let me just make everything at the same tempo.” And then the more I started thinking about it, I was like, “I’m going to open this up to other people.”

I have friends that are DJs, producers, musicians and they’re always working on something, some sort of scratch pad of ideas. And I’m sure every producer or musician can attest to this – you have a back catalogue of a ton of stuff that will never see the light of day. I mean Prince had how many thousands of songs that they said that he had written?

And what exactly is Stone Soup? How did you come up with that concept for this mix-tape?
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the story Stone Soup but it’s a children’s book. It’s about a starving homeless man, who comes upon this town. He asks people for food but nobody wants to give any. He then has a great idea. He finds this pot and he puts a couple of rocks in it. And he goes down by the river and he fills it up with water. He goes back to the town and he creates a little fire and he sticks the pot on the fire. Now people are veering out through their windows, and this one guy walks over and asks, “What are you doing with this pot?” And the guy’s, like, “Oh, I’m making Stone Soup.” And he’s like, “Really?” He’s, like, “Yeah, it’s the best soup that you’ll ever have.” And so the guy goes, “Let me taste that.” So he gives him a little sip and he’s, like, “You know what this soup needs? Salt! I’ll be right back.” And so he goes and grabs some salt and he puts some salt in the soup. Well, other people from the town start seeing what’s going on and starts to make this commotion. And, one-by-one, people start coming up, the whole town, with potatoes, and carrots, and it turns into the best pot of soup that anyone has ever had.

That’s awesome! I love the correlation and how you applied it to this sort of project because it’s a great analogy for what you’re doing with Stone Soup!
I knew going into the project that maybe a lot of people weren’t going to be open to give out free music. But if I just get a little bit from here and there, it’ll build into this one thing that is a little bit larger than what I started out doing. So it’s the same thing with Stone Soup, people kept throwing stuff in. I’m not asking, “Hey, send me a whole album worth of free music.” I think Mike from Passafire just sent me a key-line and everyone started putting in – then it was some of those samples that I got; Joe Tomino, the amazing drummer from Dub Trio, he sent me a song that didn’t have any bass in it but it was drums, a couple samples and piano. I was able to take that, beef up the drums a little bit, do some extra production, and add a bassline. So it was everything from full songs to just a sample of a keyboard. I don’t think a lot of people knew what I was doing. They just sent songs. And now that it got done, people were like, “Oh, I get it now. This is actually pretty cool.”

DavidNorrisDavidForalInterviewsocialmedia (7)I wanted something where you can put it on in the background; it’s just like ambient. A lot of people have been saying it’s good driving music and that’s what I wanted.

It wasn’t vocal heavy at all. It’s more accenting the song to where their vocals are almost another instrument… What can you tell us about Volume 2?
I had such a positive response with Vol. 1 in 2016 that I knew I had to follow up with a Vol. 2. Hopefully I can make this a yearly release. This new mix-tape will drop in late Aug 2017. Over 25 musicians and producers have collaborated to create 16 songs running over 32 minutes long.

Who all were you able to collaborate with on Vol. 2? Are there any other production projects you’re working on?
I’ve was able to work with so many gifted artists from bands like: Sublime, Dirty Heads, Easy Star All-Stars, Passafire, Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, The Movement, Ballyhoo!, and Hirie; as well as other producers and solo artists like Big Nes, Rebecca Arscott, Jace One, Ginjah, Maggie Kubley and Jenni. I’ve been spending much more time in my studio this past year and will be releasing music with a few other artists. Follow me on IG or Soundcloud to stay updated on new releases.

Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us your story, we certainly appreciate your time! You can find relative David Foral links, songs and videos below.


Related Links:
David Foral Website
David Foral Soundcloud
Dirty Heads Website
Exclusive Dirty Heads Blog
Exclusive Sublime Blog

Interview by: Mike Patti
Photos By: David Norris

Watch: Dirty Heads – Lay Me Down (ft. Rome Ramirez)

Watch: Reel Big Fish – “Sell Out”

Watch: Chapter 11 – “Latin Joint”