It’s Not Over Yet – Interview with Roger Earl of Foghat
Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward
Like an iceberg floating on the Atlantic, one must look below the surface of music to truly understand the scope and depth of what lies beneath.
Amid the vast ocean of rock-n-roll, Foghat have garnered a career full of longevity, creativity, and success. And even with a handful of radio staples (“Slow Ride”/“I Just Want To Make Love To You”/“Fool For The City”), their true essence is a sound soaked in the southern bayous and backwoods moonshine soul of the Delta blues.
Celebrating their 40th year together, the group recently released “Last Train Home” (Foghat Records), a collection of blues covers honoring those who have greatly influenced the band since their inception (Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, etc.).
At the center of this rock juggernaut, drummer Roger Earl is the last surviving, original member. He represents an encyclopedia of musical knowledge, one that continues to translate beautifully in the studio.
Garret K. Woodward: You released “Last Train Home” this year. What was the approach coming into the record? Where do you find inspiration?
Roger Earl: The approach was to pick songs we all wanted to play. For example, Bryan [Bassett, guitarist] wanted to play “So Many Roads”. Charlie [Huhn, lead singer] wanted to do “Rollin’ & Tumblin’”. I suggested “You Need Love” in the middle. Our inspiration comes from a love of music. Playing with these guys is a gas. We wrote a couple of originals, where we had Foghat’s first instrumental (“495 Boogie”), thanks to my brother Colin [Earl, keyboards]. Eddie “Bluesman” Kirkland was great to play with again. The last time we played together was 1977. We only had room for two of his songs. But, we were jamming for eight or night hours. Eddie’s 87 years young and he keeps us on our toes. I’d like to do a whole album just with him.
GKW: What groups influenced, and continue to influence, the direction of Foghat? Do you listen to modern radio?
RE: I don’t think there’s one group that influences us. We of course had bands we dug when we were kids. I listen to XM Sirius Bluesville. Lots of good stuff there.
GKW: What’s the difference between a rock guitar riff and a blues guitar riff?
RE: Probably not a lot. Depends on who’s playing it. “Slow Ride” was a John Lee Hooker riff we messed around with. Look, blues, rock, jazz, rhythm and blues, and country are all related. Ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. That’s what gets results.
GKW: Do you have to experience the blues to sing them?
RE: Probably not. I don’t sing much anyways.
GKW: What are your thoughts on the current music industry?
RE: Not Much.
GKW: “Slow Ride”. One of rock-n-roll‘s most cherished melodies. How did that song come about? Did you ever think it’d be such a monster of a radio hit?
RE: [It came] from a jam in Rod [Price] and my basement in Long Island. Nick Jameson did most of the arrangements. Actually, Nick and I finished mixing “Slow Ride”, and one other song (“Save your Lovin‘”) up in Sharon, Vermont, where we recorded the “Fool For The City” album. We drove back down to Bearsville and played “Slow Ride” for Paul Fishkin, Bearsville Records President, and told him this is our single. He didn’t hear it at first, thought it was too long and too rock-n-roll. So, we said don’t be a Berkley Hunt, we are a rock-n-roll band and this is our next single. That was the only time the band insisted on a single.
GKW: At what moment did you know Foghat would forever be a household name in rock music?
RE: I’m not so sure we are a household word, yet. Give us a bit more time.
GKW: Foghat is closing in on its 40 anniversary. What does that number mean to you?
RE: A 40th anniversary tour. Oh no, not more fun.
GKW: How do you avoid becoming a nostalgia act, like many of your radio peers?
RE: We love to play and we can. We add two or three songs to the set that maybe we haven’t played in awhile to keep it interesting
GKW: You auditioned for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Can you tell me about that experience? What was your relationship and sentiment towards Hendrix?
RE: I think I came in fourth [for the audition]. Jimi was really generous with me with his time. To be honest, I didn’t really have a clue. He was playing stuff that was from a place I hadn’t been to. By about the third tune I started to get a handle on what he was playing. I got a chance to jam with Jimi a couple of times, once in New York, at Steve Paul’s scene I think, and once in a club in LA. Jimi was brilliant. Still is.
GKW: What do you like and dislike about being on the road? What was the craziest thing you ever saw on tour?
RE: I love playing with the guys in the band and we’re friends and our days off. We’re happy drunks. Airports are generally a drag to be in, it’s hurry up and wait. I read a lot, it gets me through the day. The crazy stories I’m saving for the book.
GKW: You are the last living original member of Foghat. What does that notion mean to you?
RE: I’m gonna roll till I’m old and rock till I drop.
GKW: What is the legacy of Lonesome Dave Peverett (Foghat lead singer, passed away in 2000)?
RE: I think maybe Dave’s pissed. He’d rather be here playing.
GKW: When all is said and done, what is the legacy of Foghat?
RE: Well, it’s not over yet. Hopefully people that have seen and heard us will say we were a great band, that they had a good time.
GKW: What’s your state of mind right now?
RE: I spent the day with my beautiful wife and a couple of the grandkids and Jessica, of my three beautiful daughters. So, it’s a good, good day and I feel fine.