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| 28 September 2023 | Reply

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – @Toddstarphoto

According to a recent press release: “Legendary and multi-Platinum rockers FOGHAT will be releasing their long-awaited 17th studio album—their first in seven years—later this year on the band’s label, Foghat Records, which is distributed by Select-O-Hits (part of the Sun Records family). The album’s first single, “Drivin’ On” (co-written by the late Kim Simmonds from Savoy Brown), is now available for pre-save here. In addition to three brand new songs written by band-founding member/drummer Roger Earl, guitarist/engineer/co-producer Bryan Bassett, singer/bassist Rodney O’Quinn, singer/guitarist Scott Holt, three other songs were co-written by Kim Simmonds, the man who gave Roger his first break back in 1967 as a member of Savoy Brown. Sadly, shortly after writing these songs, Kim passed away. The upcoming release sees FOGHAT tip their hat to great artists that came before them, with songs on the album written by Willie Dixon, B.B. King, and Chuck Berry, as well as giving plenty of winks and nods from the current lineup.” We get guitarist and producer Bryan to discuss new music and much more…

Toddstar: Bryan, thank you so much for taking time out. I appreciate it.

Bryan: Glad to do it man.

Toddstar: There’s a lot going on in the world of Foghat right now. You put out “Drivin’ On,” the debut single off Sonic Mojo, the first album in a few years from Foghat.

Bryan: We’re happy to have that out.

Toddstar: It’s the 17th studio album. I wanted to get your thoughts on it. What might the fans not grab the first or second time they listen through this album as compared to other stuff in the catalog?

Bryan: Well, we’ve had, this is our first release with our new singer, Scott Holt. So that’s the most significant change. I think the music format will be familiar to all our fans. We stayed with a traditional Foghat sound, although we have a couple country leaning songs in there, which is a little interesting. We’ve got some good rockers on there, a couple swamp blues on there, a couple straight blues. Roger keeps us right to the Foghat sound with the way he plays and the music he is interested in playing.

Toddstar: You hit on something that’s so true with you all. I’ve been able to see you live and enjoy the music for years. How is it that you can consistently grow and change without losing that underlying groove?

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – @Toddstarphoto

Bryan: I think a lot of it has to do with just our own personal musical styles, which are very much related to the original Foghat sound, which is rock blues. As a guitar player, I was totally influenced by the British Invasion blues guitarists: Peter Green, Eric Clapton, all the John Mayall players, and Jeff Beck of course. That was baked into my style. When I first met Lonesome Dave [Peverett], I was working at a blues recording studio working with King Snake Records as an engineer and producer with studio guitarists doing roots music, so I was immersed in the blues. Lonesome Dave, who became my best friend and that I played with for many years was like a blues historian. You could mention any blues artist, or any obscure blues record, and he would know exactly who you’re talking about, what the music was. So, on a very basic level, we just loved the same kind of music, and I played the same kind of style.  I spent a lot of time working on Rod Price’s slide parts. That was such an integral part of the Foghat sound. I got to play with Rod for a year when we played as a five piece. In 1991, we did a European tour together and I got to be friends with Rod and watch him play up close and personal, which was like a masterclass to me. Also, Roger has a certain style. He’s a swing drummer, but also a good backbeat drummer, which is an unusual combination. My many years as a recording engineer, I had my shuffle drummers for blues shuffles and my rock drummers for backbeat. Roger is a good combination of the two. That’s a big part of the Foghat sound – how he lays down rhythm tracks.

Toddstar: That’s great insight to that whole concept because this band being as long in the tooth as it is and having as many releases as you do, it’s hard to not want to rehash something that works so well and continue to grow.

Bryan: We spend a lot of time performing the hits of the past, and that’s a big part of our show and songs that a lot of our fans want to hear. We really work hard year in and year out to bring some of the deep album tracks from the old albums to the stage. At the same time, we’re creative guys and we like to write music, we like to play together. When we get together to rehearse, we spend the winter months of every year rehearsing. I have a recording set up there too. When we get a spark of an idea from a jam session or something or little clips that we’ve recorded over our sound checks over the course of the tour, just song ideas that we have… “Hey, that’s a good one, let’s capture that on a phone or something.” When we get in the studio we start working on stuff. We really enjoy working on music together and playing. We still like writing and I still enjoy recording, being an engineer, and the whole recording process. It’s just something we do every year. We collect songs and tracks and once we get a group of songs like we have now for Sonic Mojo that we think fits together into one package and really presents well and then we start working on a release and that’s how this record came about.

Toddstar: Speaking of Sonic Mojo and that debut single “Drivin’ On,” that track was co-written by the late Kim Simmonds as well. How important was it to you all to make sure that you kept his spirit alive as well as respect for Roger’s history, his love for Kim, and their collective legacy?

Bryan: We feel really blessed to have those compositions on this record. He played on our last studio album Under The Influence. We brought him down to Nashville while we were completing that record with producer Tom Hambridge and he played on several the songs. We’ve kept in touch with Kim for years. Of course, Roger goes all the way back to the 90’s with Savoy Brown and they maintained their friendship over the years. We did many shows together over the years we’ve been out there touring as Foghat. It was always a great bill Savoy Brown and Foghat. We were getting ready to do some recording and asked Kim to send us a couple of songs and then come down and play on the record. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated, and he couldn’t perform on it. He did send us four demos, three of which we worked on and put them on the album. They are great songs. Kim was an excellent songwriter and he sent us some really great things that we could work on. “Drivin’ On” is one. On the album there’s another “Time Slips Away.” That’s a great song that hasn’t been released yet, but it’s more of a ballad thing. It was great to have Kim’s presence on this record even though he couldn’t be there personally playing.

Toddstar: Looking back at the recording process for this album – like you said, it’s been snippets here and there that you guys kind of twisted, constructed, built out, creating your own sound and feel out of these pieces from soundchecks, as a producer, what’s it like for you to kind of step outside and look at the production side of it versus the writing side and get into it?

Bryan: For me, I come from an old school recording background, two-inch tape, mostly blues recordings. There was almost documentary style recording where I just wanted to capture the artist in my studio, whether it be Big Daddy Kinsey, Noble Thin Man Watts, Kenny Neal, or Lucky Peterson recording blues records. I wanted a good sound, but I also wanted it to be realistic and capture the sound of the people in the room. That’s how I approach recording Foghat like I have a tape machine and 24 tracks, not unlimited digital assets that I could play around with. I try to capture live performances and I do very little editing. I would rather do another take than try to fix things in the mix, which you can do all kinds of things with Pro Tools. It’s unbelievable what you can do now, but I try to shy away from that, capture personality and real-life performances, and keep it basic. I didn’t want to get too fancy on this album with overdubs because I wanted this record to translate to the stage. We’re playing three songs in the set from the album and that has worked out well where we can play them two guitars, bass, and drums live. They sound full because that’s how we constructed it in the studio. I didn’t want to have twenty guitar tracks. There’s a time and place for that of course. I work with other artists as an engineer where we do more modern production techniques. For Foghat, I like to keep it old school, keep it to the blues, and straight up rock and roll.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – @Toddstarphoto

Toddstar: It’s so important this day and age to be able to replicate live what you did in the studio. By recording that stripped back feel, you’re able to do that.

Bryan: Exactly. Instead of having a big layer of guitars – there’s a lot of groups I love that do that build up walls of guitars and walls of sound and that’s their sound – but for us, I wanted each individual part to stand out guitar wise like a Mountain record, ZZ Top, or early Foghat. That’s the sound I try to recreate.

Toddstar: Watching you on stage, it’s fun. I saw you all at the Hard Rock Cafe in Tampa last February.  Watching you interact on stage, you can tell there’s a true brotherhood. How important is that to you, not only in a live situation, but when you are putting together things in the studio and coming up with ideas?

Bryan: I think that feeling of brotherhood is really everything in a band that’s been around as long as we have. Going back to my work with Lonesome Dave, it has been 27 or 28 years playing with him and Roger. We travel so much. We always say we would play for free; we get paid to travel. It’s a little brutal running around the country the way that we do. You have to have fun, you have to be with your buddies, hang out in between shows, and get on stage, have fun, and enjoy. We play in a rock band. As we always say, for God’s sake, if you can’t have fun playing in a rock band, you might as well hang it up. We try to bring that fun to the stage. The kind of music we play is up-tempo rock and roll. We have fun playing it and I hope people have a good time watching us do it. It really is like a brotherhood. I don’t know how a band can really enjoy themselves touring if they don’t like each other. I never could understand the separate tour buses and all that kind of stuff. I guess everyone has their own deal. For us, it is about four guys that really enjoy working together and hanging out together.

Toddstar: Bryan, what are the one or two tracks from the Foghat catalog that you’d love to dust off and bring to the light of day, even if it’s a deep cut or something you think only a handful of fans might dig. Are there any tracks in the catalog that you’d like to personally relaunch into a live set?

Bryan: Well, we have done some many over the years, like “Terraplane Blues.” I love playing that one. Of course, as an old Robert Johnson composition that Foghat did. We had that in the set for a while. I’m hoping to drag that one back at some point. “Honey Hush” we played that for many years and it’s a fan favorite, but it’s not been in the set lately. I have a personal favorite that we’ve never performed called “Midnight Madness,” which is off one of the earlier albums. I keep talking to Roger about doing that one, but it’s an extravagant song. It’s as long as “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” but that’s my personal favorite that I’d like to play.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – @Toddstarphoto

Toddstar: Nothing wrong with that. There’s always that one song that every guy wants to play or just didn’t think got it’s due. I’m always curious what that is. I know you’re a busy guy and have a lot going on.  Bryan, you’re almost 50 years into your career as a guitarist, a producer, and an engineer. If you could go back to pre-1975 when you got your start with Wild Cherry, what advice would you give yourself back then knowing what you know now?

Bryan: Wow, get a good lawyer. The early 1970’s was brutal on most recording musicians I know. Everybody was happy to have success, but it was like, “Hey, where’d that money go?” I would have told every young musician to be more business aware. I think so many young bands have to be entrepreneurial. There’s no more A&R departments and you’re not being discovered in a bar. You’re working on your business and getting your set up on the internet. Young musicians are a lot more knowledgeable about the business of music than we were when we were young. Other than that, I don’t know that I would change much. I was fortunate to grow up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that had a very great live scene. We worked four hours a night, five nights a week in the clubs and there were dozens and dozens of clubs to play up there. Everybody was adept at playing cover music and the Top 40 hits of the day. Many bands in that area were also playing original music. It was a very fertile grind to learn my craft. All my contemporaries from the Pittsburgh area went on to the big success and were diverse musically. I don’t know if I would do much more, maybe study jazz guitar or something, maybe get a little deeper into the intricacies of guitar playing. That’s something I would’ve done more. My style got pretty set early from listening to Creem and blues records and I became a blues rock guitarist. I have some friends that are monster jazz players and that always blows my mind. Other than a little more education on the business front and on the musical front, I am satisfied with how things rolled along for me.

Toddstar: That’s awesome. Bryan, thanks again for the time. It’s always a pleasure to speak to somebody when I’m a fan. I can’t wait until Sonic Mojo hits the streets on November 10th. I’ve been able to listen through it and I’m loving the album from top to bottom.

Bryan: Great to hear, man. Thanks Todd.

Toddstar: I wish you all well as you hit the road. I think you could start back up about a week or so from now around October 5th in Massachusetts.

Bryan: We’re up there playing with our friend from Starship, Mickey Thomas. He’s great. Then we head out to Las Vegas, one of our favorite places out there. We play the Golden Nugget, and we do that every year, if not twice. We love that venue and the people that work there. That’s my next week.

Toddstar: Awesome. Hopefully, we can get schedules lined up at a venue so we can say hello proper, and I can enjoy another live Foghat show and new tunes from Sonic Mojo.

Bryan: Please let us know so we can meet up.

Toddstar: Sounds good, Bryan. We’ll talk to you soon.

Bryan: Alright sir. Thanks Todd.







Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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