Under The Influence with Foghat at Lost Highway Festival

foghatlh1-1200x900Under The Influence with Foghat at Lost Highway Festival

The grand and glorious highlight of the Lost Highway Festival at the San Manuel Amphitheater & Festival Grounds this past summer was an appearance late in the afternoon by the legendary Foghat.  Acknowledging the they just may be the “oldest band on the bill,” Foghat tore up the stage in an epic way, treating the Lost Highway crowd to rockin’ classics such as Slow Ride and Fool For The City.  They would also perform the superbly catchy title cut from their just released Under The Influence magnum opus.

After their jamming set, we caught up with several of the members of Foghat backstage for an interview – including drummer and founding member Roger Earl, lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist Charlie Huhn, and lead guitarist Bryan Bassett.  Read on as we all become Under The Influence with the one and only Foghat

How did your show here at Lost Highway go and did you enjoy playing in 100 degree weather?
Roger Earl: Actually, when we got up there, it calmed down a bit. It was down in the 90s and my drum tech got me a fan. So, I was cool.

Roger Earl of Foghat

Roger Earl of Foghat

How does Under The Influence compare to the classic Foghat albums?
Roger Earl: Well actually, we started this record about three years ago. We have our own studio down in Florida. In Deland, Florida, Boogie Motel South. Where we also did our last couple of albums and where we also mix our DVD’s and stuff like that; but we were just hanging out one evening having a few brews and some wine and stuff, and we were talking about the sort of songs, the influences, the type of music that we influence. It’s like, you know, rock and roll, country, blues, R&B. Even, you know, jazz, even gospel music. Not that I’m particularly religious, but I could get religious when you listen to some of those voices, they’re beautiful.

Our manager said, “Well why don’t you call Down To The Influence?” and that stuck. We did about half a dozen of the songs, basic tracks, down at our studio and about halfway through it Bryan Bassett, our leading slide guitar player. He’s also our engineer, recording engineer. He mastered all our records, produced everything. I wanted to give him a chance just to be a guitar player because he’d be sitting behind the desk whilst we’re having fun playing, and he’s got a guitar in his lap and he’s trying to twiddle knobs. So about four years ago I was a presenter at the Memphis Blues Awards and I presented Buddy Guy. He was running everything that night. I met his producer, Tom Hambridge, who also writes most of Buddy’s stuff, and later on that evening we met at the local hotel bar – we’re good at that – and he said to me that he was a huge fan of Foghat and that he would love to produce a Foghat album one day.

So, I remembered that and I gave him a call about a year and a half ago, and asked him if he wanted to come down and hang out with us to see if there was any magic there, see if it would work. Because it’s sort of like getting a fifth member in the band when you… or it should be. It worked great, he was fantastic with arrangements.

Under The Influence - the brand new album by Foghat

Under The Influence – the brand new album by Foghat

He’s a drummer too, isn’t he?
Roger Earl: Yeah, yeah, well, that was another reason [laughs]. Our poor coffee table suffered after we’d had a couple of bourbons. Yeah, Tom and I were hammering away on the coffee table. Yeah, really cool guy. Very, very talented. The way he handled the band and the music and got everything very well organized as well. So he did that and he came back down again about nine months or so later and he’d written a number of songs for us, specifically for us, and they turned out really well. We did some more arranging, did a couple of tracks down there. Then we moved up to Nashville, Dark Horse Studios, where Tom lives out there.

And we finished the album out there, spent a week out there. We had a couple of special guests on this record. Kim Simmonds from Savoy Brown is playing on three tracks. Scott Holt who is second guitar player with Buddy Guy for about ten years. We became real good friends – co-wrote a number of stuff – is also playing guitar in a number of songs with us, singing on a couple as well. Nick Jameson, our original bass player on the Fool For The City album; and Slow Ride is on it Craig McGregor, our bass player is playing; Rodney O’Quinn is also playing bass. Who am I missing out, who am I leaving out? Dana Fuchs, you ever heard of Dana Fuchs? She’s absolutely incredible. She did this film Across the Universe, a whole bunch of Beatles songs and she was Sadie. Incredible, really cool chick. She sang on a couple of songs over. It was a lot of fun, but I really have to give our producer credit for the way he just pulled everybody together – made it enjoyable. He was like musical director when we were recording in the studio, all playing together. Also, it was a real gas to play with Kim Simmonds in the studio. I know it was a thrill for Bryan and Charlie, use to go and see them when they were younger. It was a lot of fun, great record to make and I’m really really proud of it and it’s actually selling. It actually charting, so I don’t know what the fuck’s going on. [laughs]

Complete this sentence, if I have to play Slow Ride again I’ll…
Roger Earl: No I love playing Slow Ride. It’s fun to play. It came from a jam and it still is, kind of like that. There’s room in it to move stuff around and then the new version of we did, we have two bass players on it. Craig McGregor who played on the live version and Nick Jameson who played on the original version from Fool For the City (who was also our producer on that album).

What was the experience like auditioning for Jimi Hendrix?
Roger Earl: That was a long time ago. It was fantastic. I knew his manager because when I was about 18 he put a band together and I was playing drums. We didn’t do anything, I was playing with him for about 3-4 weeks. Chas Charlie, played bass with The Animals. I had a day job at the time, I was about 20. I was a commercial artist. Chas called me up and said, have you heard of Jimi Hendrix? I said yeah, it’s in all the music papers. Pete Townshend is talking about him, Eric Burdon and Jeff Beck are all raving about this great guitar player. I went down to this club one lunch time and it was great. I got a chance to jam with him a couple of times after that. After he had put his band together.

Charlie Huhn of Foghat

Charlie Huhn of Foghat

Question for Charlie. First, when you look back on your days working with the band Victory, what do you think of that time period now?
Charlie Huhn: Oh, the 80s was wonderful. We personally put the hole in the ozone layer by using so much Aqua Net hairspray. It was a fun era of hard rock and reinventing metal. Then I had enough of that and got into another classic rock band called Humble Pie. That was even more fun.

KM: How did you wind up in Foghat?
Charlie Huhn: Humble Pie was opening up for Foghat in 1997. Foghat and Humble Pie used to be out on the road together in the early 70s and they would write together, jam and party. So they wanted to see who was in Humble Pie so they checked me out, I checked them out. I had never even seen Foghat before. But yeah, it was really cool to see the original band back together. Then, three years later when Lonesome Dave got ill, he recommended to Roger that he give me a call. So it worked out great.

Ted Nugent, what was that like working with him?
Charlie Huhn: It was wonderful. He was big time all the way, great songwriter. Great entertainer. Really nice person. That’s how I cut my teeth in the big time but I really learned how to turn it up a notch or two from Ted, because he’s real high energy and it was just a real great experience. Platinum and gold albums.

If there was one Foghat song that you don’t do now that you wish you could do, what would it be and why?
Charlie Huhn: It was a song we tried 14 years ago. I always liked the song “What a Shame.”  It’s just a cool rock song and has a good symbolic lyrics giving back to the blues.

Bryan Bassett of Foghat

Bryan Bassett of Foghat

If there was one Foghat song that you don’t do now that you wish you could do, what would it be and why?
Bryan Bassett : For me “Midnight Madness.” I always loved that song, it had a lot of highs and lows in it. Good breakdown to an acoustic section and then break up into a big rock section. Pretty much a long song, almost as long as Slow Ride but we never actually played that live, but it’s one of my favorites.

How long have you been in Foghat and how did you become involved?
Bryan Bassett : This is my 20th year. I did 4 years with Lonesome Dave in the 89-92, I played with him and that’s how I got into the Foghat family. Dave had moved to Orlando, FL. Pat Travers introduced us and we became fast friends and before you knew it I was touring with them for four years. The original guitarist, Rod Price, came out of retirement in 1992 and played for 7 years when all the original members were back together. At that time I went to Molly Hatchet and played 7 years there. Then Rod retired again in 1999 and Dave asked me back and I’ve been back ever since. That’s 16 years straight with four on the front end.

What’s up next for Foghat?
Bryan Bassett : We’re gonna finish up the summer touring, we’re very busy this summer. Generally what we do is take the holidays off and then plot our next move in January. We’re doing a lot of press and a lot of support for the new record Under the Influence and Roger told you all about that. So really, we’ll probably play out the summer, concentrate on our live performance and come January we’ll congregate in our studio in Florida and do what we always do, rehearse new songs for the next year’s tour and then write and record as it comes along.

(Interview and Band Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)

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