Interview with Roger Earl

Your new album, ‘Last Train Home’, was released on June 15th. How does it compare to the earlier work of Foghat?

On our very first album we took a lot of time because we couldn’t get everything to work. Fortunately, when Dave Edmunds came in to mix the album, everything fell into place. So, thank you Dave. We would write some songs on the road or we’d take a week off, or nights off, and we’d be in the studio. And it wasn’t until we did the ‘Fool For The City’ album that we really got a chance to sit in the same place for two or three months. We’d take breaks, but we were in one studio.

Also, now, we don’t have any pressure from the record company because we are the record company. We don’t have to put an album out every year. We can always take our time and see how things are. As was the case back then, the band has complete control over what we do or don’t. I don’t know if that’s such a good idea [laughs] — having the band in charge. But, this time it was enjoyable. It’s not like hard work. Generally speaking, we put a lot of time into deciding what material we’re going to do, then we spend some time on the arrangement and making sure that’s how it’s going to be. You do the arrangement and then maybe we chop this out or chop that out.

Did you guys track everything together?

Yeah, we did six songs about two years ago in a studio out in Long Island…and it turned out great. It was a real comfortable room and everybody could hear each other, like we would on stage. And it worked really well. We rehearsed, recorded, and we liked the stuff. Then, we got busy. By this time, we had a house down in Florida. We had this huge barn down there that we were going to convert. But, instead we found it worked just by sitting in the living room where we have four bedrooms. If we needed any separation from the amps, they would go in there.

Was the recording process very stress-free?

It was all comfortable. There was no red light. You could stop and have a cup of coffee or tea, or a beer if you’d like. It was a lot of fun, it really was. It was really enjoyable making this record.

That’s great. So, you guys weren’t worn out by the hustle of a major label studio.

Most of the songs were done on the first, second, or third take. When you’re in the studio and you have to do it more than three times it wears on you. You get to the point [where you think], “how many times can I play this song today?” It gets a little old. Having said that, in today’s world if there is something missing or something you don’t quite like, you can edit. We have such a brilliant engineer, Brian Bassett. Protools has been very good to me [laughs].

Ah yes, the wonders of studio magic.

Whereas before, if there was something you wanted to take out or add, you would literally have to get the razor blade out and slice either the 2-track or the 24-track. So, on that score, it’s easier. But also playing this kinda music — blues or rock-blues, whatever you wanna call it — it’s a passion. It’s how I grew up, it’s what I do. It was fun and the pressure is not there like it used to be. We seem to have a pretty good handle on it.

Which tunes did you bring to the table?

I wrote my stuff for “Born For The Road” and Brian put the music to it. Charlie changed around a couple lyrics and melodies. “Shake Your Money Maker” I wanted to do because we played it so many times over so long. And I really thought the band played it so well. Charlie plays this really cool rockabilly rhythm guitar in it. And Brian is just an incredible guitar player. And probably “You Need Love”, which is a Howlin’ Wolf tune written by Willie Dixon — that was my influence on the album. Oh, and probably “Needle & Spoon” as well. Actually…all of them [laughs]. The band’s actually very democratic. We all sort of talk about stuff if someone’s not really keen on a song or if they don’t think they can do it justice.

You guys are out on the road now, right?

Yeah, we’ve been on the road since the beginning of the year. It’s just starting to pick up now. We’ll be playing 2-3 times a week till the end of the summer and then around November it starts to slow down again.

Nice, so fans attending your shows can expect some new songs off ’Last Train Home’?

I hope so, yeah. Actually we have three dates coming up in Canada and we’re playing three Blues festivals July 16th, 17th, and 18th. We’re playing Windsor, Ontario; London, Ontario; and Ottawa, Ontario. So, we’re going to Florida to rehearse the week before the show. And we’ll be changing around the set and putting the new songs in. In July is when we’ll change it around. By that time everybody’s got their chops together and it’s not like you’re trying to figure out what your left hand should do or your left foot or right foot, etc. And the same with the guitar players. Everybody’s got their fingers and their head in shape. Yeah, it’s gonna be fun. And also, we’re gonna have Lefty, our harp player, out with us! And my brother Colin’s gonna be playing piano on those three dates. It’ll be the extended version of Foghat.

Everyone loves a harp player.

Yeah, the best blues bands had guitar, piano, and a harp. As far as I’m concerned, all the best blues bands did. Certainly Muddy Waters’ band did. So we just turned it up a little bit by putting a little rock ‘n’ roll Foghat.

I completely agree. Last question, blues-rock has really stood the test of time, do you expect it to get more progressive as new musicians pick up where others left off?

Some people may call it progressive; other people may call it a bastardization of the blues. Music is open to the interpretation of the musician and the people playing it. And, like with everything, whether you like it or you don’t, it’s very subjective.

You can get your FREE download of “Born for the Road” off Foghat’s latest album ‘Last Train Home’ at www.foghat.net

Pick up Foghat’s new album Last Train Home