British born but in many respects American made, electric slide blues legends Foghat have been in existence almost continuously since 1971. Most famous for their 1972 Willie Dixon cover I Just Want To Make Love To You and 1976’s Slow Ride, they’ve now returned with Under The Influence, their first album since 2010. And it does what they do best – rocks shamelessly and brings a smile to your face. We caught up with drummer Roger Earl (who also has the side project Earl & The Agitators) to talk ’Hat.
It sounds like you had great fun recording the new album. You got a lot of good people on board too.
Oh yes. We spent three years working on it, down at our studio in Florida, Boogie Motel South. We’d met the brilliant producer Tom Hambridge at a blues awards ceremony. Then there was Kim Simmonds, who I used to play with in the Savoy Brown Blues Band until I left to join Foghat. Kim had been delayed for hours coming from New York. He arrived in Florida, not even wanting to go to his hotel. He just wanted to play straight away. He’s on the new version of Slow Ride we cut to mark its fortieth anniversary. He nailed it on the first take! We gave him a standing ovation. Things were always good between me and Kim. His brother Harry, who managed Savoy Brown, however, was a bit of a scumbag.
Foghat may have been rather unfashionable, but there are lots of cultural references to them – in The Simpsons, for example; and did you know they used Slow Ride in the first edition of the new Top Gear series?
I did not. But you know, every generation should have its own music. It’s not right that things don’t move on from 1970. It’s important that music moves on and changes, that it defines a generation, a time in life. Not that we don’t love still playing – being treated like little princes on the road.
Going back, is it true you auditioned for the Jimi Hendrix Experience?
I’d been in one of [Hendrix manager] Chas Chandler’s bands when I was seventeen, which didn’t happen. But Chas invited me to Birdland, a West End club. I drove up in my dad’s car. Jimi met me himself, chatted about some songs he’d written, then I played for forty minutes. It was a thrill – he played Red House, Like A Rolling Stone – but, honestly, I did not have a clue what was happening. I’d just never heard music like this.
Who do you credit for Foghat getting their big break internationally?
We owe [Bearsville Records head] Albert Grossman everything. Although I think we paid it back. We’d been turned down by every major and minor label. Finally we rented a room in Islington – I’m an Arsenal fan – and played for Albert, who managed Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band. Then he asked if we could go somewhere and get tea and biscuits. At last, he looked up and said: “Hey, let’s do it.” And we did.
The rest is history. Today Foghat are bona fide rock legends. And you even make your own Foghat wine.
Well, it’s my beverage of choice. The rest of the band aren’t so interested. We make Foghat Pinot Noir, Foghat Chardonnay. But it’s not about spreading the Foghat brand, it’s about making great wines. We’ve won medals.