When you think of classic rock, no band personified the term more than Foghat, with tunes like “Slow Ride,” “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” and “Fool for the City” the epitome of the genre. Four decades later Foghat still rocks on. Sure, there have been some lineup changes, compounded by the deaths of founders Rod Price and Dave Peverett, but the one constant that remains is the band’s commitment to real rock ‘n’ roll behind original drummer Roger Earl.
At 70 Mr. Earl and the band show no signs of slowing down. To celebrate the release of the new Foghat album “Under the Influence,” Mr. Earl discussed the band’s legendary career, their new music and how he finds time for side project Earl & The Agitators.
“Slow ride, take it easy?” Not Mr. Earl.
Question: Can you believe that Foghat has been rocking for 40 years?
Answer: No, it seems like only yesterday I started in. [laughs] Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s pretty amazing, actually. I’m still recording, making new records. I play in a band full of great musicians. We’re good friends. They’re happy drunks. [laughs] We don’t drink before we play. But afterwords ….
Q: What has kept you going that whole time?
A: Maybe it’s because we got it right in the first place. The sort of music that we play and the way that we play it. I think that is why we’ve lasted this long. We lost Dave [Peverett] and Rod [Price]. That was a bit of a problem. My career has been a case of “careful what you wish for.”
Q: Did you ever have a day job?
A: I was a commercial artist when I was 18 to 20. I had to have a “real job” to pay for cymbals and drums. While working I joined Savoy Brown at 20. We would be playing in Manchester and Birmingham, then driving back down to London. I would get in about four or five in the morning, sleep one hour, then I would miss the bus and miss the train and show up late [to work]. But my bosses there were very understanding.
Soon as I just got paid as a musician, I gave up my commercial artist job.
Q: With no regrets?
A: No regrets. I probably had to give up certain things. The first tour I did over here in America with Foghat, we were over here for nearly 12 months. You’re not gonna have much of a married life when you’re like that. I went away and my daughter was crawling. I came back and she was walking. You miss out on some stuff. But I don’t think I would be happy unless I was doing this.
Q: Is it weird for you to be the last original member?
A: Actually, I’m rather grateful. I guess the good Lord hasn’t seen fit to take me just yet. [laughs] When Dave was alive he loved to play. That was one of the cool things about working with him. He was sort of quiet when we were offstage, but once onstage he lit up like a downtown Christmas tree. He was always ready to play. Even when he was ill on the last tour we did together. I admired him for that.
Q: What made you decide to record a new album now?
A: We have a studio down in Florida. We did our last album there. We all come down every January, February and March and rehearsed. [Lead singer] Charlie [Huhn-Singer] and [guitarist] Bryan [Bassett-Guitarist] actually live down here.
Q: Why is the new album called “Under the Influence”?
A: We wanted this album to be the sounds that influenced us. Those styles. We had started writing stuff and talking about things. Asking, “How do we want to approach these songs?” It could have a Memphis kind of feel to it. Or a bluesy Chicago feel. Our manager said, “You guys are under the influence — of music.”
Q: Why did you re-record “Slow Ride”?
A: It was the 40th anniversary of “Slow Ride,” and it was suggested that maybe we could do it as a tribute to Rod and Dave. So I was cool with that. We had an opportunity to bring in Nick Jameson, who was our original producer and bass player on the first recording, and Craig MacGregor, who played on the live recording of “Slow Ride.” That was fun having the two of them in there. Only took one take anyway. We kinda know that one. aughs)
Q: Why do you think, of all the songs you guys recorded, that “Slow Ride” is so well loved?
A: I’m not sure. If I knew that, I would be very, very rich. It’s a basic rock ‘n’ roll song. The idea came from a John Lee Hooker riff. That song came from a jam between me and Rod and Nick Jameson. The whole song was written musically before we had any lyrics. I wrote the beginning. Bang. Bang. Bang. [laughs]
Q: What’s the deal with your side band, Earl & The Agitators?
A: I like to cross my manager. [laughs] I became really good friends with Scott Holt, who has been in Buddy Guy’s band for years. He came down to the studio in Florida and we started writing songs together. We ended up with about 20 songs, You can’t bloody well put twenty songs written and sung by somebody else on a Foghat record. So we started another band.
Q: Is it true that you are doing double-duty playing on this tour?
A: [Earl and The Agitators has] opened up for Foghat two or three times. Doing it again soon. Maybe I just don’t have enough to do so I need two bands.
Q: Do you think you will ever stop rockin’ and retire?
A: Probably when I’m six feet under. [laughs] I hope that’s a long way off. As long as I’m psychically able to play, I’ll play.
Foghat’s “Under the Influence” is out now.
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