Foghat has been consistently touring and releasing music for 52 years. While most of the classic lineup has passed away, founding drummer Roger Earl carries on with a strong lineup that more than handles their legendary material. Roger and Foghat are about to release a new record called Sonic Mojo on November 10 and took some time to talk about it.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws conversation with Roger Earl –
On developing his love for music – The reason I got into playing was actually because of my passion for music and love of music. Where I grew up in southwest London, there was always music in the house. My father played piano a bit, and my older brother Colin, played piano. He played in a band called Mungo Jerry. My father, when I was about 12 years old, took me to see Jerry Lee Lewis and I was never the same. That was it. I changed. I did start playing on the piano a little bit. It’s actually a percussive instrument, the piano, you bang the keys, but drums were drums are louder than the piano.
I was always banging on mom’s good China and with knives and forks and playing on lampshades, you know, that was the cymbal. I started taking drum lessons when I was 13. I told my father I wanted to get a motorbike. He said, “I’m not going to help you with that, son”. I said, “Well, you have one”, and he said, “That’s different”. So I had my own money. I’d work three days a week, three nights a week after school. Saturday mornings, I worked in a bakery. That was interesting. Then Saturday afternoons, I’d take drum lessons. I just love playing.
The way I play, or the way I think I play, is that I always want to play in a band. It’s all right sitting around banging the drums, but it’s basically all about head, hands, and feet you practice so that everything comes out and your hands and your feet, but the real fun is playing in a band. That’s where it’s fun. I’ve always played in really good bands. Foghat’s had some fantastic guitar players and drum and bass players over the years. Rod (Price) and Dave (Peverett) were fantastic. Craig McGregor on bass was just, he was my brother by a different mother. Nick Jameson, Eric Cartwright. I’m probably having too much fun. Brian Bassett, our lead guitar player and slide player, has been with us for 27 years now. He played with Dave, he played with Rod Price. Scott Holt joined us about two years ago. After Charlie Huhn decided to retire, and actually I’ve known Scott Holt since 2014. He actually played on our last, our previous studio album, Under The Influence. We also made a side project called Earl and the Agitators, which Scott sang on, played guitar on. So I love playing with this band. These guys are just super players, they’re bandmates in every sense of the word, nobody moans, everybody loves playing.
I’ll give you an example. Earlier on this year, during the summer airlines cost a fortune these days, and sometimes we’ll have to take two or three stops to get where we want to play, where we’re supposed to play. Sometimes it’s just not practical because you leave at four or five or six in the morning and you get to the venue at like seven o’clock at night That’s not going to work. So we do overnight drives like three, four, five hundred miles. Nobody moans. Everybody says, “Well, can I drive?” “No, I’m driving”. “Let me drive”. We have a really, really good time. I think it shows on the record as well. Everybody gets on great. It’s a real band.
On three Sonic Mojo tracks being cowritten with the late Kim Simmonds – Kim and I have always been friends. Obviously when myself and Lonesome Dave left Savoy Brown 1970, 71 we didn’t see each other for about five or six years. In fact, I reconnected with Kim in 76, Dave and I went to see him, he was playing out on Long Island, a college out there, which is where Dave and I live, I still live in Long Island, and Kim came over the house afterwards and we hung out, I think We were up to four or five in the morning, he may have even stayed over. We reconnected and we kept in touch over the years. Then about 10 or 12 years ago, our manager got Savoy Brown on the same agency as we’re with. So we got to play dates together, which was fun. I would get up and sit in with Savoy Brown and Kim would get in and sit in with Foghat and we just reconnected. After we did Under the Influence album, Kim played on about four songs there, and after we finished the recording in in Nashville with our producer, Tom Hambridge, Kim said to me, he said, “I’d really like to write some songs for Foghat”. I said, “That would be great. You just have to play on them as well”. He smiled and said he would. Unfortunately, Kim got ill. He passed last Christmas. But about, I guess about two, three years ago, he sent me four songs. He couldn’t play on them because his hands weren’t working anymore. It was pretty bad, but he stayed very positive throughout it. But yeah, it meant a lot to me and the rest of the band, they were all huge fans of Kim. Kim was an absolutely brilliant blues guitar player, a very prolific songwriter.He put an album out every year and all the songs were written up by him. It meant a lot. I think, no, I know that we did a really good job on the songs. I was really excited about playing them. It took a little while to figure out how we were going to approach it. But the lyrics all meant something, they were really good stories, and I think he would have been pleased with it. I think he’d rather be here playing, but I was really happy with it, and it felt really good, because of the connection that we had, and we were good friends.
On including some classic blues covers on the record – I guess our taste in music hasn’t changed that much since we were teenagers. Basically what happens when we come down to the studio, we usually come down here like January, February, March. I don’t really like touring in the winter, snow and ice and getting stuck in airports, but we do some dates. We come down to the studio and we just start playing. How we get the juices flowing in the band is we just start jamming enough, and it’ll be a blues song, a rock song whatever, we’ll just start playing. During the touring season, like the summer and fall, when we’re doing sound checks, we’ll often like to start jamming on a riff or something, or one of us will have some words or an idea and hopefully sometimes somebody will turn their phone on or our sound engineer will push a button and we’ll record it. So we have all these bits and pieces that we attempt to go through but it’s a terrific way for us to play. It’s very, what’s the term? Organic, I suppose you could call it that. We’re all in the same room. We can all hear each other, and if we’re working on the song just to like, get the arrangement right, we’ll do it acoustically. I have a practice pad and pedal before we start making some real noise. It’s a lot of fun being creative. We actually probably had about nine or ten songs that we didn’t put on the record. We just put the ones that really thought really worked. Making music is an ongoing process and creating new songs and I’m going to do it until the day I depart this earth, hopefully. So it’s a lot of fun.
On creating new music that fits with the old – Basically, I think everybody in the band, Scott Holt, Rodney O’Quinn on bass, who played with Pat Travers for 10 years. We stole him from Pat. Thank you, Pat. We all have a similar attitude with what music we like. We all grew up listening to blues and rock music, every single one of us and that’s where our inspiration comes from. I don’t think there’s a particular Foghat sound. It’s four musicians. It’s always been four. Occasionally, we’ll augment it with somebody else. But the nucleus is the four of us, and that’s kind of what we play.
I’d been coming to the States since 67, 68. When I first came here with Savoy Brown, actually, I think it was 69. Felt like coming home. In America, this is where music was born with the blues. Then we got jazz, bebop, rock and roll, country, hillbilly tunes, folk music probably as well, and of course, gospel music. You got this wonderful meeting of all those musics. America has given music to the world. I think that’s the one thing we can truly, the rest of the world is grateful for that. I think it’s something that everybody recognizes, even to this day. The music that’s coming out of this country is inspiring young singers and musicians still.
The music has changed, it should change. Music should never stay the same. I think every generation has their own music and it comes from this land. We’ve got Afghani rappers and Chinese rappers and French rappers and obviously English rappers and blues artists and R& B singers. This is where we come, this is where it comes from. This is where their inspiration comes from, from this land. Americans should be proud and embrace that side of this country because I think it’s one of the real beauties that this land has. It’s our melting pot of music and it’s always been an inspiration for me, still is. This is the reason I always wanted to come here.
This a funny story, well, it’s sort of funny. I was about eight years old. I told my older brother, Colin, I was going to steal away on a boat and he went along with it for a while. Then, it was about six months later, I packed a bag and said “I’m gonna get on a boat and I’m gonna go to America”. He went, “Don’t be so stupid”. But, thank you, Colin. Stopped me from running away again. But eventually I got here and this is my adopted home and I love this country and everything that it’s done for me and the music that it’s given to the world.
On how they can fold new songs into their live set – We’re brave. Actually, we’ve been playing three of the songs already. It started off with “A Little Bit of Everything”, which is a song that Kim wrote. We started playing that because we’re releasing what they call singles so that it gets heard on all the various platforms that are out there now. Then we did “Driving On” and now we’re doing “I Don’t Appreciate You”, which is kind of a, a rock and roll punk song. It’s all about “I don’t appreciate the way you walk, don’t appreciate the way you talk, I don’t appreciate your self entitled attitude, I don’t appreciate you”. So our set went from an hour and 15 minutes and of course we start jamming and figure we’ll put this song in that we haven’t played in a while, we’re up to an hour and 45 minutes. We have a good time.
Playing new material in your set, I’ve seen other bands do it and it’s like to grasp a song, most of the time you need to hear it. I don’t know, three or four or half a dozen times. When you get a new record, I always put it on like three or four times before I start to figure out what I like, really like, and what’s reaching me. So yeah, I agree with you there but so far, our audience has been very patient with us, they clap and cheer. Anyway, actually, Foghat fans are the best. We’ve lost three of the original band but people come to see us, and they know what they’re gonna get. We play all our classic hits like “Slow Ride”, “Fool For The City”, “I Just Wanna Make Love To You”, “Stone Blue”. This is our 17th studio album. We have this whole catalog of tunes to pick from. Actually, one of the things that we do, as I said, each year, we’ve changed the set around. On our fan page, we ask the fans to send in a list of songs they would like us to play. Well, can’t do them all, but we do listen to that. We sit down and like we listen to the originals and figure out what we like and what we think we can improve on. But pretty much we play the way they were, the way they sound. Probably my fault, actually. Oh dear. I’m in trouble. Just play along with the drummer, alright?
It’s just like a lot of fun playing with this band. These guys are like just real bandmates and in fact, everybody was here yesterday. We did some radio and Zoom meetings yesterday with the whole band and the four of us just started playing. We started working on actually the whole, hold on, let me show you the picture. (Holds up the album) There’s stories in here. This is a signed one for somebody. Actually, I’ve got my grubby fingers all over it. Okay, back in, never mind. Our manager actually does all the artwork. Linda, she’s an absolute genius. She said that if that was the only thing she could do, just doing artwork and writing all the stuff, that she would be happy with that. But, no, she has, wears a dozen different hats. Actually, maybe one of these days I’ll get my wife and girlfriend back, they’re one in the same, girlfriend, wife, and manager.