Music, wine, and Guitar Hero: A fun few minutes with Foghat

CH: "We also have another release in Europe and Great Britain."

Roger Earl: "Yeah, its called NOT Live at the BBC."  (laughing) "Actually, it’s already being played in Belgium, France, Germany, and Scotland. We may be able to go to Europe…………….. and do what, I don’t know."

CH: "So, we’ve kept releasing stuff and we’re starting up our 2010 tour down here in Clearwater. We had sporadic dates during the winter, but we spent most of the time in the studio. Bryan just got done mixing and mastering the new blues CD and did a brilliant job."

RE: "Actually, we call him 'Brian the Brilliant'" (laughing)

Y’all are on tour full force again, but is it more difficult to do it like this after nearly four decades on the road?

RE: "You know, its rock ‘n roll music and it's fun."

[image-1]BB: "We play for free and get paid to travel. But we’ve all got more than 20 years out on tour buses, so we don’t actually do that anymore. We fly everywhere and we don’t go out for weeks on end now. We go out for a couple of days or a week at most. We mostly play the shows we want."

CH: "It’s like a rock ‘n roll pension plan." (everyone laughs)

BB: "What’s interesting and totally different from the 1970’s is that the casino work has now become sort of the classic rock demographic."

CH: "Yeah, and sometimes the casinos want us to play so little music…"

RE: "45 minutes, right?"

CH: "….and give us so much money, that we want to give money back." (laughing)

BB: "Generally I do usually give some of it back." (everyone laughs)

[image-2]RE: "Actually, we did that once in Colorado at Cityfest somewhere. We were playing with Paul Rogers (of Bad Company) and the promoter said 'Look, I need you to only play 45 minutes. Everything’s late, all of the opening acts have been late and we need more time for Paul.' I said, tell you what, if I give you back your deposit and you keep all the money that you owe us tonight and you let us play for an hour and a half. He went (makes confused noises)." (everyone laughs)

He must have thought it was some sort of trick.

CH: "No, we’re really thankful for the casino work. It’s indoors, its air conditioned..." (laughing)

Beyond the music, how did the band get into making wine, iPhone apps, video games and such?

RE: "Three or four years ago, we played the New California State Fair. We did two one-hour shows there and they were both sold out. It was a really cool place and this guy came to us called Steve Rasmussen, he’s a wine-maker on the west coast. He’s a huge Foghat fan and he brought his partner along too. Afterwards, he sent an email to Linda, our manager, and said “You guys are probably already doing this but would you interested in making a Foghat wine?” I went ahhhhhhh (simulating someone twisting his arm and laughing)."

CH: "Roger has a self-twisting arm." (laughing)

RE: "The first one that came out was a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and this year we have a 2008 Chardonnay which will be released in June. It’s really delicious. The first round was only 90 cases but this one, we have 290 cases so maybe this time I’ll even get to drink some cause every time I go to drink a bottle, Linda (Roger's wife and the bands manager) says that it’s got to be sold." (laughing)

Forty years ago, did you ever think that you’d be doing this type of thing?

RE: "Drinking wine? Yeah!" (everyone laughs)

CH: "We just didn’t think that it was going to be ours."

RE: "Yeah, I was actually involved in making the wine, picking the grapes, crushing them. It was fun. I’d like to make Tequila as well." (laughing)

BB: "And as far as the iPhone apps and such, that really started with 'Slow Ride' being on Guitar Hero. Of course, everybody is looking for ways to market themselves now due to the general demise of the traditional record label model."

CH: "The industry has done almost a 180 and you have to reinvent yourself on a yearly basis."

BB: "Of course we knew the Guitar Hero thing was happening and all of the sudden the first ten rows of our shows were starting to be teenagers."

CH: "We’ve had little 16-year-old girls coming up with tee-shirts that say 'Foghat Wacked My Bush' (the whole room erupts in laughter) and I have to say 'I can’t sign that.'"

Is it slightly surreal to see yourself on a video game?

[image-3]Craig Macgregor "It sucks cause none of us can beat it ... (everyone laughs) …I’ve been playing guitar for 40 years and I can’t get through it. I mean, it’s really frustrating.”

RE: "Sometime back, I went over to one of my grandsons and he was six then and he’s got this huge TV screen in his room and he’s playing the game. I said 'You know that’s granddad’s song that you’re playing' and he said 'Yeah, right.'" (everyone laughs) But now he knows and I’m pretty cool."

So you didn’t become cool to the younger generation until you got on a video game?

RE: "No, I take them fishing and don’t yell at them. I’m a cool granddad."

Where do you envision yourselves in 10 years?

BB: "Hopefully being seen and not viewed." (everyone laughs)

RE: "No actually, I think that, in the immortal words of Lonesome Dave, 'We’re going to roll ‘til we’re old and rock ‘til we drop.' You know, we get paid for having fun. The traveling can get to be a bit of a drag."

CH: "We’re just happy that there is still a market for old rockers like us."

Foghat's latest release Last Train Home is scheduled for release in June. Check back for a review in advance of the the release date.

To some people, Foghat is simply a classic blues rock band that had a few hits a long time ago. While this is a true statement on its face, it falls short of the whole truth. The members of today’s Foghat have spent the better part of the past four decades building up a loyal fanbase, touring, recording music and constantly reinventing themselves to keep up with the times. The band has endured adversity, lineup changes and even death, yet nothing can keep them off the stage for long.

Most people don’t realize that Foghat is really only one part of a much bigger operation. The band's four talented musicians (singer/rhythm guitarist Charlie Huhn, lead guitarist Bryan Bassett, bassist Craig MacGregor and drummer Roger Earl) are part of an business empire that includes private label wine production, music licensing, video game endeavors and other technology interests. Even with such a varied range of ventures, they’ve managed to keep things in perspective and have avoided falling prey to inflated egos and the other evils of stardom. They’ve also never strayed far from the music, which always seemed to take the front seat during the conversation I had with all four when they played Clearwater last weekend. Here's the highlights:

What do you guys have going on right now?

Charlie Huhn: "We have a new blues album coming out. We’re doing some new original blues songs and some covers that we’ve loved over the years. We had some special guests on the CD including Eddie Kirkland, who is an 88-year-old blues guitar player, singer-songwriter who used to play with John Lee Hooker. We also had Todd Lefkowiz on harmonica, a friend of ours from Long Island."

Is this more of an old-school Foghat blues album?

Bryan Bassett: "The originals on there are fairly Foghat blues-rock oriented, but then the covers are from some traditional artists. "


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