For the new Foghat album “Sonic Mojo,” founding member, drummer and leader of the pack Roger Earl is joined by stalwart guitarist, engineer, and co-producer Bryan Bassett (formerly with Wild Cherry and Molly Hatchet), fun-loving bassist Rodney O’Quinn (longtime member of the Pat Travers Band), and on lead vocals and guitar, Scott Holt (who toured and recorded with the legendary Buddy Guy for 10+ years).
It is easy to forget just how big Foghat was. In the 1970s, they gained eight gold albums, one platinum and one double platinum album, and despite several line-up changes, they continued to record and perform. The big hit album was “Fool for the City” in 1975, which spawned the top twenty hit “Slow Ride.” The double platinum album was 1977’s “Foghat Live.”
So although not that well known over our side of the pond, where the band first originated, this is a group that, 50 years on, are back hitting the live shows and delivering a stormer of a new album. The reviews alone, if you check them out, stand up and tell you this is a band still cutting the mustard on every level. We played it here in the magazine, and it has this solid blues sound with a swagger and a boogie style rock that they have made their distinctive style. With a mix of classic blues standards and some original material, it’s an album that bridges the past and present and should reignite interest in this classic band stateside, where the fan base remains strong due to the band touring still and playing biker conventions and classic rock cruises.
Sonic Mojo is the first Foghat album to top a Billboard chart, debuting at number one on Top Blues Albums in the US.
The current line up:
- Roger Earl, drums (1971–1984, 1993–present)
- Bryan Bassett, lead guitar, slide guitar, backing vocals (1999–present)
- Rodney O’Quinn, bass guitar, backing vocals (2015–present)
- Scott Holt, lead vocals, lead guitar (2022–present)
Roger Earl is the only original member of the band; he has been in every line up (he also played with Savoy Brown at one stage). But we love the current line up, and were very pleased to get to talk to current vocalist and lead guitarist Scott Holt. Scott joined in January 2022, as lead singer Charlie Huhn retired. Scott Holt, formerly a guitarist for Buddy Guy, became the new lead singer and guitarist. Holt had previously lent his vocals for Under the Influence and was the lead vocalist in Foghat side project Earl and the Agitators.
We began by asking Scott about working with the legend that is Buddy Guy. Buddy Guy, winner of eight Grammys and one of the greatest guitarists of all time (just as easy with a free jazz style as he is with Chicago blues), is an absolute legend. How does Scott look back on his time with Buddy now?
Scott- Buddy gave me everything; he gave me my career. That was my first gig; it was where I started. I had never been away from home, and I’d never travelled. I learned everything from him. Not only did he take me on the road and teach me, but he continually pushed me to sing a song and play a guitar solo, and he really promoted me. He would always talk about me someday having my own band. He was paying attention to how I evolved. I was young and naive in many ways, so looking back on those times, an artist of that stature doesn’t always have time for some kids. But he never did that, he always supported me, and to this day, I can pick up the phone and call him for advice. We just slip back to the old days and the stories; its a relationship that I value so much.
We think that music is very much like passing on the baton; we need the elder statesmen and women to encourage the next generation. We have that responsibility.
Scott- I think with musicians, for the most part, it is a supportive thing in general. I think a lot of the idea that there is competition between musicians is generated from the outside, not the musicians themselves. I am a guitar player and a singer, but I’m not in competition with anyone; there are people way better at what they do than me. But I have to believe that I’m the best at what I do, and that’s because I’m a guitar player. When you first start playing an instrument, you want to emulate the person who inspired you to play; that’s where the source comes from. I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix, but I’m not left handed and I’m not black.
(A side note from us, Jimi was naturally left-handed but his father tried to force him to play right-handed because he believed playing left-handed was a sign of the devil. To overcome the problem, Jimi took right-handed guitars and restrung them to play left-handed)
I also never had his DNA or sense of imagination. But what I did was try and be like Jimi, but then realise that I could only ever be myself; I would always sound like me, and I needed to be happy with that. That evolution is there for every musician.
We often like to ask guitarists how they approach the solo, as one of our icons, Frank Zappa, was totally spontaneous to the point that his own musicians probably never knew what was to come next! But for joining Foghat, we presume there would be an expectation for songs like “Slow Ride” or “Fool for the City” that they would always remain true to the original sound.
Scott- The learning curve for me when joining Foghat was that there are almost two parallel lines running. There are expectations and responsibilities to honor the past. “Slow Ride” goes a certain way, and no one wants to hear my interpretation of “Slow Ride.” If they go to a Foghat concert, they want to hear “I just want to make love to you” played the way they put it together in 1972. At the same time, I am a musician and part of a band, and this is an important point; Foghat is a real band; it is a forward moving entity and has been for fifty years. This is a band that is constantly writing and creating new music. You have to keep that going, or you slip into being a tribute band, or you exist on the oldies circuit. We are absolutely not that. Yes, with the older catalog material, you must play it as it was set out to be played, but I do find some nooks and crannies to improvise.
We do admire that aspect of the band. Yes, they have only one original member, but they have done this great album with some classic blues, some boogie and some rock. There are some bands—some very big bands—with only half their original members who have no interest in creating new material and haven’t for a while. So we admire that about Foghat—the desire to still create. In order not to slip into being a tribute band, did Scott feel creating new music was just as important as giving that nod to the past?
Scott- 100%. The thing is, many of these huge touring bands that are not writing new music are probably, like with any art, going through a period of creativity when it just flows, and look at how the first album is often so good because they have worked up to that their whole lives. Then the following albums start to dip. Then, as we live our lives, other factors come into play, but for some of these huge bands, when the dollar figures get so high, to maintain the income stream to support all those people who work for you, that means you have a big responsibility. But Foghat, this entity of the band, was formed like a band gets formed. The drummer hears about that guitar player; he heard he played good guitar; they jammed, and they got along. The bass player did the same thing and so on. We came together as three like minded souls, and today, when we hit the stage, it was fun. We were energised and enthusiastic. It is an insanely hot new album, and we are very creative. Roger and I are constantly kicking song ideas back and forth; new music will come after this. We are sparking each other creatively all the time, and I’m really grateful for all this, as in some situations you can move into a creative vacuum, but this is not one of those cases. It is easy for me to say this band is a viable living thing that is moving forward, because it is.
The album has a version of BB King’s “She’s Dynamite.” Here at the magazine we love BB, and have been lucky enough to speak to his daughter Shirley a couple of times, and she always tells us these tales. Her dad was a blues man and also a great entertainer. How did the band approach this track and make it something fresh?
Scott- Being with Buddy, one of the great benefits was that I got to meet all those guys. I got to meet and know BB King and all those great bluesmen. I knew them as human beings, which is so different from just knowing the man in the record collection. There is a huge entertainment aspect to all of them; they put on a show. When I am home playing the guitar, I’m not jumping around and flipping it or doing that stuff. No one wants to see me do that at home! Thus, when you step onto the stage, it is appropriate to perform irrationally and conceal your thoughts. So Shirley King is correct, BB King was a consummate entertainer, and Buddy Guy was one of the top three entertainers I have seen in my life. Taking a song like BB King’s “She’s Dynamite,” you will not improve on the originals. You won’t improve on what Muddy Waters did with a song or what BB did with it. So what I do is take the song and reimagine it. I have never heard the original; all I have are the lyrics. Now, how would I make this song sound contemporary and do something different with it? That is what we were striving for with the song. Foghat has a history with that. Go back to the first album. “I just want to make love to you” (also famously covered by Nina Simone) sounds nothing like the original version; it is its own thing. Place both versions side-by-side, and you enjoy them both, feeling like you have heard two different songs. We wanted to take a blues song and do something different with it.
All these original bluesmen are fascinating. We did a piece on Lead Belly, for example, here in the magazine. Not only a great guitarist, but what a life story! It is deserving of a film! This guy was in prison for murder and got a pardon as he was playing great music, you couldn’t make it up! If you scratch western rock music you will always find the blues underneath it.
Scott- Absolutely. It is the fundamental element behind all modern music, outside of chamber music and classical. The blues is the bedrock; look at rock, country, or soul and the blues lies underneath. All those music styles can be traced back to the blues.
Foghat was, of course, originally a British band who went over to the States and did better there, like its cousin band Savoy Brown. Has a part of the British past remained with the modern outfit?
Scott- I don’t think I am really the person to answer that! I’m from Texas and I can appreciate what we have drawn musically from the UK, the British invasion and all that. Jimi Hendrix went to the UK to become Jimi Hendrix and you gave us Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Peter Green, The Stones and The Kinks. We owe that debt as rock n’ roll fans stateside.
But then The Beatles and the Stones took the blues music coming into the UK that they heard, repackaged it and then sold it back to the States with a new spin.
Scott- It was a reciprocal thing. I think that our world is such a small place that the things that separate us are way fewer than the things that make us alive. I have learned that from travelling and touring and getting to know people. There may be differences in language and culture, but there is more that makes us the same. Music is a unifier that transcends boundaries. There is no culture barrier in English; you can play a familiar song in a faraway land that has a different language, and the fans will sing it right back to you.
And two quick fun questions to finish. What was the last album Scott listened to from start to finish, and did he enjoy it?
Scott- Rolling Stones new album, “Hackney Diamonds,” and yes, I did. I have played it start to finish five times, and I am so pleased that it is as good as it is. I was so happy for them, let’s be honest it could have not been so good. It could have been a disappointment, but every note is what you want from a Stones record.
Last of all, who would you most have listened to live that you never got the chance to?
Scott- Jimi Hendrix. I would sit in a room and listen to Jimi read the phone book! I have a passion for everything he ever did. Charlie Pattern, he would be another.
And there we finish. We all thought the new album was great, and seeing it on he top of the blues chart shows the love for this band and their music is very much still alive. Here’s to the next decade!
Please use the following links below to access all things Foghat including music, bio, discography, and the latest news.
Foghat website: https://foghat.com
Foghat FB page: https://www.facebook.com/Foghat/
By Mark C. Chambers
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