FULL BAND INTERVIEW, PART I
Episode # 6 by Mike Mettler, official FoghatStorian 04-25-22
If, like me, you’ve been following the “Backstage with Foghat” video segments that are posted fairly regularly in Foghat’s social media, you’re immediately aware of the undeniable chemistry and camaraderie between all four Foghat bandmembers.
Fact is, there’s no denying just how well founding drummer/percussionist Roger Earl, lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Scott Holt, bassist/vocalist Rodney O’Quinn, and lead guitarist/vocalist Bryan Bassett get along together. They all share a mutual level of chemistry that can’t be forced or faked. It’s something that’s wholly natural — and it’s on full display not only in these videoclips, but also in the way Foghat performs onstage as well as how they conduct themselves together offstage.
Recently, I had the honor to witness this organic interactivity in person in Western New York, when the band came to town to perform a 14-song set at the truly historic Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda on April 16. (Longtime friends of the band Head East opened the show and by the way, they were fantastic! The audience loved them!)
A few hours before the gig, I joined the band in a private conference room at a nearby hotel in East Amherst to get the scoop on Foghat: Mach 2022 — and we’re now going to share the balance of that conversation exclusively with you here in FoghatStory in at least two parts (and maybe even three, if you’re, shall we say, third time lucky).
In Part I of our Foghat group interview, the band and I discuss what it was like for Scott to join Foghat fulltime, how Rodney feels about singing lead vocals on a few songs himself in every show, and why performing live bonds Foghat with their audience even more deeply nowadays, following the shutdown.
Mike Mettler: Now that you’ve all got the live Foghat machine going again, what does it feel like to be back on the road? Scott, you first.
Scott Holt: Me? Oh, I’m having a ball, man! I’m holding onto this gig like grim death! (everyone laughs) Well, these guys may not share my enthusiasm, but I’m really happy.
Mettler: Ok, let’s put everybody else on the spot right now and ask them what they really think about it.
Holt: I’m not sure I really want to know what they think right at this moment before we go out to do a show! (more laughter all around)
Bryan Bassett: Oh, I think we’re all pretty excited, and really thrilled it came together so fast. Of course, we’ve known Scott for a long time, and worked with him before on these projects (Bryan points to Foghat’s Under the Influence vinyl LP from June 2016 and the pair of Earl & The Agitators CDs sitting on the table in front of everyone), so it was very comfortable.
In fact, Scott was with us [down in Florida] working on some new material, and when Charlie [Huhn, former Foghat lead vocalist] retired in January, Scott was right there. So, instead of writing and learning some new songs, we made him learn 40 Foghat songs! (all laugh heartily)
Mettler: What, only 40?
Roger Earl: I think it was actually 47 and a half. (smiles)
Rodney O’Quinn: But then we decided not to play any of those 40! “We’re going to do these instead. . .” (chuckles)
Mettler: Isn’t hazing the official word for that? (laughs)
Bassett: It really was nice we had worked together with Scott before, and that we had done those Earl & The Agitators shows too — that’s basically us, so we had already done some performances together.
Mettler: Right — and you’ve even filtered some of the songs you’ve performed as The Agitators into the Foghat set as well, like “Upside of Lonely” [which appears on Earl & The Agitators’ 2018 CD, Shaken & Stirred].
Bassett: Yeah. We’re just adapting that into the Foghat songbook. The only thing, really, was just rehearsing the Foghat songs. I mean, we had already worked out dozens of tracks as Earl & the Agitators that we had both written and performed.
Earl: (nods, in affirmation) That’s right, yeah.
Bassett: It was just a matter of shifting gears and material more than anything — but we already knew it was going to work musically with Scott.
Mettler: When you have the idea presented to you as, “Hey, we want Scott to come in and join the band,” your first thought after hearing that is — what?
Holt: (exclaims with mock horror): “Not him!” (everyone laughs)
Bassett: Well, actually, the first thought was, “Ok, Scott — you’re in!” (more laughter) It was pretty much as simple as that.
Holt: I was sweeping up in the kitchen and they said, “Hey, you want to be in the band?” “Oh, ok!”
Earl: (gives Scott a stern look, but with a wink) No you weren’t!
Holt: Ok, maybe I wasn’t sweeping. “Fix me this cup of tea, finish folding the laundry, and maybe we’ll let you in the band.”
Earl: Actually, the first thing I remember him saying is (in a lower tone of voice), “Uhh, I need a day.” I said, “Why’s that?” “I need to call my wife.” (Scott laughs loudly)
Bassett: Yeah, we did kidnap him for nigh on a month, just to prepare.
Mettler: Scott, from what I’ve seen in social media, she seems to be pretty happy about it.
Holt: My wife? Yeah. Yeah, I try to keep her happy. I think that’s important. That’s Job #1.
Bassett: Yeah, for every touring musician, that’s Job #1. You make sure she’s happy, and then everything else falls into place.
Mettler: Rodney, from your point of view, how has it worked out with Scott joining the band?
O’Quinn: Oh, it’s worked out great! I mean, there’s a nice chemistry onstage, and everybody’s just loose, and having fun. It’s really nice.
Holt: And you’re not the new guy anymore.
O’Quinn: That’s right — and I’m not the new guy anymore too! [Rodney came aboard in 2015 to take over for longtime bassist Craig MacGregor, who passed away in 2018.]
Bassett: Plus, it expanded Rodney’s role as a lead vocalist.
Mettler: That’s right, because you get to sing more than one song in the set. [Rodney sings lead on “Somebody’s Been Sleeping (In My Bed),” “Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was a Fool),” and the traditional first encore song, which we won’t spoil here for those who haven’t seen the band recently!]
O’Quinn: Yeah — I step up, and yodel some. (howls) Woo!!
Bassett: Let the “Woo” loose.
Holt: Release the “Woo”!
O’Quinn (practically shouting): Release the “Woo”!
Mettler: I think that’s the next Foghat album title — Release the Woo. (more laughter) Rodney, now that you’re singing more, do you want to keep doing even more of it? How does that feel to you?
O’Quinn: Yeah, it’s kind of like my little guilty pleasure, for the most part. When I would kick around locally [i.e., when he’s back home], I kind of started singing a lot more. My other guilty pleasure is singing country too. (chuckles)
But to come up and start doing it more here [in Foghat], it’s like (whispers), “Yeah, this is cool.” It’s something new to kick me in the butt and make me want to grind, and work on something.
Mettler: It really does feel like things are re-energized. I mean, the engine has always been humming, but — well, I’m trying to get a car reference in here for our car guy over here (looks at Roger), so what gear have we shifted into now?
Earl: (no hesitation) Nine. Yeah, yeah.
Bassett: We’re in overdrive.
Earl: The new gear boxes have nine speeds, yeah — and we’re at nine. (Rodney mouths a car engine revving up, then going full-speed).
Mettler: Can’t go wrong with that — and that also makes me think of songs like “Drivin’ Wheel” and some other Foghat songs about motion. When Roger and I talked recently about the early Foghat albums [for future FoghatStories to come!], a lot of that material was about being on the road. A train was also a very important concept to tie into being out and about, moving around in the world. As you perform these songs today, does that feeling still stay with you? You guys are constantly in motion as both performers and artists, after all.
Bassett: Yeah, I think traveling metaphors work for a lot of different things — music and, you know, the sexual innuendo, and being on the road, and traveling. That’s a musician’s life — touring — so that works its way into a lot of lyrics.
Holt: There aren’t that many good songs about sitting still and doing nothing.
Bassett: Or golfing. Not a lot of good golf-rock songs.
Holt: “I was on the ninth hole, and everything was fine. . .”
Mettler: Maybe we should call those “shoe-gazing songs.” The feel of traveling now, because of this past — well, we’ll just call it the two-year gap, where there weren’t as many shows — does it feel different?
Holt: There was a period where there weren’t any shows. We were completely standing still.
Mettler: Do you feel there’s a different weight to songs like “Road Fever” and “Drivin’ Wheel” when you’re playing them now?
Holt: I think there’s a different weight to live performing, period, because you’ve got a lot of people that are hungry for it, you know? They might have taken it for granted before Covid — and you can see the enthusiasm, and the appreciation, even more so now.
Bassett: Yeah. You know, sitting at home for a year and not being able to travel — I mean, one of our favorite things to do is bitch about traveling. (all laugh) “All we do is travel!” — but when you’re not allowed to travel, it’s like, you gotta come in and rethink all that complaining.
We always joke that, “We played for free — we get paid to travel.” (more chuckling) But, no, we’re actually glad to be able to get out there and play again — as I think almost every musician in the world is, at this point.
Mettler: You’ve been able to directly see a response to that from your fans. And now, by having Scott in the mix, there’s probably a different level of reaction you can see and feel from the stage, in how the audience is receiving what you’re
doing. Some of them are definitely familiar with Scott’s work with Earl & the Agitators, Buddy Guy, and other things. Not everybody knows the story, but it seems like the onstage cohesion between you four gentlemen is pretty obvious by now.
Bassett: Scott’s such an experienced front man, having fronted a blues band and coming from a blues sensibility/ Just in the way you (looks at Scott) relate to the audience — it’s not so much a rock performance where everything’s cut and dried and the same every night.
I mean, it has a new looseness to it, just from Scott’s ability to be comfortable and talk to the crowds and all that stuff — so that’s new to us. It’s brought a new looseness to the stage. I mean, we still play the music tight, but we have a little more relaxed but also energetic thing going on the stage, which is different from the way we approached things before. In the old days, I think we were very much about being exact from song to song with very little time in-between the songs and trying to keep to a very strict set.
O’Quinn: Now, it’s a little more free.
Bassett: And I enjoy the spontaneity of it. (Looks at Scott) You’re good at just free form talking and being comfortable relating to an audience, like you will tonight. It’s not about presenting a “stock” show, but about relating to the audience we have in front of us. I mean, you told a joke last week!
Holt: (laughs) I did! I can tell a joke.
Mettler: My view of it is, there’s such a comfort factor up there, and I’m enjoying seeing this level of band interactivity. I mean, I know you guys are already well familiar with each other, but that also comes through in your stage presence. It also comes through in what I hear in the songs too — and, again, I’ll re-use the “Gear Nine” reference Roger was talking about earlier. You really feel that as a fan and audience member, and that’s something that’s really exciting to me. It’s something I need to see regularly.
Bassett: And it’s enjoyable for us too. I mean, I’m thinking, “As long as nobody dies, everything else is fine.” (more laughter) There’s nothing really to panic about, as long as you can handle it.
Holt: If you come to a show and the band doesn’t look like they’re enjoying what they’re doing, why would you have fun? And we have fun!
Part II of our full group interview is coming soon, so keep an eye on this space for that one, plus many other in-depth FoghatStories to come —
all of which are the precursors for the officially authorized Foghat biography by author Mike Mettler that we currently have in the works! Stay tuned!!