June 11, 2009

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Slow ride
Foghat is still going strong
By Katie Beth Ryan music@hippopress.com

Growing up on Michigan’s western shore, Charlie Huhn listened to only one type of music: English blues-rock, perfected by groups like Led Zeppelin, The Who and Foghat, the band that he now leads. After a career spent playing with Ted Nugent, Victory and Humble Pie, Huhn joined Foghat in 2000 after the death of “Lonesome Dave” Peverett, and has recorded and toured with the group ever since. Foghat just released a live CD, Live at the Blues Warehouse, and will record a new album this year that will pay homage to the group’s blues roots. In the midst of a busy summer touring season, they’ll make a stop with special guest Tony V. at the Palace Theatre on Sunday, June 14, for Children and Family Services of New Hampshire’s Concerts for the Cause series. The Hippo recently spoke with Huhn about his band’s rich blues and classic-rock legacy, and the new projects Foghat has in store.

Back when you were starting out, were you a Foghat fan?
Oh, sure. In fact, I was listening to Foghat before they were Foghat. They came from a band called Savoy Brown from England. They were a tremendous blues and boogie band …. That first Foghat LP was a main staple in my rock and roll diet. They really rocked out these blues songs so well, and Dave Shaiman was just awesome. And Rod Price’s slide playing of course was kind of groundbreaking, because he had this really wild blues style, wide vibratos and things, that really caught your ear. So yeah, they were a big part of my English blues listening. From the late ’60s, Great Britain produced so many great blues rock bands that … I really enjoyed hearing. I enjoyed Hendrix and Johnny Winter and maybe a couple of other American bands, but mostly I was into English rock.

What will be different about this summer’s tour than in years past?
This year, we’re getting off to a slower start. I think it’s due to the economic situation. We had an unusual amount of dates booked and then cancelled. Fortunately, we’ve been able to get other dates to replace the canceled ones. It’s just kind of a trend that we’re seeing, and I think it’s across the whole business scope. We have plenty of work, and we’ll be happy to get out and play the shows. We’re promoting the Live at the Blues Warehouse right now. That was a CD we released because last year we recorded at this little studio at the Mark Klein radio show on Long Island — the performance, the music just bounced off of the machine … it was just amazing. We decided we should put this out. We were just so happy. We didn’t know what it was going to sound like. Listening back, it was really great. We’re putting that out this year, and we’re also going to put out a studio blues LP. Actually it’s going to have two new blues songs that we’re writing at the moment, and new covers of favorite old blues songs of ours. Plus a bunch of the old Foghat blues tunes we’ve been playing over the millennia. This is the year of the blues for us.

How well do you think that Foghat’s songs from the era have stood the test of time?
Well, I attribute that to great writing and great performance. Just like a lot of the other classic rock songs and groups …. I think Foghat came out of an era where there were so many musicians and so much competition that it … inspired so much great music that it’s even enjoyed today by the young kids because it’s standing the test of time. Not only Foghat, but all of the other classic rock music, the high-energy stuff, blues-influenced rock music. It was such a great era, because there were so many people and they were writing, because of the baby boom generation. That’s my opinion at least. I’ve thought about this for years. They had me all mesmerized. I was at Woodstock and I used to go to every concert I could growing up in the Midwest, I’d have to drive from Grand Rapids to Detroit or to Chicago to see shows, because we didn’t get hardly anything. All I went to see was English blues-rock bands, from Led Zeppelin to Ten Years After to Foghat. Yeah, I was all over Foghat when that first album came out because of their ability to really rock the old blues songs, their interpretation.

At the same time, you’ve continued to produce newer material. How are your longtime fans responding to the new songs?
The sound and outlook of the band is pretty much the same, because of the solid rhythm section, the drum and bass that really form the backbone, and the guitars and vocals kind of fit over that. When you have that solid foundation, it keeps a common thread throughout the years of what the band sounds like. Just listening to Roger’s drumming, it almost says Foghat all over it, because of his style. What we do is that we just keep writing in a blues-influenced rock way … it’s what we like to do and people want to hear new material. You don’t want to get boring. We like to stay busy, and so it’s what we do…. And from the reviews that we get on our product, everything’s been fine. It would be nice to be able to get a charting single, but it’s very different for a classic rock group to get that kind of attention when it’s such a young person’s media these days. We just play shows mostly for our income. We don’t rely on record sales or charting singles anymore to push our careers. And that’s kind of the way that the trend is for musicians. You enjoy your heyday, and then things mellow out. Only a very, very small few survive to be able to sell contemporary product and chart. It’s just kind of the nature of the beast. But yeah, we like to stay busy and it’s enjoyable for us to get back into the studio and dust everything else and go ahead and start rocking again.

You came on board after the band lost Lonesome Dave, one of its founding members. How did the band emerge from that event?
It was a total re-establishing effort, because suffering a big loss like that is difficult, no matter what business you’re in. I had a tough job, but I’ve been used to that. It was mostly just going out and reestablishing the group … and winning over the fan base, which is really huge. It’s amazing. It really shocks me. At one show in Chicago, there were 25,000 people there. I was playing in Humble Pie for 11 years before that. We did mostly clubs and a few festivals, but the fan base just wasn’t there like it was for Foghat. I was just shocked. And it’s been like that ever since. Since I got in the band, there have been no bad reviews. I’m elated about that, but I like to push myself and set goals all the time. I think Lonesome Dave is smiling down on us.

What’s been the common thread in the band in spite of the lineup changes?
First of all, if you’re a true musician, you like to get out and play, because you enjoy that type of work, making music. And if you’re good enough to be able to make money at it and sell records, it’s even better. That’s basically the foundation of Foghat. They’re all players, and so am I, so is Bryan [Bassett, who replaced Rod Price]. That’s fundamentally the requirement you need and that’s what Foghat was. They were hard-working. They were the hardest working band in the ’70s. They played more shows than everybody. Bar none, they were just always working, working, working, and that’s what they loved to do. That’s a common thread as far as work goes. We talked about the style of Foghat before, and that has been perpetuated because that’s the style. You don’t change your style or you lose your following. It’s kind of a no-brainer. We all like to go play. this past winter, when Roger had an accident … it took four months to recover, but he was out exercising with a broken shoulder and had to be told to just kind of calm down, because he wanted to be in good shape to get out and play again. That’s just another example of the fundamental mindset of a musician that likes to play.

What’s up next for Foghat?
We had a live double CD that was put out a couple of years ago, called “Live 2.” That did pretty well. It sounds awesome. That was to bring out new material that had Craig McGregor on bass. He got back into the band in 2005 and we’re just so happy to have him back. This Live at the Blues Warehouse is something that we recorded a year ago for the Long Island, N.Y., radio show. We were so happy with the outcome and the sound of it that we decided to put it out this year. Later this year, we’ll put out the studio blues CD.

For the record, what is the origin of the name Foghat?
That was coined during a Scrabble game. Lonesome Dave had some letters that he wanted to play, and he played on the word “foghat,” and I guess the name stuck.


Foghat
Who: Foghat with special guest Tony V.
Where: The Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Sunday, June 14, at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $39, with proceeds benefiting Child and Family Services of New Hampshire. Tickets can be purchased at 668-5588 or at www.palacetheatre.org