ROCK NEWSLETTER October 1999
CANNED HEAT STILL ON THE ROAD AND BOOGYING INTO 2000
An Exclusive Interview With Drummer Adolfo ‘Fito’ De La Parra
Canned Heat has had a busy year in ’99. The band is set to make their 5th trip to Europe, as well they have a new ‘tell all’ book out called “Living The Blues” by Fito De La Parra, and a brand new album aptly titled “Boogie 2000”! The album is a brilliant mix of the blues, boogie, jazz and rock. Favorite tracks include “Wait And See” [an old Fats Domino tune] which is a catchy r & b number that bounces along steadily, and is accompanied by flute and sax. “World Of Make Believe” is a slower paced blues/latin track with some great guitar leads and organ, a cool song reminiscent of the old days. And “Searchin For My Baby” is a 50s styled jazz/blues ballad which features an incredible vocal from Robert Lucas, and brilliant harmonies, organ, and Fito’s drums that pace the thing so smoothly. Boogie 2000 was produced by the legendary Skip Taylor, and is available on Ruf Records. I recently spoke with Fito regarding the new album, the book, the current state of Canned Heat, and music in general, he was a pleasure to speak with and an honor, and I wish the band well with their new album! For more info on the band and how to obtain CDs and other items check out their web site www.cannedheatmusic.com.
Q: I learned alot from the web site. I didn’t know about the book?
Fito: Have you seen the book?
Q: No, just on the web. When did that come out?
F: I finished with the book about 6 months ago, and this is the first edition we printed. It’s doing very well. I’m getting alot of good reaction, and good reviews… everyone except my ex-wife! Ha ha.
Q: It’s a “tell all” then?
F: I’m not going to tell you what I have to say, but I’m going to tell you what other people say. They say this is the best biography of a rock n’ roll band / musician they’ve ever read! They say that because it’s very honest, and it doesn’t pull any punches. It’s very personal.
Q: How long did you work on that for?
F: 5 years. That’s a long project.
Q: Did you always keep notes?
F: We kept notes, we did interviews, we had to organize it chronologically. We had to talk to other people to confirm what I was saying, and make sure the dates were right because you know – it’s hard to go through all the history and remember all the details etc. And we did transcribes, and we called writers – We had professional writers. But eventually I think we came up with something a bit different than most other autobiographies you’ll see. This one’s more real.
Q: There’s alot of them out right now , so it’s a good time…..
F: Well, there’s still always biographies on stars and bands and it’s sometimes written by themselves and sometimes written by their fans. But most of them, the ones I see at least, are pretty much like they’re talking about how good it was and all the great people they knew, and where they played, and it’s mainly canonization, but nobody really talks about the real shit — the tragedies, their is a real dark side to the music business, and in that Canned Heat are a very ill-fated band, and we had plenty of it, so I put it all there.
Q: Now the new album…… The lead off single [the first song] is the one that catches everyone’s attention right away.
F: It is amazing – that first song – how we did it. I got to tell you I think it is amazing that the first time we ever played, not only the first time we ever recorded. I mean went into the studio, Larry played the song once for us on the guitar, he said “I have an idea – it comes from a Fats Domino song”. It’s a very obscure Fats Domino song, doesn’t have a piano in it, and that I always liked. And he played a few bars of it, and I said “Let’s give it a try.” So we started playing it, and Skip Taylor rolled the tape anyway knowing us and knowing our character, he figured ‘I’m gonna roll the tape and maybe we’ll nail it in the first one.’ And we did! Amazing! We had never even heard the tune, and the first time we played it… well we didn’t even know he was recording! And then we tried it seriously recording it 2 or 3 other times, and then we said ‘hey – the first one’s the one!’.
Q: Well, if radio was into the 70s this could definitely be a hit!
F: Well, there are places where they still like that kind of style. It’s actually 50s if you really wanna look at it because it’s a Fats Domino song. But it’s doing well in England, it’s on the charts in England, and it’s getting air-play all over America too.
Q: You guys do a good cross section of stuff here like with the 50s harmonies, and the blues stuff, and the boogie stuff and such. What went into the album as far as planning and that?
F: Well, we knew we had to make a new album after Henry Vestine’s death – who was our lead guitar player for many years. I decided to continue the band despite us having 3 deaths already. And Larry came to me, and Larry has been our bass player all the time, and he says ‘I want to play some guitar’, and I know he’s a good guitar player, he played great guitar on a couple of songs in the past. So I said ‘well let’s try and do an album where you playing guitar, and let’s assemble a unit with you and Robert [Lucas]’. And we assembled a unit, we rehearsed a bit – never too much. We went to Europe, we played a 6 week tour in Europe. And then we came home and decided to record stuff we were playing around with. I came out with a few ideas, and then we got together and did more ideas together, and Larry and Lucas did the rest.
Q: How do you guys put together the songs?
F: Well, some of them are inspired from old bands and old music like we have always done throughout our career, and some others were just created right there on the spot – like “Last Man” – that was created right there on the spot, and mixed by our producer Skip Taylor. Robert Lucas has several songs to his name, and he has had 7 CDs recorded before he joined Canned Heat 5 years ago. So 2 of the songs we put in there were songs he already had. And then also right there on the spot we did the Year 2000 blues – “2000 Reasons”. We figured there should be at least one song that talks about the year 2000!
Q: Do you guys do a lot of this stuff in the live show?
F: Yeah, we’ve been doing alot of it. We’ve been working very hard. We’ve done 4 European Tours this year, and we’ve done a couple of American Tours, and we’ve gone to Mexico twice, and I may say We really need to go to Canada. I think it’s been too long since we visited Canada!
Q: What songs stand out for you on the album?
F: Well of course I like “Wait And See”, and I like the last one “I’m So Tired”, and I like “I Got Loaded” and “Searchin For My Baby”.
Q: I like the harmonies on “Searchin’..” and I like the lyrics on “I Got Loaded”.
F: That’s an old 60s group too, the people who did the harmonies for us – Cannibal And The Headhunters. The only vocal group that I can think of that is not black and still sings rhythm and blues – just vocal.
Q: How do you think this album stands up to the earlier albums and, I guess, the ‘legacy’ of Canned Heat?
F: Well, they each have their own signature and their own personality. Some of them are more favorites than others. This one is doing very good. In my catalogue – it is one of my favorites. But then all the albums I got, I like. I wouldn’t do them if I didn’t like them; I wouldn’t release them. We don’t release stuff we don’t like. If you find stuff out there that sounds bad and somebody’s released it, then they did it without our approval – like some of the pirate shit I see around.
Q: You guys got quite a bit of stuff on the web site there, as far as new releases and related stuff. [Note by webmistress Gabi: They talk about the original Canned Heat website in the USA at www.cannedheatmusic.com here now, not about THIS one.]
F: The web site is basically has only stuff from the late 80s onward – not the old stuff! All that stuff is all controlled by big corporations like EMI and Warner Brothers. And they continue to rip us off, and they don’t pay us for it, and they control all that old stuff. If it was up to me I would eliminate everything from Canned Heat from 1990 and before, but it is not up to me. So all that classic stuff and that – we do not collect royalties off of. When you read my book, you’ll find out how it happened and how the story is. So the stuff you see on the web site is basically the stuff we’ve done in the past 10 years and the only stuff that we really control and that we get royalties off of. I would not put on my web site stuff that I do not make any money off. [Note by Gabi: I thought someone has to collect as much info as possible of the Canned Heat, like I try to do here. It would be sad to “ignore” the first 25-30 years – Especially new fans should get a fair chance to learn what all this great band has done in music history.]
Q: Understood. The line-up that is on this album and that is touring, how long has it been together?’
F: This line-up has looked the same about 5 years old. But even this line-up has had a few changes. The line-up, or this particular personality of the band started when Robert Lucas came in. Robert Lucas is our singer / frontman, and that was about 5 years ago. Now, because we lost Henry Vestine – our lead guitar player in ’97, Larry Taylor is playing guitar, and Greg [Kage] is playing the bass, but Larry also played bass for many years with us. We can consider this line-up 5 years old and just reaching it’s peak.
Q: So in that 5 years you guys have basically just been doing alot of touring!?
F: Yes, we’ve been working very hard, and we’ve been managing to produce 2 or 3 CDs.
Q: How’s the Canned Heat fan base – as far as the people that come out to your shows. Do you find that you get any younger fans or do you get alot of the…..
F: Fortunately, I am happy to report to you that a great percentage of our fans are very young. And I consider for a young person to come to a Canned Heat concert – I consider that an act of rebellion, because these are kids that aren’t eating all the shit that MTV and the techno world is giving them. They are looking for something that has a little more heart, and more humanity. They’re looking for music that is played by people, and as I said, it has emotion and heart, and they’re not going to find that in all the techno shit. So kids that come to see us and ask us stuff about guitars and drums, and I just love it when I see that, it gives me hope in future generations. For a while I was very disappointed in where the music was going; where the yuppies, and attorneys, business people, and accountants have put music. You see they are the ones that control the music – the corporations and the commercialism. And when I see young people interested in the blues, interested in an instrument as an art – then I have great hope for the future.
Q: How do you feel about the Blues scene right now?
F: The blues has never been very big. Right now the blues is bigger than it ever was. There are Blues Societies all over the place, there are several blues magazines, and there are several blues clubs. That is great, but that still doesn’t make the Blues that big. It’s just bigger than it’s ever been, but also at the same time the blues doesn’t get as big as Madonna or Michael Jackson. There is no blues artist that will ever sell the amount of records that pop artists sell, but in the same token the blues does not disappear. And you can continue to be a practisor of the Blues until the end of your life. Like, if I was a pop artist at my age now , I would be washed up, I would be gone, because pop artists sell image. They don’t sell the real shit – the music, WE sell music! We can laugh, and we can out-live the trends.
Q: Well, most of the albums I bought last year were albums by bands that came out from 1969 onward in the 70s.
F: Well that’s what you like, and then there are people that don’t even want to know about any of that, they consider it dinosaur music, and that’s up to them. I’m not into the new music now, but I think there’s a lot of trash out there.
Q: What else are you guys doing to promote the album, aside from touring?
F: What we can do to promote the album is just to go out and show up at the gigs reasonably sober and things like that, and do the best we can. It’s basically more up to the record company to take the album as far as they want to take it. The record company is not a very big record company but they are doing a very good job. I am doing a lot of interviews, and creating a lot of momentum, not only because of the new CD, but because there’s time to give more value to people like ourselves that are still around. There’s not that many of us left. It was a very violent and tragic generation that did a lot of drugs and partied heavy and all that, and many of us died. So they’re starting to give value to us, and they call us ‘legends’ now. And it’s the turn of the century, and also the advent of the book is helping alot! So there’s the book and the CD and all this momentum happening. We are doing better now than we’ve done in 25 years, at least.
Q: What do you have planned for the Millennium, and the future after this?
F: Well, one of the things I just turned down was an offer to play with John Lee Hooker. It really hurt me, because John’s a good friend of mine, and I’d love to play with him. He called me up and asked me to drum for him on New Year’s Eve, and I had to say no because we actually have 2 excellent gigs which we just booked here in Los Angeles.
Q: What are you listening to these days?
F: I’m listening to Rob Reo [sp?] – who’s an excellent piano player, and I’m listening to the new Dr. Feelgood album [Note by Gabi, who passed on the album to Fito: Visit the Official Dr Feelgood Website]. Some kid from Texas who just sent me a CD called the “Dick Mitchells Band”, and I enjoy it, they are very new. As far as pop and radio stuff – I don’t think I would listen to any of that right now.
Q: Do you listen to alot of the older stuff still?
F: Well I like to listen stuff that is old, but I also like to listen to stuff that is going to educate me a little bit, including jazz and classical music. And another thing I’m doing right now is dedicating myself to Latin music. I think there is great future in it. And it’s now time for the first world to discover that. And they’re doing a great job with that, especially with like Ry Cooder who has brought up some great artists from Cuba – they call them the “Beuna Vista Dancing Club”, and Ry Cooder went to Cuba and discovered these guys that are in their 70s or 80s but they are all excellent musicians, and he is bringing them around the world, and they are an absolute hit. They are very famous here now, and in Europe – they’ve been playing at alot of the same gigs we have. They are all over the place, I don’t even know how they do it at this age. So that is one of the thing’s that is happening and I think there is great future for Latin music in general. Latin music has what I said before, Latin music has heart, emotion, and it has a beat. And that is what we’re looking for. We want to find something that is human, and makes us feel something. It’s like the blues – it’s music with roots. There is value in all kinds of music, and there has always been good musicians out there. There have been trends that I don’t agree with. I think when MTV came on 20 years ago it started another thing in music. It made it more visual and less musical. But finally, as I said, MTV being the dominant force in music – which it was for many years unfortunately, now is only one branch of the music. They only represent one thing. It’s like a tree with many branches, and like I said – you have to listen to all of it and learn from all of it.
Q: What you like to be remembered as with Canned Heat? The legacy!?
F: A band that never sold out. A band that was held by their integrity and principals.
Q: Are you familiar with Uriah Heep?
F: Yes. I like them very much. We don’t know them personally, we played a couple of gigs together. But I like their brand of rock n roll. It’s not all my type, it’s a bit too rocky for me, but I like what they do. I’ve heard some of their songs, and they are fantastic. They are a great band, and they are also from our era; they are a bit younger than us, but they are from our era, and they did a lot of stuff that deserves recognition and value.
Q: Strangely Mick Box had asked me about your new album, because he’s into the blues and stuff too.
F: Yeah, most of the guitar players of those rock bands they like blues. Even if they don’t play blues in their own band they have to have something they can relate to, and it goes way back, again to the roots of the tree. For example when I talk to rock n rollers who care what Elvis did or what Bill Haley did – they don’t even want to hear it, and I get disgusted. You have to recognize the masters; you have to recognize who started this whole thing. Rock n roll did not start with The Beatles, and some of them believe that, and it makes me sick, it’s like chopping 10 years out of the history of music just out of ignorance.
[Talk on upcoming tour dates and Fito’s wishes to come back to play in Canada ensues Thank you’s and good-byes………..].
Canned Heat has a number of gigs coming up before year’s end, including in California, Florida, and Europe [the band’s 5th trip this year!]. You can find their gig listings at their official web site, as well as order CDs, and Fito’s book “Living The Blues”.
(Sent from C.H. manager Skip Taylor. Source: Universal Wheels – Rock Newsletters – October 1999 http://go.to/universalwheels)
Copyright © Kevin Julie (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)