The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world



'Fito' talks to The Rockpit about his love of the Blues and the Australian Tour...




Not many bands have been active as long as Canned Heat, the band that was named after a 1928 song by Tommy Johnson song hit 50 this year, and an awful lot has changed in the world of music since they famously were helicoptered into Woodstock…

Many thanks for talking to us today Fito, its Mark from The Rockpit calling, how are you this evening?


Fito: The Rock Pit… The Rock... Pit... boy that sounds good! Are you guys in a pit?


Mark: Yes, and you guys I guess are in a can!


Tumbleweeds blow through… but there’s traffic noise and Fito goes to close a window, I’m hoping that the silence was due to that rather than to inadvisably poor pun…


Fito: That’s better I can hear you now… (thankfully it was, and no one will ever know!)
Mark:  That’s great, and again thank you so much for talking to us today ahead of the Australian Tour… A lot has changed since 1965…

Fito: (Laughs) A lot of things have changed! But we don’t have all day to talk about them, so much has changed, what can I say, and I’m just happy to be around.


Mark:  Is there anything that’s got better?


Fito: (long pause) … Maybe the automobile?


Mark: (laughing) good answer! You’re coming over to Australia to play quite a few eastern State dates, it’s wonderful we get to see so much of you in October and November, but you don’t get over West did the offers not come?   


Fito: Well they did want us to play longer but really this was the maximum amount of time I wanted to play, we don’t do long tours anymore, we just get tired! We just get tired of travelling, the performance we enjoy – the music and the playing is not the problem, travelling is very hard, there are lots of restrictions and paranoia, it’s not the same as it used to be, after 9-11 the world changed and we all got affected by it. It’s an uptight thing, and besides that we are getting older, we’re not as strong as we used to be and able to put up with those nights without sleep, long hours waiting at airports and longer hours flying airplanes, that’s the difficult thing and that’s why we couldn’t agree to extend the tour. This was the maximum we could do.  


Mark: I know how you feel; I’ve done that LA to Sydney trip a good few times!  


Fito: Just imagine doing the travelling and then having to perform too! It’s very hard. We do it and we’re good at it, and we’ve been doing it for many years.



Mark: One of the questions we had was about the makeup of the band with Larry (Taylor – classic-era bassist) back performing live…


Fito: Yes Larry will be here, but sadly Harvey (Mandel – classic –era guitarist) sadly isn’t coming to Australia, he’s going through a series of operations, he’s been fighting cancer for two years now and he’s had 25 operations on his face and nose. He had cancer in the eyes, the brain and the nose.


Mark: Our prayers are with him. One of the most endearing things about Canned Heat is that mixture of great originals songs and the mix of Blues standards as well, I guess some of your best known songs are takes on some great classics, was that always a very important part of what you always wanted Canned Heat to be – introducing new listeners to the greats?


Fito: It was our great mission! Our mission in life was to introduce the world to Blues music. We wanted to make Blues music palatable and get it accepted by white audiences, a lot of promoters at the time were afraid of putting on Blues bands in their venues. It wasn’t really happening when we started and by taking the old country Blues songs and adapting them, changing lyrics here and there and being able to have hit records with them - that it was great!


Mark: And it’s wonderful that Blues is so popular today thanks to guys like you, it always comes back in cycles but never goes away, and that basic earthiness resonates with so many of us to this day.

Fito: It never disappears. It’s not a trend. It’s not like disco music! It’s a huge part of our culture, from America originally but now it’s been adopted by the whole world. And that we feel with great satisfaction as that was our mission. To educate and to make Blues music popular and now all over the world there are Blues festivals and Blues societies and Blues bands in just about every neighbourhood.


Mark: We have a little Blues club down from us here and to see the huge range of ages of people attending it’s heartening to see to younger people especially.

Fito: That’s great.


Mark: After so long what is it that still keeps you going as a musician? Is the love and the need still there like it was I the early days or has the mission changed somewhat over the years?

Fito: Well we have evolved, evolved in the way we treat our instruments, and the way we have developed our craft has changed. I pride myself that right now we are playing better than ever, and that contradicts the way you think about growth. We’re not like athletes, we’re more like doctors or lawyers, we ply their craft and develop and grow, and as they do their art develops and grows. So we approach music in a different way and most people lately have been very impressed with the way we are playing. So get ready Australia for a mature band that has been together for over half a century and we still have a strong message to transfer! We have a lot of original stuff people will like as well as the standards.


Mark: As someone who has played with so many great artists over the years as well as being the constant in Canned Heat for over 50 years, do you still have any unfulfilled musical ambitions? I mean as far as the places and events you have played it’s an unparalleled career, but is there something you’ve never had the chance to do?

Fito: No I cannot even think about that (laughs) I’m always overwhelmed about the things we do and the places we still play – I’m almost 70 years old for God’s sake! (laughs)  I never thought that I would be playing all these festivals to this day. I suppose I could use a little more recognition, I think after all these years my band for all that it has done has been a little underrated. Lie for example we are not part pf the Rock and Roll hall of fame, and I think we deserve to be in there, but there’s a lot of politics in music that gets in the way. So things like that would be nice, but as a whole I am more than satisfied from what I have got from this band and life and this whole musical experience.   


Mark: It’s been a great journey and it’s been wonderful to speak with you today. We just have one final question that we always ask everyone before they leave. It’s an easy one to close with – ‘What is the meaning of life?’


Fito: What is the meaning of life? Well I guess you have to do good! Do good and I don’t mean to be religious but “do to others what you would have them do to you”. And of course… enjoy! There is not such thing as happiness, but there are moments of happiness that you should dwell on while you have them.


Mark: Thank you so much for your time Fito, it’s great to see you back down under.

Fito: Thank you for your interest and come see us play we are going to be ‘kicking ass!’ Thank you.



'Fito' spoke to Mark Rockpit


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