New music and artistry from the founding guitarist of Heart

Archive for March 2008

Q&A – Who were your influences?

Dear Roger,

Who were your influences (bands, guitarist, etc.) when you were young?

Thanks!

One of my first “Golden Moments,” the phenomenon that happens when you’re struck to the core of your being by a lightning bolt of pure magic, was putting on a 45 RPM vinyl single of You Send Me by Sam Cooke. I sat there on the floor, playing it over and over, swept away, goose bumps from head to toes.

The very first Golden Moment I’ll never forget. I believe it was 1953 and I was, having been born in 1950, three years old. Only mom and I were home, and she and I walked out into the yard on a beautiful Spring morning. Seattle at that time was still small, and hadn’t displaced wildlife yet. Mom and I were greeted by the chorus of thousands of birds – a tumultuous, yet perfectly interwoven symphony of melody, joy and celebration. If one has a feeling for what heaven would be like, equate that with the way this music made me feel.

Another was the first time I heard All Shook Up, by Elvis. Wow! Brother Mike and I went around singing “Amashaka” all day:-) In second grade I made my public singing debut standing on a desk in the front of the classroom singing Hound Dog. Don’t Be Cruel, Love Me Tender, and Jailhouse Rock also rocked my world.

Mom and dad always had the radio on in the morning and I remember loving Mr. Sandman, by Pat Ballard; Yakety Yak, by the Coasters; Honeycomb, by Jimmie Rodgers; Let The Good Times Roll, by Shirley and Lee; Be-Bop-A-Lula, by Gene Vincent; Blueberry Hill, by Fats Domino; It’s Only Make Believe, by Conway Twitty; Chantilly Lace, by the Big Bopper; Rock-In Robin, by Bobby Day; So Fine, by The Fiestas; Sea Cruise, by Frankie Ford; Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home), by The Impalas, and generally being uplifted by most music. I’ve always been grateful that mom and dad loved music and started the day with it.

Talking about these good ol’ days caused me to remember the first song I composed, a commercial for Schick electric shavers. I performed it at 8 years of age to an audience of thousands… of frogs at a nearby pond. Their roaring croaks of unanimous approval were encouraging.

One of my all-time favorites is Come Softly To Me, written, arranged and performed by Gretchen Christopher with The Fleetwoods, which was the biggest selling song of 1959.

I was on a Los Angeles-bound jet in the mid ’90’s when I became aware of an attractive lady sitting a few seats behind and across the aisle. There was a tone in her voice and friendliness and outgoing quality which immediately mesmerized me. I went back, introduced myself, and a friendship began that lasts to this day. It was Gretchen. I’ve been very privileged to have performed the song live with her several times since.

When I was in 8th grade I met Steve Fossen and we became instant friends. I remember seeing “The Beatles Are Coming” written on someone’s notebook cover. Steve told me who they were and that they were great. My first memory of experiencing them was watching their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. It was THE Golden Moment! Absolutely thrilled to my soul… riveted as time stood still… being changed forever by a force that must have been divine intervention. They went on to be the biggest musical influence of my life, as I know they were also many others’.

Of course I loved the Stones; The Kinks; Gerry And The Pacemakers; Lovin’ Spoonful; Beachboys; The Ventures; ahh, the list goes on and on.

Guitarists in particular who drove me were: Scotty Moore; Jim McCarty; Howard Roberts; Nokie Edwards; John Lennon; George Harrison; Paul McCartney (Paul played several of The Beatles’ solos, including Taxman); Eric Clapton; Jimmy Page; Jeff Beck, to name a few.

Louie Armstrong, Victor Borge, and Buddy Guy are some of my favorite live performers.

Jimi… Jimi!

Q&A – Ever since childhood people have told me I’m crazy.

Rog,

Wow what a privilege!

First of all thanks for all the great music past and present. It must be a truly awesome feeling to have your music spread around the world and provide so much for so many. You saw monetary reward (at least you better have!)…but I’m sure it pales.

RF: It really is a great feeling to know at any given moment, thousands of people are hearing my guitar playing.

Yes, the money has been good. The nice thing is it frees up time so I can keep working on art.

I grew up on Vancouver Island as a kid in the 70’s and your band’s music was so on that soundtrack. Barracuda blasting out the carny’s stereo speakers as I spun pulling 3g’s on the Gravitron at the fall fair…oh ya. And then the other day my 12 year old — the same age I was then — cranks up the volume when that same tune drifts out of my car radio…what a cool song Dad! Oh ya son — tres cool. We rock out.

Thanks for helping make those moments.

RF: It’s amazing – the magic behind music… how it is capable of bringing memories of places, events, and feelings. One of my favorite all-time songs is Beyond The Sea by Bobby Darin. It was one of my brother, sister, and my “ocean songs.” When we would go to the ocean as kids each summer, certain songs were pure magic for us.

You’ve been like this enigma for me. Your tone and choice of notes is so distinct..a true signature sound…brilliant and beautiful. And at the same time so intimidating and aggressive to me both musically (I play a bit) and as a personality — like this guy sounds like he could be one intense mf…back then

RF: Ever since childhood people have told me I’m crazy. I think it’s because I’m enigmatic – which to me means I know the wisdom behind my craziness and choose not to hide it like most people – creating the mystery in people’s minds, “Wow, he sure is different from other people.” To me, it’s important to recognize and embrace the differences and wackiness and let it come through in one’s signature style.

Now I read your post from a few days ago about going to the desert (metaphorically speaking) as a very young man and making this really deep spiritual choice..at the cross roads so to speak. And a part of me goes holy shit…here it is in the raw — that once again it seems this sound and creativity really does spark from something somewhere deep within each one of us — as we all know it does…or think we do…maybe :) But if nothing else, here’s someone who has made it his life’s work to throw this whatever-it-is out there for the rest of us to behold…as art…in the best way that he can. It’s just great you can share that Roger…it really is…especially when it is so deeply personal. I just wanted to thank you for doing that as it has answered something for me…which is also pretty fucking personal! lol

RF: Hundreds of feet underground, running through France and Switzerland, is a circular, 17-mile-long tunnel containing a particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider. One of its purposes is to identify something called the God particle – something which, after it occurs, lasts less than a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. This particle is named thus because it is believed to exist, but no one has ever seen it.

If you ask a major artist where and how they get the inspiration that makes them create greatness, they won’t be able to tell you. It’s the God particle.

I watch recent youtube clips of you today and you’re like this totally different guy. Happy, laughing…a cool cat…in a good way. And I wonder how and when (and if!) this shift occurred. And I wonder how a shift like that might affect one’s art…if at all…? And I wonder if a part of you felt denied by choosing the path you did so early in your life’s journey.

RF: Generally, I’ve always been happy, so there has been no real shift. My art has certainly shifted, but the source of creativity is the same. There have been times when I’ve observed, “This sure isn’t a holy path… or enlightening… or healthy,” but I don’t regret going this route. It makes for a good story :-)

ps – early Heart vid’s show this funky symbol on the drum kit — what’s the deal?

RF: I’ll ask Derosier its significance. The answer could take a while to get up here.

Q&A – Change in direction

My Heart questions:

Were there any discussions about the change in direction the band took going from the riff-heavy “Little Queen” LP to the “Dog and Butterfly” LP and subsequently the “Bebe Le Strange” LP or did these albums just take their course as a result of the songwriting that was taking place?

RF: When the writing for Dog And Butterfly began, our musical and personal relationship had begun to be more strained. There had been a point while recording Little Queen where I mentally and spiritually quit the band, based on decisions being made which, to me, were not done for the right reasons. What I saw that bothered me so much was the power struggle beginning.

While I think the songs I wasn’t welcome to play on on the D&B album are great, they certainly don’t represent a band. I felt I was being slowly worked out of the lineup. This was a very difficult time for me, as one can imagine.

Are there many unreleased tracks still in the vault and will we see any of this stuff come out anytime soon?

RF: Not that I know of.

I applaud your brother’s extremely clear vision of the band and its music. It’s very obvious to me that he intuitively knew what fans wanted and how to deliver it. I feel that if Heart had stayed on it’s “Little Queen” track (more Zep influenced) that the band would have kept getting more popular. Especially given what was happening in the rest of the music industry at the time.

RF: I agree with you, and appreciate your insight to Heart’s “7th member.”

If Ann and Nance could have teamed up with some of the stuff I wrote after leaving, I have no doubt it would have been huge. Derosier and I created some of the highest energy rock I’ve ever heard, and no one else has heard it. I still have these tapes, and if I were Ann, I’d call me and check it out. I know she could put vocals on there that would awaken the dead :-)

If Heart were reformed, imagine the money we could generate to help victims of disaster! Not only could we help victims – we could help in disaster preparedness, even more valuable. I’m amazed at how little people seem to know about what is about to happen to life on this planet. The possibility exists – and this is supported by historical evidence – that a mass extinction could occur within decades. The combined resources and efforts of humankind could do a lot to counteract this, but only if we were able to put away our weapons and adversity and work together, which is the same thing a broken band could do to make a difference, not only in physical applications, but as a demonstration of personal greatness.

I don’t mean to be campaigning for a Heart reunion… that’s not my intention. I am campaigning for every living human to put away the qualities that have always brought mankind down and find a way to help the whole.

I wish you and your family the best in the future and I’m looking forward to your upcoming autobiography.

RF: Thanks so much. You have no idea how much your involvement means to me. I treasure this intercourse with the people who are responsible for music’s popularity.

Q&A – Lessons or self taught?

Rog,

I hope there is no limit to questions to be asked. I do want to give other people a chance to chime in. Before I ask my next question, I would like to say something. Any one who thinks you are a piece of crap should take a good look in the mirror. We ALL make mistakes in life.

Imagine if forgiveness reigned. The smiles, fun and endless possibilities all of us could have. Instead, some choose to be bitter, making them cold, ugly and only hurting themselves. That’s not anyone’s fault but their own.

The Petra video/song you have on your web site, I watched that. THAT’S Roger Fisher. The contributions you made to Heart making it one of the super groups of the seventies, THAT’S Roger Fisher. Your wife, kids and projects, THAT’S Roger Fisher. NOT past mistakes! Nuf said.

Now, to my question;

When you started learning to play guitar, did you take lessons or are you self taught?

Thanks!

Yep… self taught. Actually, I consider all the great guitarists I was listening to and spending countless hours copying, my teachers.

For the first two years of my playing, there were many days of practicing for eight hours… chromatic scales, and things which had little bearing on music… and I wasn’t using all my fingers – just thumb, one, two, and three. I suddenly came to the realization I’d been learning – etching into my muscle memory – wrong habits. When I began a wiser approach, it was like starting all over again and I agonized through the process until I had a foundation that made more sense. If I’d had a teacher, a lot of time would not have been wasted.

Now, I would advise a beginning guitarist to acquire a basic understanding of theory – how chords are structured; basic scales and how to use them; hearing and feeling the various emotive qualities of modes. Then I would choose one artist to focus on. Learn one song by that person. Copy it absolutely exactly, channeling the soul from which it came. When that one song is mastered, learn a few more, then choose a different artist.

The most important ingredient in this work may be honesty, because the aspiring student knows when they’ve got it right, but it’s a struggle that takes a lot of time and tenacity. The beauty of being young is you have a lot of time, generally, and mom and dad’s roof over your head. You probably don’t have a job yet and your dreams haven’t had time to erode or be squashed. Go for it with everything you’ve got and it probably won’t be enough.

There are certain ingredients that need to be discovered by living, looking and learning. An important one is inside you. Who are you? Why do you cry? Why do you matter in this world? If you reached success, would it be all about you, or would you retain humility and think of how you can give back? Your greatest strength may be your very soul. Are you aware of the deepest you? Some of these people you’re listening to know their soul. That’s why their playing thrills you.

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