Pulse talks to Canned Heat
Canned Heat had their first hit On The Road Again back in 1968. For the most part we talked about the blues, but drummer Fito de la Parra and I also talked about why the band isn't willing to record anymore.
Here's our chat:
You guys were innovators of blues and have been credited as bringing it to the wider world - how does that feel?
We still innovate the music today. It feels good but it should feel even better. We were the band that made it palitable for white audiences. It was kind of our goal to make blues music world recognised, just like jazz.
But we never got that recognition because many people think that Stevie Ray Vaughn is the one who brought it out. Of course the blues scene grew and it all became really politicised.
A lot of things happened at the time but they were all babies when we were doing it.
It's just like politics really and it all got a little bit over done. Every town and every club had the blues.
This is wonderful, but we all have to pay our dues to get there.
Was it hard?
Of course it was hard. A lot of people didn't know about the blues and didn't understand it. Most promoters were afraid of the blues.
This blues festival is a new thing which has only happened in the last 15 years. People refused to acknowledge it.
Tell me about boogie blues...
There is the blues and there is the boogie. The boogie is the up beat.
It's actually an old black slang for fornicating but we didn't use it in that sense.
When we say come on and boogie it is used in the sense of enjoying the music. It's the happy side of the blues.
Then there's the blues which is a state of mind that reflects on life and comes out through the music.
Why did the blues mean so much to you?
I guess because it captured our soul and our minds. Before that we were all listening to pop music.
Everyone was listening to Elvis Presley as we heard more and more music we realised it was derived from black artists and musicians of our era.
The thing about this music is that once you really get into blues music you never go back to pop music.
We liked it because it made us feel good. It's so primitive. Now when you hear the blues it's a relief.
Everyone who tries to play the blues has the best intentions. I don't want to put down the others; that's not valid.
Do you consider yourself a blues purest?
Absolutely not. We loved the country blues with rock and roll. We've always accepted the other influences in our music. We never wanted to play straight blues.
Well Canned Heat - the first album was straight blues that was a lot of covers, but all the other albums we tried to bring our own twist on it.
Is this as close to the Woodstock line-up as you can get?
Absolutely. There's three members of the Woodstock band playing; Larry (Taylor) and Harvey (Mandel). I don't think this line-up has ever played in Australia before.
Is there a different vibe in the band now?
Not really. We have our moments. But the music is very good.
This particular line-up got back together in 2009 for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.
All the current groups of Woodstock got back together in 2009 and we just kept going.
It was the heroes of Woodstock, those that are still alive. I've been carrying the band for the last 42 years.
Some of them came back over the years but this line-up has just been for the Woodstock celebrations and we've been doing it for the past two years.
We've done six European tours and a lot of big festival type concerts since then.
Are there any plans to release new material in the future?
We've talked about it but we haven't acted on it. It's terrible the state the music industry is in.
Record companies don't want to put any money into it. So for all the money and the effort you get nothing at the end.
People are just downloading it for free that's why we haven't done anything new.
We do have 40 CDs of canned heat music. So that's a substantial legacy of music for people who do want to listen to our stuff. To record new music it's almost not worth it.
Are your albums still selling now?
It's not like in the past but they do sell some. We have a fan base that is 80 years old and fans that are 10 years old. Basically we count on them and on our live shows. We're not a part of the music establishment anymore - it's all alien to us now.
You've been to Australia around 15 times already - how does it feel to be coming out for Bluesfest this year?
We're very happy to be back again for the blues festival and the other dates too.