INTERVIEW: Fito De L'a Parra (CANNED HEAT)
Levi: You've been making music for over 6 decades now, do you have a favorite?
Fito: I guess my favorite decade would be ... I guess from the late 50s to the late 60s. It was the advent of rock and roll in my life, in my generation.
Levi: Do you think rock and roll and blues music was more exciting then than it is now?
Fito: There is music made in the 50s that is absolutely fantastic, especially in the rhythm and blues style. The rhythm and blues and blues music that was made then, it's incompatible. Of course we changed it a little bit when we grabbed it and adopted it as our music. Not only us, The Rolling Stones did the same thing, and many of us. Hendrix and all that. It was all based on the music that we were listening when we were kids, and that was late 40s and early 50s rhythm and blues. I still think that music is invaluable. It's one of the greatest musics ever made.
Levi: Oh, for sure. You were even lucky enough to have played Woodstock in '69. I've been to a few festivals like the Blues Fest (Byron Bay), which is a lot of blues and rock and whatnot music. How similar are the festivals now to Woodstock? Are they similar?
Fito: Oh no, absolutely not. They can try. They can try to make another Woodstock, but they'll never be able to repeat that, because the Woodstock event was mainly a people event. It was not even a financial success. It just happened. The people just made it happen alongside the bands. The bands that were there, the movement of what's just been created in the west coast, in San Francisco and Los Angeles, was just starting to hit the east coast too, and that's a reflection of that. Of course the east coast is more populated, New York is a huge city, so all the people of New York and the area went up the country to the Catskill Mountains to attend the Woodstock Festival. That's an experience that can never be repeated. They have tried to repeat it.
We have played already 2 or 3 anniversaries of Woodstock, and actually the 10th anniversary was pretty good, very nice, but they were just big concerts. They didn't have the experience. That will never be repeated.
Levi: Yeah, and you're kind of lucky because you've been in music so long, you've been able to see genres of music emerge. What did you think when past the 60s music started to get a bit heavier and go in different directions? What did you think of Punk Rock and Heavy Metal when bands like Black Sabbath and The Sex Pistols came out? Did you like those sort of bands?
Fito: Well I really liked the heavy metal bands and the speed metal bands. We have played several festivals that were only heavy metal bands. Among the heavy metal and speed metal culture, they see Canned Heat as one of their roots. One of the bands that influenced their playing.
Levi: For sure.
Fito: They could have grabbed other bands, but they decided to grab us. It's probably because of the influence on our guitar players, our main guitar players Henry Vestine, and Harvey Mandel. You can tell that Harvey and Henry are the fathers of the speed metal and heavy metal approach to guitar playing. That's the reason that I like those bands. Some of them are magnificent, they are great, they are tight, they are powerful. I've seen them live, and that's all I can say. We are part of the same brotherhood, even if we are not doing the same thing.
Levi: Yeah, when big genres of music came out, like for instance Disco in the 70s, did you ever think of trying to incorporate that style into your music because it was popular?
Fito: The record companies and the management will always try to push us to do that, and try to do projects that will have a little bit of disco beat, and all this stupid shit that they used to make us do. Canned Heat was always a hardcore blues band, country blues band with a touch of rock. That's basically what Canned Heat has always been, but in those times, after the explosion of the 60s and the advent of the disco craze, nobody wanted to hear me play blues music. Nobody wanted to hear live bands. Lives bands were out of work. Most of them were out of work because of the disco craze, and the beginning of the degeneration in music, with the hard drugs and all that. Of course later on, thank God the heavy metal thing came in. What you were saying about the punk rock is, you know the punk rock is a different approach than the heavy metal approach, okay.
The punk rock was more like the anti-music. In a way they were saying, "We are just going to play real hard and real powerful, and we are not going to try to be big forces like Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, or the Canned Heat guys. You know what I mean? It's a different approach. I'm not as into it with the punk rock thing as I am with the heavy metal and the speed metal, because those guys I've seen them play, and they impress me.
Listen below for the full chat...