September 6, 2018 Interview – Steve Fossen A Founding Member of Heart
When starting a Rock-n-Roll band, nearly everyone has hopes and aspirations of making it big. Often with the oddest not in every band’s favor, it takes a great deal of dedication, fortitude, and sacrifice to make it happen. Although, even then, there are no guarantees. Coming out of the Seattle, Washington area, a young, eager selection of musicians would come together to form a band they hoped would find success, that band was Heart.
Much like many bands from back in the day, Heart worked extremely hard to get noticed. Fortunately, it all paid off and the band would go on to make an impressive album debut in 1976 with the now classic Dreamboat Annie. A original core consisting of Ann and Nancy Wilson, along with Roger Fisher, Howard Leese, Steve Fossen, and Michael DeRosier, together they would be rightfully inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2013.
A feat only dreams are made of, original Bassist Steve Fossen and Drummer Michael DeRosier continue to celebrate their near decade long tenure with Heart, that lasted six studio albums, with their new band Heart by Heart. Dedicated to recreating the songs as they were initially recorded, Heart by Heart is Classic Rock at its finest. Excited to be out on the road performing, Fossen took the time to chat about the early days of Heart, the inspiration behind Heart by Heart, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll over 45 years now. A founding member of legendary band Heart, what has your experience in music been like?
Steve Fossen – When you start out, you have a lot of desire and energy to put into your craft. You just go for it and keep trying and trying. Every week there is something new you need to try. You just keep trying. Still, every week, there is something I learn on bass and music I didn’t know before. It just keeps going.
CrypticRock.com – You never stop learning! As mentioned, you were in fact a founding member of Heart, a part of the band’s lineup for nearly a decade and a part of six studio albums. What were those early years like for yourself and the rest of the band?
Steve Fossen – When you’re young, everything you can do to try and better your career, you do. What happens to a lot of bands, they change members. You find out some members are more into it for a hobby and are not very ambitious or have a lot of drive. You try and surround yourself with people who have a lot of drive and just go through the weeding process so everyone in the band has the same desire and ambitions.
In the early days, you are playing sock hops, high schools, and you’re not making a lot of money, but it’s a lot of fun. You are kind of learning the ropes. Then, as you get a little bit older, you start to play in bars and clubs. That is where you really start developing your craft, because back when we were doing it, you would pull up to a club on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and you would be there the rest of the weekend through Saturday, sometimes you would be there for two weeks in a row. You are just honing your sound and the sound of the band. That kind of experience is invaluable and not a lot of people get that experience nowadays. These days a band will show up and d0 a 45 minute set in one club and show up to do a 45 minute set in a different club. You don’t get nightly experience that adds up as you play to your eventual goal of having so many hours to really know what you’re doing.
CrypticRock.com – That takes a lot of time and dedication. That time honing your skills truly is important to become comfortable within your own skin.
Steve Fossen – Yes, and the part of being poor, you have to be able to put up with being poor. You don’t always get as much food as you’d like, you don’t always stay in the nicest places that you’d like, but you’re getting that experience. It’s a gamble. For Heart to make it was like a 1 and 10,000,000 chance. It’s almost a miracle, but at the same time, it’s a lot of work.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and the hard work paid off. In 2013, Heart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame including yourself and the other five original members of the band. How exciting was that honor for you?
Steve Fossen – It was probably one of the highlights of my career. We were nominated two years in a row, the first year we were nominated we didn’t make it. That was very disappointing, but you can’t make people vote for you. The second year we did make it in. I was just down in my basement fooling around with my bass, amps, and stuff, working on sounds. I get a call and it was someone from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame telling me that I made it. I was speechless at the time.
Usually around that same time is when they announce the football player inductees too. I remember the famed Seattle Seahawk, Walter Jones, he was crying when he realized he was going to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I kind of was welling up too.
CrypticRock.com – It is a wonderful honor. Congratulations for deservingly making it.
Steve Fossen – Thank you! We worked very, very hard for it. There was a lot of sacrifices, the kind of sacrifices I don’t even think a lot of people would make nowadays. It’s hard to explain how difficult sometimes were leading up to finally getting a band that worked.
CrypticRock.com – Interestingly, yourself and original Heart Drummer Michael DeRosier started a new band called Heart by Heart. With this band, you recreate classic Heart tunes. What inspired the decision to form the band?
Steve Fossen – Back in 2008, Mike, Roger (Fisher), and I were playing for a party. We needed a singer to play a couple of Heart songs, that is where we met Somar Macek. Mike and I thought she was pretty cool, and we knew we had a singer. Somar and I became really good friends and that friendship developed into a romance.
Once it turned into a romance, we started an electric bass and vocal duo. We would play bistros and we would sit in clubs on special nights with different people, we even did a few weddings and such. We were getting a pretty good reputation, but we thought let’s expand it a little bit.
So we asked Michael DeRosier and Randy Hansen to fill out the band on guitar and drums. We started playing around, the word got out, booking agencies started hiring us, and one thing led to another. Then Lizzy Daymont joined the band, so we had the two girls who could sing the harmonies together, Lizzy also plays acoustic guitar and keyboards. Then booking agencies started hearing about us, so we started playing the east coast, Midwest, down in California, Arizona, and all over the place!
CrypticRock.com – That is great. Heart by Heart is playing various shows now through November. For those who have not checked the band out yet, what can they expect from the live shows?
Steven Fossen – We try to play the songs as close to the originals as we possibly can. Mike and I were there when they were conceived, created, and recorded. We know what they should sound like, and that is what we try to sound like in our band. If we are playing “Magic Man,” we try to do all the licks and changes. We play in the same key and tempo as the originals. What we are trying to do is create the nostalgia that people experience when they see Classic Rock bands.
CrypticRock.com – The shows should be a lot of fun. With yourself and Michael having a history working together, what has it been like to reconnect with him and working with a new group of musicians?
Steven Fossen – It is kind of like riding a bike for Mike and I, it all comes back really naturally. Now with our new guitar player Chad Quist and Lizzy, the band is clicking on all cylinders. We really have a lot of fun and hanging out with each other. We are always on planes and cars heading to gigs together, we are just having a great time. I am very enthusiastic about the band.
CrypticRock.com – Your passion shows. You will be at The Suffolk Theater on September 7th, in Riverhead, New York. There are a lot of cool shows coming up.
Steven Fossen – Yes! We are really excited about playing Long Island. The Suffolk Theater seems like a really neat place, we just can’t wait to get there.
CrypticRock.com – That should be a wonderful show, it is a very nice venue. You also have a CD out, called Reflections, which are new recordings of Heart classics. What was it like to go back into the studio and record these songs again?
Steven Fossen – It was a lot of fun. It was interesting to sit down in the studio and try to replicate the feel and sounds. Maybe even update a few of the sounds and work on it with the new technology. Dreamboat Annie was actually recorded on a 16-track 2 inch tape machine.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, and look how great it came out. As a musician, you are probably still writing music. Do you have any new original material you are working on?
Steven Fossen – Yes, we have several songs recorded already. We’ve been contacted by a producer who wants to produce us. We have been working with other songwriters, we also write songs as well. We definitely have plans of coming out with at least an EP at some point in the future. We would like to do a live recording of Heart by Heart and maybe do a DVD of a live recording. I think it’s very important to get some songs in Somar’s voice that she can call her own that people can identify her song with our own songs. I have been listening to some of the tunes we are going to be recording and I am getting excited about it.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds exciting and it will be something to look out for. Last question. Beyond music, CrypticRock also covers movies, particularly in the Horror and Sci-Fi genres. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites?
Steven Fossen – For Science Fiction, everyone was into Star Wars. That era was a big one in American history because everyone was so tuned into that saga. For Horror movies, everybody loves Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi. I remember movies like Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Blob (1958).
I remember the theater I saw The Blob in was the exactly same layout as the theater that is in the movie with the blob coming through the projector, it was pretty exciting. I know I am dating myself, I know technology has gone way beyond that, but at the same time, those old movies have a charm and nostalgia to them that you can’t beat anymore.
CrypticRock.com – Obviously films are made different now, but those films have a character to them that is undeniable.
Steven Fossen – It’s definitely part of American history. I am glad there are people around who preserve and restore those films. They are classic and such a part of American folklore and history. Even the space movies that are so corny, where it looks like they are in an office, that they call a cockpit of a spaceship. There is so much more, lights on the walls, etc – which doesn’t really happen when you are actually in a spaceship. (Laughs) All that stuff is really cool though.
CrypticRock.com – It is all a lot of fun and endearing.
Steven Fossen – Yes, and I am not saying the new films with the new technology are bad. They are so real, it makes you feel like that is reality. The film that affected me a lot was Alien (1979). My heart was beating so fast during that movie. It’s hard for me to watch it today, the tension was so palpable.
Feature photo credit at top of article: Steve Spatafore