From the Basement to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame
Words by Tamma Hicks, STEAM Magazine
I don’t know if you know but we went on vacation not too long ago. And like many South Texans we headed north to a cooler place! Yep, we went way north… All the way to Seattle, WA! The goal of the trip was to be with family and friends, get some relaxation time, and of course do a little work too. We took one day to hang out in Snohomish, a small town known for its antique stores, which meant a stop at the Oxford Saloon. The Oxford is a through-back-in-time bar that opened in 1909 and is said to be haunted; although the only spirits we saw were the kinds being poured by our friendly bartender. It was here that we had the good fortune to meet Steve Fossen for a beer. We had, and this is important because there could be a test at the end, Diamond Knot IPA which is brewed locally by Pat Ringe and crew. That is locally to Steve in Mukilteo (Muck-ill-tee-oh) Washington. Although you may not know Steve Fossen by name, you know his music; in fact I bet there’s one of his songs on a classic rock station right now!
STEAM So tell me the story of how Heart came to be.
SF Roger Fisher and I met in junior high school when we were 13. We talked and daydreamed of being in a band and play instruments all through 8th and 9th grades. Then when we were sophomores we couldn’t stand it any longer and that’s when we got our instruments and began playing.
STEAM How does it feel to go from being in 8th grade and saying, “Wouldn’t it be great to be in a band” to being in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame? I mean, oh my gosh!!!
SF I know! It was a dream that we’d started when we were 14 years old. For the first two years that Roger and I had our instruments we played in separate bands. Then when we were 17, in the basement of my parent’s home, we shook hands and decided we were going to start a band and see what we could do with it. I called Don Wilhelm (singer, guitar, and keyboards) who we both knew and he got a hold of his friend Ray Schaefer (drums). And the rest is history.
At this point Steve leans over and whispers into the mic… I just took a sip of IPA.
STEAM An amazing history! It must have been breathtaking to get a call saying that you’ve been nominated for the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, let alone being told you’re in. I mean I probably would have fainted!
SF Well, here’s what happened… I had just dropped Somar [Macek, Steve’s girlfriend] off at work and I was driving home. “Owner of a Broken Heart” by Yes had just finished playing on the radio and the next song was “Kick It Out” by Heart. And when the song finished the DJ said, “Hey, did you hear that Heart has been nominated for the Hall of Fame?”
STEAM And that’s how you heard about it?
SF Yeah. I almost ran off the road! I was just shocked, so I drove home and called Somar and asked if she wanted to go to Cleveland. I spent the next three months as a basket case; I couldn’t sleep, I’d wake up thinking about it, I was just nuts over it. Then December came around and they announced that we didn’t make it, so it was really, really disappointing. …I just took a sip of IPA.
I spent the next year just kind of commiserating over the fact that we didn’t make it, but it is what it is. September 2012 rolls around and the nominations are announced and we’re on the list for the second year in a row. This time I was much calmer and I just felt this confidence about it. And I got very sick which took my mind off the nomination. I developed “glomerulonephritis” which is a very serious syndrome that breaks down the filters in the kidneys depleting protein in your blood causing your muscles to fill with fluid, so I swelled with 65 pounds of water weight. I found an excellent doctor who knew exactly what needed to be done. Seven months after the onset of this terrible syndrome, there we were playing in Los Angeles at the induction ceremony in April 2013. They pronounced me cured just a year ago.
STEAM Wow, you are one fortunate man! Now I know we could keep going on these subjects, but I really want to hear about your current project, Heart By Heart. When did you start putting this group together?
SF Somar and I began putting Heart By Heart together in 2008 along with Michael “Mike” DeRosier (Heart drummer ’75-82) but it’s only become solid about 18 months ago with the addition of Lizzy Daymont on vocals and rhythm guitar and Bob Rivers on keyboards. Our lead guitarist is Randy Hanson, who won an Oscar for Best Sound for “Apocalypse Now” and if you haven’t heard it go online and check it out. Anyway Randy brings this very Hendrix-esque sound that sets us apart from anything else. Somar and Lizzy are great friends and sing so well together; in fact the first time I heard them was on Dog And Butterfly and it took my breath away.
STEAM That’s awesome. By the way that is my favorite Heart song. I remember getting the Greatest Hits/Live double compilation LP for Christmas and wearing out just that track. Tell It Like It Is and Crazy On You are my other favorites, but when I saw you, Heart By Heart, perform Barracuda it became my ultimate favorite. So which songs were your, Heart’s, biggest hits?
SF Barracuda is probably the biggest, but Magic Man and Crazy On You are up there too. I mean we’re just fortunate that we have the kind of repertoire that you can do 90 minute sets and everybody recognizes every song. We were just lucky that we knew Somar and found Lizzy.
STEAM Everyone in Heart By Heart is a seasoned and talented musician. I’m just thrilled to see you back on stage with your music and wondering what took you so long. (laughing)
SF Well for many, many years I didn’t play these songs and when we started putting the group together I had to relearn my parts because I couldn’t remember what I use to do. …I just took a sip of IPA.
STEAM That has to be a weird sensation going back out there, because now you got your our generation and our kids into your music.
SF Oh yeah, we have people come up and tell us they saw us at the Coliseum (now Key Arena) or somewhere else in the country and that hearing Heart By Heart takes them back to those great memories. It’s very cool.
STEAM Are you planning to put out an album soon?
SF Yes and no; right now we have some demos that have been made. We’re working with songwriter Lisa Nemzo on new material, and Randy and I both write, too. But right now the emphasis is on the Heart material, because we need to get Somar’s voice out there and recognizable before we move on. …I just took a sip of IPA.
STEAM Are you working on touring soon? We’d love to see you guys in Texas!
SF I think our big push is going to start in January and we’re going to be doing a lot of festivals all over the country and I’m sure we’ll be down there.
What Mike and I hope that everybody takes away from this is that as the rhythm section Mike and I were very instrumental in why Heart was so big. However, when we finish our set all people talk about is Somer, Lizzy, and Randy. I guess that means we’re doing our job right. …I just finished my IPA, so what kind was it?