By Bob Kern and Greg Perry
Bob Kern and Greg Perry were able to chat with Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Steve Fossen and Michael Derosier before they put on an amazing show in Newberry, SC (Show Review). In this exclusive interview, Heart By Heart’s rhythm section talks about the genesis of their band, current approach to music, future plans and how they view their legacy in the history of Heart’s classic lineup. For more information on Heart By Heart, please visit www.heartbyheart.com.
Greg Perry: Hi guys, this is Bob Kern, and I’m Greg Perry. We’re both from Music Recall Magazine and we’re so honored to meet you. Bob’s from Atlanta, and I’m from right here in Columbia. It’s been at least three or four years of watching you guys tour to try to see if you would come somewhere near here where we could see you perform.
Bob Kern: We’re real excited. The closest you came to us was about a year or so ago in Flagler Beach, Florida, a little south of Jacksonville.
Greg Perry: And we had all kinds of plans see you. OK, we’re going to go to Atlanta, I can pick Bob up. We’re going to do this trip and then something… well, we couldn’t make the trips. We figured maybe sooner or later the chance would come, because every time we go on your website, we always politic – The Carolinas or Georgia, The Carolinas or Georgia, The Carolinas or Georgia.
Bob Kern: So you’re finally here. Why did you pick Newberry, SC out of all places – or did they pick you?
Steve Fossen: They pick us. We go to these showcase things where some of them we play at. Some of them we just go to. Others, our agents just go there and have photographs and whatnot. And they picked us to come here. So we said, yeah.
Greg Perry: Part of that may be, you know, because every time, I politic them for your shows, because I live here – I live in Columbia. We’re excited that you’re here.
Mike Derosier: We’ve been here many times, but I haven’t been here for a long time. It’s really nice.
Steve Fossen: Yeah, back in the day Heart was. We played Columbia; well I think we played the Gamecocks Stadium with Blue Oyster Cult. I remember the scoreboard with Gamecocks on it, and they had that Godzilla in front of it.
Bob Kern: I know you were here in 1978 because I was in college then and I saw you.
Greg Perry: Yeah. Yeah, that was when I saw you, too.
Greg Perry: We know you guys have been touring since 2014. Can you tell us how the band came together and what was kind of the drive behind it and how the various members came to be?
Steve Fossen: I can handle that one.
Steve Fossen: So what happened was Mike (Derosier) and Roger (Fisher) and I – We after all these years, we finally decided to get together to play a few Heart songs at a party in downtown Seattle. And Somar (Macek) was the lady that was chosen to sing with us. And so that’s when I met her. Mike met her actually earlier than that. And that was in February. And then during, you know, March, April, May, June, July, August you know, Somar and I kept running into each other at different functions. You know, we go see bands and we just see each other there and then people will have dinner parties and we’d be there. So we became friends. And this friendship developed into a romance. And then this romance turned into a bass and vocal duo.
Bob Kern: And it progressed from there?
Steve Fossen: So, we did like bistros and jam nights at different bars and clubs around the Seattle area. And we even did a wedding and a funeral. But then we got a call from a friend in Anchorage, Alaska, and asked us to open up for Dwight Yoakam in Anchorage. And so Somar and I were thinking, yeah, we’d like to do that. But then we thought, well, the duo’s a little lite for opening up a show. So, we asked Mike and a guitar player that we know named Randy Hansen to join the band. So, they said, sure. That sounds like fun. So, we got together. We rehearsed up a 45-minute set. We were all tight, ready to go. A week out from the show, the promoter called up and said, Oh, Dwight cancelled. So, we thought, oh, bummer. But we had a band and so, you know, we had, you know, it was fun.
Bob Kern: Basically the band was all dressed up with no place to go.
Steve Fossen: So, we got together a few more time and rehearsed and then some other people that we know put on a benefit for the Susan G. Komen Cancer Awareness and that was actually our first official gig together. We did the show and at this show there was quite a few people that we know. And then some other people that were kind of in the rock scene around Seattle and they told agents, you know, these guys are pretty good, you should get ’em out. So then, you know, a local agent that we, that’s been around for a long time that we know, we’ve known for years. And he’s a super nice guy named Craig Cook. He said, “well, would you guys like to play J.B.L.M.?”, which is, you know, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. And for Fourth of July was Italiana, you know, so. So that kind of started everything. And then through that we got a website and through the website people around the country heard about Mike and I being in this band. So, we started getting calls from Baltimore and California and Texas and Midwest and stuff. And pretty soon we’re going all over the place. We got some gigs. And during that course of that, we found a few agents and a few people that helped us along. And then one thing led to another. And here we are at Newberry.
Greg Perry: Great. That’s fantastic.
Bob Kern: So how do you guys feel about playing this iconic music today with this band, forty years on? Do you put your own spin on this thing or is it basically exactly true to the music? How does that work?
Steve Fossen: Well, we try to play the songs exactly true to the parts that were written and conceived back when Mike and I were in the band. But we do make, we try to make it a little more aggressive. I think.
Mike Derosier: I think naturally, yes, naturally more aggressive.
Steve Fossen: We just make it a little more aggressive. So, the guitar parts are a little meatier, the same guitar parts, but a little meatier sound. Not to say that Roger and Howard didn’t get meatier sounds when we played live, but since Heart By Heart is mainly a live band – so, you know, we try to rock it up a little bit. You know, Mike probably hits the drums a little harder, and I hit the bass a little harder. Turn that up a little bit, so…
Greg Perry: Have you guys ever thought about doing any type of writing and recording for Heart By Heart, some new new music of your own? You’re kind of looking at each other like that’s in the works, or something…
Steve Fossen: Well, we you know, we are. And, you know, we have written, and we have, we’re working with a songwriter and a producer. And, you know, we’ve fooled around with some songs and, you know, they haven’t really come together, you know, like the way we want it yet. But, yeah, we’re working on it.
Greg Perry: Good, good. That’s exciting.
Bob Kern: We’d love to hear it.
Steve Fossen: Yeah. Yeah. We hear that all the time. So, and if you think about it, a band like ours – it’s well known for playing the Heart music. Our own music would kind of step us up to another level. If it was good and people liked it…
Mike Derosier: I think it’s very hard, though. Excuse me. It’s really hard to go out there with new music when people are just, they want to hear what you did in the past. I mean, that’s… we would certainly have to make sure that we think that the new stuff, what is, would be as strong as all of the old stuff, because, I mean, it’s hard to go up against “Barracuda” and “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man”. I mean, it’s just. You know…
Bob Kern: So you’re victims of your own legacy?
Mike Derosier: Yeah. They wanna hear that stuff.
Steve Fossen: And, you know, our own material, even though, you know, we might like it and think it’s cool and everything, we would never play it live until it was accepted on some sort of level. Because people don’t come to see Heart By Heart to hear us reinterpret the songs, number one; or for sure say, okay, we’re going to do a boogie in the key of C. OK, Here we go. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo.
Mike Derosier: I’ll be right back I’m gonna go to the bathroom (laughs).
Bob Kern: But you guys seem to be OK with that? You know, again, a victim of your own legacy. But by the same token, it’s probably a very good and familiar place.
Mike Derosier: It’s great. It’s a wonderful thing.
Steve Fossen: Yeah. We’ve had people – I’ve had grown men come up to me after the show with tears in their eyes. Just thanking me. Thank you so much for bringing back all the memories I have.
Mike Derosier: So many. Yes. So many people. Yeah. Nineteen seventy-seven. I was there. I remember I was there with the zebra thing on.
Steve Fossen: Yeah. Yeah. You saw me. I had the Rush shirt on, remember?
Greg Perry: It’s really sad to hear about Neal Peart.
Steve Fossen: Yeah. It is. I had no idea he was even sick until we saw it yesterday at the airport. We were in between plane flights and it was just like, whoa. There was just like a shock. Because he, you know, he was, they were inducted at the same time Mike and I were. And so that was probably the last time we saw him. Yeah. And he seemed fine. He seemed fine.
Greg Perry: Well, I’ve got to ask you. OK. We all started out as kids, of course, you guys started making this kind of music. We started out buying it. Listening to it. You know, in love with it as teenagers. I’ve always kind of wondered when you started this thing all those years ago, did you ever in your wildest dreams think you’d end up being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? You know, go the places you guys have gone. Because if I were you, I would probably pinch myself every now and then to make sure this really did happen.
Mike Derosier: Well, when I first saw the band, I didn’t know anything about Heart. And through some friends, they suggest I go see them, and they had heard they were looking for a drummer, and so I went to this club and the band, the musicianship and the sound, what they were trying to do was so much above all the other bands that I would go out and see in the area, in Seattle, around Seattle, that I thought, yeah, you know, these guys. Whatever they’re thinking about doing that, it seems like it might work. Yeah, because you were just everybody. I mean, there was a, there’s a lot of bands that that have the desire to write originals, and they’re going to play clubs, they’re going to do covers stuff. But to make that jump, it’s a huge leap to go from doing covers and playing clubs to writing your own stuff. Developing a style, going out and opening for people and find your way up the ladder. But, you know, you see certain groups of people together. A certain chemistry. And you can tell with them whether that’s going to happen or not, that’s a big if, but they certainly have the potential. That’s what I saw when I saw these guys. Really seemed like it. I’d like to be on to that.
Steve Fossen: So, when Roger and I we went to junior high and high school together and all through junior high, we talked. You know, that’s when the Beatles first came out and we were just all excited about the Beatles and Stones and the Animals and that whole British invasion thing. And then we got our instruments when we were fifteen. And then we when we were 17 is when we put together a band called The Army then. But in a couple of years we changed the name to Heart. But when we put it together, we thought, we said to ourselves, you know, we want to take this to as high as we can take it. We’re not going to settle for being the best band in the neighborhood or the best band on the block or, you know, whatever. We want to take this all the way to the top. We want to tour. We want to write and make records. And to the whole thing we just had that ambition and we just weren’t going to take no for an answer. But of course, you never know what’s going to happen for sure. But you know that if you don’t work hard, it’s not going to happen. And that’s what we did.
Greg Perry: Well, it definitely happened for you guys. An iconic band and iconic music. You guys did it. The first time I saw you was August 15th, 1978 at the Carolina Coliseum. It still exists, they don’t use it for shows anymore. They use the one next door to it. It was the “Little Queen” tour, “Dog and Butterfly” had not come out yet. I know you guys played “Magic Man”. I know you guys played “Barracuda”. I know you guys played all those songs that night, but the song has been with me ever since then… “Mistral Wind”. To this day, that was the first time I’d ever heard it and literally fell out of my chair because of the way it starts so mysterious and slow, but that part when you guys just kick it in the ass – it was, for me as a kid, that was like “the” moment and that song has never left me. And that moment of that show is the moment I’ve carried with me all these years.
Mike Derosier: Too bad we’re not going to play that tonight (laughter).
Greg Perry: To me, that’s Heart’s masterpiece.
Steve Fossen: Well, that’s what Howard – every time anybody mentions “Mistral Wind” that’s where Howard (Leese) always puts the caveat on there “Heart’s” masterpiece. But this happens, “Mistral Wind” happens to be Mike’s favorite song to play live.
Mike Derosier: Yeah. But for forty-five years I’ve really enjoyed playing that song.
Greg Perry: Earlier this summer Bob and I had a chance to go to Detroit and see Heart. And we did the VIP thing – so well, we were kind of waiting our turn, and we got to talk to Mark Chamberlain, who was their tour manager, and he’d been Ann Wilson’s tour manager on her solo tour. I told him I was so thrilled that song was back in the set, because that was the song for me. And so cool to hear it. And he said, “yeah, but you know what? The drummer we have is good, but nobody, you know, nobody does it like Derosier could”. There’s no replacing that original power – the original guy.
Steve Fossen: Well that’s true about every song that Mike played on with Heart. No drummer ever gets it right. Because we’ve seen Ann and Nancy play several times, Somar and I, and you know, if you know the music well enough and you’re at a concert and you’re hearing the songs, and one of these iconic parts that Mike made up comes up. And the drummer doesn’t even attempt it. He just plays right through it. Duh, oh, no, you know. And so Somar and I would think, we’re sitting there anticipating these bits. Well, even “Straight On”. There’s fills and stuff that the guy just doesn’t play, you know? I guess he thought that his part was better than Mike’s, so he didn’t bother learning Mike’s parts. So, who knows?
Greg Perry: Well, speaking of that we were discussing “Straight On” on the way up here. And really that that rhythm section and that bass line of yours – that is the song. That song would not be anything if it wasn’t for that power.
Mike Derosier: Yes. So, it’s what we’re bringing to this thing is the satisfaction of anticipating what the song, your memories of the song, what it all that means to you. You see the band and then you go away satisfied that we delivered that thing because I know how that is. If I was seeing a band that I loved and they were missing, just the guy was slopping his way through parts, the drummer or the bass player, the guitar, whoever had taken too much liberty with parts trying to make it their own or whatever. I just, I mean, I think that part of that that’s part of what chemistry is. And chemistry in a rock band especially is so important. And if you don’t acknowledge that, if you start messing with little bits and pieces, whether you’re aware of it or not, when you go away from the from the show, it just, you know, you just kind of go it was pretty good. But either you tell yourself, it just I didn’t work for me because I’m like, how many times have you played dashboard drums to “Straight On”? But when it comes up and you mimic that because you’re used to that stuff. People start leaving it out it’s just weird to me that somebody would not acknowledge the chemistry that makes this stuff come together and be that thing that you have got lodged in your brain forever.
Greg Perry: Yeah, That spoke to you so much.
Bob Kern: Well, what about the initial recording for “Dreamboat Annie”? You were part of it in some sections (Mike Derosier), but not the complete project.
Mike Derosier: Yeah, I was just on a couple of songs.
Bob Kern: When that all came together did you feel like that [album] was a hit? Did you know it when you left the studio and when “Dreamboat Annie” was wrapped that it was going to be as big as it ultimately became?
Steve Fossen: Well, you hope and you think, yeah, this could, you know, this could catch the brass ring as you’re going around on the merry-go-round, but you never know. And that was the transition point where, like you said, Mike was in, he was only in the band for the last two songs of the recording. So, on the actual record, there’s three or four different drummers that play three or four different songs. The record company and the record company owners and management and the producers kept saying, OK, play this right, because you’re gonna be listening to this for the rest your life. And I went, Okay!
Greg Perry: Well, are there any recordings still in the vault that were never released?
Mike Derosier: Man, we used everything that we recorded, pretty much.
Steve Fossen: Pretty much. Pretty much, yeah. Not that I remember. There might be, but there’s probably several outtakes that were funny and pretty cool, too.
Greg Perry: Yes, some of the re-issues in recent years have thrown on a couple of outtakes at the end of various tracks…
Steve Fossen: A different version of Barracuda might be interesting to some people, but you never know. But I don’t know if Michael will attest to this but back before Heart made it big – before, you know… We played clubs and back in those days, I don’t know if you remember back in those days, but a band would pull in on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and they would play all week and sometimes they play for two weeks at the same bar. And it was during those times, that part was so exciting and we put on some – I mean, it was probably our best music we’ve ever played together. I mean, a lot of it was covered music, but we had those people just going absolutely crazy every night.
Greg Perry: That would have been special to see you guys then.
Steve Fossen: I mean, if we would have been smart enough to make a lot of recordings…
Bob Kern: Speaking of that, how do you guys feel about like stuff that shows up on the Internet now from when Heart were playing around the 70s, the bootlegs that are out there… Does that bother you?
Steve Fossen: No. I mean, everybody in this day and age, everybody realizes that if you take a video with a, you know, a funky old video camera or your phone nowadays, it’s going to sound a certain way, it’s not going to sound like a polished record from, you know, Hollywood or, you know, some big producer, anything. Everybody realizes that. But at the same time, they really appreciate being able to see these people when they were younger or whatever and playing and singing and just, you know, hopefully it sounds good, but, you know, you never know.
Greg Perry: Michael, after the Heart days you did some work with Richard Marx, and there was a really good album from the ’80s called “Orion the Hunter” that I actually own. I really thought it was kind of a sadly overlooked album, but that was a great record. And I wondered if there was ever any thought of a follow up to that? Or was kind of a one and done from the beginning.
Mike Derosier: Yeah. We, I don’t really remember what happened with it. It was around eighty-four. I don’t know – the singer, he had a family. I remember he was kind of getting homesick and didn’t like the idea of being out on the road a bunch. Sometimes you know when record company’s sense that guys are kind of getting a little bit weak. They’ll pull you or they’ll just pull support, or they’ll say, OK, that’s enough for you guys. I don’t think – I just can’t remember exactly what happened. But the weird thing is his friend, our singer in Orion ended up he was in Boston for like 15 years or so. Now, he kind of goes out and does his own thing. A great singer, it was a fun band. It was the first time I’ve been in a band that was actually out on the road touring without females in it.
Greg Perry: It’s probably a different experience.
Mike Derosier: It was different. Not that I had a problem with playing with women. That’s for sure.
Bob Kern: I guess that about does it for us except for the obligatory Beatlesque question – Was there ever a thought of getting the original band back together? Is that something that can ever happen now? Do you stay in contact with the guys and the girls from Heart at all? Or is it just… has that ship sailed?
Mike Derosier: I think I hear my mom calling me (laughter).
Bob Kern: There you go.
Steve Fossen: Well, you know, for the fans and for the people that love Heart, it would be a fantastic thing. And I think that, you know, I know that I realize that and I think Howard realizes that. And I think to some extent Mike realizes and I think Roger realizes it, too. But at the same time, that with Ann and Nancy in control of everything they would, first of all, well, they wouldn’t want to share the money and that would probably put the kibosh on that.
Bob Kern: Understood.
Greg Perry: We had to ask.
Mike Derosier: Yeah, I have a lot of respect for Ann and Nancy and I think they’re among the best ever. You know, I’ve always felt that they were really good at… songwriting is kind of one thing. I think they need a backbone male approach to get to bring the rock thing out of them maybe a little bit. But I mean, they’re really good at writing a certain kind of song. But again, that goes back to the whole chemistry thing. But, you know, getting along with people in certain circumstances, just – it’s too hard.
Greg Perry: I understand. But we had to ask. Yeah.
Steve Fossen: It’d be nice, though. I mean, for me, especially because I’d like that financial shot in the arm.
Greg Perry: Well, you know, I mean, we love seeing any of you guys in any configuration. We got to see a show that Roger did a couple of years ago, in Atlanta, where he was playing a few guitar songs with the cover band.
Greg Perry: Again, we love your music and we’re just so excited to see you guys. Thank you for coming to Newberry, SC and spending some time with us today.
Steve Fossen: It was great, you know. If it weren’t for people that love music, I mean we, Mike and I’d be down at the grocery store packing bags for old ladies…you want eggs on the bottom? (laughter)