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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Ken Wallis Chats With Hills Walter Of The Fog Blues & Brass Band Who Are From Kitchener, ON, Canada


By Ken Wallis. Photo Credit: Jimmy Gribbon.



The Fog Blues & Brass Band is a seven-piece band that has emerged from the music community of Kitchener, Ontario. The band features the powerhouse vocals of Hills Walter, anchored by six veteran musicians who know how to belt it out. The band has gathered accolades wherever they go and were semi-finalists at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.


Ken Wallis interviewed Hills Walter for the radio show BluesSource Canada. The following are excerpts from that interview amended and edited for clarity and brevity.




Ken Wallis

The Fog Blues & Brass Band has a brand-new album out. It is entitled 12 Bar Prescription and joining us is Hills Walter, the wonderful vocalist for the band. Thanks for coming on the show.


Hills Walter

You're welcome.Thanks for having me.


Ken Wallis

First of all, you guys are not a small trio by any stretch of the imagination. Walk us through the makeup of the band.


Hills Walter

Well, the band started approximately 7 years ago. I got a call from a fellow named Walter Horn, and I went out and watched the band perform under a different name. I think they were called Sick In Bed at the time, and I really liked what I heard and said. OK, I'll join and so did Bobby Becker. As time went on, the guitar player decided to leave the band, and we picked up a fellow named Tim Palsar and Al decided to invite a horn player who really changed the whole dynamic of the band and really got myself excited, anyways, because I'm used to two horns, I've been working in horn bands for many years now, and Dan really lit things up, so then Joe came on and Joe added to that excitement. We did have a baritone player for a little while, Don Featherstone, but we've downsized a little bit and tried to focus on a seven piece now and we're starting to pull it all together.


Ken Wallis

And what did the title Fog come from? Why did you pick Fog?


Well, this is a funny story. At the time we had five members in the band and my wife actually was the one who said, why don't you guys call yourselves 5 old guys? And the guys seemed to love it. And over time, when we got seven people into the band, people kept asking that question. So, we've changed it to friendly old guys. What else can we do there? There were other needs. We couldn't call It Sog when it was 6 people or seven people. So we decided to stick with Fog. The Blues and Brass band part came in with a fellow named CJ Allen who put our actual logos together.


Ken Wallis

And it's a great sound that you guys get. Is it difficult trying to get seven guys together to tour and record? It must be quite a challenge.


Hills Walter

Yeah, it's very difficult, especially when you've got members that their time is called outside of the band, and you're trying to focus on other things. But I mean, we make it work. It's a lot of fun. And honestly, I mean, if we were in it for money, then we sure wouldn't be doing this. You know most of what we make or put together, we put right back into the band, take it into the video processes, the recording processes. And promotion, but it's a love. If you didn't love it, you couldn't have a band like this.


Ken Wallis

Yeah, it looks like you guys are having fun when you're on stage.


Hills Walter

Most definitely. I mean that was the whole goal. If we aren't going to have fun, time to turn around and go home, so go large or go home is the term, right?


That's for sure. Well, and that's certainly a good way to describe the album. Why the title 12 Bar Prescription?


Hills Walter

We had help writing that particular song, actually the initial writing was from a friend of ours. And he gave it to us, but it wasn't a Fog song, Grant Hayward wrote the lyrics and he had a melody. But the melody didn't really work for the band with the horns and that type of thing. So we sort of tore it all apart and put it back together, and really came out with this new transition of the song. Everything that we do as a band, we have a heavy amalgamation to put things together, and we share in everything that we do, all the writing credits, all the music that we do, and I don't think we'd get the product that we have if we weren't doing that.


Ken Wallis

Yeah, it must be very difficult with seven different musicians to make sure everybody gets their own part to a song.


Hills Walter

I think it's funny, in the first album process it wasn't difficult simply because we put the songs together. Don Breithaupt come into the picture to write all of the horn charts. This new CD, Dan did most of the work. Some charts that were done by Don Featherstone before he left the band, and Joe has been starting to get in on writing too. So clearly this is really all of us doing most of the writing for this CD. It's really the band itself, we're becoming a band.


Ken Wallis

And how would you describe the music on this album?


Hills Walter

That's a really good question, and my friend Jordan Patterson says you've got to have an answer to this. My answer is really simple. A lot of us grew up listening to that 70s sound, and I know that I'm always in search of that 70s sound for myself. And it feels like all the guys are in the same boat. So truly the sound that we're looking at is to try and stay Canadiana and keep things like the band in focus.


But, you know that's the gelling point for all of us. But Bobby Becker, our keyboard player is what I would call the real drive to the sound of the music. Bobby's history, you have to read about his history. I hope he finishes his book. He's going to write a book. He started out with recording with the Funk Brothers, and his old band, Yukon, that was his band. Bobby generates a sound on the keyboards that drives everything for all of us. We can pick up all of the flavours from whatever he does.


Do you feel this is a different type of album from your last release Into The Fog?


Hills Walter

It’s changed most definitely. The big change here is we didn't have the horns written in sort of a purposeful manner by Don, and it really changed to give us more of that live sound that when people come to see us. We acquired that through this recording. We also changed engineers. We've been really, really lucky. I mean, John “Beetle” Bailey is an amazing engineer and has been a friend of mine since we were in high school. And another friend of mine from about 30 years back, Robi Banerji came on board to record this one. So, I've had the luck of being able to record with two of my very good friends and each brought something completely different to the table. You know, John's recordings were a really excellent way to introduce the band to the world. And Robi’s renditions and how he mixes and how he's created things with us, it feels like we're on stage. It just gives us that live feel.


Ken Wallis

Yeah, it certainly comes across in the album. It's almost as if you're there in the studio with you guys. What's the future for the band. You guys got any major tours coming up in the near future?


Hills Walter

Well, nothing's really major for us because a lot of us are working right now. We've been breaking through on British radio just lately, which has been really wonderful. For us July 1st, we're playing a private party for Tim Wilcox in Kitchener, which a lot of people know. Tim Wilcox kind of drives the music for a lot of the locals here in Kitchener. We're also playing at the Lighthouse Blues Festival, that's July 15th and Saturday August 26th, we're playing the Guelph Rib Fest and Saturday, September 2nd we got the North Bay Blues Festival.


Ken Wallis

You've got quite a few gigs there. That's great.


Hills Walter

Yeah, I want to keep going.


Ken Wallis

Where can folks get a hold of your album?


Hills Walter

So, right now, we're on all of the streaming platforms like Spotify, YouTube, Apple at the moment. That's the only place to get the music for now. We will have CD's to bring out to live shows, so we should hopefully have all the CD's for Lighthouse and the festivals.


Ken Wallis

I always encourage listeners out there to buy it rather than stream. It's very important for the artists.


Hills Walter

It really is. It's what keeps Fog alive. Actually, like I said, our money goes right back into the band and that's what keeps the band flowing.


Ken Wallis

Well, it's a wonderful band and it's a great album, and I really thank you for your time, Hills. It's been great chatting with you.


Hills Walter

Awesome, Ken. Thank you very much for your time.





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