Kai Henderson of the Foo Fixers speak to us before their gig on at the Ironworks, Inverness on the 22nd of MarchThe Foo Fixers mission statement is to provide “a fresh, energetic Foo Fighters Tribute formed BY fans, FOR fans. No gimmicks, no frills”. The four piece tribute band is made up of Kai Henderson, Roddie McLaggan, Terry Small and Joshua MacKenzie. We caught up with Kai and asked him a few questions…
What motivated you to start a Foo Fighters tribute band?
Having started out playing live in rock cover bands and then fully thrashing it out playing lead guitar with Ursula’s Bikini in 2004/5, I had started to concentrate on my acoustic material and pushing myself as a solo artist. Moving away to university and then eventually New Zealand also restricted my ability to collaborate for any length of time with the same group of musicians, making establishing a band very difficult. An acoustic is also easier to transport than a flying V and a Marshall stack.
After travelling I landed back in Inverness and although the solo material was being well received, I was saddled with a burning desire to start fronting a proper rock band again. I had written some material but I somewhat impatiently wanted to be gigging, “…like, right right NOW, man!”. Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl have always been a major influence throughout my life as a musician and I felt that, rather than just form another covers band, I wanted to try and do something different that hadn’t really been done in the area before. Having experience as an actor also drew me towards the possibilities available through a tribute act – it’s a really fun experience, because what you’re essentially doing is going back to being a 12-year-old electric guitarist in your bedroom, trying to imitate your favourite axe heroes. Seems like I’ve been in training for this for over ten years!
How easy was it to find a group of like-minded FF Fans?
Fortunately, it’s quite difficult to find anyone these days that doesn’t like at least one Foo’s track. However, I was slightly more concerned about finding rock musicians in Inverness who would not only enjoy playing the material but be committed enough to this kind of project to bring it to fruition. I had jammed with our bassist Roddie a couple of times previously and it had been a while since he had really listened to any new Foo Fighters material, but once we paired up the guitar sounds it was sounding pretty good and he was keen to see where we could take it. Our original drummer had to leave due to other commitments, so after a round of auditions it was clear that music maestro Josh MacKenzie was the man for the job. He hits drums loud.
Obviously you go way back with Terry Small, and I know how big a FF fan he is. Did Terry play a part in coming up with the idea of doing the band as well?
Besides his fantastic playing, Terry and I have gigged together in various bands over the years (after him firstly successfully teaching me how to play!) so he was my first port of call for a lead guitarist. Once the two of us rehearsed the material to a point where we thought we could quite possibly pull this off, the search began for a rhythm section. Again, I was surprised at how quickly both Roddie and Josh were interested. I think we were all a bit unsure as to how it would pan out, but after the first full band rehearsal we were all convinced enough that we could pull this off – plus the fact that it was damn good fun.
How has the response been around the Highlands to the band?
People have been incredibly positive towards us. I think it was quite a risky move, because tribute acts do have a stigma attached to them: ‘Do you wear a costume?’, ‘Why don’t you play your own material, is it not good enough?’, ‘Why are you piggybacking on other people’s hard work?’ etc. etc. I think the Highlands is a very discerning audience, but lots of local rockers out there remember the 90s and the spirit of punk that lived on through grunge and rock at that time. Had it been any other band that we were honouring, I think the response could have been quite different. But when you’re putting on a show that could possibly make people feel that they’re a little closer to people as humble and unpretentious as Dave Grohl and the Foos, there’s a lot of love in the room. Also, we get to play some of the finest rock songs ever written, and if we pull them off on the night the crowd are very appreciative – it’s all down to their enthusiasm that makes the gig what it is.
Are there any plans to take the band further afield?
Now that we’ve established ourselves somewhat, there are opportunities for sure. I would like to see the response to us in other parts of the UK, and also gauge how people compare us to other Foo Fighters tributes. Gigging with this band is just great fun; if we can figure out ways to do it more often then I’m in!
Does the FF interfere with your own stuff, and do you get enough time to concentrate on that?
It’s such an easy band to be in – we decide what songs to learn, learn them at our own pace individually, then bring it together in the rehearsal room and make sure we’re on top of the set before doing a gig. It’s a very relaxed unit; we’re playing songs that have already been released by the real band so it’s not as if we’re worrying about being rehearsed enough to go into the studio to record. My own material, both as Kai Henderson and my solo rock project Kai and the Kicking Tiger, will go at their own pace as the writing progresses. Foo Fixers is nothing but a pleasure to be a part of – I’m so grateful to the other guys for putting their hearts into it as much as they have.
How did you come up with the name Foo Fixers?
We did what I imagine every tribute act must do, and threw around pretty much every possible variation under the sun. If I remember correctly I began the project under the name Noo Fighters. We looked at what other tribute acts were doing – how important was it to keep the actual band name (e.g. Rumours of Fleetwood Mac/One Night of Queen), fairly uninspiring descriptions (e.g. The Bowie Experience), naming the band after a song (e.g. Basketcase) and the one that we liked best, having a bit of a sense of humour, was the trend in punning that tributes perpetuate. There are hundreds of great ones – Whole Lotta Led, Stereophonies, Deft Leppard, Misstallica (all female tribute), the list goes on. We also had to look at the other Foos tributes out there and find one that wasn’t already taken! With Foo Fixers, we kept enough of the original band name for people to instantly recognise that we were a tribute to, and also tied it in with our gig motto, ‘Get Your Fix of Foo!’
Is moving to London going to affect the future of the band?
You’ve got to look at the positives in these things, and I hope that my relocation will allow us to consider gigs further south. It’s all in the planning. It also means that when we get another Inverness date I get to play a whole set of Foo Fighters songs to a crazy audience as well as getting some home cooked meals!
Is the band a long-term project or a bucket list tick?
I have to say this one was definitely on my list of things to do, but I feel that there is definitely scope for a long-term project to exist here. We haven’t learned the entire back catalogue yet, so until we do there’s always new ground to cover! Although if Roddie’s got a say in it we’ll be checking off Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures tracks in order to get ‘The Tenuous Dave Grohl Project’ off the ground. He’s forgetting that we’d have to include some Tenacious D though…
Get your fix of Foo on the 22nd of March at 1030pm, tickets available via the Ironworks.