John Oates is one half of the best-selling duo of all time, Daryl Hall & John Oates, as well as an accomplished solo artist. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The American Songwriters Hall of Fame, recipient of the prestigious BMI Icon Award as well as numerous American Music, MTV awards, and multiple Grammy nominations.Since embarking on a solo career in 1999, John has recorded seven solo albums: Phunk Shui, 100 Miles of Life, Mississippi Mile, The Bluesville Sessions, Good Road To Follow, Arkansas and most recently Live from Nashville with the Good Road Band. In addition, his 2017 autobiography Change of Season released by St. Martin’s press became an Amazon best seller. John continues to tour the world with Daryl Hall, and perform solo as both a musician and public speaker. He also produces, collaborates and develops new artists and has recently completed a series of songs for the upcoming feature film Gringa to be released soon.
(Photo Credit: David McClister)
We publish a lot of serious, meaningful writing and conversations here on Talkhouse, digging into issues of creativity, mental health, and the very nature of art. The following conversation is not one of those, but is instead a chat between a real person — John Oates, half of the biggest-selling duo of all time — and a saxophone playing Bigfoot who has found some internet fame during the pandemic. Consider the chat (and the video that goes along with it) a break for your brain in these intense times.
—Josh Modell, Talkhouse Executive Editor
Saxsquatch: What do you think is harder to find as a musician, your first hit single or Bigfoot?
John Oates: That’s a good question. I think the answer’s got to be Bigfoot—just a glimpse of that rascal is like having a hit record. How did you come up with the name Saxsquatch?
Saxsquatch: My grandfather used to call me Saxsquatch. He was a guitar player. His name was Gigfoot. When touring returns what are the chances you and Daryl need a saxophone player? Preferably one that’s tall, hairy, and has major sax appeal.
John Oates: I’d say we keep the possibility of Saxsquatch hiding in the woods at least for now…because H&O have the great Charlie “Mr. Casual” DeChant who’s been with us for years.
Saxsquatch: By the way, how did you find me? I’m not that easy to get a hold of.
John Oates: By the miracle of social media. My wife Aimee discovered you and knew there was a collab in the future. I’m so glad she had the vision to make it happen. When was the first time you heard the original “Maneater”?
Saxsquatch: As a kid we used to run an extension cord and steal power from people’s homes to power our radio. I remember being young and listening to “Maneater.” What inspired you and Daryl to create the song, and when did you decide you wanted to recreate the version we’re putting out?
John Oates: The song was inspired by a woman that I met in New York City in the ‘80s after I came back from Jamaica. So I came up with a reggae style chorus but Daryl and I decided that we’d rather write the lyrics more about the city of New York so in a sense the city of New York is the real Maneater. I’ve always wanted to do the song in a reggae style similar to the way I originally envisioned it and we did that but I like the EDM version better.
Saxsquatch: I’ve been in the woods so I’m a bit out of the loop. How has music changed since you first exploded onto the scene?
John Oates: I don’t think we have enough time to dive deep into that question. The tech has changed so much but when it all comes down to it, you gotta pay your dues, nurture your talent, and work your ass off. How do you feel about how you and other squatches are portrayed in the media?
Saxsquatch: I just wish people would believe in us and in me. My whole life I’ve had to overcome that. Who is your favorite saxophone player of all time? Excluding yours truly.
John Oates: I would say Junior Walker, Maceo Parker, Stan Getz, Daddy G, and Charlie DeChant. How did you get into saxophone while living in the forest?
Saxsquatch: I actually scored my sax from a pawn shop in the mountains. I appear in civilization all the time. No one seems to believe the people that see me. What have you been doing to stay entertained while social distancing? I’m the inventor of social distancing but I’ve heard some humans have had a hard time with keeping busy.
John Oates: I’ve been as busy as ever…working with you, writing songs for the upcoming Gringa movie, and putting together Oates Song Fest 7908.
Saxsquatch: This year’s Oates Song Fest (co-hosted by you and I) includes acts like Sammy Hagar, Dave Grohl, Bob Weir, and other stars. How did you meet all of these legends and get them involved in the festival?
John Oates: Well I’ve been doing this a long time, so I’ve got a pretty strong iPhone virtual rolodex. Most of the artists involved in the Fest are people I’ve worked with over the years, lots of good friends, and of course there’s this one guy… Daryl Hall, you may have heard of him? We know each other pretty well.
Saxsquatch: Do you want to start a band with me called Sax & Oates?
John Oates: That sounds awfully familiar. I think we’re good though.
(Photo Credit: David McClister)