Imagine your view of the world sitting on a drum throne, keeping time as you drive the beat for American rock band Interpol in front of 40,000 fans at Vivo X El Rock in Lima, Perú. You’re wrapping up a successful world tour in support of your sixth album, ready to settle into your north Atlanta home to decompress and get off the road for a well-deserved break from circumnavigating the globe doing what you love.
This was the situation for Philadelphia-born Sicilian Sam Fogarino in late November 2019. Rest, relaxation and recharging the creative batteries was all Fogarino had planned for most of 2020.
Fate–and a worldwide pandemic–intervened.
Having retreated from the frenetic pace of New York City to a tiny town outside Athens, Georgia sometime after Interpol reached the bigtime, Fogarino was no stranger to isolation. One might say he prefers it to the big city lights and the hustle and bustle that goes with it.
With little on his shortlist but tinkering with his vintage motocross bike or noodling around in his home studio, the now 53-year-old felt a bit off in the early summer of 2020 with what turned out to be a brain aneurysm.
And you thought you had it bad back then.
Fogarino made it to the hospital in time and has since made a full recovery. His bandmates Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler were sequestered in Edinburgh and Spain, respectively, and the original detachment they envisioned was strained at best with Fogarino’s diagnosis.
But Fogarino was bound and determined to recover and get back to making music with his pals of 20 years, which he eventually did. The trio conceived the songs remotely, something they’ve never done before, sharing bits and pieces via email before reuniting in the Catskills in 2021 to tighten up and button down their licks, grooves and some lyrics before recording their new album with producers Moulder and Flood in London.
“You come down to the time when the record is about to be made and you don’t have the lyrics, and it’s like, ‘fuck’,” lead singer Banks told Rolling Stone in November 2021. “A few of the songs in particular have really unabashedly positive sentiments,” he added. “Something that feels good is the aspiration.”
A new tour has begun, with The Other Side of Make-Believe set for a July 15th release. My son Henri and I recorded a podcast with Fogarino in late March, where he discusses everything from his former fondness for working on 40-plus-year-old Japanese motocrossers, meeting his hero David Bowie, working through his recovery from that scary brain aneurysm, his favorite songs to play live, and the creative process behind the new album.
One topic in particular stood out from our 99-minute interview. Fogarino mentioned how – when asked what really could center his fragmented mind – a therapist years ago literally prescribed motorcycles to the musician.
If that doesn’t define what ‘motorcycles are drugs’ really means, I don’t know what does.
Listen for yourself.