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Tuesday June 26, 2001

Big Sugar lead singer Gordie Johnson, chat transcript

Big Sugar's Gordie Johnson, chatted with JAM! Music on Tuesday June 26, 2001 about their new disc, 'Brothers & Sisters, Are You Ready?'

Gordie Johnson: Hey, I'm here!

Mark N.: Why did you guys include O Canada (a song you even played at Woodstock '99) on this album and not put it on a b-sides album?

Gordie Johnson: Because I think the song is important enough to put on an album. It's not just a passing curiosity.

Meanmusic: Has anyone ever measured just how loud a Big Sugar concert gets?

Gordie Johnson: Umm...yes they did but they never lived to tell the answer!

Gordie Johnson: I'm sure someone has measured the volume but it's just...it's some some Jesus loud!

Chief: What was it like to work with the Black Crowes when you sang with them in New York?

Gordie Johnson: It was really casual, a lot of fun because we're pretty good pals. Hung out for the day, had a pizza slice. There was no pressure involved. It was friends getting together and having fun playing music.

Devan, London Ont: Why did you choose the Canadian national anthem to end "Brothers & Sisters, Are You Ready?" Was it inspired by Jimi Hendrix's version of The Star Spangled Banner in any way? thank you

Gordie Johnson: Wasn't really inspired...it's just, I happened to play electric guitar and my version of Oh Canada has to do with national pride and the guitar is just my way to proclaim it as loudly as possible and to as many people as possible, no disrespect for Jimi

Warren: Hi Gordie! Is there any chance of a live album soon??

Gordie Johnson: We have had a lot of requests for a live record over the past several years. I think at some point it would be only natural. It's kind of up to the record company, when that time is appropriate. At some point in the future, you can expect one.

HelloAbbey: Is there anyone in particular who you'd like to work with (for example, on a collaboration, project, etc)?

Gordie Johnson: Hmmm....let me think about that. Most of the musical collaborations I've done have been with friends. Having it be on a casual basis is really a lot of fun. Because music is something that we have in common so it kind of breaks down any barrier of 'oooh I'm such a big fan and would it ever be cool to work with..' if you're on a level playing field with other musicians its just a big, fun, boys night out.

Donna Valente: Has the birth of your baby influenced your approach to music in any way?

Gordie Johnson: First of all, hi to Donna if you're from Thunder Bay. And, not really. I mean, I've always been a fairly family oriented person anyway where music is one part of my life and my family is a great inspiration anyway. I've written songs about my wife before. So it's not really like a change of direction all of a sudden. There will be no songs about teddy bears any time in the future.

Mark N.: What was your favourite video to make?

Gordie Johnson: I haven't particularly enjoyed any of them. I suppose Ride Like Hell was the most fun because it was so hand held, spur of the moment. It was just made by a good friend of mine. We just jumped in the car and drove to Detroit and made it up as we went along. The video was made back when we were signed to Hypnotic Records and Dan Gallagher actually paid for the video to be made which ended up being about twelve hundred dollars and the album, Brothers and Sisters is dedicated to him.

Chantel: I am a long time fan, and just picked up your new album. Why does your voice sound extremely different than on past CD's? Thank-You Chantel

Gordie Johnson: Do you mean better different? Well, I guess I just hope I'm a better singer just from a lot of shows and touring. It probably has the most to do with doing duo gigs with Mr. Chill over the past year and a half. There's no amplification, no security blanket of having the whole band there, you're just there singing.

BrownBomber: Gordie, why did you feel compelled to add Mojah as a second guitarist? Were you not loud enough? :)

Gordie Johnson: I think the whole band decided that it was a good idea to keep him in the band because his guitar style was so different from me. He really approaches it as a rhythm instrument, almost as a percussion instrument. In that way, our sounds never clash, there's never a guitar ego battle on stage. Which is a good thing.

Dave "The Newfie" Mouland (Calgary): Hello Gordie!!! Congrats on the new album!! Thank you for the song "All Hell For A Basement". It was such a treat to hear you play it back in December in Calgary.... My question is: Will you be joining Double Trouble onstage at any of their Western Canadian dates in July?? Thanks Gordie, I'll see you soon!!

Gordie Johnson: HI! I'm not allowed to say officially, but hmmm, let me see...I'll be in Calgary and Edmonton on those same days, I'll have a guitar with me and I sure love to play the blues.

Rose Migs: Was the first single inspired by a real person, or just your imagination?

Gordie Johnson: My vivid imagination is fuelled by my chequered past.

Derrick M.: If you decide to do a live album, please consider a live concert video. You guys are great live!

Gordie Johnson: Yeah, we'd love to do that. We have been filmed in the past at different live shows. I think that a live album would be a compilation of different shows and possibly over a number of years but we haven't compiled the definitive collection yet.

Chris Polzer: This album, compared to the last few, seemed to have more basic riffs and chord progressions, especially compared to Hemi-vision, Why did you decide to take the major influence off the guitar?

Gordie Johnson: Nothing was done consciously, it's sometimes easier for a listener or any fan to spread the albums out on a coffee table and compare one to the next. But for us, we really only look forward. We have to be true to what we've established but it's something that hasn't occurred to me. I guess I would have to go back and listen to them side by side. Maybe it's because my guitars are so bloody hard to play so anything more than 3 strings is a challenge.

Bill: Hey Gordie, I actually have a couple of questions for you. Did Big Sugar start as a cover band, like so many others have? If so, who did you cover? Secondly, will you be bringing your acoustic duo to the Maritimes?

Gordie Johnson: Not so much as a cover band, but the fact that we were playing blues, jazz, we weren't really doing original songs necessarily but we were doing original takes on them so it wasn't like we were an Aerosmith cover band.

Mary Ann Pegg: Gordie: Have you ever considered doing the song "Little Wing" by Stevie Ray Vaughn? I think it's right up your alley, seeing as you have performed with Double Trouble. What do you think, Gordie?

Gordie Johnson: Well, first of all, she stands corrected in that the song is actually a Hendrix song but no disrespect to Jimi, my performing with Double Trouble is not a tribute to Stevie, I never got to see him play and to be perfectly frank, I was never particularly influenced by him on a musical level. But from meeting his family and friends, I looked up to him as a person.

Craig: What is your typical song writing process? Words first? Riffs first? Jam until a song arises?

Gordie Johnson: No rules, no process. We accept the inspiration in all forms and even the most inconvenient times.

Derrick: Has Big Sugar released any albums in Europe and if not have you considered it? Europe has some great outdoor festivals. Thanks...Derrick (stuck in the Netherlands)

Gordie Johnson: We've actually toured Holland, Belgium and parts of England. Nothing very extensive. I think we've been to Holland three times and would love a chance to go back.

Sour Kid: You did a fantastic job producing Wide Mouth Mason's "Stew". Any production assignments for us to look forward to in the near future?

Gordie Johnson: Well, completing the new Big Sugar album was a fairly monumental tasks so in the next few months I'll look at playing live as opposed to in the studio but I'll look for another production within the year.

T Dubya (Edmonton): Hey Gordie, I was wondering if Big Sugar has recorded songs (in past album sessions) that haven't been released? If so, do you guys plan on releasing any of them in the future?

Gordie Johnson: Yes we have, and I suppose at some point we will have enough outtakes and things of that nature to release. There's a couple of surf instrumentals that are cool from 500 Pounds, also a studio version The Beatles, I also hear there are a couple of songs that appear on the Dutch release of our very first record and I can't even for the life of me remember how those songs go. There were a lot of outtakes for our first record. Enough to make another two records but the better stuff of that, including a lot of the original master got recorded over by the owner of the record label we were signed to at the time. He recorded a bunch of Estonian music over top of it.

Dustin S.: Great new album it's really grown on me. What's Butterball about exactly, me and my girlfriend have been debating.

Gordie Johnson: If your girlfriend said booty, she's right for $500!

Craig: Hi Gordie: Love your live shows. You're the best act in Canada. Which is your all-time favourite guitar?

Gordie Johnson: My all time favourite guitar is my 71 Gibson SG Custom. I used it to record most of the new record. I have so many at this point that you know, I just sort of wander. I go through little phases where I get really attached to one or the other. But that 71 SG is really special, my wife bought it for me.

Denis: I know that you are very supportive of the Canadian music scene on all market levels. Have you ever thought of starting a label of your very own?


Gordie Johnson: I haven't really ever considered that because taking charge of Big Sugar and working in the studio with other acts takes up 140% of my time. To actually run a record label would mean I'd have to give up something else and guitar playing?...I don't think so.

Gordie Johnson: Well thanks for cool questions. I hope I get a chance to do more of this sort of thing. It would be really fun to do this again sometime! Everyone has to promise me to check out the Sadies.

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