HE PLAYS WHAT HE MEANS AND HE MEANS WHAT HE PLAYS
Gordie Johnson Talks To All Access Magazine
The Rocker and I have interviewed a number of bands and artists. All special I might add. But there is one artist though who we’ve had our eye on for quite some time. His name is Gordie Johnson. Who is Gordie Johnson? Some of you may be asking? (taking a deep breath.) Let us enlighten you…
Gordie Johnson is the singer and guitarist for the Canadian reggae-rock band Big Sugar and the rock band Grady, where he used his nickname “Grady” Johnson as the name of the band. Big Sugar has released a number of albums that include, ‘Hemi-Vision’, ‘Heated’ and ‘Brothers And Sisters Are You Ready?’. While Grady, has released four albums, ‘Y.U. So Shady?, ‘Cup Of Cold Poison’, ‘ Good As Dead’ and the live recording, ‘Calling All My Demons’.
As a producer , he has worked with other artists, including Gov’t Mule, Taj Mahal, The Trews, The Joel Plaskett Emergency, The Respectables, Reel Big Fish, Tim Chaisson & Morning Fold and Wide Mouth Mason who in March 2011, it was announced that Gordie Johnson would be joining WMM full-time as bassist. He reformed Big Sugar in 2010 for some concert dates. That same year, Big Sugar released their new studio album ‘Revolution Per Minute’. Last year Big Sugar released a live album, ‘Big Sugar: Eliminate Ya! Live’ a 2-Disc CD/DVD set. Also in 2012, Gordie Johnson introduced a new project called Sit Down, Servant!! Put together in days so he could have the chance to open for George Thorogood as an invited guest opener. SDS is a new project that gave him the chance to combine blues and gospel with dub in his own unique way. Accompanied by Big Sugar drummer Stephane Beaudin on the kit, while Johnson sings and plays steel guitar along with his Moog bass pedals for a soul lifting electric set of foot-stomping songs performed to audiences for the first time.
In 2013, things are definitely going to be heating up for Gordie Johnson. Having landed the opening gig for Joe Satriani’ s “UNSTOPPABLE MOMENTUM” Tour and of course a number of other projects that he has lined up. The Rocker and I had the honor of talking to the one and only, Gordie Johnson about his latest project Sit Down, Servant!!, Big Sugar, Grady and his upcoming tour opening up for Joe Satriani. Here is what Gordie shared with us……
AAM : First off, thank you so much for calling
GJ : No problem, it’s my pleasure.
AAM : Alright then, let’s talk about your new project, Sit Down, Servant!! Were you inspired by listening to gospel blues?
GJ : We weren’t trying to recreate a sound from a by- gone era. It’s actually what I’ve been listening to for a long the time.
AAM : So you already had an idea what musical direction you wanted it to go in?
GJ : It was the first time I could go into the studio with a concept I had in my mind for years. But I never had that moment where I said, “Oh, we really need to do this album now.” I had this idea about playing the synth bass pedals in a more rootsy form of music. Applicable to the styles of music I work with as a mixer and producer. So, the idea was always there.
AAM : Why the wait in doing Sit Down, Servant!!, too busy?
GJ : Yeah, it was always either me doing a Big Sugar record or a Grady record or producing somebody else. But when the opportunity came up to do this it only took us two days to record the album. We didn’t overdub anything.
AAM : How’s your hand? Did you have to go to rehab?
GJ : You know it’s feeling a lot better. In fact SDS was recorded last year. It was as I was recovering from Carpel Tunnel surgery. So playing on the album the way I did was all I could do as far as guitar playing goes. No rehab.
AAM : That must have been tough recording the album.
GJ : You know, you are only good as your worst day really. Not trying to show off or anything. I just need to play enough guitar to convey the true meaning of the song. That’s the important thing.
We just played the songs. I never thought about my hand or would I ever get better. Would I ever play the way I use to play? It never entered my mind.
AAM : What about playing Big Sugar or Grady songs on a lap steel?
GJ : It hasn’t come up yet (laughs). Since SDS my hand has gotten better and my ability to play guitar is back to where it used to be.
AAM : So does that mean..?
GJ : I’ve been playing more steel guitar lately. With SDS I might play two songs on guitar and the rest I’ll play on steel. There are some nights I won’t pick up a guitar and just play all steel. I also have a triple neck Magnaphone I can use as well. I play guitar exactly the way I mean to play guitar.
AAM : Are you satisfied with the response Sit Down, Servant!! is getting so far?
GJ : Yeah, I am surprised by the response so far. I think the SDS album is so down to earth and honest. I think that is why people go, “Wow! That’s cool!” What really surprised me was how people on the Hip Hop world are digging the album.
AAM : How so?
GJ : Everytime we’ve gone on stage, in fact there is this Hip Hop band in Austin called, ‘The League Of Extraordinary G’s’. There is about 8 Rappers in that group. We were at SxSw doing a show when all 8 of them got on stage with us!
AAM : What was that like?
GJ : We never met these guys before and they just jumped on stage and turned our set into a 45 minute jam session. I just sat back and said, “What can be better than this?!” I didn’t say, “Hey, you guys are hijacking my showcase!” I said, “You guys just made this show a memorable one, you made amazing!”
AAM : When can expect something new from Big Sugar?
GJ : With Big Sugar we’ve been really busy this past year. We didn’t know how my hand would be doing. I actually thought I was going to have another surgery this year which turned out not to be the case. I’ve got about 30 songs recorded with Big Sugar this year. I’d love to get Big Sugar out on the road next year and play throughout the United States. For a band that has been away for 10 years, all of a sudden we’re getting phone calls from Europe to play festivals. We’ve never played in Europe before. So when we did play, it was like, “Would anyone know who we are?” Then 10,000 people show up and it’s like, “How did this happen!(laughs)
AAM : Do you like hearing people say how much they love your band?
GJ : I’m always seeking the approval of people who like us. I never feel easy with people on the sound room going, “The vocals should be louder!” Louder than what?! Louder than a Humble Pie record? Steve Marriott is a way better singer than me. If I’m happy and the people are happy that’s all the really matters.
AAM : What about Grady? Will you be bring it back a some point?
GJ : I can imagine at some point Grady will be back again. We’ll have to just wait and see.
AAM : Congratulations on getting the gig opening for Joe Satriani.
GJ : How fast is Joe going to sound after I get off the stage?(laughs)
Joe is an amazing player who plays pretty fast, compared to my slow bluesy tone.
AAM : Are you up for the challenge?
GJ : The band has played more since our last tour with George Thorogood. We’ve expanded more and we’re definitely ready for this tour. Yeah, we’re up for this challenge.
AAM : We have ask about the Buswick Bill “Incident”
GJ : (laughs), The “Incident”, that’s funny. I was hoping I didn’t sound negative in the article. It’s all good. He just came out to show and jammed with us on stage. He was inspired. He heard the band one night, got on stage grabbed the Mic and started rapping with us. After the song he went to the studio where I produce and before I knew it I was getting text messages saying, “Where should I set up our equipment?” I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me, it’s 2 in the morning.” We ended up doing it (laughs). I will say this, Bill brought it no matter what condition he was in. When it was time, all he did was step up to the Mic. All we had to do is keep up with him.
AAM : What about playing in L.A.?
GJ : I hope to play there soon. I would love to do a SDS set in Los Angeles. We never really set out a lot of time to do this. But it is starting to become more and more in demand. Playing L.A. would be really cool.
AAM : We’d asked you what is next for Gordie Johnson, but we want you to surprise us…
GJ : (laughs) Oh, there’ll be more surprises, trust me.
For more.info on
Sit Down, Servant!! :
Gordie Johnson/Big Sugar: