5 Questions with Rags #47 - B.A. Johnston

B.A. Johnston is apparently some kind of Canadian folk hero. Every time I mention him, to people across various culture and genre affiliations, there is some kind of recognition. I've been criminally unaware of his presence until just recently, with the release of his fucking glorious new album Gremlins 3. The album is full of fascinatingly obtuse songs about doing whippits whilst working a grocery store, getting drunk on Sourpuss (That awful, awful “liquor” we all drank in our early 20s), getting drunk in a canoe, getting drunk on cheap beer, and slowly turning into his grandmother. The song that really grabbed me ears on the record was “No Wanna Shambhala,” a song about the confusing, wrecked feeling that comes at the end of a multi-day festival. It could be about any festival, really, as Mr. Johnston was so kind to offer up.

You really nailed the feeling at the end of Shambhala. Love that track (“No Wanna Shambhala”).

<laughs> I've actually never been! I assume it would be similar to a festival called Evolve, in the Maritimes.

Yes. There is a lot of Evolve overlap I hear from Shambhala people.

I played Nelson last year and there were all these people on the guest list. I asked who all these people on the list were and the bartender said, “Oh, those are the people that run Shambhala but don't worry, they wouldn't come to a B.A. Johnston concert. They're just always on the guestlists.”

Well, I go to Shambhala and I like B.A. Johnston, so whatever.

I'm sure it's a good time. Evolve seems fun, I can just imagine that after three or four days your grip on reality might be...thin.

Do yourself a favour and go get your GREMLINS III into your ear holes. 

Do yourself a favour and go get your GREMLINS III into your ear holes. 

The good homie is smack-dab in the middle of a cross-Canada tour. Go see this guy if you get the chance. He will not disappoint. Also, if you're in Victoria, be extra sure to come, get rid of that 4/20 weed hangover and rock out with ME!

03/31 North Bay, ON - Fraser Tavern
04/01 Sudbury, ON - Townehouse Tavern
04/06 Kingston, ON - The Toucan
04/07 Ottawa, ON - House of Targ
04/08 Montreal QC - Grumpy's Bar
04/14 Thunder Bay, ON - Black Pirates Pub
04/15 Winnipeg, MB - Handsome Daughter
04/17 Banff, AB - Wild Bill's
04/18 Lethbridge, AB - OWL
04/19 Canmore, AB - The Drake Inn
04/20 Kelowna, BC - Fernando's Pub
04/21 Victoria, BC - Logan's
04/22 Vancouver, BC - Pat's Pub
04/23 Whistler, BC - Garfinkel's
04/26 Calgary AB - The Ship & Anchor
04/27 Edmonton, AB - The Buckingham
04/28 Regina, SK - O'Hanlon's Irish Pub
04/29 Saskatoon, SK - Amigos Cantina

1. What's the first album you bought with your own money?

The first album I bought with my own money was The English Beat – I Just Can't Stop It. I don't listen to it all the time, but I still have it. I listen to it maybe twice a year or something. It's kind of weird to listen to records you knew 20 years ago and you still know it perfectly.

2. When's the last time you did something for the first time?

I don't know. I'm very old. Hmmm...nothing's coming up...Cleaning a toilet a year ago. That might be the last new thing I did. It's not very pleasant. I always assumed they were just clean but then I looked at them more closely and there's stuff inside. I realized I have to clean them.

Wait, wait, wait. How did you get this far in life without having to ever clean a toilet? What kind of blessed life have you lived?

Roommates. Also, I pee perfectly into the centre so I never leave a mess, so I never thought it was my problem.

3. If you could spend the day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

John Candy. And I think it'd be cool to have it just be like “The Great Outdoors.” A cabin, sitting on the dock fishing, maybe BBQ up some steaks, nothing too crazy.

4. Have you ever seen a ghost or felt a ghost-like presence?

I'm a huge scaredy-cat so I feel like there are ghosts all of the time. I'm scared of basements and darkness and all that stuff. I get creeped out all of the time.

Is it ghosts then or spiders and things like that?

Ghosts, man! I play a lot of bars and bars are really haunted. If you talk to a bartender they can usually tell you really crazy stories about the bar, especially the bars that are old and have been around for like 80 years. Across the country bartenders can tell you stuff, closing up at 3 or 4 in the morning when there's no one there. I think Regina's got The German Club that's really famous. There's two levels, a basement and upstairs, and in the basement they can hear full blown parties going on at 3 in the morning but there's no one there. I get creeped out by ghosts.

That's creepy. I don't like that at all.

It's just partying, drunk ghosts.

I guess if they're just partying, that's not really scary. Ghosts having a good time.

The bar in Hamilton has a drunk, the old ghost. He'll close the door on people and stuff. He's a regular who's kind of a bad drunk. Still comes back for a drink once in awhile, still ruining peoples' nights 80 years later.

5. What's the best memory you have of an elementary or high school teacher?

I had an English teacher who gave me a Beavis & Butthead cassette in front of the class and he said I was the most interesting person in class. I thought it was kind of weird but I was pretty stoked to get the tape. It had a duet with Cher on it.

6. The guest question comes from the homies in Moontricks...In an ideal world, if you had all the money and resources you needed, what would you do with your life?

I'd quit. I'd sit around, watch TV and swim a lot. I'd never play a show again. I'd retire.

I wouldn't do anything either.

I don't get those questions. It's like a job interview question, “If you had a million dollars what would you do?” Well, I wouldn't apply at 7-11, I'll tell you that. I wouldn't work here so I don't know why you're asking me this.” There's not much I need to do. I'd probably pay someone to mow the lawn. There'd be no big things I'd accomplish. I guess though, if you had all the money in the world, you should do something. I could cure cancer or something. I'd do that too.