Mar. 14, 2012 - Issue #856: FAVA
An inside look at the making of BA Johnston's Hi Dudes!
Wed, Mar 21 (10 pm)
The Empress, Free
BA Johnston of Hamilton, ON has embarked on a Canadian tour following the release of his eighth studio album Hi Dudes! on Feb 21. Prior to his Edmonton stop, he took the time to answer a few questions about the making of the album.
VUE WEEKLY: How long did it take to make Hi Dudes! from the initial songwriting through to the end of
BA JOHNSTON: That is a really great question. Sadly, I'm not really sure. I guess it took from the time the last album came out (September 2011) until I sent it to the record plant in December. So, I guess, like, 16 months. I did spend a big chunk of that time touring, so I wasn't writing any songs then. I also drove to the world's largest arcade in New Hampshire three times. No songwriting then either. Also, I have to do a lot of chores for mother. So, I didn't write any songs then either.
VW: When you were writing the songs, did you come at them in a particular way? Lyrics first? Music first?
BAJ: For the songs that have the cool beats, I just get them on my email and then sing over them in the computer room. Guitar-wise, I tend to have ideas for songs and then I try and re-arrange the two chords I know in a new way to fit the idea. It's getting harder to find ways to make those two chords sound fresh.
VW: Did the songs come from one person fully formed, or were they sketches that were then filled out as a group?
BAJ: I write all the songs, well, except the beat stuff. I then drive to Toronto and record them with a dude named Paul Linklater in his basement, and then he does the rest of the work after I leave. It usually takes me about two hours to record all my parts. Not sure how long it takes for him to make it sound good.
VW: What were the recording sessions like for this album? Is this the kind of thing you recorded live or did you piece it together one track at a time? Why?
BAJ: The recording sessions usually work like this: I try and get like four songs done. Before I can forget them, I drive to Paul's house. He lives beside a 241 Pizza. So, I usually eat a slice before and save the second one for after. I then go into his basement and just record my parts. I'm not good enough to play along with anything, so I have to go first. After I leave, Paul does all the work. This has been how all my records have been recorded except substitute Stephan or Dave for Paul.
VW: Were there any other songs written that were left off the album?
BAJ: No. I never leave songs off a record intentionally. During Stairway to Hamilton there were a few songs that we forgot to put on the record. I'm a firm believer in deep cuts and filler tracks.
VW: How did you decide which songs to include on the album? Did you have an idea of what you wanted Hi Dudes! to be when you started, or did the finished shape emerge as the writing and recording went along?
BAJ: I don't usually have a clear idea on what I want an album to sound like. I tend to write songs while watching television. So, often the songs are about what is on television. Sometimes when I'm driving the minivan, I get an idea. If I don't forget it before I get home I try and make it into a song. I usually write songs about, like, six different things, so all my records kind of sound the same anyway. Also my guitar playing hasn't improved since 1978.
VW: You worked with Paul Linklater and Stephan Mcleod on the album. What drew you to them and what did they bring to the process?
BAJ: I have worked with Stephan Macleod (Halifax-Windom Earle) since around 2006. I've toured with his band a bunch and he gives me beats for free which is awesome. I had toured with Paul's band the Pinecones in the past and needed to record with someone who lives near Hamilton, is affordable, doesn't hate my music and is awesome. Paul is all of those things. Due to my musical limitations I need someone who not only records, but will play a million instruments on the record to disguise how crummy it is.
VW: If you were to trace the musical map that led you to Hi Dudes!, what would it look like?
BAJ: A musical map, I'm not sure what that means. Hamilton doesn't stand for many metaphors. Basically, I drove a Toyota Previa to a KFC, bought a poverty bucket and then ate it as I cried alone watching Back to the Future 2. V
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