Volume 92, Issue 17
Thursday, October 1, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
A spoonful of Big Sugar keeps Gordie wired
Photo by Andrew MacNaugtan
I DIDN'T KNOW EDDY GRANT WAS IN BIG SUGAR. But they'll all be playing together as Big Sugar at the Wave tonight.
By Christina Vardanis
Twenty four shows in 28 days. That means Canadian rockers Big Sugar spent 86 per cent of September performing their high intensity, blow your hair back shows. For lead vocalist and guitar maniac Gordie Johnson, that kind of energy is possible because of one reason.
"You've gotta love rock and roll above all," Johnson says. "When you've made that commitment everything else just kind of falls into place."
When Johnson recalls the first sparks of his romance with rock and roll, he is brought back to his childhood when outlets for creativity were encouraged within regular parental limits.
"Before I ever discovered there was a thing called rock and roll I loved to colour. I'd draw rude things into the picture and occasionally get in trouble," Johnson remembers. "But when I heard an electric guitar for the first time it ruined everything. I was like 'this is it. I don't need school, I've got this figured out already which of course went over really well with the family."
From lewd doodles to international rock icon well, maybe not so fast. Johnson's first gig resembled an Adam Sandler character more than a local pub show. "My first gig was playing an Italian wedding," Johnson explains, adding nostalgically, "we played every kind of polka."
He recognizes the past as a learning experience. "If nothing else [the wedding gigs] gave me a really strong work ethic," he says. "It's not about whether I feel like doing this tonight, it's what I do for a living. People are depending on me to play music. And it was always funny to see which uncle spilled something on the bride."
Johnson's responsibilities lay far beyond just playing music. He continued his producing duties on the band's latest release, Heated and insists there is minimal conflict in wearing both performance and administrative hats. "You have to forget one for the other," he explains.
"When you're playing guitar you have to be able to shake your hair, get sweaty and let your adrenaline take over. And then you have to go back and listen to it analytically.
"But I'm a Gemini," Johnson jokes. "So it's easy for me to go from my left personality to my right."
Duality seems to accompany Johnson in all walks of life. When on stage, kicking out a combination of blues, reggae and classic rock, Johnson embodies the image of a true rock star with a dynamic personality and strong, almost intimidating presence. When talking about where Big Sugar is headed, he is extremely soft spoken and gentle, yet still passionate.
"In a time when I lived in the rural west, you'd see these farmers that would mutter about ten words a day, speak real softly, but at night they'd drink a gallon of whiskey and drive 130 miles an hour," Johnson says. "I have my screamin' and sweatin' outlet every night. I don't have to carry that over to my daytime."
Big Sugar will overwhelm fans tonight at the Wave as a powerful kick-off to weekend Homecoming events. As long as their desire runs high, Johnson predicts the band will be heating up stages everywhere for years to come. "I have no other plans for the future. This is me. This is what I do. This is what I'll be doing, success or not. I love what I do. If you have that, you can endure anything."
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