Volume 95, Issue 48

Tuesday, November 27, 2001
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Big Sugar: Really bloody loud

Warm humour saves otherwise Cold flick

Halfcocked rawks

Pitt & Redford play Game well

GWAR brings violence to music

Big Sugar: Really bloody loud

Band adheres to Monopoly's dress code only

By Molly Duignan
Gazette Staff

If Gordie Johnson wasn't Big Sugar's frontman, he might have been a painter.

"I did all the illustrations for Alkaline by hand," Johnson says. "Hopefully, [people won't think of me as] a struggling artist."

It's been 10 years since Big Sugar first struggled to be heard. Yet, even now – with an impressive discography and a long list of accomplishments – Johnson claims nothing has changed.

"Our prime concern was always to make great music. We hoped our music would stand the test of time – I mean to play something that we could listen to in 20 years and still be proud of," he says.

"Our music doesn't have a time stamp on it. This music is good no matter what time of day it is. We kind of set that as our grand musical goal and I think we've achieved that."

The band's latest effort, Brothers and Sisters, Are You Ready?, takes the constantly evolving Big Sugar dynamic and creates an entirely new sound.

The new album infuses elements of reggae, rock and blues in a way that is beyond definition. "I don't describe our sound, I make our sound," Johnson laughs.

But above all classifications, that sound is loud.

"We play really bloody loud, like AC/DC loud," he says. Perhaps that explains Johnson's raspy voice a day after Saturday night's show in Toronto.

While saving his voice may be tough, he says keeping things fresh and new for Big Sugar is simple: they just don't care about anyone else.

"We actually don't care about trends or popularity. I don't want to be popular by conforming to what is popular," he says.

"We don't [fit in]. We are our own scene. We do what we do because we're the ones who have to stand there and convince an audience of it. I'm not an actor, I'm a musician," he says.

Which is why Big Sugar promises a great show any day of the week. "It doesn't make a difference how many people are watching. We put on the same show no matter who's there. We're just as hard on ourselves musically as we were in 1991. The important things are still the important things," he says.

Nonetheless, Johnson & Co. can't seem to help but be popular. "I don't think this album explodes any preconceptions [of our sound], unless your preconception is that we're like a retro 70s kind of Lenny Kravitz thing or that we just play classic rock. If that's what your preconception is, you didn't know what it was about anyway," he says.

"I think [this album] is a better starting point for people who haven't heard us before. To go out and buy 500 lbs, although it is a great record, it came out in 1994 when we were playing to crowds of one or two hundred people and our sound was sort of like that. Now our sound is changed somewhat," Johnson notes.

While some things have changed, one common denominator remains: Hugo Boss. "[Being clothed by] Hugo Boss has kept us in the public eye beyond music. So much of this game is about being a public person. I have style. Now if I just had a life, it'd be a life-style," Johnson laughs.

The style and sound they bring to the stage is all part of what makes Big Sugar so unique. "I don't think [the audience] will see anything else like it. Our show goes so far beyond what is trendy that I think anybody, whether you know reggae or blues before you come out, will leave saying 'wow, I really like that,'" he says.

Thankfully, Johnson found a home onstage with a guitar and not behind an easel with a paintbrush.

Gazette File Photo

Big Sugar plays Monopoly tonight. Tickets are $20 at the door and doors open at 7 p.m..

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Copyright The Gazette 2001