Help! Save Me from the Tiki Torch!!

the band out on Granville St.

A chat with Hamilton's Junkhouse over grilled cheese sandwiches and lemon meringue pie...

Interview by Alphonse Leong
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

45-second excerpt from "Jet Trash" (various formats)

A band's third album is a major marking point, and Junkhouse's recently released Fuzz indicates an exciting leap forward in the Hamilton, Ontario group's progress. The addition of Colin Cripps (ex of Crash Vegas) as guitarist, producer and Tom Wilson's songwriting partner makes a significant impact.

"We'd been dying to have him in the band for years," says Wilson. "And he's been a really close friend of ours for years, not just of the band and what we did, but of us personally. It was getting time to make a record, and Colin was a guy I could relate to musically and he kind of had the same energy that I did to write songs. Writing with Colin was great 'cause he'd come up with a melody idea all in Colin's planetary language -- which none of us would understand. But all the consonants and vowels and syllables were there and they were easy to write words to."

Wilson is pleased that Cripps also produced the CD: "What happens is, when you make a record, you usually get a producer and he's bringing different ideas that maybe you didn't intend to be in the music. With Colin, on the other hand, I knew that, when we were sitting and writing together, he was already picturing in his head how it would be recorded and what kind of mood we were setting... not only being one of the principal songwriters, but being the producer in that situation, I think, benefited the overall record." Adds Cripps, "From my personal experience, it just seemed logical, and thankfully, it was accepted by the whole band."

Cripss and Wilson Cripps also added a wicked riff to the punkish "Funhouse '69." ("That's Colin's death-metal Telecaster he just had to get out," remarks guitarist Dan Achens.) "We're just too fucking old to be punks and we'd be ridiculous trying it," admits Wilson. "But we were all in bands and out performing in bars in the late seventies when we all ran into punk at the same time -- it was a big influence on us. The whole punk thing hit me that any idiot, you know, who had a good idea, who had something to say, was allowed to say it. And I think that whole experience has come full-circle, so now I still can't sing or play guitar very well, but I'm allowed to express myself in a little more subtle way."

The wonderfully sardonic and infectious "Jet Trash" is an observation of another sort, Wilson relates: "The story is kinda about me as a kid being in love with middle-aged women. I grew up in a working-class neighbourhood, but about four blocks over, there were these split-level houses, and all the flowers grew larger, the air was cleaner and the lawns were really well-manicured. They were just upper-middle-class women, and I always thought their husbands were complete lunkheads, and, when I grew up, I'd save them, you know, take them under my arm and get them away from the barbeque and the tiki torches. I was the saviour of the upper-middleclass housewife!"

"Shine" is one of the more openly optimistic songs on Fuzz. Wilson declares, "It's supposed to be a 'feel-good' song. What it says through the verses isn't necessarily 'feel-good'... it's kind of an observation on depression and lost hopes... but the chorus 'shines' through!" Achens notes, "When we went in the studio, it wasn't like a big deal, it was just a cool song and then after we recorded it, it was like, 'mmm, yeah, this has got a nice angle to it' and then when the record company heard it: 'It's a hit!'"

The CD ranges widely from thrashy guitar numbers to moody electronica-flavoured songs. "I've always wanted to make records like that," says Cripps. "We've been playing for a long, long time and we're drawing influences from twenty years of playing, not even consciously, but just because you've been the folk guy, the rockabilly guy, the power guy, or the alterna-guy or whatever. A lot of the records I really love, you can see that dimension in a band, they branch out into different things."

The band was in Vancouver this past month to shoot a video for "Shine" (outside in the rain -- and in some crazy subterranean tunnels), and Wilson has a rather pointed beef with the process. "Somebody comes up with a few scripts and a bunch of reels and says 'we're going to make a video for this song, we're going to spend about fifty-thousand dollars.' It's like, 'What the fuck!? What's wrong with this picture?' [The record company] gives us only eighty-five thousand dollars to make a record, we've spent like ten months dealing with it, making it right -- and now we're gonna spend fifty grand in three days?!?"

The band seems to take to our city, though, 400 inches of rain and all. Observes Achens, "Hamilton's not a bad city, but it's not a tourist town like Vancouver, and it's not set on the Pacific coastline or anything like that. It's a different vibe. I guess people can adapt to living anywhere. But if we were really smart, we'd all move out here!"

Junkhouse play with with the Matthew Good Band in Chilliwack on November 20th, Victoria on the 21st, and at Graceland in Vancouver on the 22nd.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on October 31, 1997

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