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Interview with Joel Plaskett

In his earlier musical years, Nova Scotia rocker Joel Plaskett fronted the Halifax based band Thrush Hermit, which gave him ample opportunity to gain experience as both a songwriter and musician. His current group, Joel Plaskett Emergency, that includes Tim Brennan on Bass and Dave Marsh on drums, weaves together '70's power pop, new wave, reggae and blues, to form their own unique sound. I was lucky enough to catch up with Joel backstage at Harbour Station in Saint John, NB, while on the final leg as opening act for the Tragically Hip during their latest cross-Canada tour for this interview.

GB- How have you enjoyed being on tour with The Hip and how are the shows going?


JP - They've been really good. Some nights stick out a little more than others as far as being the best nights of the tour. Some nights are more full than others depending on where we are playing. For example in Toronto, which was a great night for us, it was a pretty empty room, just case forty bucks in Toronto doesn't mean as much as forty bucks in Thunder Bay. They show up early in the small towns but in the bigger cities they take their time getting there. Its been really great, the guys are treating us well, the shows are great, we're selling lots of records every night. It couldn't be a better fit you know. The crew are all great and the production ... , they got their shit together.

GB- How are the Hip fans reacting to your music?

JP - Good, you know we haven't gotten "hipped". Everyone is saying did you get "hipped," which is when people start screaming "HIP" during your show. But that hasn't happened to us yet. Sometimes its hard to register right off the bat. I think some people are kind of scratching their heads for the first four or five tunes, but by the end it, it seems like we got the crowd on our side. They are wound at that point for The Hip too, so we are kinda trying to build on that energy as the room fills up. We play our own rock show and try to wind them up for the headliners, which is sort of what we're being hired to do.

GB - How do you feel playing the big arenas as compared to the clubs?


JP - It's a little different, its different when your playing to people who don't know your tunes. In the clubs we are playing to people who respond to our songs as they know them. So when you hit the first three chords they start cheering, but that doesn't happen here. Your kind of going on faith here. The smaller places to me still feel the best. Like in Ottawa, we played quite a small place and I can sort of see the distance. I can see faces of people even in the farthest reaches of the place. That to me makes it's a little easier but I think the jumbo trons are helping.

GB - Any wild road stories from this tour you want to share?


JP - Its been pretty tame you know. We've been having to leave after some of our own performances to get the driving done, as we have to be at the next place at like 3 or 3:30 after driving 8 hours. We got to drive three hours and sleep and do four more. So no crazy stories to tell. I should make one up but I'm not swift on my feat enough right now (laughs). Its been more of an interesting tour as we've been meeting people and introducing our music to people who would normally not get it. I get a lot of people coming up to me who are like..., they are fourteen year old kids and fifty year old men and women buying the records. So we are reaching a wider group of people now.

GB - How did you get hooked up with The Hip initially?

JP - They invited us to open for them on Canada Day at the Molson Amphitheater in Toronto this summer and that went well, so we threw our hat in the ring saying we would love to do this tour when you do it. Eventually we got word from them that they wanted us to do it. So I think that show proved to them that maybe we could you know. Gord said to me I'm glad you guys are doing this tour. He said a lot of bands have a hard time opening for us. I think its good for them because they want a band that can wind up their audience, but also a band that they like and I know Gord likes our record. They all have a real sense of art. Its not just like, "oh who cares who's on before us." They take a lot of pride in what they present and I feel honored to be invited along.


GB - Do you think this tour may open up some doors for the band?

JP - It can't hurt. We're signed. We're on a sizable Indie label in Canada, MapleMusic. They do a good job promoting us. I don't know if our record release situation will change. Radio is a tough nut to crack. I don't have expatiations there. I would love it if I could have expatiations, but I've had them before and they never seem to materialize. So I no longer factor that in to my equation for success. I base success on doing shows, making cool records, just doing shit that's interesting. This is interesting going out and playing arenas. To me this is the next step forward. And regardless of what it does for us or dosen't, it's a new experience and that's the way I treat it. Every tour should feel like its got something cool about it and this is definitely cool. It certainly can't hurt and we're selling some records, and if it brings some more people out to the shows it will be a good thing.

GB - What's coming up next for yourself and the group?

JP - Were playing New Years in Halifax at the Marquee, that will be our last show there as its closing down, and an all ages show the night before at the Pavilion in Halifax. We are going to do a tour in January of Ontario basically, and then that will be it for a while. That will be the last tour behind the last record. February will be more E.C.M.A. stuff. Also I got a solo record coming out in February, like an acoustic kind of record and I'm going to do some touring behind that this spring. Then we got some stuff we shot for a DVD of the band while we were in Halifax, so we will probably try to release a DVD with some new rock tracks later in the year, like in the fall or something like that. I'm trying to plan things more and more in advance and be a bit more professional about it in that respect, as it makes things easier for everyone involved. Then the guys know when they have to be committed and when they have time off to do stuff. This is a great tour in some ways. If we had a brand new rock record to drop right after the tour it would maybe be the thing to do, but this kind of fell into our lap. You can't plan everything around the tour that doesn't even materialize.


GB - Any chance of your music getting released outside of Canada at some point?

JP - We're definitely open to that. With this next record what I plan on doing, and it may be a little ass backwards, but if I can get this upcoming solo record out in the States and the UK, I can tour them territories solo and turn people on to my song-writing. Then when the interest is there go back with the band. I'd bring the band right away if I didn't think it would bankrupt me (laughs). You know what I mean. Its really a big part of the financial equation in the sense that it costs a lot more for three guys to travel around. I want to pay the band but I can't afford to take a hit everywhere I go. So I'm picking my battles as far as what I'm doing as that's important right now.

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