This is a cool one for me…and a really fun chat. Sass Jordan released her first album, Tell Somebody, in 1988, and she’s been melting faces ever since. She just dropped a new album, Live in New York Ninety-Four., in April 28. Recorded in 1994, tis album captures the true essence and power of this Canadian ‘ROCK STAR’ (Yes, you are, Sass!!). It also features the late, great Taylor Hawkins on Drums. Let’s Rockians, singer, songwriter, bass player, actor and Candian Idol judge, SASS FREAKIN’ JORDAN!
I’ve included audio for separate clips from the interview, as well as a transcription. After seeing a Facebook post on Sass’s page about how there’s are too many questions about her time with the Van Halen brothers, I decided to leave that out.
Sass on rock stars:
Some of the best parts of an interview come before the interview actually starts. When Sass called, she apologized for being a bit late and mentioned how many interviews she had already done that day.
Let’s Rock: This rockstar thing is tough, isn’t it?
Sass Jordan: Yeah ,I wish I was one. I don’t really know much about it
LR: Oh come on!
SJ: The last thing I can imagine myself being is a rockstar. I’m not my own idea of a rock star, put it that way.
LR: Well, I think rock stars always have a different opinion of what a rockstar is.
SJ: Probably. Yeah. Exactly. It’s what you grew up thinking a rock star was. To me, a rock star was Paul Rogers, or Robert Plant or David Bowie. These were rock stars, you know what I’m saying?
LR: OK, but let’s take that and work with it. They sing songs on stage for people to enjoy. what do you do?
SJ: Same. Same, same, same, but it’s the perception you have of them in the end and the kind of life they must lead. It’s all invented, trust me. (Laughs)
Welcome and Gordon Lightfoot
LR: Let’s get this going, what do you think?
SJ: OK, honey.
LR: Welcome to Let’s Rock and thank you for coming.
SJ: (Screaming) Let’s Rock
LR: See! that’s why we call it Let’s Rock. So people can do that.
SJ: (Laughs) Fantastic name. That’s what you call leading the witness. I like it.
LR: Exactly. Now there’s a lot to talk about today. I have so many questions.
LR: It might be fitting, since Monday was a pretty sad day in Canadian music history, Gordon Lightfoot passed away on Monday and from what I’ve understood, there’s not a singer in Canada who was not affected or influenced by him, so I just wanted to kinda get your thoughts on, you know, were you a fan and what his music meant to you, before we move on to the New York stuff.
SJ: Yeah, not really, no. First of all, let me just say that my respect for him is enormous and he was brilliant, for sure. It wasn’t really the style or type of music that I was particularly into coming up. So, I was aware of Gordon Lightfoot, but I didn’t really listen to, does that make sense? But I completely agree that it’s a huge loss, you know. I mean he was he was amazing and he did influence a tremendous amount of people. I just wasn’t one of them.
LR: It’s just amazing, the people from so many different styles of music that he did influence.
SJ: Yeah absolutely. You know who else is like that, although thank God she’s still with us is Joni Mitchell.
LR: Absolutely. Same kind of thing.
SJ: There’s some really, really influential Canadian musicians.
LR: Don’t go there, yet, because I’ve got a lot of Canadian questions.
Sass on her new album ‘Live In New York Ninety Four‘
LR: Let’s get into the reason why we’re here and the fun stuff. New album. WooHoo
LR: Live In New York Ninety Four. I’ve been listening to this album all week. It is something else. It is fantastic. What a cool vibe and a cool sound it was back then.
SJ: Woah, that’s so amazing. I just discovered talking to somebody, you know because I’ve been talking all morning, but I was just talking to someone earlier and he said to me, “So, was this like a radio show?” And I thought, I think he’s right, because he said it was in the afternoon and only eight songs. When he said that, that triggered something in my memory banks, and I’m like, I think he’s right, which would explain why it’s recorded so well.
LR: The sound is fantastic.
SJ: Yeah. Because I’ve got another recording from the same tour, same band, everything, live in Detroit, at the Rose Theatre, Rose something, and the sound quality is nowhere near as good. So I’m thinking that it must’ve been live off the floor, maybe just some mics set up around the theatre or something. I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound anywhere near as good, and you can’t make it sounds as good.
LR: There’s more than just the sound, like the audio. The band was vibe’.
SJ: Oh, smoking.
LR: Smoking’ is a good word for it.
SJ: Yeah, it really was. It was a collective of young people. There’s this intensity and this urgency that you have when you’re younger, and then you’ve got Taylor in there. We were all about 30 and he was like 22, right? So we were 30 but emotionally we were probably 16. Level of maturity 14. Thank you! That’s the only reason we had the kind of energy needed to do that kind of insane touring, which we were doing at the time. So you could hear that youthful exuberance, as you call it, in there. Very much so. And that kind of urgency and that kind of ‘We gotta do this, we gotta do this.’ And at the end of it, you go, ‘well, what is exactly you had to do.’ Like what’s the big rush. (Laughs)
LR: You know, you’re describing it perfectly. It does sound just like just a bunch of people having fun on the stage making kick ass music.
SJ: oh yeah.
LR: You can tell from the recording in from the audio that you were enjoying that night or that day I think you said.
SJ: Oh yeah, for sure. And I mean, the audience is as much a part of the band as the band, you know what I mean? It’s that a particular group of people gathered that day and actually sat out there and made it through the crazy rain. They hung in there, that’s where the word. They hung in there through those eight songs, in that crazy rain. It was all of us together. It’s always that way at a show. It’s always 50% the audience, 50% the band. Really it is, because the energy comes from the combination of those two entities.
LR: Yeah, the audience really does sound like they’re totally digging it. The only shitty thing about the whole CD, is that it is only eight songs or 9. I was really hoping for a double disc.
SJ: (Laughs) Yeah, I’m so sorry, but that’s the only one that I have from that time that sound good enough to ask people to pay for it on any level. You gotta give people something with some kind of quality. Like I was saying, the one from Detroit, it just doesn’t sound good enough. I wouldn’t feel right asking people to buy that.
On Taylor Hawkins
LR: So I guess we we should talk a little bit about that drummer guy you had at that time. It’s kind of sad that the reason why this album is being released now is because of Taylor Hawkins passing away. God , when was that, like a year ago?
SJ: It was a year ago. It’s not really the reason. It was an opportunity for me to pay tribute to my dear, darling friend, who I love so much, and it’s been a year and it still sucks. But I’m used to it. I’m used to him being gone…sort of. Kind of. The first year, I wasn’t gonna go there, couldn’t do it. And really, it just made sense. People have been asking for a live album for so long apparently. And the guy I work with, Chris, he was just like ‘Sass, maybe you should put that out.’ And really, it’s an opportunity to pay tribute to Taylor. There’s a lot of other people who would like to hear this simply because he’s on it as well.
LR: Absolutely, and you know looking back at the history of Taylor Hawkins, Dave Grohl says that if it wasn’t for you, the Foo Fighters wouldn’t have him as a drummer. So I guess .you know, the whole world has to say thank you to you for it.
SJ: (laughs) That’s right!
LR: Well, Dave Grohl said it, so it’s gotta be right.
SJ: King Grohl has said so.
LR: It’s funny. Every time I hear Taylor or a story about Taylor…..I’ve got a little Taylor story and it’ll just take a minute.
SJ: Oh, tell us.
LR: I’m thinking it was about 1995 and Taylor was with…
LR: Alanis, right. I don’t know if you’ve ever played this place in Ottawa , but there was a place called Zaphod Beeblebrox (Note: It’s not there anymore).
SJ: What was it called?
LR: Zaphod Beeblebrox. You never played there?
SJ: No. It doesn’t sound familiar. No. Is it a club?
LR: Yeah, it is a club. I used to work at a radio station, so this was a VIP concert for about 50 or 60 people, just before (Alanis Morissette’s album) Jagged Little Pill exploded. So I’m watching the show and I could not take my eyes off this guy playing drums. Unbelievable. I’m not even a drummer and I couldn’t stop watching this guy. I love Alanis, but that night, it was like, ‘Alanis who?’ So after the show, I walked up to him for some reason. I just said, ‘Dude, I want a drum stick.’ And he did the typical rock star thing, and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll get you one.’ So I walked away and got a beer and about five minutes later, there’s a tap on my shoulder and I turn around and this surfer dude with the biggest smile on his face ever standing there, spinning a drum stick, hands it to me, gives me a big hug, a fist bump and says, ‘right on. Thanks, brother!’ and walked away.
SJ: That’s him.
LR: I was just gonna ask you…Is that him all the time? Because that’s the stories ai hear about that guy.
SJ: 100%. the kindest, most generous, most loving. I’m not bullshitting you here. He was just…can I swear?
LR: Absolutely. Go right ahead.
SJ: He was just a fucking amazing human being. Just an amazing human being. He never, ever forgot what he thought I did for him which I’m telling you, if it hadn’t been me, it would’ve been someone else. He never forgot. He always was humble and he was always so appreciative and publicly so, you know what I mean? And not just to me. Everyone loved Taylor. I don’t know a single human being that didn’t like him. I’ve never met one. Maybe there are some, but I don’t know. It wasn’t false. He would go and he would be at a music store, like a drum store, trying out drums and shit or whatever and then the next thing you know, he’s like buying drum kits for kids. You know, kids that didn’t have any money. The guy’s insane, but he wasn’t broadcasting, ‘hey look what I’m doing.’ He wasn’t virtue signalling. He was just a genuinely, beautiful human being. He must have had bad shit because everybody does. Nobody’s perfect, but I didn’t see it. I didn’t see any of that.
LR: The word you used…genuine. It seemed so real. I’ve met a lot of people who are musicians and a lot of them, they’re just doing it to because they have to, but he seemed very genuine when he gave me that stick.
SJ: Oh yeah. it was real…for sure
LR: I still have that drum stick in my house. I’ve kept it for all those years and, you know, I didn’t even know who this guy was until later. Oh, he was unreal. And not just a genuine, cool guy, but always in the pocket.
SJ: Yep. Amazing.
LR: Amazing drummer. So, the album’s fantastic. It’s wonderful. I love it. I’m gonna keep listening to it for a week, and then at least once a week after that.
On Wikipedia lies
LR: Before we get to the Canada talk, I was reading up on Wikipedia, I never trust Wikipedia until I talk to somebody,
LR: But it did say that when you were young…er, (laughs)
LR: you were a big fan of some pretty serious heavy metal bands, like Judas Priest, Ozzy and Anthrax. Is that true?
SJ: No. It’s not. It’s totally not true, and I have no freaking idea what the fuck that’s doing there. No, I was never an Ozzy fan. Neither was I ever a Judas Priest fan. I don’t know where the fuck this stuff comes from. But, I loved Bad Company, I loved Deep Purple. I loved a lot of what was considered metal bands, even though they weren’t, really. I mean not like Anthrax.
LR: Right. I was kinda shocked when I read this.
SJ: Yeah, they got the wrong people.
LR: I was going to ask you, how did that heavy music affect your style of songwriting because you’re not quite like that but let’s disregard this question. Scrap it. Edit. I will say that Wikipedia is wrong a lot, so don’t worry about that.
SJ: I love that you knew that, though. I think it’s great.
LR: I always try to find my information elsewhere, but I do check Wikipedia just…
SJ: I do too, but I know it’s crap most of the time. I hear ya.
On why Canadian music is so awesome
LR: Okay, I don’t know if you know but I’m in Ottawa right now. I’m a big fan of celebrating Canadian music. Triumph has been on Let’s Rock, Honeymoon Suite, Kim Mitchell, Larry Gowan, Moe Berg like a bunch of those guys from around the same time that you were getting going.
SJ: I know them all. I know of them.
LR: They’re fantastic and oh, Bif Naked.
SJ: I know Bif. I know her, too.
LR: She is the coolest person I’ve talk to. She is unreal. Anyway, here’s my Canada question for you and it’s tough.
SJ: Uh oh.
LR: This is a tough one. What is it about us Canadians that makes us so damn cool?
SJ: (laughs) I guess it depends who you’re asking.
LR: I’m talking mostly about the musicians. I mean, you mentioned it earlier…the history of the musicians that are coming out…
SJ: Oh yeah. It’s insane. So hugely influential in popular music. There is an a very high quotient of Canadian musicians that seem to have really dominated pop music. I mean, the UK and of course the United States, let’s not be stupid here. And even Australia, you know.
LR: But they’re not as cool as us, though.
SJ: (laughs) I don’t know what the hell it is. Here’s a theory, Ken. Because Canadians are pretty much descended from European settlers, obviously less so now because people come from all over the world now. But when we were kids, there were a lot less people from all over the world.and it was all mainly like Scots, Irish, English type of people that came here and took over from the indigenous population, but we’re not gonna talk about that. But also the proximity to the United States right. If you go down into the eastern part of Canada and you get into like the Acadians bringing this folk music with them from Europe… Irish, Scottish, British, that whole thing. That definitely informs the music, right? And then of course, when you get into the States, the Mississippi Delta and Chicago and all these other influence that came up. And I guess they sort of found their way up north into this land. We were so, kind of, isolated and sparse…there weren’t a lot of us, relative to the US and I guess there’s something about that kind of sense of space and isolation that would definitely inform your creativity because you’ve got nothing else to distract you from it. This is of course back in the day. Not now, because the Internet has made us a planetary city basically. We’re not as different as we used to be, shall we say, which is a good and a bad thing. Depends on your perception. But I think maybe that informs it somehow. This is just me riffing. I have no goddamn idea. What do you think?
LR: I think it’s just cuz we kick ass, that’s why?
LR: That’s all I was expecting. Are you in Canada right now or are you in the States?
SJ: Yeah, I’m in Canada
LR: Nice. I’m glad.
Jimmy’s Question – The most important skill to be successful in music
LR: OK, I have this student named Jimmy, and he just started to play the guitar, and he had a couple questions for you. I’m gonna ask you only one of his cuz we’re running out of time. Jimmy is this 13-year-old kid. I played him some of your songs and he really liked it so he had a question and it was: what is the most important skill in order to be successful (in music)? And I told him what I think you’re going to say as your answer. I want to see if I’m right with this one.
SJ: I really hope you are because I don’t wanna let anybody down. First of all, I would have a question to him and you’ve got to ask him this for me. I would like him to define what he means by success. First of all that’s what I would want to know. what does he mean? Money? does he mean recognition? Does he mean how he feels internally? What does he actually mean by success?
LR: He’s talking about music and he’s talking about making a living as a musician. Not being like Robert Plant or Freddie Mercury or anything, like super rich and everyone knows you. But to make a living as a musician, what is the most important skill?
SJ: OK so not being a rockstar, but being a working musician, which is what most of us are. Most of us are not rock stars. It’s a hard, hard thing to do.
LR: Sass, you’re a rockstar. Just accept it ok?
SJ: All right. Accepted. Rock star. Accepted. Let’s Rock. OK so for Jimmy, I would say that to be a successful working musician, you have to…to be honest, this works for anything…you just have to be focused. You can’t let yourself be distracted by everything that is going on around you. You just have to be focused. You have to really focus on what you love and then you have to make sure you know something about accounting. You just have to know how to manage your money and your time and your energy. That’s it. It may sound boring, but if you have those things together, you’re gonna have the most wonderful time. You’re gonna have a wonderful time because that’s the net structure that you need to be successful. Otherwise, you’re gonna have people taking advantage of you and you’re not gonna have it together. And I think honestly, it’s not just music. Everything is that.
LR: I agree, and what I was gonna say was, not everyone is Metallica…money making machines right?
SJ: God, no. Most aren’t.
LR: My answer was perseverance, but I think focus and perseverance got really close together.
SJ: I agree. I think you’re absolutely right, because really they are the same thing in many ways you know. You have to really, really want to do it and take it seriously to the point where you can start to laugh. Doesn’t that sound insane? It sounds like wait what wait what the fuck did you just say there? But you have to take it seriously enough to be able to laugh about it. If you take it seriously, you get the point where you’re good enough that now you can start to enjoy it (laughs)
LR: So how long after you released your first album did you start to enjoy it?
SJ: How long after I released my first album did I start to enjoy it?
LR: I mean, the stories we hear about rock stars or musicians or bands starting out, everyone’s poor, living in a van, touring around the country…
SJ: And having the time of their lives. This is the difference. When you’re doing what I did, you start to not enjoy it as much…And I’ll tell you why. Because the pressure is entirely on your shoulders. Because I was a solo artist… I mean if you’re a band, it’s…but it breaks them up all the time. Bands break up all the time. They can’t fucking get along, nobody likes…you know what I mean? The more and more successful you get as far as being well-known and, you know, in demand and all that bollocks, the higher and higher the pressure gets and the less and less fun it is…unless you know how to manage it. And when you’re just young and starting out like that, you don’t know how to manage that shit. That comes later. And once you’re no longer as in demand and huge and under so much less pressure, finally now you know how to manage it, it’s not there anymore, which is kind of totally fine. Trust me, I have no desire to be back in that, but should I ever be in that kind of situation again, I now know how to manage it. I know what boundaries are. I know how to say no. I know how to preserve my well-being to a much greater degree. Back then I did not know any of those things and I allowed myself to be drained dry. Because I didn’t know any better. Now, before I started to become…it was all just like a dream but the dream started to happen. That was fun. And that was when we were back in the vans and etc,etc,etc. That was fun because we didn’t know what the bloody reality was going to be yet and we can get through this gnarly shit, you know, getting fucking hemorrhoids on a frozen bench in a two ton truck. (Laughs) Glamorous! Driving to Newfoundland from Montreal. That was fun. NOT! But anyways, it’s a whole other set of weirdnesses. Once you start to become well known and start to do well, there’s a lot more pressure, because you are now providing the income to a lot more people than just yourself. And in fact, usually more to other people than yourself. Sorry to be a fucking bummer.
LR: Come for a chat about a new record and learn about the history of Canada and hemorhoids…
SJ: in a two ton truck. (laughs)