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Zz Top - Interview with Chris Page

  by Cara Ross

published: 11 / 4 / 2002

Zz Top - Interview with Chris Page


Canadian pop-punk band Stand GT have been playing together for over 15 years Group leader Chris Page talks to Cara Ross about the band's long history, his solo project Glen Nevous Reaction and his ice hockey obsession

Chris Page is the genuine article.  As one of the singer/songwriters for the pop-punk Stand GT and purely solo Glen Nevous Retraction, he’s able to reflect upon how far he’s come since forming a band in high school, and the ever-flagging question:  how far is that? His candour in this interview was exceptional and his earnest enthusiasm with me made this a very gratifying experience. And the reason that Chris positively reeks of Canada, is something that I can’t quite put my finger on.  A love of Canadian beer, and an almost maniacal devotion to the Toronto Maple Leafs aside, he’s able to further exude the same comfortable-in-my-Canadian-skin aura as the legendary Neil Young.  No over the top patriotism, and on the other side of that loonie, no down-played inferiority complex either that is sometimes evidenced in a lot of Canadian musicians. Chris just is what he is.  And if it takes a lot of hard work to get you where you want to go, then that’s what you do, while still making it seem like it’s easy to just continue to enjoy life along the way.  That’s the trick. Chris spoke to me a bit about the history of his band, and his current band mates. His loyalty to them is clear, loyal in every sense of the word...loyal to his friends, his band, his hockey team....Evidenced if nothing else, in the fifteen year and counting saga that is the Stand GT.  There aren’t a lot of other independent Canadian bands that can say that...the Smugglers aside. CP: 'The Stand' started in March 1985. Doug, Glen and myself were young high school kids who all loved music and started making noise in an old chicken coop that we ended up using as our official practice space/home for years. We played our first show in 86 or so. At that time, our good pal Todd Gibbon (from Crash 13, Fiftymen) was on bass. Todd left around 89 or so. Tom Foreman joined then and lasted until about 93. Colin became our bassist at that point, so, we are approaching 10 years now with this lineup. Although three of us grew up together, I think we all have varied tastes in music which I believe has made for great chemistry writing songs. Although we are all punk fans (who isn't), Doug comes from more of countrified background than the rest of us. He'd be quick to site Neil Young as one of his biggest inspirations. Unlike the rest of us, he also had older siblings who exposed him to Pink Floyd, the Stones and Black Sabbath at an early age. Wally (Glen) was the punk of the band in the early years. He would wear eye makeup to high school dances (keep in mind we are from a very rural area, so one could easily comment on the size of ol' Wally's balls in those days) and loved the more 'obscure' bands like the Cramps, Bauhaus and the Celebate Rifles. Although the quiet one of the band, you might say Wally has had the biggest influence on the band's direction musically at an early age. Colin grew up an alternative kid as well, and, unlike the other three of us, can't stand classic rock like AC/DC and such. He's a huge Jesus and Mary Chain fan, and absolutely worships the ground Laura from Superchunk walks on. I'm from a very classic rock/metal background (AC/DC, Kiss), but I swayed hard in my early teens when I first heard a Ramones record. It was all downhill from there. PB:  How did you hook up with the Boss Tuneage label, who have given your most recent album 'Good on the River' your first British release? CP:  Woody from Mag Wheel records (Stand GT's current Canadian label-Ed) suggested that we send a copy of the album to Aston at Boss Tuneage. I had heard of the label and knew that Aston had very similar tastes to us, having been weaned on early Asexuals and Doughboys. I feel very fortunate to have found Aston and Boss Tuneage. It seems these days that there are fewer and fewer people out there pouring their heart and soul into something they truly believe in. Let's face it, if you're not making money at something, most folks loose interest by the time they reach their late twenties. To their defense, I suppose you can only bang your head against the wall and get stepped on for so long. We seem to have quite a bit in common with Aston in that we are forging ahead, making zero profit, despite the fact we've been at this for years now. PB: It is with retaliation, that I am forced to ask this question: “How much do the Maple Leafs figure into what you are and how you write music?”  (Cara’s note:  our interview was postponed twice due to hockey-related agendas...I won’t say anything more) CP: Colin and I are hard core leaf fans, but I wouldn't say that our music is affected by a hockey team (only promotion of the music, apparently!). Besides, Doug is a Bruins fan, so he wouldn't allow any Leaf propaganda seeping into the band's existence anyway.( Interestingly enough, I recently wrote a song called 'Two to One is All I Need for the Record' which may or not have been influenced by desperate Leaf hockey and the Stand has an early, rare bootleg 7" called'Your Friend Can't Skate' which is about hockey and John Wensink, the famous 70s Bruins goon who is from our hometown.) Hockey aside, Chris’ alter ego when not rocking it up with the Stand is his persona as the Glen Nevous Retraction (once misspelled as Glen Nervous, which managed to stick for a good while).  The new GNR album is called 'Sell Out Slow', and it’s a thing of beauty.  At times gut-wrenching, at times comical. His live performances harken easily back to those of Billy Bragg, just a boy, singing about what matters to him, with his electric guitar.  Taking the piss out of the Canadian Minister of Heritage in between songs for supposedly “supporting” independent music, and then singing about relationships.  The CBC’s RadioSonic will be airing a session with Glen Nevous. PB: How did you like doing that with Grant Lawrence? (of Vancouver’s garage giants: the Smugglers) CP: The Radiosonic was actually a session I did for my solo gig, the Glen Nevous Retraction. It's due to air in late April, but I'm hoping to get a copy of the session to either upload to the web site or perhaps put out, depending on how crappy it is. For those who don't know, the CBC's Radiosonic is very much like the BBC's Peel Sessions. It's a national broadcast of absolutely killer music and bands/ artists from the underground. Grant Lawrence is an old pal of the Stand GT (we toured with the Smugglers a few years back), so it was great doing the session. Grant and I have been known to have a few pints and let loose a barrage of slags toward anyone who ends up being the topic of conversation. Grant tried to bait me a bit on the air, but we ended up not going there. We saved it for the bar later that night. PB: Describe for me the difference between how you approach making music with the Stand GT versus your creative process with the GNR?  Do you focus more on the music for one, and more on the lyrics for the other? CP: It is the same approach in terms of lyrical creation and arrangement. I usually have bits and pieces of words, phrases and melodies scattered all over the place. I try to piece all of the bits together over time. I’m not a quick song writer at all. I might start with a hook and phrase and spend a year finishing the lyrics. I'm hyper-picky about words working together in a song. Maybe that's why I don't listen to top 40 radio. In terms of the end result, though, the Glen Nevous stuff usually has a much simpler arrangement. I use the GNR as a bit of a sandbox where I can experiment with minimal sounds as opposed to full-on rock like the Stand. PB:  Do you consider one to be more of a side project than the other or where does your focus primarily lies right now? CP: That's a good question. Because the Stand GT has become a bit more of a part time thing, I tend to be doing more solo gigs and writing, even though I consider the GNR to be a side project. I suppose that could change over time.I'm sort of waiting to see the reaction to the new record. From there I guess I'll decide how much stock I want to put in the Glen Nevous stuff. The response to the first Glen Nevous record, 'You Clean Up Pretty Good', was really great,so that's one of the reasons I've decided to press on with it. The Stand GT are currently working on a new album, so hopefully we'll be getting back out on the road soon. PB:  Do you think that a lot of your lyrics are based on a certain amount of nostalgia for things either long gone, or in an attempt not to be forgotten? CP:  Mmmm. interesting. That's a good way to put some of them, I suppose. Sometimes I don't know what they're based on, but at other times the lyrics have a much more specific meaning for me. For the most part, I like the fact that lyrics and songs mean different things to different people. Who knows who or what Billy Bragg was writing about when he wrote 'scholarship is the enemy of romance'? But I know what I think of when I hear that song and how important that bit of nostalgia is when it comes rushing back to me. I tend to write from frustration more than anything, but the nostalgia thing is certainly interesting. Sometimes I'll write a complete song from a tiny anecdote that happened with an ex-girlfriend or something. I recently wrote a song for the GNR that is about a three minute interaction with a girl from high school who I barely knew. But for someone else, that song will obviously mean something completely different. PB: What is the Stand’s Fastbacks connection? CP: Kurt Bloch recorded our first album. It was truly a magical time and if I quit playing music tomorrow, I will be super thankful for that experience. Our Seattle-based label at the time suggested we record our album at the legendary Egg studios in Seattle with Kurt. We were pretty excited and had an incredible week with him. He's a riot and an incredible talent. In my mind, he's one of the great American song writers and guitar players. It's so amazing how so many things happened to Seattle through the early 90s and none of it phased Kurt.He's still the down-to-earth, wacky character he's always been, who plays music because he loves it. He's a total living legend and has the utmost respect from so many people who have gone on to fame from that scene. Here's a story about the kind of guy Kurt is. One time we were touring through Seattle and the headlining band couldn't play. That left this little rock outfit from Canada called the Stand GT all alone on the bill in the Crocodile Cafe. It was becoming obvious that our show would be canceled and after touring out thousands of miles, we were pretty bummed about the potential of not playing there. Kurt got on the phone the day we arrived and rounded up the Young Fresh Fellows to headline our show. He called all his pals, put the word out and we played to a packed house with folks from Mudhoney and Bikini Kill in the crowd. It was amazing. To boot, the legendary Scott Mccaughey used Doug's guitar and all our gear. About 4 months later we watched him on 'Saturday Night Live' playing guitar for R.E.M. PB: What band would you most like to tour with now?  (for both the GNR & the Stand) CP: Personally, I would love to tour with the Smugglers again. We get along famously with those lads and they are so much fun to hang with. There's talk of a tour with the Stand and the Chickens (ex-UIC) as well. From the Glen Nevous side of things, I hope to tour with my good pal Jim Bryson and maybe Andrew Vincent or Janice Hall. I've also played a few shows with Merle Knurling, so going out on the road with him would be super fun. PB: And here’s a fun one I always like to ask:  best/worst touring experience... CP:  Best: One of our first shows in Seattle at the Crocodile Café with the Fastbacks and Bum, another one of Canada's all-time great pop punk bands. We were all huge fans of both bands, so sharing the stage with them that night was definitely one of my favourite moments touring... Worst: Strangely enough, for the incredible amount of indie touring this band has done, we don't have too many horror stories. I've got a few gross ones like a couple of dirty punk rockers getting it on on the floor, but on the back of our drunken passed out roadie Johnny McBean. I suppose the worst one though was one of our many close calls with the US border. We usually said that we were recording in the States, in order to gain access, but this one time we came up with a different plan. We had a show in the US, then one in Vancouver, then it was back to the US again. Upon entering the first time, we decided to leave all of our gear at a pal's house in Seattle. We then went back to Canada and borrowed gear for our Vancouver show, thinking that we could easily say we were "just driving around" when we attempted to re-enter the States. Unfortunately, the story back-fired at the border and we were hauled in and grilled by immigration. Because some of the guys didn't have jobs at the time, they thought we were going to California to work. For those who don't know, the West Coast is about a four day straight drive from where we're from, so the border guard couldn't understand how a bunch of guys from Ontario would be "just driving around" during the coming of winter. At one point a guard asked us if we had anything of value in our van because he was going out "to check it out". We said yes, that we had a couple of guitars (we had left our drums and amps in the States). He then asked if we were a band, to which we replied "Oh no, sir. Of course not. We just like to jam whenever we can". What we had forgotten was that we had abunch of CDs and records on the back seat. Each with our names clearly written on the back, complete with a giant picture of our roadie's grad photo on the back cover. Things were sliding from bad to worse. Anyway, by some stroke of luck, he didn't find the records (or look at them) and the customs lady finally bought our story and let us go. Definitely a frightening story and a glaring example of some of the hardships indie bands go through... PB: What would you site as your top 5 most influential records? (I know, don't you hate this question...) CP:  Always tough. There are so many records to love. I guess 'influential' is the operative word here, so these are the records that have changed my life along the way, and I wouldn't be playing music if it weren't for: Kiss - Destroyer Simon and Garfunkel - Greatest Hits Ramones - Rocket to Russia AC/DC - Highway to Hell Husker Du - Candy Apple Grey Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra - Battle Hymn of the Apartment Oops, that's six. I'll stop there.... And if he wasn’t playing music, the world would be a much poorer place to be. However, all this flattery aside, he doesn’t let it go to his head, and perseveres in trying to shake the stigma that nice guys finish last. You can check out both the Stand GT and the Glen Nevous Retraction at www.thestandgt.com. Thanks for your time Chris.

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Zz Top - Interview with Chris Page

Zz Top - Interview with Chris Page

Zz Top - Interview with Chris Page

Zz Top - Interview with Chris Page

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