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Interview with Sass Jordan

SASS JORDAN


Canadian singer Sass Jordan has enjoyed platinum sales in her homeland, scored hit singles, duetted with Joe Cocker on the soundtrack to the smash hit film 'The Bodyguard' and been a judge on 'Canadian Idol'... yet here in the UK she's virtually unknown. Keen to rectify the situation, James Gaden got in touch with the vocalist to talk about her impressive career and the newly recorded version of her classic album 'Racine' which is celebrating is 25th Anniversary.


Sass Jordan - Interview 1

When did you know music was going to be the direction you would take?

I started at the age of fourteen first playing in bands, my first band started with us all sitting in the park, smoking dope, sat with a couple of acoustic guitars. We're talking about 1975 here. We'd sing stuff like The Eagles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne... all the stuff that was really popular at that time. I also learned to sing harmonies by singing Fleetwood Mac songs. Then I started being in bands and started to get paid to perform. When I was seventeen, this band needed a bass player and had a gig in three weeks. I couldn't play a lick of bass, and I learned to play the songs... but I was bloody awful. (Laughs) Fortunately I did have some talent and I got better, obviously! I ended up being the bass player for about four years. I became bass player and co-lead singer, the band was called The Pin Ups, after a Bowie album I love. That was the start and I never stopped. I decided to go solo about 1981 because I was fed up with the politics of being in a band. But because I couldn't play a chorded instrument, I needed the right people to write songs with, so that journey took ages and ages.

I also did a video show, which I hosted in Montreal where I grew up. This was before MTV or any of that stuff, so bands would come on the show, I think it was about 1983, 84, and this was the only TV outlet for them in Canada, so we got some huge acts like Bryan Ferry, Def Leppard, INXS, Phil Collins... I interviewed people, because I thought it was a way to infiltrate the venues and situations that these people found themselves in, to prepare me for when I was the one being interviewed when I'm on the other side of the microphone. That was the plan, I did it for about three years and I was abso-fucking-lutely dreadful for the first few! It never occurred to me to do even a spot of research about who I was going to be interviewing... I'm such a piece of work, I can tell you, oh I'll just float in and wing it – I don't know the name of your new record, I don't know why you're here, oh, what an asshole! But I sorted it out eventually – after Paul Stanley from Kiss yelled at me! He shouted 'This is our tenth anniversary so why are you asking us about the beginning?' I learned my lesson and rightly so.

How did you get the break that landed you a record deal?

I got involved with a local promoter who was a big deal in Montreal and the East Coast of Canada, he brought Pink Floyd over, he was called Donald K. Donald. He caught wind of The Pin Ups because we were quite popular, but that was mostly because of our image, we had the skinny ties and were a bit New Wave. We would do Blondie stuff and Tom Petty, because he was considered New Wave at the time if you can believe that, but our shows were always sold out and the big promoters used to check us out. Donald took a shine to me and signed me to his label and they paid me as a developmental artist, which allowed me to survive... which I have definitely paid back over the years from lousy subsequent deals! (laughs) It did lead me to people I could write songs with though. I met Bill Beaudoin and we wrote the 'Tell Somebody' record together. It came out at the end of 1988 and the timing was amazing. The record dropped just as Much Music, which was a new Canadian video channel, was launching. So the song 'Tell Somebody' had a video made and it was on all the time, every clothing store, every youth orientated shop, they were all playing music videos and my song was on everywhere, it made you really well known overnight. It was interesting to say the least, going from relative obscurity to being on TV fifteen times a day – that kinda freaked me out. It wasn't what I was expecting. So I figured the best thing to do was skedaddle, so I moved lock, stock and barrel to Los Angeles. That was about as far away from where I grew up as it was possible to get... although I was born in the Midlands, in Birmingham. I left at three months old so I have no memory of it. I came back once and couldn't understand anybody! (Laughs)

SASS JORDAN – TELL SOMEBODY 

(Cannot see the video? Click HERE to watch it on YouTube)



I always wondered why there was a big gap between a successful first record, and the follow up 'Racine', but moving is time consuming!

Well, I've never done anything quickly really, the fastest I ever did records in sequence was 'Racine' and then I did 'Rats' within like a two year period. And the other thing I do, apart from having big spaces between records, I get bored doing the same thing and go off on tangents because I'm a fan of music. So I'm clearly not doing it to be a big Pop star, because I'm not one! If I had any sort of brains and was aiming for commercial success, I'd have stayed more in one cohesive style, but I've been to the moon and back with musical styles. I have three styles I most enjoy, the Country Bar Room Rock you hear on 'Racine', that Heavy Blues Rock sound on 'Rats' and the Roots Rock style I did on 'Get What You Give'.

'Racine' certainly had a tougher sound than the debut record but that didn't alienate anyone, it still had hits, it was a really good follow up album.

'Racine' was way more me, 'Tell Somebody' had a lot of machines on it, that's not really my thing but that was the budget I had at the time and the people I was working with. It's great for what it is, but it's not really the sort of music I love. It went platinum in Canada so I'm really grateful for that, but I don't really like drum machines and synths. 'Racine' means 'roots' and I wanted to make a record that would really explore the roots I had, listening to things like Rod Stewart and The Faces, that type of frat boy, seventies, drunken racket that was fun, heartfelt and just fucking great. Singers like Rod Stewart, Maggie Bell, Joe Cocker, even Robert Palmer when he was in Vinegar Joe. That was what I was trying to do, because I hadn't really heard a female do that, except for Maggie Bell... but nobody had really heard of her apart from me! I know why now, because I myself have consistently recorded the type of music that people generally do not enjoy hearing from a female. (Laughs) I'm not saying nobody likes it, but for most people it's probably too aggressive, too confident. Sure, we have Beyoncé and girl power, but that's not the same thing, I'm talking about a mature female doing this type of music.

Our culture is highly patriarchal and getting me on the fucking radio was a nightmare. Stations would tell my label or my PR "sorry, we can't add that song because we're already playing a female". A female – singular. I'm not fucking kidding, that was the main reason, because they were already playing Melissa Etheridge, there wasn't room for another woman on the station playlist, it was a Rock station. Insane! When I released 'Pissing Down' off 'Rats' they got really uppity - "women don't say pissing!" was the general reaction. Fucking hell, that was the early nineties, that's how recent that sort of thinking was going on.

SASS JORDAN – MAKE YOU A BELIEVER



(Cannot see the video? Click HERE to watch it on YouTube)


You toughened up your sound even more with 'Rats' which is superb and had some great guests on it like Richie Kotzen, Tal Bergman, Carmine Rojas, Brian Tichy and Stevie Salas, who you wrote a lot of the material with.

That's probably my favourite record I ever made, the only thing I like more was the S.U.N. album I made with Brian Tichy, that I think is even better. So yeah, 'Rats' would be my favourite album I've put out under my name.

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We'll get to that shortly, but next you followed 'Rats' up with 1997's 'Presence'...


Oh, the worst piece of shit on earth, let's not talk about that.

Not keen on that one then?

Fucking awful. Awful piece of shite. I hate it.

Fair enough! Which bring us to 'Hot Gossip' in 2000.

Shit, that was pretty awful as well, another style I was trying, but I was kind of forced into that one though. There are some good songs on it, but the fucking production is just appalling, so lets skip that one too!



Sass Jordan - Interview 2

After that you took a break from music for a bit, you did some acting, you played Janis Joplin on stage in 'Love, Janis' and appeared in 'The Vagina Monologues'.

Yeah, and I did the 'Canadian Idol' television show, which was six years, that took up so much of my time. I made the 'Get What You Give' record right at the end of that in Nashville with some amazing players, then I did 'From Dusk Till Dawn' which was quite similar in style for once. I really like some of the stuff on there but honestly, not really where I'm at musically. 'Something Unto Nothing' was next and was way more what I wanted to do. Fucking big, messy, loud, really interesting lyrics, just great.

S.U.N. is awesome, real fiery old school Classic Rock. I do have to tell you I'm a huge fan of that album, it would be one of my Desert Island Discs.

Really? Wow! It's like Garage Blues Rock, it's out of control, not seamlessly put together, it's not really slick song writing... there's some really great shit on there but other parts where we went on far too long, we fucked around but there's something really spectacular about it. It was like "Nobody is going to hear it so fuck it, lets just do it"... and boy were we right that nobody ever heard of it... except you, you have! We started making another one, we had five songs but we've never gotten around to finishing it, I may well revisit that in the future. It's almost impossible to find the fucking thing though! We were so lame when it came to getting the album out publicly, it was beyond belief. I've got a super fan who has all my stuff, he couldn't find it. Sometimes it's listed as S.U.N., sometimes it's down as SUN, sometimes it's Something Unto Nothing, and it's different how it's listed on iTunes to how it's listed on Amazon, nobody figured it out. Except you, you found a copy, I'll call you Detective Gaden – D.I. Gaden is on the case and found the album! (laughs) We didn't really have a proper web presence either, so well done! There are some YouTube videos so people can check it out if you want a taster.

S.U.N. – NOMAD

(Cannot see the video? Click HERE to watch it on YouTube)

 

That brings us up to present day, which sees you celebrate the 25th anniversary of 'Racine' by re-recording it.

It's been really fun doing it, really interesting. It's great, because the fans I have seem really excited. At first I thought "Why would people buy a new version of an old record they already have?" but then I thought it could be quite fun. We've tweaked some of it, so instead of recording it and bringing it up to speed and making it all shiny and compressed and all that bollocks, we went the other way, which really excited me. We tried to make it sound like it was done in the seventies. I gotta say, it sounds fucking unbelievable on the vinyl, I can't believe it. It's like a real record! (laughs) It's pretty true to the original, it can't possibly be a carbon copy because it's different musicians and the songs are twenty five years old. They were children, now they're adults. I'm different too, I've got an additional twenty five years worth of experience to draw upon. We have tweaked one of two of the arrangements. 'Winding Me Up' is different, I think it's way better now. It makes more sense now. It's a bit more relaxed and it's even more seventies. The original was a nineties take on the seventies, this is a modern day take on the seventies! We tried to play it like we were in the seventies and recorded it all live, together, in a tremendous studio. It's been very carefully mixed and mastered in order to sound true on vinyl. There's no auto-tune, no fucking around. The only thing we didn't do is we weren't able to record it onto tape, due to cost. It would have cost an arm and a leg to go that authentic, but there are some plugins which help make it sound more analogue. When your record sales aren't what they were, it's not worth it. Styx just made a new record, it cost them hundreds of thousands and it's bloody brilliant, but they can afford the expense, I can't.

It's great to have a new album from you, even if it is a new take of an old record. Has it fired you up to do some new material?

Next year I'm on to the new. It's going to have a good dose of the vibration of the S.U.N. record. I wish more people had heard that because I think it's fucking brilliant. Especially because it's got a female singing, although sometimes I sound like a man with a high voice! But it's just cool. I'd like to make a live record too at some point, but it would have to be done properly, no corner cutting bollocks, I'd want it to be great so it would have to have a proper budget.

I think that would be awesome, I've never had chance to see you in person but you look like a superb live performer from the footage I've seen.

Thank you! Nobody knows who the fuck I am in England. I have about ten fans in the UK and you're one of them! (laughs) It's a financial thing, it's been sadly neglected. If I'd had the right circumstances to come over there and build an audience I would have done so, but many things have gotten in the way. I hope we can build something with this new record, see if we can get somewhere with that. I'm always intrigued how people like you in the UK hear my music in the first place?

The first thing I ever heard you on was a Rock Opera by Brazen Abbott's Nikolo Kotzev, he did a double album called 'Nostradamus' with an all star group of singers.  Glenn Hughes was The King, Joe Lynn Turner was Nostradamus and they are two of my favourite singers. Jorn Lande was on there, along with Alannah Myles, and you played Glenn's wife, The Queen. I'd never heard of you before and I thought in that company, good luck, but you were great!

I love Glenn, he's a good friend of mine. That's amazing, I totally forgot about that record. Nikolo Kotzev actually came here to record my parts, which was nice. I toured with Joe Lynn and Glenn in South East Asia on the Voices Of Classic Rock tour, but it was actually Alannah who got me the role for that record. That's so amazing that you found me via an album I'd forgotten I contributed to! (Laughs)

To order Racine Revisted, visit https://sassjordan.com


Sass is on tour in the Netherlands and Germany on the following dates:

September 14, 2017 Paard Van Troke Den Haag, NLD
September 15, 2017 Luxor Live Arnhem, NLD
September 16, 2017 Jungle Club Koln, DEU
September 17, 2017 Breda Barst Breda. NLD
September 19, 2017 Quasimodo Berlin, DEU
September 21, 2017 Neushoorn Leeuwarden, NLD
September 22, 2017 De Spot Middelburg, NLD
September 23, 2017 Metropool Hengelo, NLD
September 24, 2017 Bosuil Weert, NLD

 FOO FIGHTERS WITH SASS JORDAN – STAY WITH ME (LIVE)

(Cannot see the video? Click HERE to watch it on YouTube)



Sass Jordan - Racine Revisited

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