Long before there was an amicable group of lads from Saskatchewan, who won the privilege of donning the cover of Rolling Stone magazine to spark their good fortune and fame, there were three Princes of the Prairies who came before them – and who rose up to become known as Canada’s ‘rock royalty’. Wide Mouth Mason the rock/blues/ soul power trio has released six albums, yielding hits such as “Midnight Rain”, “Why”, “Smile”, “My Old Self” and “Change”. They’ve shared the stage with some heavy hitters such as ZZTop, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC and The Guess Who. They were one of the very first North American rock bands to tour mainland China in the 21st century and they have multiple Gold records and a bountiful harvest of JUNO nods. In 2011, they released “No Bad Days”, their first album since 2005. And currently they are touring Canada.
Two founding members have been best friends since childhood, Shaun Verreault (lead vocals/guitar) and Safwan Javed (vocals/drums). In 2010 they were joined by their mentor/musician/friend — and Grady/Big Sugar front–man — Gordie Johnson (vocal/bass). Original bass player Earl Pereira left the band to concentrate on his own band, Mobadass, which he fronted since 2005.
Safwan Javed took some time out of their current schedule, with a fleet of shows in Ontario before heading back to the west coast to wrap up this leg of the tour, to chat about the new album, their lives as veteran musicians and a band who has stayed the course and survived.
“We consider ourselves really lucky to be doing this now, upwards of 15 years and able to make a career out of making music. Any of the arts based industries are not so easy to make a living in, so we count our blessings,” states Javed. He refers to the new album as more of a ‘resurfacing” for the band. Band members have all been actively involved in the collaboration of the music and the creative aspect, but they’ve also been heavily immersed on the business or entrepreneurial side of the industry too.
Johnson produced the latest record and he shot the making of No Bad Days…The Movie, available on YouTube for an insider look at their creative process. The guys also shot their own video for the song “Get A Hold of You”, which has just recently been released as a single. The video highlights the humour and spontaneity that is part of every live show.
Recorded at Pedernales, Willie Nelson’s studio outside of Austin Texas, they called the new record “No Bad Days” because they say it perfectly describes the experience they had making it. Gordie Johnson produced the album and it would seem whatever magic they conjured up in the past with Johnson as producer on their third record “Stew”, the ingredients were right for a new “live off the floor” stripped down record, something they all aspired to do.
“Creatively it’s always been open ended and organic for us,” suggests Javed, “true collaborative pieces and following a consistent message our mentors, including Gordie, has given us to gravitate toward the things we like and want to listen to and at the end of the day, if everyone in your broader circle likes what is happening then maybe you’ve got something.”
And as most loyal Masonites will be aware, that ‘something’ can be an extraordinary new experiment live on stage with a song the fans have never heard before, or a new treatment. “It would definitely be unusual to come out to one of our shows and not hear something you’ve never heard before,” states Javed. The band likes to make sure no two shows are ever the same, diversity and the spice of life if you will as veterans of rock and roll. That diversity and craftsmanship carries over into other areas of their lives as well.
A brilliant percussionist, Safwan is also a music and entertainment lawyer, dealing with artist management, copyright and licensing. Shaun is a songwriter and can often be found leading workshops or guest speaking. Gordie plays and produces and is a mentor to others. They all live in different cities now and they all have a hand in the day to day business side of self management.
“We’ve learned there really is no down time when you’re self managing,” he emphasizes. “You’ve got to do five different things everyday, to make your business float. There’s a division of labour but you’ve got to be committed and do stuff every day.” His advice to young independent musicians? “It all starts with the actual product, you’ve got to hone your craft and be sure you’ve got something of real quality that you can put your name to.”
But it’s not all about being a rock star. It’s also about savouring other aspects of life, he believes artistic and creative expression is important, musing “Creative output that is your own or someone else’s can be enriching, it gives perspective on the smallness of day to day life, and it can alleviate stress, improve emotional, psychological, physical and mental health, it’s all interconnected.”
“We only have a certain number of hours on this earth,” he continues “and to dedicate to the creative process, it’s about as good a way as any to kill some time, while it’s killing you. So why not make it entertaining?” Indeed. V
You can catch Wide Mouth Mason with he Balconies and City And The Sea at Club Absinthe on October 1. Click on www.widemouthmason.com