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Shaun Speaks!

This is an interview of Shaun by John Conway of C101.5 (Mohawk College Radio). You won't find this interview anywhere but right here and it is so good I had to give it its own section!

soon to be completed. Sorry to tease you but TOO BAD! It's on tape.. i have to edit and transcribe yadayadayada. sowweeee:> if you are all good little mason fans i will put some of Shaun's answers up as .wav files so you can hear him for yourself!

John Conway [JC]: Now listening to your album, you're very tight. Was that instantaneous?

Shaun Verreault[SV]: Theres a certain kind of chemistry that you naturally have with some people. I'd played with other people... We got together right after high school -well Saf and I had actually been playing when we were in elementary school: just drums and guitar- just learning how to play.
But umm, it started after. And I knew right away when we started playing that something felt different. We definately weren't very good but we'd just go for it and make up 30 minute songs with no words in a basement somewhere and just be ecstatic and thrilled after that we had played something and it felt so good.

Actually when I'd played with other people it was more a chance for them to show you what they could do and show you their chops and to play some song that was a cover song or something like that.

...And we these guys it was very natural just to start making up songs and everything fell into place. There will be times when I'll look around and go (cause a lot of our songs are left open to ...kind of improvising every night) and I'll look and turn to Earl to say 'Okay let's do this' and they'll already start doing it. I mean we are so used to each other.

[JC]: So as the years have gone on.. you've been on tour for about 4 years now? Is that a good reference?

[SV]: yup.

[JC]: You're getting better, tighter..

[SV]: Oh definately. I think you have more experience to put in the music. And you learn more when not to play and when to show everything you have and when to just kind of keep it in a pocket.

We've been pretty much steadily on the road ever since we've started. In the beginning doing whatever we had to: weather it was cover songs or weather it was whatever- backing up somebody else just for the experience.

It's kind of been a steady thing and you just get comfortable where you're not thinking anymore and the music just comes out rather than you stressing and trying to over-think it and over-play.

[JC]: Do you still consider yourself a basement band? I've heard you describing yourself as that. Do you still think you're there or you're slightly moving out of the basement to the garage?

[SV]: Well in a funny way... I mean I still get the same feeling playing as I did in a basement. Music is such a wonderful thing in that you can play it your room all by yourself and it can feel good or you can play it in some huge club somewhere with a bunch of people there to see you. And it feels amazing because there's a lot of people there but the feelings are both very good. So I think in one sense we're always going to be that band playing in a basement: Playing because we really enjoy it and if other people get into it that just pushes it up to another level. So that just makes us enjoy it even more.

But I think so many people see boundaries on things... and think, you know, that they have to make it somewhere to be able to do things. And I think we're trying to not see walls in a basement or lines on a map or genres in music that we're not allowed to do...

I mean if you're going to play music for a living: be a band that wants to play all different kinds of music and wants to go play all different kinds of places and is willing to take a really garagy approach on some things because they want them to sound that way.

And be willing to be completely overblown sometimes. I mean it's only by taking chances and expanding yourself that you're really going to do anything very interesting with music I think.

So I try to have as little labels on us as I possibly can. I think that's why I shy away from the blues thing even though I'm a huge blues fan and we do play a couple blues songs. I don't want anyone to know us for one thing because we're going to be trying (weather we fall on our faces at least we tried) you know what I mean? And I don't want to have any one thing that we're known as.

[JC]: How did you hook up with Big Sugar?

[SV]: That was really lucky actually.

[JC]: I read that Paul Brennan, the former drummer who has now left, and Gordie Johnson just showed up -and you guys didn't even know it- until they came up and introduced themselves and you were just like 'You're Big Sugar.'

[SV]: Well we were playing a show in our hometown of Saskatoon-

{phone rings}

[SV]: oh I think that's Gordie... we were playing a show in Saskatoon and they were headlining it.. I think it was us and another band and them. And so we played and afterwards -just like you said- Gordie walked in and Paul, I think, walked in and they just said "Are you guys the first band?" and we said "Yeah".

We started talking and we gave them a CD and I guess we sort of had a mutual agent too. So they just said: "Well, if you're not doing anything, it would be a lot of fun to tour"

...Just because I think we have a lot of the same roots but the music is a lot different if you really listen to both of them.I think they were just happy that it wasn't a straight up blues band because Big Sugar isn't exactly a blues band either.

...Gordie is definatley -in some of the times we've just been sitting in a hotel room playing back and forth- he can blow your mind with the amount of traditional blues he can play. He's just one of my favourite guitar players ever at it. But what he does with Big Sugar is definately -like i was saying- more in the spirit of blues , in the Houndog Taylor and the Houserockers spirit of it: where it's just going for the throat rather than sitting down and trying to get that Hubert Somelinben just right. You know what i mean.

I mean we were really lucky to hook up with them because we were nobodies even more so than we are now and we were playing to packed houses everywhere because they sold out everywhere on that tour.

[JC]: And you said that you think that Gordie is one of the great guitar players right now but I've heard many in the media saying you're a great guitar player. Are you comfortable with that label?

[SV]: I think that the guitar player thing especially these days has such a weird stigma attached to it. You know: People think that I'm gonna come out and try and be Steve Vai or Joe Satriani or something like that. And while they make some pretty interesting instrumental music I'm a musician who happens to play guitar rather than a guitar player. Gordie blows my mind with the things that he comes up with and I sometimes just sit there and take my fingers off the guitar and go "Man... you play, I'm just gonna watch you"

Whereas I think that I just like making music and I happen to have been playing guitar for 13 years so I'm very comfortable playing it but it could just as easily have been piano or harmonica for all I know.

[JC]:How are your feelings on the internet regarding web sites devoted to you?

[SV]: I think it's wonderful. The internet is such a weird thing. We've only started being able to pick up our email and it's wonderful to hear from people and if you're someone who emailed us: sorry, we just got it so we'll gonna be writing you back really soon. It's a weird thing because everyone has an opinion and it's the kind of thing that you can look on to see which people think you suck and which people think you are actually any good.

But I don't know: I think anything is a tool. Anything you can use. I enjoy being able to respond to people now that we have the email as quickly as you can with that kind of thing.

I'm a little worried when people start putting all of the future into a machine. I mean there's nothing I can do to make it go either way. It's either going to blow up in all of our faces and we'll figure out what a bad thing to do it was. Or it's going to be a wonderful thing that they somehow can humanize a little more.

But as for us and the internet it's been interesting to see how many people have set up sites for us.

[JC]:You have about 5 going right now. I was on last night checking it out and wow you've got a lot. And in fact one site had a little survey: Best Wide Mouth Mason song. What song do you think it is?

[SV]: Really? Oh God.. I have no idea. I don't know which Wide Mouth Mason song is it?

[SV]:It's The Game. It is actually the most popular song on the web site i was checking out. I was just like 'wow - that's one song that I would not have suspected.'

[SV]:

really? Yeah... 'Cuz right now actually we're in the middle of deciding what our third single will be and that's up there .. but i guess... you know what I should do? I'm gonna get on the internet and ask what everyone thinks it should be.

[JC]: Speaking of things... bootlegging: what's your opinion on that?

[SV]:well... I wish that it was cool.. in fact - forget I wish, I think it's great when people come and take a piece of the show home with them. You know, it doesn't seem to affect me in either way.

But I really like how I read about on the internet when I've looked on it that people are trading.

'Look I'll trade you the Toronto July 16 show for the winnepeg show'

If it was up to me man people would come in with video cameras because I think the audience is as much a part of the show as the band is. So if we're allowed to record it, I figure they should be allowed to record it too. So come in and hide it really well so nobody sees it. If I don't see you with a video tape or a cassette tape or something then you won't get in trouble.

[JC]: Have you written any new material for the next album or is that still way off?

[SV]: Um were writing lots actually these days... this sounds really hokey and maybe it's just because it's a time of year that's really reflective or maybe because we're from the prairies but harvest time seems to be a time when lots of songs come out just because autumn is such a good time for getting creative I suppose. So we're writing lots. It's kind of hard when you tour as steadily as we do.

[JC]: How long have you been on tour right now?

[SV]: With the exception of a three day break every once in a while, here and there... and going home every couple months: pretty much steadily for the last two couple of years.

I think once we had three weeks off just to kind of write and stuff. We're a band that sort of thrives on playing in different situations whether that's in the studio or live.. and every once in a while it's nice to get home and to be able to write and get all those ideas you've been accumulating and only have to think of them not go:

'ok we're writing and now we have to go off and do sound check and now we have to go off and do this'

...We're writing quite a bit and a lot of the songs we're playing live these days just to kind of let them grow up and make them earn their place on the album.

[JC]: Being from Saskatoon, do you find that winter is the hardest time to tour?

[SV]: My first experience touring ever was with this band that I had never met and and I got this phone call and 3 hours later or 4 hours later I was in a van heading to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories in October. So my first experience ever touring was in the winter.

I think you get used to it. It's kind of a pain waiting for your gear to warm up so you don't blow it up as soon as you turn it on. Being cold is never too much fun but things are a lot better now than they used to be for us. We used to tour in a $200 van with no heater and holes in the floor and we'd drive all the way to Watson Lake in the Yukon and back in that kind of thing.

Now that we actually have a van that has a heater and an engine and a floor that are all pretty much intact I think this winter is going to be sort of a breeze.

[JC]: Where's the best place you've played? Best place period.

[SV]: Oh man.. Well Montreux was quite something because... just because we were so inspired and Eric Clapton's sound man was doing our sound and I was playing through one of the amps that he used when he was there. And we were meeting all of these heroes of ours that.. it was just such an amazing night. But playing at The House of Blues in Chicago was wonderful too and the one in LA was a lot of fun.

There's been some gigs that you show up to and think.. it doesn't have a huge name and it's not this legendary place. There's just something about the crowd and something about the night you have that make it stick out in a place where you wouldn't think it would.

[JC]: Is there one place that you haven't played yet but you're like 'I want to go there. I want to go there'? Like Maple Leaf Gardens or something.

[SV]: Oh boy.

[JC]:Or.. you know something along those lines. Is there something there you'd just love to play?

[SV]: I haven't really thought about that.

[JC]: Like Budokan or something like that or the Hollywood Bowl?

[SV]: I guess it would be really interesting to play in The Royal Albert Hall. Just because so many of the albums I that I've heard...I mean it will be years if we ever get there. But I hear it's just such a wonderful sounding room and it has quite a history. So yeah my dream gig I think would be the Royal Albert.

[JC]: And who would open or who would follow you?

[SV]: Well by then we'll probably be quite old. So maybe some young upstart band.. some 23 year old band from Saskatoon by then..

[JC]: I guess you miss home.

[SV]: Every once in a while. I miss the people there and I really like Saskatoon as a city.

[JC]: Saskatoon is nice. I can say that. I've been there a couple times. And i just wish they got the NHL team.

[SV]: Aaah.. it was going to be the Blues too! Ya I miss Saskatoon sometimes. We have a lot of ties to it in our friends and in our families and stuff so it's good to be home sometimes.

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[JC]:Um I've been asked to ask you this. I'm not hitting on you. A friend of mine asked me to ask you. Do you feel like a sex symbol at times? For the kids?

[SV]:Oh my God. Really?

[JC]:I've been told to ask that.

[SV]:ME?

[JC]: Or even the rest of the guys?

[SV]: I think Earl is probably the one that everyone thinks is really cute. I don't know. I don't really think about that stuff.

I mean, anyone who thinks we're.. foxy or whatever should be with us when we're checking out of a hotel 3 hours after we checked in to sleep because we have to travel somewhere else and we all just look like we got beat up and burried for about three hours. So I don't know.

I think any kind of role model or symbol or anything that people want to attach to another person is just some kind of idealistic thing that's always going to dissapoint you.

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More to come! stay tuned!!

My eternal thanx to John and c101.5 for getting me a copy of this great interview.

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