December 09, 2014
In this premiere edition of SoundOff, a semi-regular questionnaire, Sloan‘s Jay Ferguson talks about his favourite guitars and the cool babysitter that introduced him to KISS, whose four solo albums released in 1978 inspired Sloan’s 11th full-length, Commonwealth, out now.
Do you have a favourite type or model of guitar?
I was a big fan of rock and pop music since I was very young. The guitar that I would never find growing up in Nova Scotia would be, like, a Rickenbacker, which was my dream guitar just based on the guitars that I admired. At the time when I was growing up—whether it was Pete Townsend of The Who or Johnny Marr of the Smiths or Peter Buck from REM—they all used Rickenbackers, and you’d never find them in Halifax. Finally, I found one that I could buy in Toronto in the ‘90s, and the moment I saw it I basically bought it untried. I was like ‘I’ll take it.’ It was an old one from 1967.
Another one would be the Fender Telecaster. The Fender Telecaster was probably the first electric guitar that I got.
It wasn’t about what they sounded like. This is going to sound very vacuous of me; it was because I thought they looked so cool. I wanted a guitar based on how cool it looked, and because my favourite guitar players used them. I was just a total fan. I was like ‘I wanna be like Johnny Marr.’ So Rickenbackers and Telecasters for sure were my big thing.
What do you remember about your first live music experience? Who did you see?
I remember going to the Halifax Metro Centre and seeing the Beach Boys in, like, 1982, and I was pretty excited. I liked the Beach Boys. I knew all the hits, and I was just excited to come to a big concert.
This was during a brief period where Brian Wilson was back with them, and he was playing this large white grand piano on stage. But he’s so strange, because he would come on and play piano and walk off halfway through a song, then he’d come back on halfway through a song. He had a can of coke sitting on top of the white grand piano, and he would just randomly knock it over out of his hand, and some guy would come pick it up and clean off the piano, and (Brian Wilson) would just sort of laugh when he was playing the piano, then he would walk off. It was totally eccentric.
That was the first really big concert for me. Aside from really enjoying myself, I just thought ‘Brian Wilson is really strange.’ I saw a lot of shows at the Metro Centre in Halifax growing up, but that was the first of many.
What’s your favourite Canadian music venue?
I think it might be the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. It has a great stage. It’s a beautiful old venue. It has old-style seating and a reinforced ballroom dance floor, and it just sounds great. We’ve played there many times, and I’m happy that we have an audience in Vancouver that we can continue to play for. Definitely my favourite venue.
Where did Sloan play their first gig? What do you remember about the show?
It was at the lunch cafeteria at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. We did our very first Sloan show playing in a lunchroom at the art college. At the time, Chris (Murphy) was going there and Andrew (Scott) definitely went there at that time. It was really exciting. It was a good show. We have it on video somewhere.
What’s the first album you ever bought?
I don’t know. I remember when I was young I would have had an Elvis Presley greatest hits and an Abba record. I know I had an Abba record…I think I saw an Elvis made for TV movie that starred Kurt Russell as Elvis and I remember seeing that and being, like, ‘I want an Elvis record.’
My babysitter when I was a kid, her name was Rhonda Joy, and she was really into KISS and I kind of thought ‘Oh KISS are cool.’ I was, like, ‘What KISS record should I go buy?’ and she said ‘Go and get Destroyer.’
This was not long after Destroyer came out by KISS, and I remember going to the Halifax Shopping Centre with my mom and she bought Destroyer even though she was like ‘What the hell is this record? What am I buying for you?’ Who is this band?’ It was so terrifying. Even though by today’s standard it’s bubblegum in comparison. That would have been one of the first really memorable records I bought, Destroyer by KISS, all due to my lovely babysitter Rhonda Joy, who lives in Calgary now, by the way.
Is there a Canadian act that inspired you growing up?
Honestly, there were a lot of bands that were on the East Coast. There was one band that I was really jealous of in high school. Chris (Murphy) went to the same high school as them and I went to a different high school, but I was in grade 12 and they were in grade 11, and they put an album out in grade 11, and I barely had a band in grade 12. I was so jealous. They were called the Jellyfishbabies. They had a record out and they had, like, an eight-song album that they had recorded, and it was out by the time they were finished grade 11, and I was so jealous. I couldn’t believe it and I loved the record.
I was so excited that such a cool band came out of Halifax. They ended up moving to Toronto and they made another album and they kind of petered out unfortunately, but that era, like, 1986 when that record came out, I just remember being so blown away by them. Real inspiring Canadian band in our own backyard and I know that Chris (Murphy) felt the same way as well.
I loved them growing up. They were pretty inspiring for what they did early on.
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