What can I say about Nasty On? How 'bout they're F**cking INCREDIBLE!!!!! Based out of Vancouver, these four rock gods know the true meaning of original rockmanship. I mean their songs are just seething with creativity. Every syllable, every note, every chord, every lyric, every beat, every breath uttered is a testimony to what is truly real Rock'n'Roll, and not that fake crap you hear on the radio masquerading as such. CitySick, their last full-length release on Stutter records is filled with rock blasts of energy pummeling forth with fury, anger, and gripping intensity. The gut wrenching vocals of singer Jason Grimmer are unbelievably so dynamic, unique and emotive, it's hard to fathom that someone can sing so great. We are so darn lucky to be given the chance to listen to this beautiful art of rock that is Nasty On. Check out their website at www.thenastyon.com So here is the interview I got with singer Jason Grimmer.
All of the songs on CitySick are pretty different from one another. Does the band have a wide range of influences?
Sure, we love all kinds of different bands. I’d say our main influences as a band have been The Who, The Stooges, The Only Ones, The Pretty Things, Slow, The Replacements, Love and definitely the Alice Cooper Band. Once in awhile we’ll try and pull ideas from other bands we love like Can or Neil Young & Crazy Horse or Hawkwind or…I could go on and on here…but we mostly try to play what we think sounds good with our set up. I’d say Primal Scream, Royal Trux and Guided By Voices are good examples of newer bands that have inspired us to fuck around with trying to sound like parts of the records we love.
Since the songs are so original sounding, in comparison to most punk influenced Rock today, is there a main process that goes into your songwriting? Are the lyrics written first or the music parts?
Well, I think I just debunked the “originality” thing with my last answer. Anyway, moving along… here’s how it works most of the time: Allen or Matt (and sometimes me) brings in a riff or even a finished song and then I either make up lyrics on the spot or I dig through old lyrics in my book and try and make ‘em fit together. We all work on arranging the song after that. I can be extremely lazy with putting permanent lyrics down. On “Amphetamine, Now!”, for instance I was waiting for my ride to the studio to lay down the final vocals but I only had the chorus. I just wrote down the album titles of a bunch of my records that were sitting in front of me until I had a page full and my ride came. I just read the list off on the recording. I had actual verses before, but I refused to put ‘em to paper and I have a bad memory.
The titles and lyrics to a lot of your songs are morbidly poetic, with sentiments of death and decay throughout, like with songs “Please Kill Me”, “Kill Mountain”, “The Ship that Died of Shame”; and with lyrics like “now you’re driving my hearse” and “why don’t you sit on my casket?” Your lyrics sound a lot more literate than most bands; can you talk about where this fascination with the macabre comes from?
The original Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I read those over and over when I was a kid. I still read ‘em. They’re really dark and bizarre and screwed up. Love ‘em
Can you tell me about what it was like growing in New Brunswick? Did anything about that environment help to influence your tastes in music, and other arts?
Not really. It’s a beautiful province and the town I grew up in –same town as Matt by the way- was nice and all, but I felt I needed to get to some sort of city to find everything I needed to make me happy. A job, music I wanted to hear, books I wanted to read-everything really. I love small towns; I just can’t live in ‘em. If I didn’t have to work I would. That said I really miss Moncton, New Brunswick. It’s a great town I lived in for awhile and has a pretty cool music scene. I get to visit there once and awhile though ‘cuz my girlfriend’s from there.
You’ve expressed a love/hate relationship with Vancouver in past interviews. What made you decide to move to Vancouver in the first place? Does the Vancouver environment still continue to frustrate/disgust/challenge you and why? Was it a big change for you living in New Brunswick vs. Vancouver?
I went through some pretty big changes in Vancouver: I had a seven-year relationship end, I got pneumonia a couple of times, and I had a series of really harsh panic attacks that I was able to deal with when figured out what they were. I thought I was losing my mind for awhile. A lot of those experiences went into the lyrics for “CitySick”. I’m definitely happier now…or at least more focused. I actually moved away for a year, and when I came back, I found I had a greater appreciation for it. Not that I still don’t have some problems…like the fact that there aren’t very many good venues left to play. Nasty On’s never had a problem getting a gig but the choices are way more limited now. Vancouver can seem like a small town at times in good and bad ways. Grant from the Smugglers told me he had a problem with people, like me, who moved to Vancouver only to complain about it. I can sort of understand why, but then again, that guy seems to love it a little too much here.
How does Nasty On feel about comparisons to other Vancouver based rock’n’roll bands? Do you agree that since SLOW the Rock music scene has been a little scarce?
That’s a tough question. I’m relatively new to Vancouver. I couldn’t really compare. My boss at Zulu records, Grant, would have more to say on this subject. I don’t feel there has been a Vancouver band since them that has even come close to being as good.
Any comparisons we get to Slow are probably based on the fact that we’ve had extremely drunken sets, we cover one of their songs, talk about them a fair bit and had their bassist, Hamm, as a guest on our album. Also I believe they were really into Alice Cooper and the Stooges as we certainly are. We do love it when people compare us though, even if there’s sometimes no foundation for it.
Jason, you have an exceptionally appealing (not to mention incredibly sexy) and powerful singing voice. When or how did you first realize the potential you had? Does it come naturally to you or was it something you had to work on to develop? How did you know that you wanted to be a singer? Do you feel that the voice is another instrument in the mix?
I will take your word on the appealing and sexy part…I guess I can project. I liked acting in plays in high school and later I went to radio broadcasting school. So I’ve learned to use my voice a bit. I always thought it would be cool to perform in front of an audience on a regular basis in some way.
When I met Allen, and he asked me to form a band with him, I just ended up as the singer by default, as I couldn’t play an instrument, and was more than willing to do the whole front man thing. I’ve never thought I was any kind of great singer, so thank you.
Whose music and singing do you really idolize? Any particular influences? What did you grow up listening to? When and how did you first get into music? Any non-musical influences in what you write from movies, books or other?
Here’s a few of my main vocal inspirations that I may or may not try and tap into from time to time…Jennifer Herrema from Royal Trux, Paul Westerberg, Peter Perrett from The Only Ones, Tim Buckley, Scott Walker, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Tina Turner and Alice Cooper.
I grew up listening to basically anything my parents had. My dad taught karate and one of his students owned a record store. He paid Dad in records. Unfortunately Dad didn’t really know much about music, but liked women, so most of the records he picked out had covers with women in various stages of undress but also with pretty terrible music within the grooves. I do remember him playing a lot of John Lennon solo stuff though, which I still like a lot. Mom liked anything with nice harmonies; Simon & Garfunkel, Everly Brothers, oh and Neil Diamond. Prince was the first artist I got into on my own.
I really started getting into rock ‘n roll when I heard the Replacements. I bought almost all of their records up to that point within a year. I was the only guy in town who liked ‘em so they were pretty special to me. I thought it was cool they could write anthems, heavy rockers, ballads and shitty toss-offs and put ‘em all on the same album.
I was a huge fan of rock magazines. I would buy Creem, Rolling Stone and Spin magazines on a regular basis and wish that I could get ahold of the great records I was reading about. Creem was a pretty shitty mag at that point (so were Rolling Stone and Spin) and then a friend of mine gave me a copy of “Psychotic Reactions & Carburator Dung” by Lester Bangs. That blew my mind. Same guy got me into Led Zeppelin and the Stones.
I watch a lot of movies –I’m really into Peckinpah, Altman, Bogdanovich, Monte Hellman, along with many others- and “CitySick”, in it’s cover and content, is a bit of an homage a couple of Martin Scorcese films. The whole catholic guilt thing of his sorta fit how I was feeling at the time.
Lyrically I’m pretty influenced by books by Raymond Chandler, Nelson Algren, Burroughs, and Charles Bukowski.
“The Ship that Died of Shame” has been mentioned as one of Nasty ON’s most powerful songs, musically and vocally. How was this masterpiece conceived? What is the book about? What made you decide to incorporate into your song?
The funny thing about this song is, I never read the book. It was inspired by a synopsis of the film I read in a movie encyclopedia. I thought it was a cool title. The movie (and I’m assuming the book to some degree) is about a group of war veterans who find an old gunboat rotting in a ship yard. They decide to restore it to it’s former glory but end up using it as a vehicle for drug smuggling. The songs’s about honour, good intentions, and how easily they can get tainted and go awry. Al wrote the awesomely epic music. I cannot remember what came first.
I’ve seen a webcast acoustic performance for ZedTV? Is this a Vancouver based show? Where were the electric/huge stage excerpts filmed?
Yeah, Zed is affiliated with the CBC. It’s a late night, commercial free TV show, that showcases bands, dance, and all sorts of art. It’s pretty cool to have it, not only for the exposure, but because it pays really well! We’re kinda lucky in Canada to have Zed TV and the CBC in general. The huge stage you’re referring to was a big TV studio in the CBC building. Maybe they filmed “Good Rockin’ Tonight” or “The Beachcombers” there before, I dunno.
You’re singing on those acoustic songs and on CitySick Part 2 is a lot quieter and more gentle than the rest of CitySick where you’re powerfully loud, energetic and raw sounding. Is it harder to sing with more introspection than to belt it out like you do on most of your songs?
It’s easier for me to scream and yell. I’m still trying to get used to quieter singing. I’d like to someday be able to do it really well.
What are you’re favorite songs to perform? Do you do cover songs live, if so, why them?
I like performing anything we’ve just written the best. A lot of times we’ll play songs we’ve just written the night before and I’ll make up the lyrics on the spot. I hate to rehearse songs over and over. Of the songs we’ve recorded I’d have to say “(C’mon, C’mon) Bring Me Down”, “Last Page”, “Apology”, and “Please Kill Me” are all faves.
We cover The Replacements’ “Bastards of Young”, The Dream Syndicate’s “That’s What You Always Say”, Alice Cooper’s “Is It My Body" and Slow’s “Against the Glass” on a fairly regular basis, because we love all of those songs and, in Slow’s case, never hear anyone else do it. I’d make half our set covers every time we play if I had my choice, except, like I said before, I hate to rehearse and am not good at remembering lyrics (even my own), so it’s not the best idea.
How was it performing acoustically versus electric? Is this something you intend to do more of in the future?
It’s an idea we’ve toyed with but have actually started to abandon. We kinda wanna perfect the one electric guitar line-up. I’m not the worst guitar player, but I will not practice therefore I don’t get any better. Al or I may play acoustic on a song or two in the future, if the song demands it.
What’s your take on Canada’s burgeoning rock’n’roll scene?
I really don’t listen or pay attention to a lot of newer music, so I may be a bit oblivious to this “burgeoning” you speak of. However, I will take this space to tell you what Canadian bands I really like. The Peter Parkers and Elevator from Moncton, N.B., Shikasta from Toronto, Starvin’ Hungry and Tricky Woo from Montreal, and a whole bunch from Vancouver: The Cinch, The Notes From Underground, Video Tokyo, Black Rice, Gang Bang, Jerk With a Bomb, Destroyer, The Orphan, Channels 3 & 4, The Secret Three, The Gung-Ho’s. I’m sure I’ve left some out, but those are a few bands I really like to see live whenever I have a chance.
Can you talk about some of the side projects that members of Nasty On are involved with? Is Nasty On still considered the main focus?
There’s The Christa Min with Matt, Allen & I, Paul from Video Tokyo, CC from The Cinch, and Derek from Satina Saturnina. We sound kinda like a Crazy Horse/Spacemen 3/ “Loaded” era VU type band…or at least that’s the plan. I also sing in The Countless Jibes with Nic from Destroyer, Josh from Jackie O Motherfucker, Steve from Baron Samedi, Brady from The Secret Three and Video Tokyo and up to 4 others on any given night. We’re a really chaotic and noisy garage rock band. I’ve also fronted a Hawkwind inspired band called BatEater. I used to be in a band called Janitor that contained future members of Nasty On and The Cinch and we recently reunited to open a Brian Jonestown Massacre show. With the exception of the Jibes, Matt and Allen are in all these projects too, so we’re always working together. Nasty On is our main focus right now though.
What can your fans expect from Nasty On in the near future? New record, touring…etc…
We’re starting to record our new album in May of this year and hope to be done within a month or so. Most of the songs are written. We gotta write more though. We just got a new drummer, the producer of our last 2 releases, Jason Solyom, ex-lead singer for the Spitfires. It should be out by the end of summer or earlier. Hopefully someone will wanna release it for us, but if not, we’ll put it out ourselves. I dunno right now about touring too extensively. We’d absolutely love to play out your way, and are considering it, but we’ll probably just focus on the west coast of the U.S. for now.
Describe a typical day in the life of Jason Grimmer and Nasty On?
Wake up. Hang out with my girlfriend and baby daughter. Go to work. Sell records. Leave work. Buy beer. Go to practice. Practice a few songs and try and write another. Drink, smoke and talk. Learn a couple covers. Try and write another song and practice the others. Give up. Go home. Hang out with my girlfriend and daughter. Watch a movie. Go to bed.
What would you be like if you affected by Gamma Ray Radiation?
I’d have a more professional attitude, that’s for sure. That and probably cancer.