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Interview with Jim Creegan of BareNaked Ladies

August 15, 2010

The 1990s holds a special place in our hearts. That’s especially true for the current generation of college students, whose flashbacks to the days of Hootie and the Blowfish, They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies significantly characterize their days of youth. Now, it’s 2010. We picked up the Ipod and they uploaded their songs online. Like us, our radio heroes have grown up. Ontario-based Barenaked Ladies are growing with the times, releasing their latest effort, “All in Good Time,” on March 30 in the United States. Bassist Jim Creeggan, the beer appreciating, Carrot Top look-a-like bassist for the Ladies took a moment to speak with us. So just what’s happening with that band that wrote “One Week” what seems like so many weeks ago?

So are you Canadians still amped about the Olympic hockey victory?

(Laughs) For sure, we’re still feeling the resonance. We were touring the U.S. when that happened. It was funny to see [American] folks watching us freaking out.

Did you attend any Olympic events?

Eric actually was a torchbearer, which was exciting. We played at some award ceremonies and got to see some of the events. I realized I was a screamer when I went to the short-track speed skating and completely lost my mind. My daughter couldn’t stand it because I was yelling the whole time. I also saw cross-country skiing and I used to race cross-country, so I was feeling their pain.

Is everyone up there Molson drinkers?

Yeah it’s kind of the stereotype. The times I drank too much in high school, it was with that kind of beer, so I don’t really like to call that “taste.” I love the micro-breweries up here. Schleimann’s, Muskoka Gold…Steam Whistle is really good. I could go on and on. I love Canadian beer.

Does touring on the road serve as your beer explorations?

Yeah, that’s one good thing about touring, is getting the taste test of all the local beers. There’s a beer called Moosehead, that’s Rhode Island I think. You go to Halifax, Nova Scotia you get Kiest Beer. You got Quidi Vidi Harbor beer, that’s a St. John’s, Newfoundland beer.

Who were some of your favorite artists growing up?

Definitely Rush was the obsession on my block. I caught a jam session and the guys would know Xanadu live and studio. (Laughs) I branched off into being interested in jazz; I was a bass player so I got into that. The Proclaimers were a big band too me, Billy Bragg, even stuff like Neil Young.

Where is the divide between the Canadian and the American music scenes?

Canada, there’s just not as many people here, as in the U.S. Also, we receive a lot of American culture in Canada. But somehow, I don’t know what it is about the border, but it does create something different. Perhaps like how bluegrass was formed in the hills of Tennessee. A little bit of isolation, even in this day, creates a little bit of diversity. I think, Toronto specifically, it’s a pretty multicultural city and I think that influences the music quite a bit. Canada’s diverse within itself as well. The Toronto scene you have Metric, or Broken Social Scene; you have Arcade Fire from the sort of Anglo-Montreal scene.

How did you pick up the more traditional double-bass as a signature instrument?

It was the double-bass for the longest time. I started when I was really young (5) in a school orchestra; classical music. Then high school came around and I started playing like 50s music, more music with double-bass in it. My first band was like Elvis and Stray Cats and stuff like that. Then we started opening up to rock, like the Who, so I started playing more electric bass. When I joined Steve and Ed [of BNL], I was studying the double-bass to be in a symphony, so I said ‘why should I play electric bass? This is my instrument.’ It really sort of helped me define my own sound by trying to put that into a pop situation and see what I could come up with.

What’s different about this record than the others?

We’d gone through such a rough year collectively. It had to do with the band and some pretty big moments in our lives. Ed lost his mom to cancer; and Steve was struggling as well, he was cited for cocaine possession. We decided to really support Steve through that rough time, but we parted ways with him through that process. So much was really turned upside down for awhile. The process of reevaluating and soul-searching that way, and deciding to move on as a four-piece, this album’s one of the stronger albums we’ve made.

Does being the bassist for BNL provide a secondhand fame that sits closer to shady privacy?

(Laughs) I do benefit from being the bass player in that way. I’m not the focal point necessarily, but I am a tall red-headed guy. I’m sort of like a beacon in the back. I don’t get recognized that much. In my neighborhood, where I spend the bulk of my time, people are more interested in their lives than they are in mine. So it’s good to have people that are bored with your life.

What song do you always put on to get the party started?

To get the party started, “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder; but if I’m in a good mood I’ll often turn to David Bowie’s “Changes.”

Interview conducted March 2010

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