More than a quarter-century ago, Ron Hawkins and his newly branded band Lowest of the Low released an album cheekily dubbed Shakespeare My Butt. It skyrocketed the jangly folk rock band with its Toronto-centric songs about drinking and fighting under the Carlaw Bridge and late nights at Sneaky Dee's to great heights. Although the band couldn't sustain momentum amidst the pressure that comes with too much too fast and pulled the plug after releasing the second album Hallucigenia, founding member Ron Hawkins continued to turn out album after brilliant album as a solo artist or with other bands most notably the Do Good Assassins. Now, Lowest of the Low is back with a new album called Do The Right Now, and a big show at the Danforth Music Hall on Sept. 9. Post City spoke with Hawkins about the new album, out today, and looking back on his storied career.
Congrats on the new album. This is release day, do you have any superstitions or personal ways you celebrate?
I have a beard right now, a hockey beard. No, no I don't. I don't do anything, but it's not out of complacency or anything. This is my 16th album, so I think I've run out of things to be suspicious about.
Your big show is obviously this weekend, and like any Low show I’ve been to in the last decade, it will be packed. What is it about attaching the name Lowest of the Low to your songs that brings out the masses?
Well, I'd love to think it's the new record, but I'm sensible enough to know it's probably a healthy dose of nostalgia. And, hopefully, some excitement for the new record. People want to come and relive their youth.
What does it feel like when 26 years later, you can still pack a thousand people into a club and hear them singing your songs — because I know there will be beer-drenched crooners by the hundreds on Saturday.
Ya, it's amazing. Really, I don't have words for how cool that is. I always talk about when I was 16 or 18 starting bands and saying out going how I was going to make people forget The Clash or The Beatles. Of course, you come out with that bravado and I was pretty arrogant when I was in Lowest of the Low in 1991, but it was also sort of faking it to make it because behind that, you never in your wildest dreams expect that 30 years from now people are going to be singing your songs. I'm still amazed that I chose something to do at 16 and I'm still able to do it, maintain it and make a living at it, and have people still give a shit this long in is amazing.
The writing on Shakespeare My Butt was raw and youthful, maybe because it was a reaction to something that had just happened. For this album, you decided to try looking back to that period from where you are now — why that approach?
Dylan, our bass player, said an interesting idea might be that I should try writing Shakespeare 2.0 where I try to get into that mindset of how you were writing when I made that record. And I thought ya that's cool and I would carry a journal around with me and a pen like I used to do back then. I said, I don't think I could drink as much as I did back then, and that could be a missing element. Part of the album is informed by that, but then other songs happened like I said that are a bit more expansive and cinematic like the DGA (Do Good Assassins) and I said let's include those. And, then we actually got a chance to bring a couple songs back one from 1989 and one from 1990 that were being considered for Shakespeare My Butt, but because played in a band previously we were like, no way man, that's old stuff.
Those songs — "Gerona Train" and "Something To Believe In" from your band Popular Front held up really well, I thought.
I thought so too. I wouldn't have put them on if they didn't work, but when we got the idea, we were like hey let's bring those back because I really don't know why "Gerona Train" didn't wind up on Shakespeare, it seems perfect for that record.
Of the bands that were your contemporaries back then in the very early 90s, who do you think deserves a second go around for the young kids today?
I'd almost focus on someone like Art Bergmann who is still putting out records. He has some down time, but came back and has started making records the last couple years. In Halifax, there is this band called The Scrapes, and they're just starting out. They're a great band, and they back me up in Halifax if I can't bring my own band. And, I was talking to them at a bar after a show, and nobody had heard of Art Bergmann, and I said I just couldn't believe you guys don't know Art Bergmann? He's just perfect for you guys. And, you know, that happens. You get these amazing foundational people who launch a thousand ships and then they disappear and without some good will, I could see Art's stuff disappearing and just never coming back and that's kinda sad.