IN MARCH, STEVEN PAGE APPEARED WITH BARENAKED LADIES FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE LEAVING HIS OLD BAND IN 2009 when they were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and performed at the Juno Awards. “[That was] honestly the only thing we’d talked about,” Page admits. “I don’t think anybody wants there to be any kind of permanent reunion, but I feel like we’ve gotten so much stuff in common it would be fun to do.”
Page is too busy anyway. He just released his sixth solo effort, Discipline: Heal Thyself Pt. 2, a sequel to his 2016 album. “Initially I thought [ Heal Thyself] would be one record with 30 songs. Over those two years between the albums, I finally found some time to finish it off, only to discover that some songs didn’t fit any more, and then I found myself writing a bunch of new songs.” CAM LINDSAY
What are your current fixations?
I just saw Sorry to Bother You and had my mind blown. I thought it was amazing, and I’m telling everyone I know to go see it. I will probably be proven wrong or everyone will tell me they hated it, but for me it was the perfect movie, because it’s absurd, politically conscious, fun, scary and it second-guesses itself all at once.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
This is gonna sound ridiculous because it’s so simple, but I have some kind of insanely deep connection with “Hey Jude.” The song is so simple, but there is something in the performance and how the acoustic guitar, piano and cymbals all mush together that it transports me every time. If I am feeling disoriented or out of sorts, that is the easiest way to get me back.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
We did a gig in Chicago around 2000 at a racetrack in this huge stadium. The daytime acts were all of these al-
ternative or modern rock bands. I remember it was Third Eye Blind, then us, and after us, Stone Temple Pilots, Kid Rock and then Metallica. We were the last of the non-hard rock bands, and during our set, the hard rock fans were getting closer and closer to the stage, and the nerdy alternative fans were getting pushed farther back. We could see our fans in the back enjoying our show, but then this big fight broke out right in front of us. We stopped what we were doing and started playing “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie, and the fight stopped. It worked! The magic of Lionel Richie.
What’s the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
I don’t know if this counts, but I will always remember NME’s review of the “Brian Wilson” single in 1992. It said, “Fat, beardo, painfully provincial. Obviously all of the litterspiking jobs were taken where this lot are from.”
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
I wish more people had given us the right advice. Like not that album cover for Gordon. That would have been nice. Either version. With the first one, featuring us on it, we were like, “That’s not what it was supposed to look like.” But it was too late to change. And then when they re-released it in 1996, we got the same people to do the artwork [laughs]. I don’t know what we were thinking.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
I’m not the kind of person to kick anyone out of anything. Oh, but my policy for a band is you must be a high drummer and low bass player. The drummer has to sit high on a drum throne, like Ringo or Pete Thomas, because too low and you’re like a race car driver. And you’ve got to wear your bass down low. If you wear your bass up high like you’re gonna slap it, you’re not in my band.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Right now I think of how difficult things are. The kitsch that Barenaked Ladies spent in the early ’90s celebrating in an ironic way seems to be less fun when you start to realize that it’s only one type of Canadian identity. It’s only really white Canadian kitsch, and it doesn’t include all of the voices of the other Canadians out there. We’re having to look back at how we view our country. We spend a lot of time feeling superior to our Southern neighbours, and I think that’s dangerous, because there are similar things happening at home. So I think we need to have some humility and listen to each other. That’s the new Canada.
If I wasn’t playing music I would be…
Crying. I’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t know what I would be doing instead. If you had asked me this when I was 18, I would have said a writer or a poet or a novelist, and my day job would be teaching at a university. But that could have been a pipe dream too.
What do you fear most?
Animals. Mice, probably more than anything, but I’m terrified of them. If I see them scurrying across the floor in my studio at 2 a.m., I just shriek.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
I don’t if I want anybody to have to picture me taking it off and getting it on at this age or any age. That just sounds like, “Dad, put that away!”
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
My mother loves what I do, but for the longest time I think she wished I was a cantor.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
“Popcorn” by Hot Butter, hands down. I’ve already decided that and it’s in my will. I think that if someone’s coming to my funeral, I want to make them feel the way “Popcorn” makes them feel. Remember the good times.
“I wish more people had given us the right advice. Like not that cover for Gordon.”