BA Johnston is quick to tell you that he doesn’t know London, Ont very well. And none of the songs on his new album refer directly to the city.
But that doesn’t stop him from paying homage to Forest City with the title and cover of his new album.
The Hamilton-based comedian and performance artist previews his upcoming album Werewolves of London, Ontario with an online listening party on Saturday.
Johnston (real name Christian Johnston) told CBC Radio Afternoon drive about his new album and its catchy cover art.
Designed by former Londoner Paul Hammond, the image is full of local London references and vintage Canadian pop culture. This interview has been edited for clarity and clarity.
What prompted you to name your new London, Ontario werewolf record?
Well, Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is pretty much the greatest song of all time. Every time it’s on the radio, I get really excited and want to crank it up. I used to play it as warm-up music at my gigs, then made a joke about calling the album “Werewolves of London, Ontario” on stage. I got a really big laugh from the audience and realized that I should probably ride this pony for all its worth.
I think the cover lives up to that. Can you describe it for those who haven’t seen it?
The cover is by Paul Hammond. It’s basically a reimagining of the Strange Brew soundtrack album cover for the Bob and Doug McKenzie movie.
Londoners will love it as they see landmarks like Storybook Gardens, the former Embassy Hotel, Call The Office and the Labatt Factory. Does the artist come from London?
True, he is from London but now he lives in Halifax. He was really excited to do the cover because he wanted to show off his hometown. Most of the reference points were from him, as I don’t know London very well. I haven’t played there in a while, but it’s a great city.
The more I look at the cover, the more I get lost in the myriad of what is or isn’t a London reference.
Many are not!
It’s true. But for example, we see The Littlest Hobo on the cover. And that dog was actually called London. It’s like you’re supposed to go as far as you want.
Yes, that’s how I operate – in this murky water.
You’re hosting an online listening party for the new record on Saturday night, even though the record won’t be released until June. Why is that?
With confinement, I can’t do shows and I’m very bored. I know other people are just as bored at home, so I thought this would be something to do. And because of COVID, the record ended up being delayed. The recording process has been delayed four times, and vinyl record pressing plants are so full of orders that everything is backdated by a year. So the record won’t be ready until June, and I feel like the pressing plant might be lying to me about that date as well.
It may be hard for listeners to believe, but COVID has made being a musician very difficult (laughs).
I imagine you’re right about that. I understand you’re doing gigs in people’s backyards?
Yeah. I play people’s gardens, porches. I played a roof once. It’s my new job. I’m basically an adult party clown and now play at their birthday parties.
What helped you through such a difficult time?
Birthdays (laughs). In fact, I really like them. I didn’t think I would. But yeah, trying to stay busy has been the challenge.
We know that restaurants and bars will reopen soon. How convinced are you that live music will soon make a comeback?
I am always cautiously optimistic and hopeful. And then my dreams are usually shattered. But not this time! It will happen. Everything will be alright. And if not, I will play in your garden.
BA Johnston is hosting a live listening party for their upcoming album, Werewolves of London, Ontario, Saturday, January 22 at 9:30 p.m. Details on BA Johnston’s Facebook.
Afternoon drive5:54Werewolves of London Ontario