ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 11, 1996
If you’ve ever played in a band, you’ll always remember your very first gig. I remember my first (and only) real gig. It was with a frighteningly inept cover band called Hack City, which was formed through members of the UBC Rockers’ Co-op, class of ’83. Our main claim to fame was that our lead guitarist was a really smart physics grad student working on his PhD in laser technology or something; the rest of us were mostly arts and commerce slackers. We played at a free Student Union Building showcase night and immediately showed that we had no case, not a rockin’ foot to stand on.
But we had a good time, even if we couldn’t hear Mr. Science yelling the chord changes to Pink Floyd’s “Time” over the racket we were making.
Gary Johnson’s very first gig was a little more auspicious than that. He was in a local band called Deja Vu—which included members of the Chrissie Steele Band and DDT—when it got called up for a gig at the old 86 Street Music Hall. But it wasn’t one of those dime-a-dozen showcase nights. Johnson’s group was warming up for Who bassist John Entwistle’s solo band, and the show was sold-out.
“That’s how I started in the music industry,” says the Prince George native. “I didn’t go and play in front of 15 people; I had to walk out in front of 1,300.”
Johnson’s trial by fire gave him a spontaneous lick at sweet rock success, and he’s trying to keep that taste in his mouth with Ressurection Mary, a dynamic hard-rock quartet that recently released its debut CD, Feed the Story (available at A&B, HMV, and Sam’s). Johnson says the main influence on the music he’s making today was pioneering Seattle band Mother Love Bone, with which he shared the stage at Club Soda once, before the heroin-overdose death of lead vocalist Andrew Wood.
“The only band I can say that I’m really mind-blown by is Mother Love Bone,” he says, “and when I was writing this album I was just tryin’ to hopefully do one as cool as theirs.”
Johnson got some help in giving Feed the Story its frosty vibe from Larry Anschell—who produced the brunt of the disc at his Turtle Recording Studios—and local guest vocalists such as Jackie Brown, Kim Linekin, and Connie Scott. Ginger keyboardist Vince Jones also added some Hammond organ to “Here Comes the Pain”, which the band is shooting a video for this month, using the prop-packed warehouses of Can-Am Importique and the directing skills of Danny Novak (director of photography on Bruce McDonald’s upcoming film Hard Core Logo).
Johnson is joined in the purposely misspelled Ressurection Mary by guitarist Darren Atkinson, bassist Mike Young, and drummer Jim Ross, all veterans of the local top-40 circuit. As the group’s vocalist and main songwriter, Johnson looks candidly at past experiences—good and bad—when seeking inspiration for his group’s material.
“I’m a recovered cocaine addict,” he bravely admits. “I haven’t done that now for about a year and a half—for a year, anyways—but ‘Scurvy’ is all about cocaine. There’s a couple of antidrug songs on there, and a couple of anti-alchohol songs, too.
“The drugs are gone from my life now,” stresses the 30-year-old rocker, whose band plays the Hungry Eye on May 18. “My only battle now is if I drink, and I’ve been doing pretty good with that, lately. But the whole [idea] behind the album when I wrote it, basically, was that people will maybe listen to what I’ve gone through and not go through the same stuff. That’s my whole scoop on it.”