The Lowest of the Low’s Ron Hawkins thinks the Weakerthans’ John Samson is the best lyricist in Canada


By Steve Newton

After releasing just two albums—1991’s Shakespeare My Butt… and ’94’s Hallucigenia—Toronto guitar-rockers the Lowest of the Low called it quits on a career that was fast making them one of Canada’s most popular club acts. The breakup was sudden and acrimonious, and partially brought on by the old art-versus-commerce dilemma.

“It had become too much like selling shoes or something,” explains guitarist-vocalist and main songwriter Ron Hawkins, on the phone from a downtown T.O. street corner. A lot of folks tried on those shoes, though, and liked the way they felt.

Those are the types who’ll be tickled to know that the original Lowest of the Low—Hawkins, guitarist-vocalist Stephen Stanley, bassist-vocalist John Arnott, and drummer David Alexander—have reunited and embarked on a western Canadian tour that visits the Commodore on Friday (May 11), as part of NewMusicWest 2001.

“A lot of local promoters have sort of flown ideas by us over the years,” explains Hawkins, “and then last year it seemed like a long time to have had these axes to grind. So we came to the table and talked about doing two shows in Toronto at the Warehouse, which ended up selling 5,000 tickets in an hour and a half or something. But as our drummer, David, said on CFNY here, ‘This is our opportunity to break up properly,’ and that was the original intention.

“I mean, everybody’s got very different lives than we had in 1994. I’ve got the Rusty Nails going full-time, which is the band I write all my new original stuff for, and Steve and Dave both have really responsible jobs. So I don’t think anybody wants to jump back on the Lowest of the Low hamster wheel. But that being said, there’s probably a lot of cool opportunities that could come up for one-off special-event shows.”

The quartet’s NewMusicWest appearance could be construed as kind of special, and not only because of the headliner’s ’90s-nostalgia slant. The show also features a performance by folksy Winnipeg pop-punks the Weakerthans, described by Hawkins as just awesome.

“They’re sort of personally political,” he relates. “They’re a political band, but it’s more in the poetry of everyday. And they have a fantastic lyricist; I think John Samson is the best lyricist in Canada.”

In the last few years, Hawkins has furthered his own reputation for clever lyrics and catchy rock sounds with Ron Hawkins & the Rusty Nails, a band that he figures most Lowest of the Low fans would appreciate.

“I’m bringin’ out Rusty Nails records for the merchandise table when we do the Low shows,” he says, “ ’cause I’m under the impression that there’s probably thousands and thousands of Low fans that have no idea that I made any records after that. I’m kinda hoping that this [reunion] will tap into that too, you know.”

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