Interview: Why Shit Sucks for BA Johnston

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This Saturday, March 7, Hamilton’s fat lazy chud BA Johnston is back at the Pig’s Ear for another night of beer, shirtlessness, sweat, and songs about Star Trek, deep-fried food, and getting old. It’s all part of the national tour for his tenth album, Shit Sucks. I recently spoke with BA about getting old, drinking in Peterborough, and romantic comedies about suicide. 

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another performer that can match the mad, filthy, hammered, hilarious, miserable intensity of a BA Johnston show. Armed with a beat-up acoustic, a Casio keyboard from the 80s, and semi-functional Discman loaded with backing tracks, BA tells stories and sings songs about his sad, mundane life, all while climbing over the audience, shooting snot rockets, and getting progressively drunker and nakeder.

BA Johnston - Shit SucksIn many ways, his latest, Shit Sucks, is more of the same, with literally titled songs like “Gonna End Up Working In For McMurray,” “Nuke Toronto,” “Drinking On My Mom’s Dime,” Ballad of Wheels” (a defence of the Degrassi character), and “I Remember Skinny Jeans The Last Time Around.”

And yet, now with over a dozen years of touring and ten albums under his belt, is it possible BA is growing up? A number of songs on Shit Sucks hit surprisingly real emotional moments about growing old and feeling insecure in life and love. And musically, I’ll be damned if “What A Wonderfully Mediocre Day” isn’t a bit of hella catchy synth-pop.

I recently interviewed BA Johnston over email. Here’s what he had to say:

You’ve got a pretty relentless touring schedule. How do you cope? What’s an average day on tour like for BA Johnston?

I cope mostly be taking naps and drinking tea. I also listen to a lot of books on tape and let my mind wander to happier times.


Last time you were in town, local band Beef Boys shared their tips for surviving a BA show. For BA first-timers, what advice would you give?

BA Johnston. Just look at the lions on his sweatshirt! Look at them! Admit it: you want to come to this show.Beef Boys did a pretty good job on that one. I may do a guide to surviving a night sleeping on the Beef Boys moldy couch. To first-timers I suggest, pay the nominal cover charge with no backtalk. Dress to impress in easily washed clothes. Drink heavily.


You’re a real ambassador for 80s and 90s pop culture. This album alone covers Ms Pacman, Degrassi, The Simpsons, Double Dragon, Degrassi, Doug and the Slugs… Are there any favourite works that you haven’t yet fit into a song?

I have yet to reference my favourite film of all time: the 1985 classic Better Off Dead [a romantic comedy about a suicidal teen, played by John Cusack]. As someone who lived through both the 1980s and 90s, I’m shocked at how much better the 80s has aged.


More than any other album, Shit Sucks talks a lot about feeling old, and it also seems to have more serious (or semi-serious) songs. Are those related? Is it possible that BA is maturing/sobering up?

Well I am old. Though I guess I was old before. And old before that. Hmmmm. I dunno bud. I thought all my songs were serious. But seriously, I dunno. I dont listen to my own songs.

You lived in Peterborough for a time. How did that come about? What can you tell me about that time in your life?

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times. I moved to Peterborough to escape going to school in North Bay which was the only university to mail my acceptance to the correct address. True story. Tired of getting beat up for having long hair, I moved to Peterborough where everyone had long hair. I drank at Sin City before it was Sin City and did karaoke at a bar owned by the dude from Three Days Grace. True glory days. I took 7 years to get a 3 year general BA and mostly hung around bars.


BA Johnston, getting the patio people involved in the show. Look, no one said it was a GOOD idea to sit on the patios for Hootenanny.

Ba Johnston at the Hootenanny On Hunter Street 2012. Why they let him in public I’ll never know.

And finally, this is a question I ask all touring acts coming through town: name the top 5 things you know about Peterborough.

1. Don’t dance at the Pig’s Ear.
2. Own a bicycle.
3. She will date you and all your friends. You will probably do likewise.
4. Buy the non-advertised commuter pass from the bus station, it’s mad cheaper.
5. Tip Andrea.


See BA Johnston live this Saturday, March 7 at the Pig’s Ear Tavern with Beef Boys and The Lonely Parade (more info).

Shit Sucks, and the rest of BA Johnston’s music, is available for purchase on iTunes and from Mammoth Cave Records.


Live photos by Scott Dancey. Other images courtesy BA Johnston.

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