by Joe Frietze
I recently had the chance to speak with Canadian songstress Sass Jordan. We talked about her new live album featuring a set from 1994 with a young Taylor Hawkins on drums, the changing music industry, the use of rain as a musical trope, and electrolytes.
Joe Frietze: How are you doing this morning?
Sass Jordan: Oh, I’m doing excellent. I’m drinking my electrolytes, gotta hydrate, which I gotta tell you. Do you drink electrolytes?
Joe Frietze: I drink a lot of soda.
Sass Jordan: Well then, you know what, I think you’re probably gonna need some electrolytes. We’re probably gonna need some electrolytes. I’m just saying, kid. Anyways. What’s happening? What is happening in your corner of the world?
Joe Frietze: In my corner of the world, oh I just love this new album, this new old album that you just put out, Live In New York Ninety Four.
Sass Jordan: Yeah, I know what you mean. Oh, wow. That’s awesome. Yay.
Joe Frietze: And like I said my review, ever since I heard the opening riff to “Make You A Believer,” I’ve been a fan.
Sass Jordan: That’s incredibly lovely to hear, I must say. Oh, I swear to God. It’s so interesting these days because, you know, at this point in my life, I’m on the side that is called… hang on, I gotta get this right ‘cause there’s so many things… I think it’s called, I used to be on the side called Classic Rock, but it gets better. Now apparently I am Legacy Rock.
Joe Frietze: Legacy Rock. That’s a new one.
Sass Jordan: Legacy. Like what is old? Old, let’s just say, “It’s old.” Okay? I can live with that anyway.
Joe Frietze: Well, it’s like the corporate radio promos going, “The best hits of the eighties, the nineties, and today!” I’m like, well, today’s been 23 years now. So you gotta make up your mind.
Sass Jordan: When I was younger, classic rock was like, you know, the Stones and those guys. Now I’m in that same category. I find that very odd. But you know what, I think these, these categories were also invented so that radio could compartmentalize properly. For their advertising.
Joe Frietze: Exactly. Trying to hit a demographic.
Sass Jordan: Yeah. So I mean, I do get it from a corporate point of view, I get it. But from an arty, artsy, fartsy point of view, I’m like, well, go blow.
Joe Frietze: And that’s something I’ve always loved about your music, it defies the genres.
Sass Jordan: Oh, well that’s, thank you. Thank you. I mean, you know, I tend to…
Joe Frietze: You’ve got the hard rocking stuff. You’ve got the ballads. You’ve got the bluesy numbers, and, you know, just trying to pigeonhole you into classic rock radio, I think was, you know, it was doomed to fail.
Sass Jordan: The thing is, I’m really, I definitely am all over the map, and the reason I’m all over the map, Joe, is because I love music. I love music. I don’t love one type or one style of music. I just love music. Because, you know, really all I do is sing. You know, it’s fun for me to make little excursions into music that I, different kinds of music, different styles of music that I love. Sometimes they’re more successful than others.
And what I mean by that is, I mean, artistically. I’m not even talking about how much they sell. I don’t even really care about that at this point. Cause who sells anything at this point? I was not Country, or Americana, it used to be called Country Rock. And then they call Indie, indie. I’m a damn indie artist now? You know what I mean? It’s all these labels. I mean, I understand why they exist. I get it, but it’s just fun, making fun of them.
Joe Frietze: Thinking about Live In New York Ninety Four, what do you remember about that show? I mean, from what I gather from the intro and your banter, it was raining.
Sass Jordan: (laughing) I dunno how you put that together. I’m glad somebody said it in there ‘cause I would’ve forgotten, but I did when I heard it. You know, I hadn’t listened to that recording for years. I mean, it’s just been sitting at the bottom of a box in the back of a closet for like years. And when I heard that, I was like, it triggered some memories ‘cause you know, it’s difficult to remember particular shows.
It all becomes one big fat Blursday, if you know what I’m saying. But I do remember, I do remember the rain and I do remember that it was daytime. And it’s funny because I was talking to somebody the other day and they said, “Uh, listening to this, where do you think this came from? It sounds like it must have been like some kind of radio show that you were doing in like one of those radio station presents, yada, yada, yada.” And I was, “Dude, you’ve nailed it! That’s exactly what it was.” And I of course had completely forgotten that. I had no memory of it, but when the guy said that, it was like, that makes so much sense because it’s only nine songs.
So it would’ve been one of those afternoon radio things that we used to do in the nineties, you know, where the radio station would have you come and play like a little promo thing and you know, they’d promote it to their listeners. It’s exactly what it was. I don’t remember the name of the radio station right this exact second. Maybe somebody will enlighten me at some point. It must have been a local New York station.
Anywho? Anyhow, I remember, I do remember the rain. I do remember that. It was daytime. I remember that. It was a really intense show, possibly because of the rain, because that just kind of amped up the whole vibration, you know, because water carries the electrical current that you’re generating to begin with. I’m talking about from a sort of more esoteric right side of things, rather than getting electrocuted, nobody got electrocuted.
Joe Frietze: That’s good.
Sass Jordan: But it was a really intense show and I really think that you can sort of feel that when you’re listening to that recording. The recording is pretty good, man. It really is. And so that’s another clue that it must have been a radio station with proper recording.
Joe Frietze: Whoever was running the board was doing a really good job. None of the instruments overpower the vocals.
Sass Jordan: Exactly, yeah. Probably whoever was doing sound for me at the time. It’s obviously been mixed. But you know, it, whatever was used to record it was definitely not crap. Like it wasn’t a cell phone.
Joe Frietze: Yeah, it wasn’t a cell phone. It wasn’t a small club with a tape recorder.
Sass Jordan: I mean, you could totally record something and have it sound decent on a cell phone now. You know what I mean? Yeah. But there were no, there were no cell phones then.
Joe Frietze: Your agent might have had a cell phone.
Sass Jordan: (laughing) A big brick phone! I can’t believe anybody ever had those damn things. Yeah. But they did. And then those little flip guys remember that?
Joe Frietze: And then, that’s when you were really cool.
Sass Jordan: Yeah. And then the Blackberry. And then of course it went to the iPhone and everything. That was the end of the world as we know it.
Joe Frietze: Yeah. Everybody had a camera…
Sass Jordan: At all times! Yeah. Holy moly. What else have you got on that plate there, Joe?
Joe Frietze: Let’s stick with the live set. “Moonage Daydream,” I love this cover.
Sass Jordan: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I really like it too. I really, I think it really suits me and it’s funny ‘cause I got to do it in 2020, I think it was. Yeah, 2020. Before the, before the end of the world. I was on tour with this Bowie Celebration, man. All the guys in the band were alumni of the Bowie bands over the years, so I got to play it with the guys that had played it with him, which was pretty cool.
Joe Frietze: That must have been so emotional for you.
Sass Jordan: Oh yeah. Doing that show, that Bowie show was very interesting.
Joe Frietze: I know he was one of your influences.
Sass Jordan: Yeah, you could almost feel him around sometimes, more towards the beginning, but you know, who knows if it’s true or not. It’s just the way it feels. “Moonage Daydream” was a wonderful opportunity for me to pay homage to somebody that was a huge influence on me, even though he wasn’t so much of an influence on me musically or singing wise, it was more just his whole vibe, attitude. I can’t sing like Bowie. I mean, he had a really deep, deep, deep voice. And, you know, I’m much more blues based than him.
Joe Frietze: Yeah, the performance aspect, the attitude, the vibe that he had. I can definitely see that.
Sass Jordan: He was just a force of nature. It was like the whole thing was a big game and he would just keep changing. Like a board game and he would keep changing his avatars on the board game.
Joe Frietze: He was always able to reinvent himself.
Sass Jordan: I know. That was super cool. That’s definitely not something I do. I just, you know, cruise along and I like, I let time take care of it.
Joe Frietze: Well, we’ve touched on that a little bit. You sing the songs that you like and that takes you to different places. You always look like Sass Jordan, but you know, pop in a different album and you’re like, oh, what’s she up to this time?
Sass Jordan: You’re like, what the hell is this now? Well, I’ve managed to hang in there this long, you know, that’s another thing that’s pretty interesting, ‘cause you don’t see a huge amount of artists that continue, that keep going, you know, past a certain point. But really I think what it is, what really informs everything is the fact it’s either you love music or you don’t. I can see where the business side of it can really get to you after a while because it’s business, it’s corporate. Well, it’s less so now, but you know, you’re still trying to sell a product, which just does not go well with being artsy fartsy and, you know, experimenting and this, and that, and the other thing you want. You know, somebody who’s selling it needs a product that they can rely on. That doesn’t change that much.
Joe Frietze: Right. We’ve gone from the world of corporate radio and MTV and in your case, Much Music.
Sass Jordan: Yep. It was huge in the begining, and it wasn’t very friendly to females. You were only allowed to play one or maximum two female artists on rock radio in the nineties. It was insane.
Joe Frietze: We’ve already got Melissa Etheridge in rotation.
Sass Jordan: That’s it! Exactly. And God bless her, but you know, and then it went into Alanis Morissette which I think helped to break it open a little bit more. But it was all about timing. It was all about timing and what was the sound de jour.
Joe Frietze: So I wanna talk a little bit about how that’s changed now that artists aren’t as beholden to terrestrial radio and the shift to streaming and social media, with things like Bandcamp and iTunes and the like. Is that easier or harder? You know, now that it’s more in your hand.
Sass Jordan: It’s a really interesting question, but it’s the same thing as anything, which is, the answer is it’s better in some ways and worse in others. Everything in our universe is duality, right? What’s not great about it is that people, everybody, has access to the tools to make pretty good sounding music at this point. It’s accessible across the board. You don’t have to be loaded to get into some studio or this, that, and the other thing.
Joe Frietze: Right. With a laptop, you’re ready to go.
Sass Jordan: That’s it. And, and some kind of know-how, you don’t even have to play a goddamn instrument if you know how to put it all together, AI-ish. But the thing that’s more challenging now is that the landscape is absolutely saturated with every Sass, Dick, and Harry out there, you know what I’m saying? It’s like now the real challenge is to get yourself to rise above the collective noise. You know, it was like that in the past too, but you had a lot more money behind you in those days if you were signed to a record label and there were such rigid pathways of how to go about it. It was, you had to get on radio and then of course you had to be on MTV, but those were really the only avenues so to speak. Whereas now, like you said, Bandcamp, YouTube, I mean, it just goes on and on and on and on. There’s a thousand avenues. However that fractures the market. If you wanna talk about it from a corporate point of view, to a degree, you know, it’s much more difficult to to be heard above the fray.
Joe Frietze: Right. You’ve gotta fight against the algorithms.
Sass Jordan: Yeah. And or fight with them. If you can figure out the way in.
Joe Frietze: Exactly. Then you get that viral sensation.
Sass Jordan: Exactly.
Joe Frietze: An overnight sensation that you’ve been working at for 30 years, darling.
Sass Jordan: Yeah, that’s the, the new grind as opposed to the old grind. You gotta, you’re…
Joe Frietze: You’re busking on the internet.
Sass Jordan: That’s exactly right. Yeah. And I think it’s great. Do you know how many times I hear about some band or some performer, singer, songwriter, whatever, that is absolutely huge, has like hundreds of thousands of followers, if not millions, and I’ve never heard of them?
Joe Frietze: Same here. I have access to, you know, all of these review materials for the magazine, and I’m just scrolling through going, wait, these are hits? So yeah, I understand.
Sass Jordan: Completely. It’s astonishing and there’s so much good stuff out there.
Joe Frietze: I’ve been using TikTok lately for finding new music. I’ve been finding some really good singers and bands that I’d never heard of.
Sass Jordan: Sure. You know you can spend the rest of your time… How much do you have to do in a day, Joe? That’s the question.
Joe Frietze: There’s only so much time and so many distractions.
Sass Jordan: Yeah, when we were kids, I dunno how old you are, in the olden days there just was not as much to do, you could spend hours on the goddamn internet nowadays.
Joe Frietze: We had three channels and we liked it!
Sass Jordan: Right, right. And when you were a kid, you didn’t have as many responsibilities. You didn’t have as much to do. So you could spend hours listening to music and just dreaming off into the ether. But now you gotta run, you gotta go, you gotta make a living. You might have kids, you’re married you know, you got a relationship. You are trying to figure this out, trying to figure that out. It’s like, when do you fit in new music? When do you slot in the time to really sit down and pay attention and listen to something new? Because something new requires new neural pathways in your brain and it doesn’t happen necessarily instantly. How many times have you listened to something the first time you were like, “Blah” and then somehow you heard it again and you were like, “No, no, just a sec, I’ve heard that, that’s, it’s not that bad.” And then you hear it a third time, now you cannot stop playing the damn thing over and over. It took you three listens.
Joe Frietze: Yep. And now you’re hooked.
Sass Jordan: But when you first heard it, you were like, meh. You know, that’s just ok.
Joe Frietze: And that was one thing that rock radio was good for with heavy rotation.
Sass Jordan: Yeah, because you heard it over and over and over again, every station. And that’s why they paid the programmers. We’re not gonna get into that, though. And I’m sure it’ll change again because if there’s one thing that this music thing does is it changes every 10 minutes. However, I don’t think it’s just exclusive to music at this point. I think it’s the entire world. I think we’re all like… that’s why the whole world is just going, “Wait, what is going on?” And that, my dearest, is why music is so helpful. Cause it can really ground you, you can feel a little less at sea, so to speak, when you’re listening to music that makes you feel good.
Joe Frietze: Yep. It’s an oasis, a haven from the storm.
-bam Sass Jordan: Exactly. Just like a bag of chips.
Joe Frietze: Which, uh, I would be remiss in not asking this since I’ve got you here, but, do you wanna talk about Taylor (Hawkins)?
Sass Jordan: I don’t mind. I love Taylor. I love my Taylor.
Joe Frietze: How did you meet him? How did you end up hiring him?
Sass Jordan: Taylor was, I needed a drummer. I was just about to do a European tour of Rats, okay. Oh no, it wasn’t just Europe. We were starting in Europe and then continuing in the US and Canada, and I needed a drummer, and we somehow heard about this kid in Laguna Beach who hadn’t really ever been in a band per se, like a real working band or whatever, but apparently he was supposed to be really good and he was just a great person, blah, blah, blah.
So we got him to come up and audition. Up from Laguna Beach to Los Angeles, where I was living at the time, and he came up, walked in, and the first thing that hit you was that incredible smile and that energy and that huge heart. He had it even when he was 22 years old, which is how old he was when I met him, and he came in and he tore through the songs that we’d asked them to learn, like at 89 million miles an hour. Which wasn’t really that great.
Joe Frietze: Slow down, Kid.
Sass Jordan: Right? But I mean, he was, first of all, he was nervous. And second of all he was you know, a kid and he’d never really done anything. Like, he was just like bursting with excitement and energy. So naturally, you know, that will speed up your tempo. I mean, I get speedy and I’m like an old warhorse, you know, I can still get speedy. But he was just such a great kid. Just such a great kid. And he had the raw material. We knew he would end up being able to do it. It was just gonna take a little, you know, teaching, a little, you know, bringing them under your wing and going, okay, you got this bro.
Joe Frietze: Learn it on the tour.
Sass Jordan: And that’s exactly what he did. And he was such a charismatic human being. I’ve had messages from people who saw me on that tour. And they say stuff like, “You were great, but oh my God, I couldn’t keep my eyes off Taylor!” I was like, “I’d have been the same way. Luckily he was behind me.”
Joe Frietze: Yeah, he had such energy.
Sass Jordan: Yeah, and we remained really, really good friends until he left.
Joe Frietze: That’s great. One more question that might seem out of the blue, but since we mentioned the rain at that specific show earlier, I noticed that rain seems to be a theme with your music. You’ve got “Loves Like Rain,” “Rainshowers,” “Pissing Down.” You even covered, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” by Credence. Is that a conscious choice?
Sass Jordan: Oh my god, Joe, you just freaked me out! You know what? I even wrote a song for this guy in Quebec in the eighties, and guess what it was called? “Rain.” I literally, Michael Breen, it was called, the song was called “Rain.” Oh my goodness. It’s so interesting that you just said that because I’ve never put that together myself. I, I always think the word I overuse is believe – “I Wanna Believe,” “Make You A Believer,” “You Don’t Have To Believe Me.” We always say, “Should we do, the Believe trilogy here?”
Joe Frietze: Now you can do a rain trilogy.
Sass Jordan: Oh, now I can do a quadruple, quadrilogy. Oh my goodness. I suppose it’s just, you know, it’s a classic tool for any writer because it’s so evocative. I mean, you know, rain is just, you know, I don’t even know how to explain it. Rain is universal. Everybody knows what we’re talking about now.
Joe Frietze: It’s cleansing.
Sass Jordan: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s just such an obvious kind of metaphor. Uh, and I’m lazy.
Joe Frietze: Well, if you ever need another cover song, I think you would do a great job with “I Can’t Stand The Rain.”
Sass Jordan: Wait, wait. No, I didn’t do that one. I’m going, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Did I have another, didn’t I do that one? No, no, no, no. I did another one, similar. It’s on the soundtrack of a film, which I never saw, but the film was called American Boyfriends. Hmm. And, and I do, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s Motown. Yeah. Uh, “Rescue Me,” that’s it! It’s called “Rescue Me,” and that’s what I was mixing up with. Wait, wait, wait! What about “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Hed?” Yeah, there you go, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. You can tell I’m a dinosaur.
Joe Frietze: Then we’re dinosaurs together.
Sass Jordan: Ha. But we need to, hey Joe, listen to me, we need to get you on some electrolytes because this soda stuff is gonna be the death of you. I’m telling you right now.
Joe Frietze: Right now I’m drinking water.
Sass Jordan: Okay, but you are not absorbing it. Listen to your doctor. That would be me. Just get yourself some LMNT. It’s like salty. I like the orange one. Orange salt. You might like it. and I do not, by the way, have anything to do with the company other than I buy their stuff.
Joe Frietze: Well, when we start the Sas Jordan podcast, we’ll make sure they’re a sponsor.
Sass Jordan: We need everybody! All right my dear, do you have enough?
Joe Frietze: I guess the last question is, what’s next for Sass Jordan?
Sass Jordan: I sincerely hope life, because I’m not interested in exiting stage left just yet. However, if I do, I’ve had a good one, but I sincerely wanna keep going. I’m like, I’d love to go to like, I literally think I’d at least 125. A hundred and twenty-five would be a good run. But I don’t wanna look like I’m 125. That’s the only issue I have with aging. I don’t wanna look like that, but I definitely got shit I could do. I’ve got enough stuff that I wanna do that would definitely last me to 125 plus. That would give me, I can’t do the math, but many more years of smoking and drinking.