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Big Sugar frontman steps back into the light - The Standard

Article by Richard Hutton


Gordie Johnson was in a dark place a few years back.


"I came pretty close to ending my time on this planet," the Big Sugar frontman says over the phone from his home studio in Texas. "I was in a dark place and I tried many different ways of dealing with it, some destructive."


Johnson, who will be bringing the latest incarnation of Big Sugar to Thorold's Moose and Goose on Saturday, was battling addiction, band member defections and other issues, when he discovered neuroplasticity. While most of us may have only heard the term used in the marketing of Luminosity, an app designed to challenge the brain with seemingly innocuous games, it was a game changer for the veteran musician.


"It's changing you mind," Johnson says emphatically. "It changes the way you think, your perspective. I know that's oversimplified."

It is described as a way we can rewire our brains through changing our thoughts and behaviours.


It brought Johnson back from his dark place. With his wife, Alex, he re-energized his will to create new music.


"She just sat down with me and said let's write. Even if my ideas are terrible, so what."


The idea worked, the creative juices flowed and there is a new Big Sugar album in the works for the new year.


"It's probably the most rock 'n' roll record Big Sugar has made since 1999."


And while Johnson is excited for the new music, there is also a tinge of sadness surrounding the record. It is the first without co-conspirator and bassist Garry Lowe, who died from cancer in July at the age of 64.


"Garry was very dear to me. He was my greatest collaborator," Johnson says. "My wife and I were able to take care of him in the last year of his life."


The constituted band, which now features Ben Richardson, Rey Arteaga, Chris Colepaugh, in addition to the Johnsons, is behind the new album, called "Eternity." Johnson also got some heavyweight help from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson.


"He came out and jammed with us," Johnson says, adding that Lifeson offered to help on the album. "We've been friends for quite a while. He asked what was going on with the record. I sent him some tracks and he sent me half a dozen different overdubs with exotic instruments. Now I just have to choose."


Johnson and company are heading in a new direction with the music as well, he says.


"It's a completely different musical direction. It's more rhythmic. There's no keyboards, no other stuff. Everyone in the band is a great singer."


And with that new album all but ready to go, Johnson is anxious to leave the dark place behind and look squarely into the future.

"I'm still wanting to do this," he says.


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