20 years ago today: Bootsauce plays its first gig at the Commodore; anyone remember Bootsauce?

Twenty years ago today—on February 4, 1994Bootsauce played the Commodore Ballroom for the first time. The Juno-winning funk-rock group out of Montreal was touring behind it's fourth album, Sleeping Bootie, which I remember thinking was pretty cool in a Red Hot Chili Peppers kinda way.

Lead singer Drew Ling and bassist Al Baculis dropped by the Straight office a couple weeks before the show and gave me the scoop on the new album. Here's the story that ran in advance of the Vancouver gig in case anyone's interested. Sorry about saying "sassy" so many times.

Have you ever thought of filling out someone else’s name and address on one of those pesky subscription cards that fall out of magazines, checking the little box that says Bill Me Later, then gleefully dumping said scrap in the mailbox? It’s a neat little trick, lemme tell ya. I tried it out on a buddy a couple of months ago, and he’s already had two copies of Sassy magazine delivered right to his door. He brought the wee practical joke on himself, though, by repeatedly blurting out “Sassy!” like Phil Hartman’s character does on a regular Saturday Night Live skit.

Montreal funk-rockers Bootsauce say “Sassy!” twice on their latest album, Sleeping Bootie, but because I don’t know singer Drew Ling’s home address, the best I can do is take a copy of the December ’93 issue along to our interview. After all, Bootsauce is arguably the “sassiest” band in Canada.

“What is this, like a teen mag or something?” queries Ling as I slide the mag across the table to him. “Sassy fiction—‘Boys’. This is great. There’s fresh young things in here. I better stop lookin’ at it; I’m gettin’ excited.”

“We didn’t even know there was a publication,” says bassist Al Baculis, now scanning the glossy periodical. “If that’s not sassy, I don’t know what is.”

Well, Sleeping Bootie is, for one thing. With music inspired by the erotic Sleeping Beauty trilogy by A.N. Roquelaire (Anne Rice), and a song about a guy Ling knows who’s “a real-life Mr. Peeping Tom”, the new Bootsauce disc is about as sassy as they come. Then, of course, there’s the undeniably sassy revamping of Rick Derringer’s “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo”.

“That was a song some friends of ours were doing a version of a couple of years ago,” says Baculis, “and we thought that we could take it and make it our own, just fuck it up a bit. And it had a special flair to it because no one even likes the song ‘Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo’, and we saw an opportunity to bastardize it. The killing of a rock classic!”

Pretty sassy talk for a bass player, I must say. But then, Baculis is no ordinary boss of the bottom end. His snappy thumb-slapping style is crucial to the effectiveness of Bootsauce’s sexy funk ’n’ roll. And on Sleeping Bootie, the band has gotten funkier than ever.

“Out of 30 songs or so, we picked the 10 songs that we thought represented the sound of the band best,” says Baculis, “and just by chance, they were the groovier ones.”

“Yeah, the groovier ones,” stresses Ling. “I think ‘funk’ is probably something that is in our press release, because a lot of people seem to ask us about that.”

“People think of funk and they ask you about Kool and the Gang,” adds Baculis with a chuckle.

Bootsauce’s music may be more groovy than it is funky, but terminology aside, its results have been gold albums (for 1990’s Brown Album and 1992’s Bull), a Juno Award (for a cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone’s a Winner”), and a steadily increasing fan base (boosted by 1992’s Big, Bad & Groovy Tour with local rockers Sons of Freedom, Pure, and Art Bergmann). The success will no doubt continue with Sleeping Bootie, a recording that didn’t fit the commonly used critics’ term “difficult third album”.

“People said that about the second one, too,” says Ling. “It was like, ‘Well, it’s the sophomore release from Bootsauce, and it musta been a ball buster for them, obviously.’ But for this one we just wrote a lot more songs, because we wanted to make sure we ended up with what we thought was the strongest of our material—and what PolyGram agreed with us as being the strongest of our material. So it was only difficult in that there were so many songs written.”

There are even more songs on Sleeping Bootie than made evident by the CD’s track list. As they did on Bull, the ’Saucers buried a bonus tune at the end of the disc. After a five-minute silence—broken only by a 30-second country-polka song and a voice that booms “Boring!”—“Bad Boy” kicks in. The hidden cut is a wild musical ride filled with lurid film samples that builds into a thrashy riff-o-rama.

“We rented some old movies and some very obscure videos that no one would ever be able to track down,” explains Baculis. “We just went through them and took the lines that we thought we could make a cohesive verse out of, and that’s basically it. And we insisted on putting it on because we put far too much work into it for it not to go on.”

“It was very work-intensive,” agrees Ling. “And there’s a different reason for that big space on this one than on the last one, where we were just sort of fucking with people. ‘Bad Boys’ is a very fun track, but we wanted to keep the other 10 songs apart from it because they all flow together and sound good next to each other.”

Getting back to the sassier aspects of Bootsauce, one need look no further than the colour photograph that graces the back cover of the new CD. The five band members—including guitarists Pere Fume and Sonny Greenwich, Jr. and drummer John “Fatboy” Lalley—have been coated in white body makeup and buried to their belly buttons in something very black. (The photo is a sassy second to the one from Bull, however, for which the boys climbed naked into a tub and took a shower of Hershey’s chocolate syrup.)

“That’s six in the morning beside a highway in this industrial area of Montreal,” says Baculis of the latest shot. “Six in the morning in a heap of coal. It’s cold, I can tell you that.”

It may have been cold then, but one thing’s for sure—when Bootsauce plays Vancouver next Friday (February 4), it’ll be nice and toasty in the Commodore.

“We’ve been asking to play at the fucking Commodore for so long that it’s ridiculous!” spouts Ling, going well beyond sassy and verging on ticked off. “Every time they’d put us at 86 Street, and we’d get here and freak out for weeks after. It was like, ‘There’s a great room downtown, why aren’t we playing it?’ So it’s been driving us nuts, and we’re really looking forward to playing there this time.”

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