What's In Your Fridge: Johnny Payne

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      What’s In Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6-cubic-foot refrigerators.

      On the grill

      Johnny Payne

      Who are you

      I write and sing songs and produce records. One such record, King of Cups, will be released in January. I also enjoy chess, tennis, and Miller High Life.

      First concert

      Strangely enough it was a Beach Boys concert at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. Being a little kid I absolutely loved it, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized I wasn’t really seeing the Beach Boys that day. It was the beginning of the awful Mike Love/John Stamos “Beach Boys”. I don’t think there would have been one Wilson brother in the band. That was when Mike Love realized they could just be a 4th of July Beach Boys cover band and do quite well at it. They’re even still going strong in that same, embarrassing format! I honestly did love it though. I went right up to the front of the stage when they did “Surfin’ USA” and it blew me away. It was a real summer, family-fun environment, and great for kids. It was kind of a kids’ concert really.

      Life-changing concert

      The Bridge School Benefit was a two-day outdoor concert event in Mountain View, California that Neil Young and his wife Pegi would put on every year. They always had a great lineup, but the first time I went was in 2002 because Paul McCartney was on the bill. I didn’t even really know Neil Young’s music other than a few songs. Being a Beatles-obsessed kid, I was there for Paul. I remember he came out and joined Tony Bennett on a song earlier in the evening, “The Very Thought Of You” . I wasn’t expecting to see Paul yet so it was quite a surreal feeling: To be in the same place as a Beatle. Later on Paul came out and did his set and it was wonderful.

      He wasn’t the headliner though...Neil was set to close the show. In between sets I remember going around yapping at everyone on the lawn saying “Who the hell does Neil Young think he is going on after Paul?! You don’t follow a Beatle!” Paul had this huge band, but when they were setting up the stage for Neil all it was was five acoustic guitars around a chair in a semi-circle, and a piano off to one side. It started to rain and the festival staff handed out black garbage bags to wear.

      Neil came out to uproarious applause...this was Neil country. He wore a flannel shirt and jeans. He sat down and picked up a guitar and started banging a C chord on it like a drum, and 20,000 people fell completely silent. Then he started singing... “Aurora borealis...the icy sky at night...”. His voice was still crystal-clear and beautiful at that time. I looked around and was absolutely transfixed by how he had instantly captured the crowd with nothing but a voice and an acoustic guitar.
      Everything changed for me in that moment. The music was what mattered, nothing else. I hung on every note of his set and when I got back to B.C. I bought every album he ever made. It should also be noted that, as we were walking down the street after the concert, Paul drove by and waved at me from his limo.

      Top three records

      The Beatles Please Please Me Just a perfect rock and roll record. Recorded live in two four-hour sessions at EMI studios. They were such a tight, exciting live band, and it really shows on this one. I love the sweetness and innocence of the songs too.

      Harry Nilsson Nilsson Sings Newman This is one of those amazing collaborations between two artists in their absolute prime that rarely happens. It’s just Randy Newman playing piano and Harry Nilsson singing Randy’s songs. It is recorded perfectly and every nuance of Harry’s angelic voice is captured with absolute precision and detail. Such a special, minimalistic record. I always thought that every song Harry covered was better than the original.

      Neil Young Tonight’s The Night One of the only examples of a record that sounds better because of how loose it is. It’s almost as though Neil wrote the songs with the intention of them being played that way. This is real late night, right on the edge, death-rattle rock and roll. Soaked in tequila and emotion all at once. I heard they shot pool and partied until midnight every night and then started recording…it sounds like that in the best way.

      All-time favourite video

      Smokey Robinson “Being With You” I’ve always loved “Being With You” by Smokey Robinson. It’s one of those early videos that was a really simple, cheap idea, but it’s just great for the song. Smokey lounging around his beach house singing to the camera without a care in the world. There’s a great moment where he tries a shot on the pool table and misses and shrugs his shoulders as if to say “You can’t win em all”. Ha-ha-ha. It’s romantic and cool and it works because the song rules. You don’t need lots of money to make a good video. I almost went with “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys but that felt a little stock. I do love any videos that Spike Jonze made in the ’90s though.

      What’s in your fridge?

      To be honest, pretty much nothing. We are in the process of moving—not by choice…thanks Vancouver—and our beloved apartment is almost empty today as it is the final day of the move. I’d honestly rather talk about artists—not just artists—getting priced out of this city due to corporate development. But hey, maybe that’s better saved for the next interview.

      I suppose the few things one does have in the fridge when moving is interesting as well though. I just asked my girlfriend “Is there anything in the fridge?!” and she replied “Pickles!”, so there’s that. I see now there are a few more items. They are:

      Two cans of Lucky Lager. We very much liked to entertain in our apartment. In fact, it was kind of known for wild dance parties that I will sorely miss—thanks again, Vancouver. So there are often a few straggler beers in the fridge from the night before. It’s no secret that I don’t really care for crafty, hoppy beer. I’ll take a PBR or a Lucky Lager any day. Lucky is cool—it’s from the Island just like me. Just make sure it’s very cold when you drink it heh-heh.

      Three pieces of yam-and-avocado roll in a takeout container. There’s been a lot of takeout lately as we’ve been getting ready to move. All the packaging kind of bums me out, but sometimes you just don’t wanna cook and clean when you’re in the thick of things. Hard to beat a yam-and-avocado roll, isn’t it? A classic. I’m often still amazed at how easily we can get great, cheap sushi in Vancouver. I’m actually in L.A. right now and they wanted US$8 for an avocado roll in a place. At least Vancouver goes easy on us there…

      Tapatio hot sauce. I put that shit on everything. I always have a bottle of either Tapatio or Cholula around. Actually, I found a hot sauce recently called Jumpin’ Johnny’s that was the best I’ve ever had, and it’s made in North Van! I always had a bottle of that but I think they’ve stopped making it! If the makers of Jumpin Johnny’s are reading this please make more and send me a case to wherever I end up living.

      You can check out Johnny Payne's King of Cups here