CKUA Radio Interview
CKUA RADIO, AUG 1, 2003:
Track #3 on the Tim Hus album “Songs of West Canada”)
JR-Alright, that is Tim Hus from a recording called “Songs of West Canada” and that is the “Gravel Pit Song”. We’re joined here in the studio today by none other than songwriter and Canadian music artist Tim Hus. How are you doing this morning, Tim?
TH-I’m doing well, John. Good morning! Thanks for having me on the show.
JR-It’s good to have you. You’ve been having a busy summer. You just got back from some shows in British Columbia, is that right?
TH-That’s right. I was out at the Merritt Mountain Music Festival doing some shows in the city of Merritt. I’m originally from B.C. so I’ve got a number of places that I like to play out there.
JR- So you now reside here in Calgary?
TH- Yeah, Calgary is the home town for me now. I came out here in October of last year. It hasn’t been a year yet but I got a little band together called “The Rocky Mountain Two” We are called Tim Hus and the Rocky Mountain Two and we’re singing all those Canadian songs that the Canadian folks love to hear.
JR- I’ve really been enjoying your record. I got it in my hands a couple of weeks ago and it has made its way to the CD changer on many an occasion. It’s a lot of fun. As well, an observation would be that it’s really very well rooted in Canadian folklore and themes and almost the taste and feel of Western Canada. There are a lot of touchstones for this type of music here, isn’t there?
TH- I really think so. It started like this: I was just writing songs about things that I was doing. When I got out of high school I went to work in a logging camp. I was just learning to play the guitar at that time and I wrote my song “Bigwood Timber” there and that’s all about the logging camps. I went out to the coast and worked on a fishing boat and that’s where I wrote the salmon fishing song “Seine Boat”. My dad was a trucker so we’ve got truck driving songs on there. There is a historical song about the driving of the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway because that always interested me. Then I hung out with some rodeo cowboys and I wrote them a song. So they really are folk songs about the people I met and they seemed to like that. The album has found its way to all the right places. My friends in Prince Rupert say that out on the salmon fishing boat that is all that they listen to. The same is true at the CELGAR pulp mill in Castlegar. They say they all listen to that in their lunch room. So, I’m pretty happy that it’s being heard by the right people.
JR- You’ve really lived the experiences. You’re taking themes and ideas from direct experience, life experience as you grow up in this part of the world.
TH- I think so. I try to. My father was a world traveler and I traveled around a bunch too and I always liked Stompin’ Tom a lot and he is all about songs of the land and the people. You know, Woody Guthrie, those were the first songs that I learned. He was all about that too. When ever we had a break at school like Easter holidays I would go and hitch-hike around and I was interested in meeting the people and seeing what they were doing.
JR- Yeah, a great source of inspiration. You were recently overseas. You recorded this record not in Canada!
TH- Yeah, that’s kind of ironic in a way. I used to be based out on the West Coast and in the winter of 2001 I was over in Germany. I went over there and played at trade shows and exhibitions in the Canadian Pavillion. I got to be an ambassador for Canada. They wanted a guy to sing Canadian songs. I would sing them songs about Calgary and Merritt and what the loggers do out here. They think everybody over here walks around with an axe so I kind of fed it to ‘em that way.
JR- (laughing) They received these songs well and you feel that it gives Canada an appropriate reflection of some of the cultural icons of this part of the world?
TH- I would say it does. It probably romanticizes it in a way but everybody wants that a little bit.
JR- That’s what songwriting is all about! So, you’ve kept busy in the summer months working in what may be for folk music festival fans a bit of an extension of this concept. There are a lot of festivals that are really about cowboy poetry and cowboy culture or western culture. You’ve been on that circuit for a while haven’t you?
TH- I haven’t been at it that long, actually just this last year I’ve been delving into that circuit. I find it very interesting.
JR – Are there rodeos and things like that going on as well?
TH- Sometimes there are rodeos in connection with it. The emphasis is that these are “western” gatherings and festivals as opposed to country music festivals. They are deeply rooted in the western culture and keeping the West alive.
JR- Is the cowboy poetry element a major part of these festivals? Are there storytelling sessions around campfires? Is that an accurate picture of what goes on?
TH- Maybe not strictly campfires but there are certainly lots of poets. I would say that it is half poets and half pickers. There are lots of really good poets. One that I really like is Mike Puhallo from Kamloops. I got a couple of his CD’s and I have been listening to spoken word recitation. I always admired those poets because they don’t have any music to lean on. They pretty much just have the material to go on.
JR- Do these festivals have a distinct and different kind of feel to them than the folk festivals? They are kind of a separate entity to some degree. I imagine there is some crossover in audience but I’m not sure that everybody is familiar with this format.
TH- I would say that they are similar to folk festivals because they are very open and friendly and everybody feels welcome. There are a lot of farmers and ranchers and rodeo cowboys who are proud of what they are. That’s what they are there for: they want to hear western culture.
JR- When we set up this meeting I said that I would love it if you brought in some recordings from your own collection. Music from artists who have influenced you and formed your work. One of the recordings that we have cued up here falls into the “trucker music” category. You mentioned that your father was a trucker. Is that right?
TH- Yeah, my father was a truck driver and he also helped to build the Trans Australian Railway a long time ago.
JR- Oh Wow! Really?
TH- He was a trucker. I came upon this record in a little shop in Nanaimo, British Columbia. This record is called “Dick Curless live at the Wheeling Truck Drivers Jamboree”. (laughing) It’s one of my favorite records. I once heard that a big rig without a Dick Curless record is like a fuel tank with no diesel!
JR- (laughing) This is the real thing, is it?
TH- I think it is.
JR- Very well, let’s listen to Dick Curless. Some truck driving music that Tim Hus has brought along to the studios here at CKUA this morning.
(Music Playing: “Chick Inspector” 2:56
Track #1 from Dick Curless’ album “Live at the Wheeling Truck Drivers Jamboree”)
JR- Oh yeah! That’s the real thing for sure! That’s “Dick Curless live at the Wheeling Truck Drivers Jamboree”, a 12” vinyl recording on the Capital record label. There you have Dick Curless on the front cover wearing a snake skin vest, and his eye patch, and what would be the material of that shirt? Polyester plus?
TH- (laughing) Yeah, he’s standing in front of the big cab overhead diesel. I don’t know Johnny, they don’t seem to sing ‘em like that anymore, do they?
JR- (laughing) No, that doesn’t appear to be the case. We were just talking while this record was spinning that at one time in North American music history this was a specific genre and segment of the music industry. You were mentioning that this is not such an active scene today.
TH- Yeah, it seems kind of funny. Everywhere you look they are tearing up rails and taking out the railways. They move more and more freight on the highways. We probably have more truckers than ever. There used to be whole albums of trucker songs.
JR- There used to be people that collect just trucker songs.
TH- You still see those old albums like “24 Great Trucker Hits” and “Convoy” and all that. Particularly in the 70’s it was very big. I don’t know. I just haven’t seen many trucker compilations in recent years.
JR- I want to touch base with another artist that you have garnered some comparisons to. Not just in the style of songwriting that you are working with but maybe vocally and in terms of presentation. One of Canada’s great folk heroes: Stompin’ Tom Connors.
TH- I think a lot of Stompin’ Tom’s work. I wore a lot of heels off of cowboy boots stompin’ along to his records while growing up.
JR- Did you have your own piece of plywood?
TH- Yes I did. I really like what Stompin’ Tom does with the Canadian songs. We hear so many songs about Texas and Tennessee. I like those songs but I honestly think that most of us have never been to Texas or we are just not that close to Alabama. Instead of a song like “Take me back to West Virginia” why not a song like “Take me back to Calgary” for a change?. Sing about Saskatchewan and the Red River. Stompin’ Tom was really big on that: songs of Canada from coast to coast. Stompin’ Tom is a Maritimer and he spent a lot of time in Ontario but he doesn’t have that many songs about Western Canada. I’m from the West. I love singing Stompin’ Tom Songs but there were songs about the west that I wanted to sing that he never wrote so I had to write them.
JR- So you are taking care of the Western side of the country.
TH- I like to think so.
JR-In your bio material I noticed that Stompin’ Tom had some kind words to say about you.
TH- I wrote a song about Stompin’ Tom because he really means a lot to me. I called it “Man with the Black Hat”. When Stompin’ Tom heard the song he wrote me a letter saying that he really liked the song and he liked the other songs I was singing and that “Canada needs more singers like Tim Hus!” That surely brought a tear to my eye. He sent me a nice picture that I have framed on my wall.
JR- Should we listen to something by the man himself? Let’s turn to a recording here from Stompin’ Tom. What do you want to hear?
TH- This is a song that Tom wrote about Western Canada. It’s about the Second Narrows Bridge in Vancouver that collapsed when they were building it back in 1958. This is “The Bridge Came Tumbling Down”:
(Music Playing: “The Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down” 2:46
Track #2 on the Stompin’ Tom album “My Stompin Grounds”)
(Music Playing: “Man with the Black Hat” 2:36
Track # 6 on the Tim Hus album “Songs of West Canada”)
JR- There it is: Tim Hus and the song about Stompin’ Tom Connors, the man with the big black hat. I could hear the stompin’ goin’ on! That’s great, Tim.
TH- Thanks. I kind of like that one and the people seem to really like it too. Stompin’ Tom has a lot of fans in this country. He may have the broadest demographics of any performer I know of. If you ever go to a Stompin’ Tom concert you will see kids, old farmers, business people, lawyers, students, and the whole bit.
JR- He’s had an interesting recent resurgence into the marketplace with fans in the punk rock sector. He has really crossed over into all sorts of various age groups.
TH- Maybe he’s following Johnny Cash that way. It seems the punk crowd really digs Johnny Cash.
JR-(laughing) The Canadian punks are really into Stompin’ Tom Connors.
TH- I met a punk in Jasper and he told me that all the punks in Ottawa watch the “Red Green” television show and they listen to Stompin’ Tom.
JR-Maybe they all have a roll of duct tape in their knapsack. Who knows? Very much formed by the environment, that is the essence of Stompin’ Tom’s work. You’ve obviously picked up on that same feel. Use what is around you and what is very obvious. The muse for your work is very organic and very honest.
TH- Thanks, John. That is a compliment.
JR- I know you’ve got a new record that you are working on. Have you started the writing? Are you writing much these days?
TH- I’m always writing here and there but I have all the songs set to go for the next record. I’ve got some really good ones on there, Alberta stuff. I’m looking forward to recording it this Winter.
JR- Will that be with your new band? The Rocky Mountain Two?
TH- There used to be Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two and now here we are with Tim Hus and The Rocky Mountain Two because we are in Western Canada. Rick Preston plays the electric guitar. He has been playing in Calgary all of his life and he is a very good musician. Warren Walsh plays the upright bass.
JR- Warren is a good friend of mine and somebody that I have worked with on various musical projects as well. It sounds like you guys have a great band and are having fun as you make your way around various festivals and cowboy events. You have a special event coming up right away. You will be heading up to Edmonton tomorrow, is that correct?
TH- Yes, tomorrow the Corb Lund Band is playing at the Powerplant. That’s a home town show for them up in Edmonton and we are on the bill as well. I am quite excited because when I first heard Corb Lund it spun my head around about three times! He’s got the Alberta cowboy, history, bootlegging, poker playing culture nailed down. I think the world of his work and I think he likes what I do too so it is nice that we will be doing the show together. I’m looking forward to trying out some of my Canadian songs on Corb’s fan base.
JR- That is exciting! I know Corb is enjoying enormous success with his release of “Five Dollar Bill” on the Stony Plain label. What a wonderful double bill! It seems like a perfect match.
TH- Could we play a song off of the album? I was hitch-hiking in Saskatchewan and I got a ride with a rodeo cowboy from Caroline, Alberta who was on his way to a rodeo. I think he was one of the first rodeo cowboys that I met and he was really cool. The song that I wrote about him is called “Pickup Trucks, Rodeos, and Dust”
JR- I hope you guys are rolling around this part of the world in an old pickup truck full of air horns and stickers. What kind of vehicle are you rolling around in?
TH- (laughing) I’m ashamed to say it’s not that pretty.
(Music Playing: “Pickup Trucks, Rodeos, and Dust” 3:46
Track #4 on the Tim Hus album “Songs of West Canada”)
JR- Tim, it’s been a blast having you in the studio here this morning. This has really made my Saturday! Thanks for coming in and helping us out this morning.
TH- Thanks for having me on the show, John. I really appreciate it and good luck to you and Dan with “No Guff” and all the exciting stuff you have coming up. I wish you all the best and I hope to see you again.
JR- We’ll catch up again soon I’m sure. I know that you’re a big Corb Lund fan. What is your favorite Corb Lund song?
TH- My favorite Corb Lund song is called “We used to ride ‘em”. It’s a western song that you could play at any cowboy gathering.
(Music Playing: “We used to Ride ‘em” 2:55
Track #10 on Corb Lund’s album “Unforgiving Mistress”)
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