Rewinding 2023 (So Far) | Tinnitist’s Top Interviews

Andy Shauf, Fat Mike, Satchel, Miesha and the rest of your favourite talking heads.

I spent about 30 years interviewing musicians the old-fashioned way: Talking on the telephone, transcribing the tape (and then, eventually, the digital recording) and turning it all into a story or Q&A. Then Zoom came along. Now I can actually see the people I’m talking to — and I can just slap the video up on YouTube and be done with it. Yeah, I know I have a face made for radio, a voice made for mime, and no broadcasting skills whatsoever. Thankfully, many of you have been willing to put up with all that to see and hear these artists. Of the few dozen interviews I’ve done so far this year, here are the ones that got the most attention (based on the total number of page hits and YouTube views):


1 | Andy Shauf

A lot of songwriters like to think of themselves as storytellers. Andy Shauf truly deserves the title. Over the past half-dozen years, the Saskatchewan-raised, Toronto-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has made a name for himself with narrative concept albums like 2016’s The Party and 2020’s Neon Skyline. With his eighth album Norm, Shauf raises the bar again with a beautifully creepy tale of romance, obsession and misguided faith influenced by the pandemic, true crime TV and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, among other things. For my money, it’s the more compelling work of his career so far — which is saying something if you’ve heard his other albums, and even more impressive for a disc that wasn’t supposed to be a concept album in the first place. A couple of weeks before the album arrived, Shauf Zoomed in to talk about his literary aspirations, taking Norm on the road, whether everything’s OK and more.

2 | Fat Mike of NOFX & The Punk Rock Museum

Fat Mike might not be the hardest-working man in show business. But he’s definitely one of the busiest dudes in punk rock. First and foremost of course, he’s been the frontman of the irreverent band NOFX for four decades. But he’s also part of the great new group Codefendants and the supergroup cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. He runs the punk label Fat Wreck Chords and the new Bottles To The Ground imprint. And he’s a serial entrepreneur who has owned gastropubs, vacation homes, marijuana dispensaries and more. But his latest venture might be his biggest yet — the new Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas. Shortly after opening day, the irrepressible, hilariously filthy Mike got on the Zoom to talk about the museum, Joe Strummer’s last bag of weed, his mom’s sex tips and whatever else popped into his head, really. Be warned: This one is NSFW.

3 | Satchel of Steel Panther

As I’ve said before, I am fairly sure I was the first Canadian journalist to interview Steel Panther. Shortly after the release of their ridiculously raunchy 2009 debut Feel The Steel, I spoke to frontman Michael Starr — supposedly while he was at the doctor being treated for an STD. Nearly 15 years (and who knows how many STDs) later, the clown princes of L.A. sleaze-rock haven’t changed their tune in the slightest. On their sixth album On The Prowl, they’re still cranking out hair-metal odes to sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll (but mostly sex). Clearly, it was high time to check back in with the unrepentantly filthy musical comedians. So I got guitarist and chief songwriter Satchel to Zoom in from his mom’s Las Vegas basement to discuss three-word album titles, tiny guitars, the importance of being offensive, getting his face tattooed on his ass and much, much more. This one is also NSFW — as if you didn’t know.

4 | Ron Sexsmith

Ron Sexsmith is right at home these days. In more ways than one. In the very real sense, the veteran Canadian singer-songwriter says he’s finally settled in and embraced the quiet life in the Ontario countryside, where he moved several years back after decades in Toronto. On a more personal level, the 59-year-old artist says he also feels more comfortable in his own skin and with the state of his career. You can hear that contentment and maturity in every groove of his 17th album The Vivian Line. Named after a road near his house that he thinks of as the dividing line between his old and new lives, the album blends wistful romantic ballads with lighthearted, homespun tales of country life. A couple of weeks before it arrived, Sexsmith Zoomed in from — where else? — his home to discuss his Luddite leanings, turning 60, partying with Kim Cattrall and plenty more.

5 | Miesha Louie of Miesha & The Spanks

Miesha & The Spanks have always packed a punch. But the Calgary garage-rock duo just released the hardest-hitting album of their career. That would be their new LP Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi, which finds singer-guitarist Miesha Louie digging deep and getting personal with songs about the death of her father, the generational trauma of residential schools, trying to balance new motherhood and her career, her work with a rock camp for girls, and lots more. Even better: She and drummer Sean Hamilton pair those weighty lyrics with some of the band’s heaviest songs to date. A few days before the album dropped and The Spanks got back on the road, Miesha Zoomed into discuss Unconditional Love, the joys of drop-D tuning, Game Of Thrones podcasts and more.

6 | Bob Rock

Bob Rock might just be the most important Canadian in the music industry. He’s certainly one of the most prolific and successful. He’s produced, worked and played with an incredible list of performers, from Vancouver bands like Young Canadians, D.O.A. and his own Payola$ to global superstars like Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Bryan Adams, The Offspring and more. But his latest release might be the most personal and heartfelt work of his career. Lustre Parfait is a collection of recordings that Rock made over the course of a decade with Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, and completed in the wake of the singer’s untimely 2017 death. More than just some frivolous side project, it’s an album that finds both artists pushing themselves out of their artistic comfort zones and experimenting with everything from ’70s glam rock to ’80s synth-pop and more — and crafting a monumental and moving masterpiece in the process. After feeding horses from his truck in Maui, Rock got on the Zoom to discuss his labour of love, his early days in Winnipeg, who he wants to work with next and more.

7 | Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton

Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton are proof that sometimes, one plus one adds up to a lot more than two. Both of them are already well-respected singer-guitarists with solid, successful solo careers. But when they put their heads, hands and hearts together recently on their first collaborative album Death Wish Blues, they came up with one of the best blues-rock releases of the year. Produced by garage-punk wild man and Blues Explosion leader Jon Spencer, Death Wish Blues is a raw, raucous and rollicking affair, with Fish and Dayton trading licks and lyrics on a slate of hard-hitting, hell-raising and sonically adventurous tracks that just don’t quit. A few weeks before the album dropped they got on the Zoom from their homes in Kansas and Texas to discuss Death Wish, working with Spencer and being the Mickey and Mallory Knox of guitar slingers.

8 | Debora Iyall of Romeo Void

Debora Iyall needed just nine words to become a rock star: “I might like you better if we slept together.” That refrain from Romeo Void’s edgy 1981 breakthrough single Never Say Never catapulted the young San Francisco band into the mainstream. Their meteoric career was short-lived — after making three albums, Romeo Void broke up in 1985, and following one poorly received solo album in 1986, Iyall went back to school and eventually became an art teacher. But now, she’s taking a stroll down memory lane, thanks to the new Romeo Void album Live From Mabuhay Gardens November 14, 1980, which documents an early, pre-Never Say Never club show by the band. Shortly before the LP arrived for Record Store Day, Iyall Zoomed in to talk about the old days, being recognized in the classroom, her Indigenous heritage and more.

9 | Marty Stuart

Marty Stuart has been flying high in country and roots music for decades now. But with his latest album Altitude, the restlessly creative singer-guitarist is taking it up another notch. Conceived and written while he and his long-serving band of Fabulous Superlatives were backing up Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman of The Byrds on a reunion tour a few years back, Stuart’s latest studio album finds the Nashville icon heading westward once again, embracing jangly California folk-rock, along with some surfy twang and Bakersfield honky-tonk for good measure. From somewhere on the endless road, Stuart Zoomed in to talk about Altitude, the state of country music, his giant collection of memorabilia and more — and even played a tune on Jimmie Rodgers’ guitar.

10 | Kevin Hearn

Kevin Hearn hearts the ’80s. But probably not the way you’d expect. The Barenaked Ladies utility player’s latest extracurricular release Dreaming Of The ’80s — a collaborative effort with violinist Hugh Marsh — reimagines a diverse slate of Me Decade musical gems from artists like Tom Petty, Joy Division, Psychedelic Furs, Billy Idol, Tom Waits, Bob Marley, Sun Ra and more, including Hearn’s old boss and musical hero Lou Reed. But instead of recreating the songs in all their pastel-coloured, shoulder-padded glory, the Canadian duo take a more nuanced and idiosyncratic approach, deconstructing and reassembling the songs into moody, ethereal and, yes, dreamy, synth-pop fare. The day before the album was released, Hearn Zoomed in from his Toronto digs to talk about life with Lou, future dreams, his teenage basement tapes and tons more.