Every city should have a lover like B.A. Johnston. The Polaris Music Prize nominee and solo recording artist has been singing the praises of his hometown of Hamilton since he was just a B.B. Now he has the chance to show us video of the affair via B.A. Johnston's Ham Jam. The initial concept of B.A. as Hamilton Tourism Action Committee tour guide webcast showing off the charm of the Hammer came from husband and wife team, Doug Nayler and Chelsea McMullan. McMullan produced the Rae Spoon film My Prairie Home which played Sundance 2013. Nayler says he has been a fan of BA and thought there was something about his endearingly absurd live shows that could translate to film.
"I had mentioned to Chelsea I thought there was a lot of potential to do something with B.A. in some sort of video context," Nayler says in an email interview with SlowCity.ca. "He has some live videos and funny interviews floating around out there, but we thought that there was something there that could lend it self to a more complex, ongoing project. Once she saw one of his live shows she was on board, and we just started brainstorming what we could try to pitch him on. His voice on the songs is so specific and personal we knew we wanted to find a way to depict his point of view. We finally contacted him with a couple of ideas, and I think he got what we were trying to do pretty quickly. Then we just batted things around until it was settled that we had to go with him to Hamilton. All those back corners and weird details are more than enough fuel for a web series. We told our producer friend Coral Aiken about it and she jumped at it right away too. The next thing we knew we were on our way."
On their way to Hamilton yes but this is not your grandfather's Hamilton. B.A. knows the real Steel including some little known beauty spots such as Seagull Island says Nayler.
"Seagull Island was a pretty great bit of Hamilton lore he filled us in on. Apparently it's a little outcropping somewhere just a bit off shore which is like Hamilton seagull headquarters, just hundreds of them swarming. As soon as B.A. told us that as an idea we were both like, 'Alright we're getting a hold of a boat then.' We haven't actually seen it yet as winter is the off-season for Seagull Island, but we're definitely going to check it out once the Spring hits," he says.
The plan for B.A. Ham Jam is to encourage viewers to check out the off-beat heritage of the Hammer's music man but the offshoot could be people taking a second look, not just at Hamilton (which is already pretty rad), but also at their own hometown. Nayler says he was raised near Owen Sound, wasn't too fond of the area but says in retrospect it did have its own Ham Jam-like moments.
"I still feel pretty close ties to the area, but there's also things I totally rejected and had to get away from as soon as I was able to, all that xenophobic, macho redneck/hockey jock shit," says Nayler. "When Letterkenny Problems cropped up online everyone I know from growing up, still in touch with, went crazy for it. You very seldom see that style of talking in any sort of media. It's kind of left me with a treasure trove of great stories that are unique to an area like that. My dad and I used to get the family Christmas tree by picking off the top of a 30 foot pine tree with a rifle. Isolation certainly makes a person creative in how to stay entertained."
BA's solo jaunts across Canada have kept many an isolated community entertained but now those middle-of-nowhere places can share in the cult of B.A. and his Steeltown ties on the Interwebs (even if its still by dial-up modem). B.A. Johnston's Ham Jam is produced by Aiken Heart Productions. The web series goes into production late 2016.
B.A. Johnston is on tour and plays Manantler Brewery in Bowmanville Mar 26 with Poor Pelly.
FRI March 18 HAMILTON ONT @ This Aint Hollywood w/ Spruce Invaders, Whoop-Zoo
SAT March 19 WATERLOO ONT @ Jane Bond w/ Brent Randall 10$
FRI March 25 BRANTFORD ONT @ Train Cafe
SAT March 26 BOWMANVILLE ONT @ Mantler Brewery w/ Poor Pelly
FRI April 1 SUDBURY ONT @ Asylum w/ Casper Skulls
SAT April 2 NORTH BAY ONT @ Fraser Tavern w/ Casper Skulls
FRI April 8 MONCTON NB @ Esquire Tavern w/ Disasterbators
SAT April 9 SYDNEY NS @ Embers
TUE April 12 SAINT JOHN NB @ Callahans w/ Reaguns Rayguns
WED April 13 CHARLOTTETOWN PEI @ Hunters w/ Jon McKiel
THURS April 14 SACKVILLE NB @ Thunder and Lightening
FRI April 15 HALIFAX NS @ Gus Pub w/ Everywheres, Spew, Future Girls 6$
SAT April 16 FREDERICTON NB @ Capital w/ Little You Little Me, Reaguns Rayguns
SAT April 23 TORONTO ONT @ JUnction Music Hall w/ First Base, Crossdog
FRI April 29 OTTAWA ONT @ House of Targ w/ Average Times, Faux Cults
SAT April 30 Montreal QC @ Grumpys w/ Faux Cults FREEE