Jason Setnyk

Interview with Bigwig live April 18th in Ottawa

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Ottawa Ontario – Fans of pinball, perogies, and punk rock can rejoice because Bigwig is set to headline an intimate concert at House of TARG in Ottawa on April 18th.

The New Jersey punk band, that started in 1995, consists of Tom Petta (vocals and guitar), Paul Carney (guitar), Zach Lorinc (bass), and Rob Ferreira (drums). They have toured the world and have shared the stage with bands like Blink-182, Nofx, Pennywise, Less Than Jake, and Lagwagon.

However, Bigwig who haven’t released a new album in 11 years, were on hiatus for a while. Tom Petta sustained a serious hand injury that wouldn’t allow him to play the guitar for nearly two years. However, during his recovery he wrote a lot of songs, mostly for Bigwig, and some for his new Bluegrass band.

“A few years back I accidentally removed the full tip of my right hand picking (pointer) finger while using an industrial saw and during the healing, was unable to play my guitar (properly) for almost two years. I stopped playing live and just kept writing as much as possible, any type of music but mostly for Bigwig. I had approximately 40 new song ideas. I was also writing a group of Bluegrass songs which have now become the first recorded songs of my newer band Tom Petta and The World’s End. The songwriting for both is very similar so the songs were split up accordingly,” Bigwig vocalist and guitarist Tom Petta disclosed.

Bigwig hope to release a new album in 2017, but there is no definite timetable. The legendary punk band is more concerned with producing a quality album than meeting an arbitrary deadline.

“Bigwig has tracked some demos for the new record and we are currently working out parts on the new songs. We hope to release something this year but we’re in no rush. After some bumps in the road, life happening, and some great shows, I think It’s some of the best writing we’ve done. We want this one to be solid. I’m really looking forward to getting this out there soon. We will release a record. Hopefully this year,” Petta stated.

Will Bigwig’s new album be released on Fearless Records, another label, or will they go the DIY crowd funding approach?

“Yes, we would release another record on Fearless. I love what they used to be and have become. Bob has always treated our band very well. The label may have gone in a different direction but has always been pretty eclectic. I recently saw August Burns Red play in Nashville and they killed it. Fearless may have changed it’s direction but has kept the energy of the music they release in tact. It’s great to see how it has grown and an honor to be one of the first bands on the roster or “growing up” as a band on that label. We have had some talks with a few labels about the new record. We haven’t decided on a new home for the new release and will still continue to search for something that feels right. A DIY self release may also be a possibility via crowd funding but that takes a ton of time away from touring and writing so we’re not sure exactly which route we’d take just yet,” Petta reflected.

Fans will have to wait for a new album, but the new apparel is ready. Bigwig have new t-shirts that might catch the eye of their Canadian fan base. Inspired by the recent US election, the caption on the t-shirt reads: ‘Bigwig: Make America Canadian’. The Bigwig slogan mimics Donald Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again”.

“America’s newly elected president and his campaign slogan was our inspiration for this one while also an homage to the great Ramones. We released the design just before the election. At this time, American celebrities were being criticized in media for stating they would leave the US and move to Canada if Trump was elected so of course, many Trump supporters expected our design to mean just this. It didn’t. We didn’t think that far into it. I wish we had the genius for that type of controversy. It was simply a play on words. If you are familiar with our band’s touring history, influences, politics, and our love for touring Canada, you just get it. If not, you’re probably not Canadian,” Petta stated.

The band will be bringing some of these t-shirts on their upcoming Canadian tour.

“We will have a limited run of these T’s on our upcoming April Canadian run including Ottawa’s House of TARG on the 18th, London’s Music Hall on the 19th, Toronto’s Hard Luck on the 20th, Montreal’s Club Soda on the 21st, and two shows in Quebec City at Cerc on the 22nd and 23rd. We also have these available on our recently opened online merch store via Enemy Ink Merch. You can check our Bigwig Facebook page for info and orders,” Petta added.

The design of the t-shirt is stylistically similar to the Ramones iconic logo. When Bigwig toured with CJ Ramone, they gave the Ramones former bass player one of the t-shirts, and he was all smiles about it.

“We played a few bills with CJ Ramone on the Screeching Weasel tour and man, what a damn great band. CJ is a stand up dude, great musician, no bullshit New Yorker and it was refreshing to see him crushing crowds. We gave him one of the shirts and he was all smiles. If he didn’t like the design, he was a total gentleman and didn’t show it. We chatted about pairing up for some future shows, minivan tours and wireless packs, (ya know, typical punker stuff). I think he’s cool with the design and had as much fun as we did sharing a stage. That run was a blast,” Petta replied.

Bigwig played on a part of the Screeching Weasel’s 30th Anniversary Tour and Tom Petta has some fond memories of the experience.

“The tour went very well. It was their 30th anniversary run featuring all of “My Brain Hurts”, which happens to be my fav Screeching Weasel record. I’ve been a Weasel fan since I was 15 so this tour was a bit mind blowing for me. Ben is one of my favorite songwriters, yet we’ve never shared a stage until this run. Supporting Screeching Weasel was a blast. Their band and crew were on point every night. Every room was packed with full sing-a-longs to every song. They were very hospitable and all stand up guys and amazing players. Touring with good, fun band members creates a fun vibe for the bands and audience,” Petta acknowledged.

Tom Petta recalls a special moment when Ben Weasel approached him about a song idea for his Bluegrass band.

“I had a few rad moments on that tour I’ll never forget. After a few shows in, Ben confronted me and stated “I have a song I want to give to your Bluegrass band, it’s got a country vibe”. I was shocked and honored. After the tour Ben sent me the demo of “Please Diana”. I immediately went into a studio in Nashville with The World’s End and recorded my version. It’s now one of my favs to play and will be on the upcoming World’s End Record,” Petta recalled.

Bigwig enjoyed hanging out with Screeching Weasel, and Tom Petta will never forget the night he was invited to sing the punk rock classic “My Right” live with Screeching Weasel on stage.

“As a fan of Screeching Weasel, I was also stoked to see Ben and the guys supporting us by wearing Bigwig shirts. Chatting with those guys about music backstage was a bonus. Towards the end of tour I was invited to sing “My Right”, one of the first songs Bigwig ever covered over 20 years ago. All around a pretty great tour I’ll never forget. Thanks Weezy,” Petta added.

It was another one of Tom Petta’s favourite bands that gave Bigwig their first big push twenty years ago. Jim Cherry of Strung Out was impressed with Bigwig, and he helped network the band with Fearless Records back in 1997.

“Jim Cherry was a huge help and driving influence to our band when we were very young and new at touring and recording. We already had a pretty small but loyal following on the East Coast after DIY touring on a demo tape and our first release 7 inch on Fueled By Ramen Records. Bigwig played a show with Strung Out at our local Legion Hall and Jim loved our set and the energy. Directly after our set, he called Bob Becker of Fearless Records from a pay phone outside of the Legion Hall we were playing, and put me on the phone with Bob. I was super nervous. Bob asked me some questions about the band’s plans and said Jim was stoked on us. Jim got back on the phone with Bob and bluntly told Bob to sign us. That week I sent our demo to Bob, which later, with new guitars and vocals, became our first full length release Unmerry Melodies,” Petta said.

Strung Out, who helped nurture Bigwig in their formative years, were also one of the band’s biggest influences.

“Jim was a rad guy. I love and miss him. He was giant in size and opinion. And what a f-cking great musician. He was all tough love on us. We were just so happy to be doing what we were doing that we were completely out of control with no organization. Looking back, he was very patient. Jim would be honest and real about what we needed to hear. He produced our first record well and always made sure we were on point. He made us better musicians and songwriters. We looked up (and still do) to Strung Out. They are top notch musicians and an amazing live band. Touring with them was a game changer for our band. They are great guys and took care of us on our first full US tours which at the time, was pretty scary. Watching them every night was like school for a punker music geek. Our band has always strived for the songwriting and intensity of the music, melodies and lyrics of both Strung Out and The Descendents/ALL. I’ll always credit Jim and Strung Out as one of Bigwig’s closest and biggest influence,” Petta conceded.

Unfortunately, Jim Cherry passed away five years later in 2002.

Two years after signing to Fearless Records Bigwig had a song on a compilation CD with 101 bands including Green Day, Bad Religion, The Descendents, Black Flag, and Nofx. In 1999 Bigwig’s song “Freegan” off their second full length album, also appeared on the Fat Wreck Chords compilation Short Music For Short People.

“That was a fun comp and nice to be a part of it. It was a challenge to write a tune while containing the verse chorus song structure in 30 seconds. It’s a brilliant idea. Mike and Fat Wreck have always been very kind to Bigwig. He offered us a slot on the comp while we were in Epitaph’s West Beach Studio recording with Donnel Cameron (who also recorded Propagandhi’s How To Clean Everything) producing our Stay Asleep record. We originally gave Fat Mike a fast song which is now the “hidden track” on Stay Asleep but he asked for a different one so we put together “Freegan” in the studio while pressed for time. Mike loved the new track and decided to use it,” Petta explained.

At the end of the song there was a short spoken word piece that was the inverse of what was said at the end of Propagandhi’s song “Apparently, I’m a P.C. Fascist”. According to Petta, the song was not a jab at all, but sarcasm about the idea that real men eat meat, and that eating meat and killing animals some how defines masculinity.

“The short spoken word is not a jab at all. I actually called Chris Hanna to let him know we were doing this. The entire song is sarcastic in lyric and pokes fun at the false claims that men should eat tons of meat and kill lots of things to be considered a “true man”. I have a huge respect for Chris, Todd and Jord of Prop, what they stand for and also think they are a great band and some swell guys. In our own, not very funny, inside band joke ways, We were poking fun at the anti-veg mind frame that was annoying and prevalent in our small local scene. Don’t read into it too much, we were just wise ass kids having some laughs. Prop rocks. Go veg!,” Petta proclaimed.

Bigwig are looking forward to visiting Canada again, and playing Ottawa again. This time, however, it is going to be a more intimate venue and concert, so don’t wait to buy tickets.

“I like a ton of things about Canada. Mostly things like hockey, syrup, “You Can’t Do That On Television” accents, choking hazard chocolate eggs, and most importantly, Gob! Actually, I haven’t found much to dislike. Ottawa rips for shows. It’s always a fun, high energy, crowd. Ottawa is always great to us. It’s one of my favorite stops in Canada. Our old shows at Barrymore’s and last show at Mavericks were a blast so I hope to see some new and old faces in the crowd at this one. We have a rad set planned and Sidelines and GOAT are throwing down as well so it’s going to be a banger. We chose a more intimate venue for this one with a smaller capacity than our last show so don’t wait to get tickets. Looking forward to it. See ya there Ottawa!,” Petta concluded.

The concert Tuesday, April 18th features Bigwig, Goat, and Sidelines. It is presented by Chord Productions and by The Diamond Mine Agency. The concert takes place at House of TARG, located at 1077 Bank Street in Ottawa. The doors are at 7pm, and the show is 19+. Advance tickets are $15 each and available at Vertigo Records, Compact Music Inc., The ODDs & SODs Shoppe and via www.chordproductions.com.