Longtime musician Ron Hawkins has no shortage of stellar projects – best known for Lowest of the Low, he also fronts The Do-Good Assassins, The Rusty Nails, and releases music as a solo artist. On the solo front, Ron has just released “Church of the Chemical D.J.”, a single from the brand new EP, Trash Talkin’ at the Speed of Sound. We caught up with the artist once again, this time to chat about the new music, how he found the opportunity to do some good over the pandemic, and the advice he’d give to new musicians.
From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “Church of the Chemical D.J.”.
Ron Hawkins: It’s basically a list of the ways we sedate ourselves against the privations of modern capitalism. It’s the Huxleyian “Brave New World” take on population control not the Orwellian authoritarian version. We sedate ourselves with actual drugs and substances but are also lulled into a false sense of contentment with flashy devices and phones and instant access to culture, all the time feeling like somehow that’s bring us together when actually it’s just anchoring us into lonely silos. It feels like that’s been a very successful part of the modern capitalist playbook. And it is killing us.
FTS: Your new EP is called Trash Talkin’ at the Speed of Sound – how would you describe the album as a whole?
Ron Hawkins: It’s a sort of indie rock, synthy, dancey, dystopia. I think it’s a bunch of sweet melodies delivering a really sour message. That’s always been a songwriting sleight of hand I like to use.
FTS: Our last Q&A with you was right in the middle of 2020, which feels like a lifetime ago. As you look back on those past three years, the setbacks and divisive times, have they changed you as an artist at all?
Ron Hawkins: Yes, in a sort of counterintuitive way. Rather than get me down or leave me with a “what’s the point” kind of attitude it bolstered my belief that we can build a new world if we pull together. I did a series of live streams called Tommy Douglas Tuesdays during Covid. I named it after the father of Canadian socialized medicine because I thought that was fitting in the midst of a public health crisis. And I played a free show every Tuesday for the duration of the pandemic. It was important to me not to monetize it – as a sign of solidarity and as a way to make the point that art is bigger and more soul enriching than commerce. People were so wonderful and worried about my well being that they wanted to send money – a tip jar of sorts, so instead I held up some home made cardboard signs with organizations people could donate to. Indigenous independent police forces in Manitoba, trans gender help lines and women’s shelters – it was amazing to see people be so kind and compassionate, and we had a new organization each week. And watching our community joking and talking in the chat was a great way to feel connected. It left me with the feeling that with the right motivation we are indestructible and unconquerable. And since I started being a musician when I was 16 I believed that my mission was to make peoples’ music and be part of a great wave of progressive art… this was a chance to put my guitar strings where my mouth is.
FTS: As a revered longtime musician and songwriter, you’ve surely seen and done it all, and learned a lot along the way. What is some advice you would give to a new musician, just starting to put their music out into the world?
Ron Hawkins: Well I don’t feel like I’ve seen it all and that’s what drives me as an artist, as well as a human for that matter. To stay curious, to keep searching and learning. That’s the only important motivation. Be present but don’t get caught up in any temporary road blocks or obsessed about any current situation. If you are a true artist you will just incorporate it into your life and exercise those muscles every day. To me it’s a practice and it is an organic part of who I am. If you make art because you love it and are truly driven by it then you become bulletproof (metaphorically of course). Oh, except for the business of survival, that will take ingenuity, cunning and a certain amount of humiliation. But I assure you the journey is worth the struggle.
FTS: What bands/artists have you been diggin’ the most these days?
Ron Hawkins: I’ve been kind of all over the map. When you work as much as I do you generally mostly hear your own music and that of the community of friends and artists you travel with. But I also have a 17 year old daughter so she brings a lot of new stuff to the table. We go on road trips and she djs so I get to hear a lot of great stuff that way. Then there’s stuff I pick up through my ever present social antennae. But recently it’s been stuff like Too Many Zooz (a three piece busking extravaganza from Brooklyn), Ida Maria, The Go Team (punk rock marching band music?!), Black Pink, Bad Optix, Catbite… and on and on. I’ve been listening to a lot of Lowest of the Low lately. I hear they have a record coming out in October and those kids are alright!
Check out “Church of the Chemical D.J.”, from Ron Hawkins’ new EP Trash Talkin’ at the Speed of Sound!
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