by Ross CAT

by Ross Cat.

    HIP CHECK.... The great white north is alive and well this winter as the new and improved NHL glides back into our cities returning as Canada’s national pastime. The only other happenstance that could create such “Fireworks” like that in November is Canada’s national treasure, THE TRAGICALLY HIP. The HIP are “On the Verge” of releasing their first ever career retrospective titled “HIPEPONYMOUS” available this Tuesday November 1st.
    This CD/DVD collection once again shows that this unique group of musicians is truly “Ahead By A Century” when it comes to their music and how they share it with the HIP faithful. The “Gift Shop” of songs is an extraordinary compilation of music from the Kingston, Ontario band who hit the streets of Canada back in 1987 with the single “Highway Girl”. From that point on THE TRAGICALLY HIP tradition was born, defining what it means to be part of a “Membership” and not just a member of a band. 
     The two disc retrospective is the first ever for the group and includes thirty- five vintage tracks from the bands ten studio albums, as well as two brand new tunes titled “No Threat” and “The New Maybe”.  The HIP has a long-standing and rare relationship with its fan faithful who are always “Looking for a Place to Happen” when the band is on the road. So when it came time to put together the box set THE HIP once again showed they do believe in you the listener. The songs where chosen by 150,000 HIP fans via an online poll aptly called “Yer Favorties”. The highlight of this musical montage most certainly will be the concert DVD “That Night In Toronto”, recorded in November 2004 at the Air Canada Centre. THE HIP joined forces with the Brothers Lamoureux to film this mind-blowing set, complete with split screen shots and multiple camera angles making this not just a concert DVD but a concert movie.
    The DVD captures the true essence of the bands legendary live performances both “Fully Completely”. This dynamic performance grants you passage within the tangents that THE HIP tales are taken by captivating front man Gord Downie, while guitarists Rob Baker and Paul Langlois whose subtle yet penetrating licks sweeten the powerful poetry. Whether they are playing for two hundred people at the “Bottle and Cork” in Dewey Beach, Delaware or 18,000 strong at the ACC, THE HIP always delivers with the same intensity.
    NIGHTLIFE had the great fortune to catch up with busy HIP guitarist Rob Baker to talk about the box set, his other project STRIPPERS UNION Local 518, and what the new year has in store for THE TRAGICALLY HIP:

  R.Cat.- You released an album this past summer with another group your involved in called the STRIPPERS UNION Local 518 was that something you’ve been wanting to do?

  ROB BAKER- Yeah, within THE HIP we’re all songwriters, so over the years I’ve amassed quite a few songs and ideas just didn’t fit in with THE HIP setting.  As a writer if you don’t release these ideas they can become kind of a block in the creative pipe. 

  R.Cat.- Being linked to THE HIP was it difficult to find a and especially a vocalist who could take the songs where you wanted them to go?

  ROB BAKER- The thing that made it easy was the support I received from everyone in THE HIP.  As a matter of fact you can find Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay, and Paul Langlois on several of the tracks. Obviously being in a band with a great lyricist like Gord Downie you want to keep your standard at that same high level, I felt I accomplished that working with Craig Northey whose best known for is work with THE ODDS and Colin James. The other players on the record are from a group called SHARKSKIN which gave the music an R & B vibe with some brass and a Hammond B-3 organ.

  R.Cat.- How did this recording experience differ from what your used to with THE HIP? 

  ROB BAKER- The expectations were very different on this record.  It was a fun atmosphere very relaxing, and I was my own record company.  With a HIP record we spend months writing together and about six or eight weeks recording.  On the STRIPPERS UNION album I wrote the bulk of the material over the last eight years or so and the recording sessions were very organic.  We spent just a few weeks laying the tracks, which were very easy going.

  R.Cat.- From reading the bands website (, it sounds like there may be a follow up to this record?

  ROB BAKER- THE HIP is my main thing and that’s not going away.  As a musician you need to explore other creative outlets. I feel when I return to write with THE HIP that this experience will help me bring more to the table.

  R.Cat.- Let’s get into the new TRAGICALLY HIP  box set that is set for release this week.  THE HIP faithful have waited along time for this type of package from the band, especially the live show DVD, tell us how it came together? 

  ROB BAKER- It really is quite a task to put together a live show recording like that.  We had gotten advice from other bands that had done it and they said we should record more then one show, which becomes very costly. So naturally we put all our eggs in one basket and decided to do the one ACC show. We really felt as a band we were hitting on all cylinders touring on an exciting new record like “In Between Evolution”. More importantly we felt the new material meshed well with the older songs for the live performances. The shows felt like they had a common purpose everything was spontaneous so the time was right for the DVD. 

  R.Cat.- There is also a second DVD included in the set full of bonus features what treats can HIP fans look for on that?

  ROB BAKER- The second disc has all of our music videos, which I don’t think saw the light of day in the States, so that will be cool for fans. Another interesting thing we did was take some raw unfinished pieces of music and combined it with the backdrop video from the tour. The final thing in the box set is the booklet.  We really didn’t want to make it a history of the band so we decided to tell THE HIP tales trough our tour t-shirts and posters its really kind of neat. There really is a lot of interesting stuff in the package.

  R.Cat.- What can you tell fans about the two new songs on the “Yer Favorites” CD, are they left over songs from previous albums or are they brand new?
ROB  BAKER- The songs are new we recorded them in January we think they fit well with what we wanted to present.  We purposely placed them as the first track and the last track on the discs.

  R. Cat.- Lastly,  ROB what does the band have in store for the upcoming year as far as new music and touring? 

  ROB BAKER- We already recorded four or five new songs at the Bathouse studio, which we hope to have done in late spring, that should set us up nicely for a summer tour. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this project as we’ve added producer BOB ROCK to the team. This is by far the heaviest sound we’ve ever had. Lots of raw guitars and heavy percussion going on the band is really stoked. 
    NIGHTLIFE would like to thank ROB BAKER for this in-depth interview as well as Sarah Fenton for making it possible.
    SOMETHING ON- Western New Yorkers have had “The Luxury” of having the JEREMY HOYLE BAND right here in our own backyard giving us a healthy dose of HIP music in between albums and tours making Sunday Nights at the Crocodile Bar a time honored tradition. You don’t want to miss these guys as they are slated to open for HOOTIE AND THE BLOWFISH on Monday November 7th at the Statler Golden Ballroom. Award winning vocalist Jeremy Hoyle and company continue to write and record relentless while leaving “Vapour Trails” across the Midwest and Eastern United States touring. Check out the bands website at ( for dates and shows near you.

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