Getting Personal with the Barenaked LadiesUSATODAY.com, August 15th, 2001.
More than a year after the release of their album Maroon, the Barenaked Ladies are back on tour. Before leaving for the USA, lead singer and guitarist Steven Page, 31, talked to USATODAY.com's Alyssa Watzman about the band's tour, musical style and other topics.
Q: How was the name Barenaked Ladies created?
A: (Ed Robertson, a guitarist and singer in Barenaked Ladies, and I) were about 18 and had gone to a Bob Dylan concert together. We just kind of stood in the back and pretended we were rock critics and talked about fictitious bands with fictitious names, one of which was Barenaked Ladies, which we thought was really funny. (It) reminded us of what it was like to be 8 years old and find a Playboy in the bushes or see someone's sister changing or something. You say, 'Oh, my God, it's bare-naked ladies.' So we laughed at that, and that was it.
Q: Did you ever think in the beginning that Barenaked Ladies would become a phenomenon?
A: I think this is secretly what I wished for, but I never thought I was capable of it. I remember spending hours in front of my mirror at age 14 pretending I was Billy Idol but never thinking I had the talent to become an actual musician. So it's pretty amazing to see that not only can I pull it off but that I can pull it off with some degree of longevity, too.
Q: When did you get the feeling that the band was catching on?
A: I remember in about 1990 we used to play a small club in Toronto on Monday nights. And each Monday the size of the crowd would double. I thought, 'These aren't just our friends and our parents anymore." And before (Stunt's 1998) release, we did a show at the Boston City Hall, thinking maybe there'd be a couple of thousand people. According to the cops, there were 80,000 people. And I think that's the moment where we went, "This is not going to be the same ever again."
Q: It's been said that your older fans are disappointed in your latest work. How would you respond?
A: I think a lot of that comes from the desire to keep it an elitist thing. I think our songwriting has gotten better. I think our shows have gotten significantly better.
Q: Tell me about your touring style.
A: As far as the improv stuff goes, it really is off the top of our heads. A long time ago, we used to talk about what we're gonna talk about before we went out, and (then) we just stopped (doing that). I find if I save stuff up, it's worse. If I just let it come out, then it has a lot more of a chance of being good.
Q: How was the band affected by Kevin's illness? (Keyboardist Kevin Hearn, 32, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1998 and had a stem cell transplant in Toronto.)
A: When we found out Kevin was sick, we were making Stunt, which made that record more important for us. He got his transplant the day we were going on the road to do the Horde Tour (1998). So there we were without him, and we've got all the success and the frills like the glamour and the parties that we never got before. And after working with the band for so long, (Kevin) wasn't around to enjoy the perks.
Q: How do you feel about Napster? (Barenaked Ladies came under fire in 2000 for posting music files that began with a song sample but led into an ad for the band.)
A: It's easy enough to just take. But I'm sure if I went and just took (a fan's) car, they'd probably wonder. They might say, "Well, you make enough money to buy your own car." Think about some new band who has a hit song on the radio, so everybody goes, "Oh, I just want that song." A record company puts a couple million dollars into this artist, and the record sells nothing because everybody has downloaded the song (on Napster) and the band gets dropped.
Q: Where do you see the band going in the next 10 or 15 years?
A: In 10 or 15 years there will probably be lots of other things whether it's solo records or movies or working with other artists. But we don't want that to preclude being in Barenaked Ladies. I think we're all pretty happy to call ourselves members of the band.