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Barenaked Ladies plan B-sides set, DVD

By PAUL CANTIN, JAM! Showbiz, November 8th, 2001.

Barenaked Ladies' new singles collection "Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits" was initially intended to be part of a trio of releases, including a B-sides collection and a DVD of the band's videos.

Singer Steven Page told JAM! Music that deadlines nixed the DVD and B-sides set, but both will surface at some later date.

The DVD collects 17 of the group's videos, and the members had even gone so far as to record a bonus narration track to accompany the clips, as well as compiling all sorts of extra stuff.

But the set the group imagined couldn't be pulled together in time to coincide with the Nov. 13 release of "Disc One."

"They were supposed to put (a DVD) out with this. We did a commentary track, we had some ideas for bonus stuff, but they said they didn't have time to put it all together," Page said.

There was even talk of putting out a bare-bones edition DVD now, with a features-packed version to come later.

"I said, no, no, no. Let's not sell the whole thing twice. The DVD would be the same with more stuff, so we said, 'Why not just wait?' We are trying to put it out jam-packed with stuff, and we'll put it out later.

"I thought we could put it out at the same time. But the precedent has been set by that great Beastie Boys package," he said, referring to the Beasties' groundbreaking Criterion DVD collection.

"We don't have alternate angles and stuff like (the Beastie Boys) do, but they did set the precedent. You have to be pretty comprehensive and make it a fun thing."

Waiting until the new year also means the band will be able to include a video for the new song "Thanks That Was Fun," one of two new tracks recorded especially for the "Disc One" set, Page added.

The band members have also compiled a collection of hard-to-find B-sides, but that project has moved to the back-burner, as well.

"We all kind of looked at each other after listening to it one day in the dressing room and said, 'This might actually be our best album'," Page said.

"I think it may actually surface at some point. It is all the stuff where there is no second-guessing. Weird stuff or funny stuff. All the stuff where you go, 'That doesn't fit on an album'. You put the stuff together on one disc and go, 'This is good'."

For now, though, "Disc One" provides 19 tracks covering the 10 years since the group's cover of Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers In A Dangerous Time."

"Canadians have known us since 'Lovers...' or 'Be My Yoko Ono' or whatever. They have seen the growth. A lot of them imagine us the way we were 10 years ago. A lot of Americans have known us for just three years and don't know anything about this other wealth of material," Page said.

"It just means we are now officially old. We are in our 30s, we have 10 years of records behind us. Okay, guys, let's start golfing."

Here's what Page had to say about "Disc One", and looking back to the past and forward to the future with Barenaked Ladies.

Q: So as someone who sings a song called "Box Set" about artists who milk their past, was there any hesitation about a collection like "Disc One"?

A: That's where the title comes from, "Disc One": 'Disc One, it's where we've begun, it is all our Greatest Hits.' It's just like back in 1992, it was calling my own bluff, because I knew that in 15 years, I would be doing my own box set, if I was lucky.

The song "Box Set" itself is about an artist who is a has-been who is dragging the bottom of his archive to milk his one big hit, so in some ways, it is what we are doing. By calling it "Disc One," it is a message to our fans, saying yes, we have sold out, but we still know where we came from.

Q: But you haven't quite gotten to the point of putting out a box set yet?

A: I had actually proposed when we released this to put out a full box set, but make it exactly like the one in the song, where the second disc is actually blank. To do a small pressing of 10,000 of them, for the fan club. It just didn't come together.

Q: Did you guys initiate this best-of?

A: It's one of those things where we thought, what do we do next? We had wanted to do another record, but the message we got from all sides was slow down. We had records come out close together, and people could use a break from you guys.

Ed and I had done some writing, we had some new songs. I think what happened was, they realized there was a provision in our contract for a greatest hits. We thought, let's do one now, rather than wait for the contract end in a couple of years and have them put it together.

We recorded four new songs and chose two ["Thanks That Was Fun" and "It's Only Me (The Wizard Of Magicland)"]. We have two others sitting around. Last I heard, one was going to be used in that "Shallow Hal" movie, called "I Can, I Will, I Do." The other one, we really like, and we will probably save that for the next record.

We did them at Phase One in Toronto with Jim Scott, who engineered "Maroon." He flew up from Los Angeles.

Q: Canadians have obviously followed your career for a while, but some of the casual fans in the U.S. who just picked up on the band in the last couple of years may be surprised to see you putting out a retrospective.

A: Last night I watched the Matchbox Twenty "Storytellers." That is the kind of thing they do for Paul Simon who has 20 albums. Matchbox Twenty, I know for a fact they have two.

When (VH1) did the "Behind The Music" on us, once you have covered every single classic artist, you have to move on to contemporary artists. So now they are doing the Behind The Music on Sugar Jones or something. It is Behind The Music About The TV Series.

Q: Was the criteria strictly singles or was it your favourite songs?

A: They were all singles with varying success. They weren't all hits. They were all the songs we did videos for, plus "If I Had $1,000,000," which was never a single and has no video, but it is a song everybody knows; arguably, our most successful song, and it was never a hit. Otherwise, it was all the singles, all the hits.

Q: Was there any discussion about using the live versions instead of the album tracks of "Brian Wilson" and "What A Good Boy"?

A: "Brian Wilson," we did a studio version again in 1997 that we call "Brian Wilson 2000." We thought about putting it on here, because it has never been on an album.

"Brian Wilson" was starting to do well on radio off the live album, but there were a lot of radio stations that refused to play a live track. So (the label) said: "We need to go in and get a studio version. The 'Gordon' version is dated and not as good, can you do it like you do it now?"

It is fine, but it is a little stale. We could put it on the record because it was only ever available as a single. It was a good opportunity for people to own it. But it is not as good as the live version, which essentially was a hit in the U.S. "Good Boy," the single in Canada was a hit, but the live version sounds more like us.

There was a fair bit of discussion about these versions. Some are very different remixes. I went through it going, what sounds the best? There's a remix of "The Old Apartment," a remix of "Shoebox." They do these radio remixes all the time.

Q: At the Music Without Borders Live show in Toronto (which also included Alanis Morissette, Our Lady Peace, and The Tragically Hip, and benefitted the UN's refugee programs), you guys took the approach of blasting through your set at a brisk pace and only stopping briefly to comment on the issue at hand, which seemed to be a sensible way to handle it.

A: We kind of struggled with that. We didn't know what to do, whether to address it strongly. It is a TV broadcast, with TV stuff giving information about what it is about. As long as we can tell people we support this and ask them to support people who are suffering ... that is our job.

People don't listen to Barenaked Ladies for much else except to be entertained. That's what people always tell us. We have to stretch ourselves, but people tell us, 'We listen to you guys because you make us feel good.'

Q: In the post-Sept. 11 world, have you had many touring obligations?

A: We did a private party a week after, a very odd thing. We had cancelled some shows in the U.S. after Sept. 11. We just couldn't quite figure out what our purpose was in the world anymore. We didn't want to travel. We have families. We just wanted to be near the people who are important to us.

We go back out in a couple of weeks. I don't know what people expect from us. How much do you devote to people who are still grieving over Sept. 11? How much do you devote to praising the rescue workers? Or the war going on over there?

Or do you just devote none of it and do your show, and pretend the world is the same? I am still trying to decide.

Q: Beyond those few shows, what plans does the group have?

A: After the New Year, we have almost no plans. A few shows over the course of the year. Almost no plans. The directive from the record company and the label is take your time making the next record.

We are all kind of staring at each other going, what do we do? I don't know of any other job where you can say: "We're taking a year off."

We had talked about taking a year off between "Stunt" and "Maroon." First of all, we are at the height of our career. Second of all, my dad never took a year off. I'm working here.

We will take a bit of time off. But by the end of the summer, I am sure we will be back in the studio working on another record.

Q: Have you ever considered doing a solo album?

A:It would be interesting to try not having anyone else to fall back on. It would be an interesting exercise in self-confidence. I don't know if I would be up for it or not.

I always fantasize about it. In other ways, I do have a great band that does almost anything I would like to do. So I don't know why I would need to.