In a Northern Ontario community of 55,000 on the shores of Lake Nipissing, a fishing guide, an electrician, a product specialist and a former postal worker live by a code of conduct that is as Canadian as bartering beaver pelts: Work hard, and play even harder. Martyr’s Remi L. Roy recently caught up with Jake Thomas and Paul Pruneau, half of Jake and the Fundamentals (and respectively known as North Bay’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant) to shoot the shit about ShakinSnake Records, Muddy Waters and making waves with Bay Blues.
RLR-Could there be Blues without women?
Jake-There couldn’t be Blues without women or funky old cars – it’s all part of it.
RLR– I read that you were a postal officer and the character in Retirement Blues is a factory worker. Where did you get the idea for that character?
Jake-There’s a whole world of people making money that don’t want to be making money doing what they’re doing.
Paul-Jake played professionally 12 years on the road and the last place he wanted to be was in a post office. But when you got a family…
Jake-You gotta do whatcha gotta do.
RLR-Do you guys plan on staying with ShakinSnake Records, or would you consider jumping to a major label?
Paul-We’re not shoppin’.
Jake-I don’t think we could go on the road for six months (at a time), we’d kill ourselves.
RLR-How many gigs are you guys playing a year?
Jake-This year it’s at least 50.
Paul-We were supposed to play The Beaches this summer, which we did last year, and we ended up cancelling that to play in Mattawa. We were supposed to open for Jeff Healey (RIP).
RLR-You’ve worked with George Olliver, Bill King, Aaron Space, Taj Mahal and Muddy Waters. Who’s been the most memorable?
Jake-As far as playing wise, Bill Kill was pretty interesting. He always had a good band. There were always different horn players and guys who’d just show up and he’d be a feature for the night.
RLR-Is this the most complete of the 33 incarnations of Jake and the Fundamentals?
Jake-We’ve had various horn players, four or five different drummers, and three or four different bass players. It has always been decent people that left the band, it’s just ‘cause their all tired and they’ve had enough. They work all week and they just want to sit down all weekend.
Paul-We just have too much fun, it’s almost illegal.
RLR-Is it tough to make waves in North Bay?
Jake-Your hometown is always tougher. Just because we’re up here doesn’t mean we’re not paying attention ton to what’s going on all over the place.
Paul-They love us in Barrie. We opened up the Dobro in Peterborough and we were jammin’ with Donnie Walsh of the Downchild Blues Band. We told him we were from North Bay and he said he’d jam with us anytime.
RLR-How does it feel to be North Bay’s Robert Plant?
Paul-I’ve been singing Zepellin since their first record came out. That’s what I listened to so, what the hell, of course I was gonna pick up a couple of his licks.
RLR-What are the advantages of having a fishing guide, product specialist, music engineer and electrician in the band?
Paul-It’s just proof that hard work gets you somewhere. Danny (Colomby-bassist) works hard.
Jake-He puts in 16-20 hours a day.
Paul-Jake used to work hard in the electrical business. And Mike (Perreault-drums) is running a family music store. He puts in long hours. Plus he DJs hip-hop and new wave on the side. His whole genre of music is phenomenal.