Sass Jordan burst on the scene in the early 90s with a string of hits and a monster band. She has just released a new live record called Live in New York Ninty-Four that captures her and her band, featuring Taylor Hawkins, Stevie Salas, Tony Reyes, and Nick Lashley, at the height of their powers. Sass recently took some time to talk about the record and her career.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Sass Jordan –
On how this band came together – I have to look through the annals of my memory and seeing as it is last century sometimes. So, I know what happened. Okay, so Nick DiDia produced Rats and he’s the one who said, “We gotta get Tony Reyes involved”. Sorry, this is me scrambling through my memory bank. That’s how Tony came in. Nick had already been playing with me since Racine, he was on the Racine tour. Salas was in and out. He was always in and out. Then, Taylor, we needed a drummer. That’s right, we needed a drummer. Salas and I heard of him, he was in Laguna Beach, he wasn’t playing professional gigs at all, he was completely unknown, so to speak. So he drove up to the rehearsal space in LA, and he came in and basically, the first thing that hits you with Taylor is this amazing energy that always surrounds in his entire life, he just emits, but it’s not just like crackling, crazy, wild energy, it’s also full of love. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s just a beautiful, beautiful soul, and it was like, “I don’t care if this guy can play, he’s such an awesome human being let’s hire him anyway”. He was pretty bad. He was pretty bad, he would have told you too. He played everything about 50 million times too fast, nerves and you’re just when you’re young and really young and just starting, sometimes it’s hard to rein yourself in because everything is so God damn exciting. Of course, in my case, at the age of 95, everything is still exciting, so it never slows down.
So that’s how it started, that’s how it came in. Because Tony had played so great on the record, he didn’t play on the whole record, he didn’t play on all of that though, did he on Rats, because I know Tom Petersson played on some of that, and other people, I can’t believe it’s slipping my mind but it is. Anyways, who really cares? Point is, it was a fabulous band. We had so much fun together. I mean, Tony and Taylor fought non-stop. It was amazing. Tony had braids at the time and Taylor goes, “Oh, you and your Lee Press-On hair”. I remember them having a fistfight over that one. Oh my God, yeah, we had such a good time. Anyways, yeah, and it ended, that whole tour ended in late 94. I think it was late 94 is when that whole tour ended, and it ended in LA at the Pantages Theater. I was playing with Steve Perry, supporting Steve Perry. My manager had a friend who was also a manager who was managing this young gal from Canada, and they were looking for a band for her. So they said to my manager, “Do you mind if we come and check out the band because I know this is Sass’ last show, so maybe we can hire some of the band if Sass doesn’t mind”. Of course, I don’t mind, their musicians, they need a job, of course not. I don’t know when the hell I’ll be playing again any time soon, and I ain’t got enough money to keep him them retainer. So I suggest they go out and do their thing. So it turns out she hires Taylor and Nicky, and she’s Alanis Morissette. So four months later, it’s the biggest band in the world. 1:28
On if the performance on record matches her memories of the time – Interesting question, my man. I gotta tell you, I don’t remember much. I’m not gonna lie, because it’s like three life times ago at this point, seriously, it really is. So what I remember most, Jeff, is more like impressions rather than concrete, “this, that, or other-thing” kind of memories, which a lot of people have those kinds of memories. Me, it’s just like, you know when you have a dream, you wake up the next day and it’s like you go to tell somebody about it, all you can say is, “It was just really weird” because you can’t explain. It was more like a vibe or impressions, impossible to describe. So it was such an intense time, I do know that. I do remember that it was a very intense time. There was a lot of stuff going on. Also, it’s an exhausting lifestyle. It’s completely adrenal fueled. So when that runs out, when your adrenals just get completely pooched, which they do…other people use drugs, alcohol, what have you, I understand that. It just wears you out and it’s emotionally exhausting as well because you’re constantly moving. There’s never any time to get grounded in anything, and that’s really important for human beings, I would say, constantly moving is not a natural state for a human being. So your relationships go all over the place because you’re just never available and you barely have a relationship with yourself.
When you’re constantly moving and constantly meeting hundreds and hundreds of people all the time, basically what I’m trying to say is the whole goddamn thing is extremely exhausting. So that’s another reason why I don’t really recall a lot of it. I do recall the impression I have of that particular performance, just this kind of urgency, this intense urgency. I think it fits so well when you transpose that to this day and age, everybody’s going sideways, what the hell? It feels like the ground shifting underneath your feet. There’s no sense of being sure about anything these days. I’m not saying that it really was, but now it’s right in your face, you can’t avoid it anymore. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, holy shit, hang on kids! Because time is all over the place, we’re just going through a massive, massive collective shift, it’s planetary wide and there’s no avoiding it. It’s almost as if that record was prophetic. It was almost like you could feel this was coming, and I was like, “Get us to the finish line, we have to get this done”, that kind of vibe. But it’s also sparkling and it’s very, I find it really kind of uplifting, it’s just got this fantastic energy in it. 6:28
On why this record was never released earlier – Yeah, it’s funny, because it doesn’t sound old. Yeah, that’s really interesting, isn’t it? Doesn’t sound old. The reason is, there’s a couple of reasons, the main reason is I don’t really like looking back. Every time I do it, it’s because somebody’s asked me to do it. To me it’s like, what’s behind is behind, and I’m more interested in now and going forward. That is not to say that it’s a bad thing. It’s just that’s my mindset. But if you think about it, isn’t it great that I didn’t put it out earlier? I think the timing is actually absolutely perfect. It’s perfect for the collective energy right now, it’s absolutely perfect. I think everything has its time, and this just happened to be its time. I never thought about it before until somebody who’s really close to me suggested they said, “You know, it’s coming up, it’s like almost a year since Taylor has been gone and people have been asking for a live album forever. Maybe this is the time”. 10:30
On if there is any more material featuring Taylor Hawkins – There’s another one, Live in Detroit at the Roseland. I think it was called the Roseland Theater, I can’t remember what it was exactly. We do have that. The sound quality is not as good. We might put some of those out just for fun and if people are that interested at some point, but I don’t see that being a record, it wouldn’t work that great. Streaming is fine, whatever if you’re really deeply into it. Is there video? Well, yeah, there is but it’s all on YouTube, you can see the video. But that’s about it, because, don’t forget, it’s last century, it’s pre-cell phones. All the photographs that we have are cheesy little, those cameras that you get at the supermarket, I don’t know if you remember that, those disposable cameras. All those photographs are really from those disposable cameras or maybe a Polaroid here and there, so it’s just everything like that. You can’t make that look better. It is what it is. 12:16
On her reaction to the label dropping her after such a great record and tour – Well, in their defense, not that they need defending, but the fact of the matter is, at the time, the music business, and I’m not really a part of it anymore, I don’t know that anyone really is anymore because it’s so completely different now, everything is internet-driven now really. Anyways, but at the time, it was completely run and engineered by the labels, etcetera, and what was happening at that time when Rats came out, that was the change over to what they called, fuck, I forgot the name of it, modern rock or grunge, and I was, and still am female. It wasn’t a big thing. Let me tell you, it was a struggle to get me on the radio, even with Racine, and the only reason Racine did as well as it did was because people just liked it so much that the fuckers couldn’t stop us. This is the way I see it. I could be wrong about all of this, but this is the way I see it. But when it came to Rats, it was like, “Chicks can’t play this music, what the hell is this?” Plus, it’s kind of like blues-rock, (they were) like, “Nirvana man, that’s it”, whatever it was, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, I can’t remember. It was like they were not having a girl, no, there was just no way. Until Alanis came out. But if you listen to that Alanis thing, it’s nowhere near as heavy. I mean, it’s heavy emotionally, but it was much more tailored, it was more acceptable. Plus it was a couple of years later, the tide has shifted yet again. My timing was pathetic, or all of our timing. It was terrible timing, and radio states didn’t wanna play it because it was a chick. No, no, no.
Also, I said the word “piss” and they did not appreciate it at the time. This is hilarious if you listen to rap now, female rappers. I’m like, “Oh Lord, turn that shit off, it’s disgusting”. It’s like what you can get away with now. Not that I would never be like that. But let me tell you, they thought it was the most vulgar possible thing that a girl would be saying “pissing”. My parents are British, I was born in England, I never lived there, full disclosure, but I was exposed to that kind of vernacular. So pissing down, “Hey, what’s the weather like?” “I don’t know, it’s like it’s kind of pissing down right now”, that’s an expression, it means it’s pouring fucking rain. So to me, I wasn’t saying anything rude, but they did not like that in Heartland America at the time. That was just not a thing. That is pretty much my theory. I think it was ahead of its time, and I think it was behind its time, it was just a wrong f’ing time. 14:13
On if her late 90s work felt different from the early part of the decade – Hugely, first of all, I was pregnant, so there’s a lot, that changes, everything I gotta tell you. I moved back to Canada from Los Angeles, and I was just not in a good place with the label that I was with, and everything was kind of caca-poopoo, including that record. If I listen, which I don’t, but if I think about the records that I’ve made, there’s not a single one of them that sounds like another one of them. They’re all different, every single one, except for the last two, which are very blues-oriented, those are the most similar-sounding records I’ve ever made, two that actually sound similar. But I’m an artist and I get bored. Luckily, I’m not a starving artist. That’s very helpful, thank God. So I get to do what I’d like to do. At this point in my life, I really think it’s appropriate. It’s funny because I was looking at listening to something by Rickie Lee Jones the other day, she has a new record out, Pieces of Treasure, it’s called, it’s like jazz stuff. That woman is utterly brilliant and she’s never been anything less than an artist. Her records, very rarely sound like each other, the only thing that’s the same in her records is her, her voice. I think it’s the same with me. I really do. I’ve been extremely, extremely fortunate in that I have a core group of people that like my voice so they will follow. Even when I do something, they go like, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Sass, I don’t like this”. But they’re still super cool about it. In the end, I gotta tell you, it almost at this point, doesn’t seem to be as much about the actual music itself as it is about the intention and the vibration, and the frequency that you perform it. It’s like, I’m beginning to see something very different here about music that I wasn’t aware of before. First of all, the far-reaching ability of music to heal and to uplift as well as to destroy. It’s the intention behind it. Just like everything on this earth, everything is dualistic. Anyways, so I’m going to places now, I’ve never been before, and the excitement level is hard to contain. 18:30
On her band S.U.N. and why there was never a second record – So we do have about five songs that we started for the second thing. Oh, such a variety of things happened. I mean, I don’t really remember. It was tricky because I had to go out there and stay at Brian (Tichy)’s house. It was like, it was intense, and it just got to be unsustainable as far as all that kind of stuff was going. I agree with you, I wanna re-release that. I think it should be re-mastered and re-released. Tichy’s on board with me on that. I think we’re gonna be doing that sometime in the next while. Who knows when. Before we die. That’s the plan, although you never know with death. But yeah, I love that record, too. It’s funny you should mention that because stylistically speaking, that’s the closest thing to Rats. 22:12
On if it was a struggle navigating the business as a woman in the early 90s – Yes, it was, but I don’t know if it would have been a struggle no matter what kind of music, I don’t know. There were no others really. Maybe there were and I’m being an asshole and not remembering it, I don’t really think there were though, I would have known, I’m pretty sure, in my genre. But to this day, there aren’t really that many females who sing in that genre, and pardon me, even if they do, it’s not necessarily my favorites, but there are some phenomenal ones. It was extremely tough, but so what? What isn’t? 24:05