Is this album cover a tribute to London, Ontario? Not exactly

The album art for the upcoming record from Hamilton-based comedic rocker B.A. Johnston features a myriad of London, Ont., references.

"Werewolves of London, Ontario" is the upcoming record from comedic rocker, B.A. Johnston

The cover art for the B.A. Johnston album, Werewolves of London, Ontario. Designed by Paul Hammond. In addition to vintage pop culture references, it features several London landmarks, including Storybook Gardens and the music venue, Call The Office. (B.A. Johnston)

B.A. Johnston has no problem telling you that he doesn't know London, Ont., very well. And none of the songs on his new album reference the city directly.

But that isn't stopping him from paying tribute to the Forest City with his new album's title and cover art.

The Hamilton-based comedic musician and performance artist is previewing his upcoming album Werewolves of London, Ontario with an online listening party Saturday.

Johnston (real name Christian Johnston) told CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive about his new album and its eye-catching album cover.

Designed by former Londoner Paul Hammond, the image is chock-full of local London references and vintage Canadian pop culture. This interview has been edited for breadth and clarity.

What was the thinking behind naming your new record werewolves of London, Ontario?

Well, 'Werewolves of London' by Warren Zevon is pretty much the greatest song of all time. Every time it's on the radio, I get really excited and want to turn it up. I was playing it as warm-up music at my shows, and then I made a joke about calling the album "Werewolves of London, Ontario" on stage. I got a really big laugh from the audience and I realized I should probably ride that pony for all its worth.

I think the cover art is living up to that. Can you describe it for anyone who hasn't seen it?

The cover is done by Paul Hammond. It's basically a re-imagining of the album cover for the Strange Brew Soundtrack for the Bob and Doug McKenzie movie.

Londoners will love it because they'll see landmarks like Storybook Gardens, the former Embassy Hotel, Call The Office and the Labatt plant. Is the artist from London?

That's right, he's from London but now he lives in Halifax. He was really excited to do the cover because he wanted to show off his hometown. Most of the reference points were from him, as I don't know London that well. I haven't played there in a while, but it's a great town.

The more I look at the cover, the more I get lost in the myriad of what is or isn't a London reference.

A lot of it isn't!

That's true. But for example, we see The Littlest Hobo on the cover. And that dog was actually named London. It's like you're meant to go as deep as you want with it.

Yes, that's how that's how I operate - in that murky water.

Hamilton, Ont.-based comedic rocker and performance artist, B.A. Johnston. (Pigeon Row)

You're holding an online listening party for the new record Saturday night, even though the record isn't going to be released until June. Why is that?

With the lockdown, I can't play shows and I'm very bored. I know other people are just as bored at home, so I thought it'd be something to do. And due to COVID, the record ended up getting delayed. The recording process was delayed four times, and the vinyl record pressing plants are so backed up with orders that everything is a year backdated. So the record won't be ready until June, and I have a feeling the pressing plant might be lying to me about that date too.

It may be hard for the listeners to believe, but COVID has made being a musician very difficult (laughs).

I'd imagine you're right about that. I understand you've been playing shows in people's backyards?

Yeah. I play people's backyards, porches. I played a roof once. That's my new job. I'm basically a party clown for adults and I play their birthday parties now.

What's been getting you through such a hard time?

The birthday parties (laughs). I actually quite enjoy them. I didn't think I would. But yeah, just trying to stay busy has been the challenge. 

We know restaurants and bars are opening back up soon. How confident are you that live music will make a real comeback soon too?

I'm always cautiously optimistic and hopeful. And then my dreams are usually dashed. But not this time! It's going to happen. It's going to be fine. And if not, I'll play your backyard.

B.A. Johnston is hosting a listening party livestream for his upcoming album, Werewolves of London, Ontario, on Saturday January 22 at 9:30pm. Details on B.A. Johnston's Facebook.

Musician B.A. Johnston speaks with CBC Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre about his new album Werewolves of London Ontario.



Chris dela Torre

Host of Afternoon Drive

Chris dela Torre is the host of Afternoon Drive on CBC Radio One in Southwestern Ontario. He's worked as a host, reporter and producer in several cities across Canada, and has hosted several CBC network programs, such as q, DNTO and The Story From Here.