"Jamming out – I call it jerking off": Why Honeymoon Suite's new songs will not be messed with when they're played live

Honeymoon Suite studio portrait
(Image credit: Frontiers)

As Johnnie Dee cheerfully admits, Honeymoon Suite were never leading lights of the 80s scene (“There are the big bands, then there’s that grey space… we’re in the grey space”). But while their peers have fallen away, the Canadian band have played an excellent long game, retaining their knack for a brass-bolstered anthem – and a loyal fan base – right up to this year’s album Alive.


What’s the significance of that album title – Alive? 

It’s to tell our fans we’re still here, still making music. Mike Krompass [producer] said to me: “Johnnie, what kind of record do you want to make?” And I told him: “I want something like The Big Prize [1985]. I want to hear the horns, those sounds, that magic.” I think the fans will really like Alive. I can’t say for sure. I mean, every artist likes their own record. 

What’s the lyrical vibe on the album? 

The whole record is inspirational. It’s supposed to get you up and feeling positive, put a smile on your face. Done Doin’ Me, that’s, like, when you tell your girlfriend: “I’m finished with this junk.” I’m not a politics guy, so I’m not gonna write about that, because most of the time, I don’t understand it. When people are reading the news, I’m like: “Er, okay”. It’s like computers. Give me a microphone, a guitar, a stage, and I’m fine. Give me a computer and I’m completely lost. 

You’ve said that you have no patience for the studio. 

I just want to do my stuff and get out. And it’s hurt me in the past. On The Big Prize, Warners called Ian Anderson to come in and play flute. But I’d decided I need to go to Canada for a week. So I didn’t get to be in that session. I get bored. 

Your voice is still going strong. What do you put that down to?

I don’t sing when I’m tired or with food in my stomach. I start warming up when my eyes open. I just found a new ear, nose and throat doctor. I needed to get checked for nodes. He came out with this camera that goes up your nose, down your throat. I hate this thing. But that moment when he said: “You’re clear”, that was huge.

Do you remember how Honeymoon Suite got their break? 

We needed to play covers to get hired, so we’d send out a false setlist. We never actually played those songs, we did originals. But there would be some nights when the promoter would go: “Where’s this song?” “Er, we don’t do it.” And they’d fire us. 

You were hit by a car in 1987. Is that the worst accident you’ve had in this band

That’s the worst accident of my whole life. I was at the airport in LA and, bang! It happened so fast. I blacked out. I knew I had to shoot the cover of Racing After Midnight [1988], so when I finally opened my eyes I asked this cop: “Is my face okay?” He says: “Your face is fine, sir, but your leg is not.” I looked down and… oh my god, it was going every which way. The car’s windshield was broken. I was lucky I didn’t go under it. 

Can we expect the songs on the new record to evolve when you play them live? Is it that kind of band? 

No, I’m a stickler not to do that. Jamming out – I call it jerking off. I think: “Play the songs as close as you can to the record. But have fun.” 

Alive is out now via Frontiers.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.