Tragically Hip guitarist Paul Langlois calls Kingston street honour ‘surreal’

Nick Patch
Published on March 6, 2012
Members of The Tragically Hip (from left) Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois, Gord Downie, Johnny Fay and Rob Baker are shown in a recent handout photo. Langlois says he’s honoured that his hometown of Kingston, Ont., has decided to dedicate a street to the veteran group. — Photo by The Canadian Press

Tragically Hip guitarist Paul Langlois says he’s honoured that his hometown of Kingston, Ont., has decided to dedicate a street to the veteran group — even if there’s “some awkwardness” that comes along with it.

Kingston’s city council voted last month to rename a portion of downtown Barrack St. as “Tragically Hip Way.” Langlois navigates the street as part of his regular routine, so the whole situation is a little strange for him.

“I use that street quite often actually, it’s sort of a thoroughfare where I go to pick up my kids. So you know, it’s certainly an honour and humbling,” Langlois said in a telephone interview Monday morning, noting that the Hip’s namesake street also marked the location of the city’s sparkling new arena, the K-Rock Centre.

“It’s quite surreal, but yeah, I use the street all the time. I may even pull over sometimes.”

Still, Langlois noted some “awkwardness within the community.”

The decision to honour the

14-time Juno Award winners followed heated debate at the municipal level, with some arguing that the city should pay tribute to its military history rather than a beloved rock band.

And while Langlois didn’t encounter any opposition among people he chatted with personally, he certainly read some impassioned arguments in the editorials section of the local paper.

“The odd one would say, ‘What if one of these guys goes crazy and starts shooting people or something?’ Well, good point. I know that’s not going to happen, but how does some guy ... know that?” he said with a laugh, noting that his kids were similarly unsure how to respond to the honour.

“Teenagers,” he murmured, chuckling. “I think there’s some awkwardness there, too, for sure. ... They may be honoured later but right now they think it’s kinda funny.”

Meantime, the Hip have assembled in Toronto to begin work on their next album. With Juno-winning producer Gavin Brown (Three Days Grace, Billy Talent) at the helm, Langlois said the band had recorded 10 of 13 new tracks and found themselves ahead of schedule as of Monday.

He says they’re hoping to mix the record — the follow-up to 2009’s platinum-selling “We Are the Same” — by the spring and potentially release it “towards the end of the summer,” though that’s hardly written in stone at this early juncture.

Langlois notes the band has been recording while playing all at once, with frontman Gord Downie singing live takes as opposed to overdubbing. Otherwise, he’s reluctant to give up too much detail on the direction of the new tunes.

“It’s certainly two-guitar rock ’n’ roll like we’ve done before, so nothing’s changed about the lineup,” he said.

“It hopefully sounds like the band playing together, and there’s certainly rock ’n’ roll in it.”

It’s possible that the band could preview some of their new tunes at two upcoming summer gigs — one taking place June 30 at scenic Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., the other July 1 at a park north of Barrie, Ont.

The Tragically Hip has, of course, never had to try particularly hard to land a gig on Canada Day. And, Langlois says, it’s a great time to play — usually it’s an “awesomely beautiful day” during which audiences are in an upbeat mood, ready to toast the onset of summer.

Still, Langlois says the band might eventually want to take a year off from Canada Day festivities and enjoy the view from somewhere else — like, say, the end of a dock at a cottage somewhere.

“If I had to guess, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t play next year,” he said. “It’s always fun, but sometimes it’s fun not to play on Canada Day. It’s a bit like New Year’s, you know? It’s a great day for Canadian bands, because there’s just so many events ... but then if you do it for a long time like we do, you might start to feel like you’re getting roped into it.

“So you take the odd New Year’s off, and certainly the odd Canada Day.”