Johnny Sizzle is lying on his bed
in the small room of his rooming house in Winnipeg. On his
wall is an abstract self-portrait and punk gig posters
spanning from the early 90s to the most recent shows he’s
caught at The Cobalt (now Asbalt), Vancouver’s notorious
hardcore bar. Sizzle is back East for reasons that aren’t
clear though he does mention in passing with no obvious
intention of keeping it a secret he has recently been
diagnosed with schizophrenia.
he’s only 33-years-old the acoustic musician sounds older, and
perhaps it has to do with the fact that when he first started
recording material, in the 80s, cassette tapes were the norm.
Regardless, the concurrent successes of those releases brought
him a fair share of touring and acclaim and somewhere in the
90s he included a drag show act to his miscellaneous oeuvre
that was not originally intended, despite what he says is a
long-term relationship with eyeliner.
During a phone interview from his
room where he says there is a foot massager and dirty cups on
the floor, the very thorough Sizzle talks in a slow, rasping
monologue about what it’s like to be back home, his 2005
album, Metamorphasiz and the very real people who are
following his every move….
You just mentioned something about a TV show you used to
Sizzle: There was recently a reunion. It was a local, cable
all-access TV show. Johnny Sizzle’s Entertainment Watch.
I wrote and produced it. I’d have these local bands on, this
was the late 80s early 90s when most people thought arena rock
ruled the world. I did the show because I wanted to say ‘look,
there’s a real, talented and interesting person living down
the street from you.’
How’s it going back in Winnipeg?
Sizzle: It’s been quite a struggle coming back to Winnipeg,
for one thing the music scene here is young, there don’t seem
to be any people well into their 30s…I took off from Winnipeg
in ’95. What happened is it’s a completely new scene, no one
knows me, or remembers me. For my own survival I play the best
I can play, and I worried a bit there that I was too gimmicky.
But it’s working out?
Sizzle: What I like most is that I’m playing all-ages shows.
That I’m almost 20 years older than all of them and nobody
dumps on me feels great. I think my songs stand up.
I found a couple songs on the Internet, “Bee Cuz I Want 2”
and “I’m a Nerd”, which are both uniquely great. Tell
me about them…
Sizzle: The song “Bee Cuz I Want 2” I wrote when I briefly
lived in Toronto back in 2001. I didn’t record it until 2004.
I consider it an exercise in creating as simple a love song as
can be with a rock’n out twist. “I’m a Nerd” is one of my
oldest songs. I think it might have been the second song I
It must have some history.
Sizzle: It’s been a Canadian University campus-radio hit, back
in the mid-90s, I’ve sold the licensing rights to films and TV
shows around the world, and it’s been played on CBC a number
of times. Nardwuar the Human Serviette always bugs me to play
the song whenever he sees me or when he’s had me on his CiTR
radio show [101.9 FM].
Where did the inspiration for the album Metamorphasiz
Sizzle: Every different place I’ve lived in Canada: Winnipeg,
Montreal, Toronto, Northern Ontario I’ve put out a release.
Most of the CD I wrote while living for a number of years in
the Cobalt Hotel, in Rooms #315 and #318 respectively. It’s a
weird CD. Half is with a band and half is done as a soloist,
hence the title. Also, half the CD is creepy complicated
messages relating to the environments I lived in at the
time…the other half of the songs are majorly influenced from
easy little chants I’d sing to myself while working downstairs
in the punk bar at the Cobalt Hotel. Happy? Depressed?
Together? Alone? What really do I want? No wonder I’m
diagnosed as a schizophrenic.
What was it like living in Montreal?
Sizzle: I got into the druggy, crusty punk lifestyle around
’94. I went hitchhiking in the winter of ’95 and went to
Montreal. I stayed in homeless shelters and did some modeling
and released a second album, This One’s For the Kids
which went to helping street kids in a grassroots way...I’d
literally play a show and take the money out onto the street.
That’s really cool.
Sizzle: Tiring but cool.
you always into gender bending?
Sizzle: No…I never shied away from eye shadow, but that was
something I found which was completely new while I was living
in Vancouver. I haven’t continued as a drag queen entertainer
since moving back to Winnipeg. I still go out and cross-dress
in public with a punk rock/heavy metal style but not to do
shows. Mostly when I go out to punk shows or dance-y
nightclubs or certain places to do karaoke.
Did it change your direction as a musician?
Sizzle: No. In fact I thought it would, when I started gender
bending I was frequenting night clubs and doing my drag act
and I thought my music would become more dance like. But on
the other hand I was also immersed in the Cobalt hardcore bar
scene, and bussing tables there...
How important is DIY in punk music?
Sizzle: You have to get your music and songs out any possible
way you can. Doesn’t matter if you have a discography that
makes sense or not at least the raw material is out there and
people can see what you have to say.
It seems like a lot of so called “punk” bands today are
getting away with not working very hard.
Sizzle: Punk’s really weird right now, there’s “celebrity
punk” and then the local punk community. The generation of
punk I came from didn’t think about becoming a celebrity. The
aspiration was to have a great weekend show with all your
What are you looking forward to in the upcoming New Year?
Sizzle: In the last year there has been a filmmaker creating a
documentary film on my songwriting “career”. I will also be
re-releasing the recordings I put out on cassette tape between
1994-1997 on a CD, which will include an unreleased track with
Mexico’s Acoustic Hardcore master Metallor Montoya,,,I think
I’m done for, personally. I can still sing but really I’m
happy just going to karaoke.
What’s your favourite song?
Sizzle: (Ozzy Osbourne’s) “Good Bye to Romance”. I’m the