Sara Mai Chitty
on March 9th, 2017 at A Random Taco Bell in Toronto
En route to a Taco Bell minutes from a rehearsal space in Toronto, Al Nolan describes the hecticness and chaos that has only recently become his life. A month ago the 47 year old punk rocker landed a gig playing the notorious Joe Dick in a theatre production of Hard Core Logo.
“It’s like being on tour. I’m eating like shit. Destroying myself to live, it’s awesome,” he laughed. “I’m loving every second of it though.”
After ordering himself a “slayer,” a seven-layer burrito, Nolan took time out of his busy schedule to explain how he landed himself in this incredible opportunity.
“Honestly I can’t even believe I’m talking to you about this,” Nolan began. “I was sitting around at home trying to figure out where I was going to get my next meal, figuring out where I was going to get my next bag of weed and now I’m here working, recreating this role that I have supposedly been method acting for about twenty five years.”
Adapted from the Canadian film based on the novel of the same name, the plot follows the Hard Core Logo band on their last epic tour in the name of a good deed – fundraising for the legendary Bucky Haight.
Despite the production set to open March 9, Nolan hastily accepted the lead role in a handoff from musician Ben Rispin, who had to back out to be involved with a film commitment. Nolan was a shoe-in according to Rispin, with director Ron Jenkins and the rest of the performers wanting him to do it.
“So I was like fuck ok, I’ll give it a shot,” he said.
Nolan is well known in the Canadian punk scene for being the lead singer of alternative legends An Almighty Trigger Happy. Originally playing under the name “Trigger Happy” the group started making waves in the scene in the early 90s. He was a theatre nerd as a teen, he explained, but hasn’t been exercising his acting skills. In order to learn the lines rapidly, Nolan watches the movie twice before bed, reads the comic book, reads his script, and was working his way through the novel by Michael Turner, who also wrote lyrics to new songs written by Joey Shithead of D.O.A..
“I go to sleep saying the lines and I wake up singing the songs,” said Nolan. In between rehearsing almost twelve hours a day, he’s jamming with An Almighty Trigger Happy.
“It’s kind of like doing eight shows in one day” he explained, his voice gritty and hoarse from practise.
Nolan says the other performers have been incredibly patient and kind since he’s started. After throwing a tantrum brought on by stress and a mic stand that wouldn’t stay in place, the punk rocker-turned-actor had a funny revelation after his apology. The other actors reminded him they’re acting – but he’s a punk rocker.
“Which is really kind of funny hearing someone say that, because where I am from is well even if you act like a punk rocker you could be considered a loser, or if you act like a rock star you can still be a loser as well.”
After spending a few weeks living and breathing Hard Core Logo, Nolan has begun to question whether art imitates life, or life imitates art.
“I’ve had to pull myself away sometimes just because things got a little too familiar and it kind of freaked me out a bit, but it was kind of cool though,” he said.
Eventually in the play it’s revealed Joe Dick put together the Hard Core Logo tour under false pretenses for one last shot at glory.
“As dumb as this sounds, it’s a story about a family. It’s a story about people’s purpose being either taken away, or false purposes, or hiding behind certain things that they thought would protect them for the longest time. It’s about getting passed on things, it’s about outgrowing people. Which I find kind of interesting. I can’t help but apply my own situation to it.”
It’s not exactly An Almighty Trigger Happy‘s story, but Joe Dick’s character has become too close for comfort at times for Nolan.
“We had gotten back together a few times,” Nolan said of Trigger Happy. “But some people’s habits got in the way, mine included, other people’s included. We never got to successfully get the right kick at the can that we wanted.”
Following a hiatus in 1999, the band has taken stabs at getting back together throughout the millennium. However the passing of guitar player Mark Gibson in 2013 when there had been talk of getting back together again made things more complex for the band. Since performing again, Almighty Trigger Happy has done so in Gibson’s honour.
“I’ve done some real super soul-searching with regards to this role and then going through the play myself,” said Nolan. “Sometimes I end up drifting off and being reminded of how much of a dick I’ve been and how much of a dick someone else has been and how you could have resolved it instead of just being so – you’re just young and you’re kids and you’re in an explosive kind of music that really doesn’t allow compromise or discussion – it’s fuck you or fuck off – and there’s no compromise about it.”
Described as “half play- half punk show,” the blood, sweat and tears of Nolan and the rest of the theatre group promises a unique experience.
Previously performed in Vancouver and Edmonton by other actors, Nolan mentioned that perhaps if it’s that good of a run, there might be a chance to take Hard Core Logo Live on the road. For now audiences only have until March 26 to catch a new way to experience this cult favourite at The Cave above Lee’s Palace.