Penny for your thoughts

Jason Ogden is a native of Hampton who has been making music for what seems like an eternity.

Having gotten his start with punk band NFA in the early 90’s, Ogden has since gone on to front two musical acts that greatly differ in terms of sound but if anything, show Ogden’s remarkable versatility in making music. His band Hospital Grade tend to lean upon the influences of post-punk bands like Fugazi while his other musical venture, Penny Blacks, draw from the folk-ier side of life.

Bridging these two distinct personalities has proved to be a rather easy task for Ogden. Contrary to what you might be inclined to think however, Penny Blacks is not merely a case of Ogden getting older and having his musical tastes age gracefully with him. He insists that he has actually been writing folk-inspired material since he was in high school and began pursuing solo shows outside of Hospital Grade as a means to keep him busy.

“I had been writing these kind of folk-influenced songs for a long time, I just never really had an outlet for them,” Ogden says.

“There were a couple of years where the drummer from Hospital Grade was finishing up university which ended up leaving me with an abundance of free time to fill up so I started playing shows as a means to keep myself busy. I had a collection of more personal, mellow songs that I had been writing and playing in my bedroom for years, and I began telling the folks that were putting on local shows that I was available to play solo if they ever needed someone to fill a time slot.

“If anything I believe that it took being older and maybe being a little desperate for a way to keep active to have the courage to try performing solo. It also really helped that I had made some friends who were really supportive.”

Friends have ended up playing a big part in the evolution of Penny Blacks since their evolution into a full-band around 2007. Not only did Ogden enlist many friends and peers to back him in Penny Blacks, but friends also helped the group’s upcoming record Harbour, due for release in October, come to be realized.

“We really wanted Harbour to be a Saint John-based record. We rented a cool, old Saint Johnny-type loft space uptown to lay down the bed tracks of the record, which we did with Chris Fudge, who is sort of a satellite member of the band in a way.”

Once the bed tracks for Harbour were completed, Ogden notes the band ended up recording overdubs in the various living rooms, basements and rehearsal spots of, you guessed it, friends around the Saint John area.

“Sean Boyer, who plays drums in Hospital Grade, mixed the record while the artwork was created specifically by Pamela Marie Pierce who is one of my best friends and one of my favourite artists.”

Though Ogden was hopeful that the group would have copies of Harbour available for sale at their Plan B show next Friday evening, the process of finalizing the song’s mixes and artwork took a little longer than the group anticipated, pushing the release back to the first week of October.

“We were really looking forward to having the album with us in Moncton but we really didn’t want to rush those final, crucial elements. Moncton has been very good to us and we are really excited to play the record for the audience. Consider it a way for us to build suspense until people can hear the record for themselves.”

Article published in September 16, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript