Arrogant Worms are a three man comedy troupe with their roots in folk music and acoustic rock. "Purveyors of the Absurd", "Ambassadors of Fun", Arrogant Worms have an extremely loyal, underground fan base and perform to sold out shows and standing ovations all over North America.
Starting out on campus radio back in 1991 at the university they were attending in Kingston, Ontario, Arrogant Worms have to date released 7 very popular CDs in Canada selling over 70,000 copies and now have branched out to release their very first CD in America entitled Gift Wrapped which they are very excited about. As well, they will be having their first ever National TV special which will be airing this Spring featuring The Arrogant Worms with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and numerous celebrity appearances including the likes of Kurt Browning and Astronaut Chris Hatfield.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Chris Patterson, one of the group's members, from Toronto Canada where he is just getting prepared to start the first leg of their Western Canada tour starting in Winnipeg on October 2nd and ending it 22 days later in Cranbrook, B.C.
Larson: This is the Arrogant Worms' return engagement to Vancouver at Capilano College. Last year you had a sell out show, this year we've added a second show to accommodate. How do you feel about your return? Are you excited to come back to Vancouver?
Patterson: "Absolutely Vancouver is definitely one of the loudest crowds in the Country and it sort of started when we were doing shows at the Rogue Folk Club at the WISE Hall and it started to get really loud and really raucous and every once in a while we sort of feel like rock stars and Vancouver is definitely one of those places."
Larson: I hear that your fan base in Vancouver is by far the craziest. How do you feel about that? Do you have any idea why the Vancouver crowd would be the wildest?
Patterson: "I'm guessing it's all the coffee... Ha, Ha, You know it's all those Starbucks everywhere. Yah, it's kind of that West Coast thing I think so, yah."
Larson: What about the other cities you've toured in comparison? What do you think would be the second wildest city?
Patterson: "Calgary is a very rockin' crowd as well and Pennsylvania. Um, and Owen Sound, Ontario, there's a folk festival there that we do and it's almost like a rock crowd and it's really fun, it gives off a lot of energy there."
Larson: Your tour starts off October 2nd in Winnipeg and then you rent a car to drive across Western Canada ending your tour 22 days later in Cranbrook, B.C. What's it like for the three of you on the road for that long together? Do you keep each other entertained while on the road?
Patterson: "We can actually get down right boring in the van you know, we just sort of do our separate things like read or listen to music, sleep or something like that. I mean the long van rides are actually great for us to have business meetings and plan things out. But ah... there are odd moments of humour but you know we're just 3 guys sittin' in the car, I mean, it's not that exciting."
Larson: Right, I guess you have a chance to practice your spiel or you might have it so down pat that you don't have to.
Patterson: "Well, some stuff we just have down and some stuff we just like to make up on the spot. We don't rehearse any of our talking stuff, we obviously rehearse the songs but as far as the interplay with the audience we like to keep it as fresh as possible."
Larson: What do you think you like the least about the touring process and the most about it?
Patterson: "I think just being away from home is the hardest part of being on tour, not sleeping in your own bed, in different places and hanging around in airports and, you know, being in the car with 2 other people. But the best part is we get to do what we love to do and we're lucky enough to have jobs that we really really like and we get to do it and have fun and get money. And, have a good time. And, we get to see parts of the world that we most likely wouldn't have got to see before."
Larson: The three of you started your act out on Campus radio back in 1991 at the University you were attending in Kingston, Ontario, where your popularity spread and now you perform to sold out shows all over North America. What do you think attributed to your success from campus to sold out shows and such a loyal fan base?
Patterson: "Well we've never really changed the focus of the show. I mean we started out as a comedy act and we've always been that way. I mean some other groups started out with more of a comedy kind of a repertoire then have gone off or done something different and we've just always given our fans a similar thing, we haven"t changed things. I think we've all sort of grown musically and as songwriters and we're getting better that way but still the focus of the show is the folks and just having fun. We've got our little niche in the market, in the music business. it's small enough that we don't want to blow it by, you know, by trying to switch to becoming a country act or something like that. I mean, the success is, you know, working extremely hard at it and playing a lot of gigs that weren't sold out shows. And we've performed on the street and we've just sort of kept at it. And the fans have come back, and, and thank God for that."
Larson: And the word spreads basically and...
Patterson: "Yeah and we make the show different from the last one to the next one and the fans like that. I mean it's a couple of hours of just like pure you know, silliness that everyone needs once a year."
Larson: You are celebrating the release of your 1st American record called Gift Wrapped. And, to date you already have 7 Canadian albums which have sold over 70,000 copies so you have been received quite well in Canada. How is this album doing in comparison to the albums released in Canada?
Patterson: "I think it's kind of plugging away. I mean we've had some trouble with the United States market but we've played quite a bit down there in the last few years. But our records have never been available in the stores, so now all the American fans that we have, and there are many of them, they can now go get the album in the store. I don't know what the current numbers are and how it's selling but I'm told it's doing just fine. You know, for a small label. Really just like in Canada, you have to kind of look for our albums to get them and our American fans are doing the same thing."
Larson: Right, so the American crowd isn't a harder crowd to win over? It's pretty much the same. Do Canadians have a different type of humour and do you find any difference with that?
Patterson: "The American crowds are actually in a way easier to win over than Canadian crowds. A lot of the stuff we do in the United States is at theatres or festivals where no one knows who we are. It's part of our concert series kind of thing, so people come expecting to become entertained and as long as we do our job and they have the time of their lives it's great. And Americans are, they're just so, excited you know and they love Canadians, they really really love Canadians. Every American knows at least 1 Canadian apparently and you know, we speak the same language and we're not that different from them. And we also make fun of ourselves a little bit too, which kind of puts any audience at ease a little bit more if we kind of make fun of ourselves. The American crowds have just been great and loud and raucous and they're just kind of confused why we're not really really rich yet. It's funny, they just sort of say 'wow I want to, you know, give you guys a million dollars if I had it but I don't so, yah, I'll give you ten'. But the Americans just want us to be huge and we're happy not being huge. We like where we are right now, I mean obviously it would be nice to have that huge hit that makes you a million bucks but, we're okay with this."
Larson: Maybe your act is a little bit of a refreshing change for them coming from Canada and having sort of a different type of humour than they have.
Patterson: "Yah, if you look at American sitcoms on television, there isn't a whole lot of clever stuff going on. I like to think of some of our stuff as being clever but it can also be just kind of over the top stupid so we appeal to both."
Larson: What do you feel the future holds for The Arrogant Worms now? I know that you are expanding to television appearances and that your 1st ever National TV special will be aired in the Spring, featuring you with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and numerous celebrities such as Kurt Browning and Astronaut Chris Hatfield to name a couple. Where would you like to see the Arrogant Worms go from here? Have you ever toured Europe and are you looking to tour Europe and expand to the world wide market?
Patterson: "Absolutely, I mean that is you know, high up there on the list of what we want to do, get to Europe and play over there. We've played over in Australia a couple of times and had a great time and we kind of want to go to Europe just to go and tour and see things and, you know, if we can get a few gigs from that, it would be a nice bonus. But the T.V. stuff we'd like to see continue and get to the point where every couple of years we can do a T.V. special of all new material whether it be some kind of revue or variety show. But we'll just sort of continue going. We've never really made like the huge bounds, we've always just improved kind of slowly but surely over the years and it's been a good pace for us. The symphony show is exciting for us and we like to work with any symphony we can. We've had a lot of interest from some U.S. symphonies and it's an exciting thing every once and awhile that happens to us and reminds us that this is really fun and, ah... that there is a lot of stuff that we can still accomplish.