5 Questions: Jean Marc Pisapia

If 80s pop/rock music is your thing, Back to the 80s II at Toronto’s Revival Bar will be the place to be November 22, 2019. Featuring Canadian music legends The Box and Images In Vogue, all proceeds from the show will go towards supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities.

We caught up with The Box frontman Jean Marc Pisapia for a quick 5 questions…

What can audiences audiences expect next Friday?

First of all, we’re gonna be playing 75 minutes. That’s just a time constraint from the promotion. So that’s it. However, we do play all the old hits. So nobody is going to be disappointed. We do them all and we do some more recent material, such as a few of the songs that appeared on an album that came out. Actually, it was the first album From The Box which never got released by Capital EMI in Los Angeles because we died from extreme exhaustion before we could do that. But the album was written and it was released by our guitar player, who has a label, four years ago. So we’re doing a little bit of that. But mainly what you can expect is for us to do all of the old hits, if that’s what you’re interested in. And that’s the most important thing. This band goes and plays because they want to, not because they have to. And it’s like night and day. Back in the 80s, we were on the road 200 days a year. We got exhausted. It was a chore. It was unbelievably taxing. Whereas today, we do it because we want to do it. We do it for fun, and it shows. We really have fun onstage and we share it with the people.

So I understand that all proceeds from the show next Friday go to Ronald MacDonald House charities, right? Why that particular charity?

Good question, because we didn’t choose it. We were offered to play the show by Ed Sousa. Ed Sousa is mainly connected to the Ronald McDonald Foundation, and so it’s the fourth gig that we’ve done in collaboration with Ed in that respect. And so when he asked for us to do that, we said yes, but whenever we’re asked to do a charity, whatever the cause, we usually do it. For example, you might not know this, but “Closer Together,” our biggest hit, was actually a commission by Leucan. Leucan is the foundation against leukemia and we were asked by St. Justin’s hospital here in Montreal to write a theme song for a fundraiser that they were doing alongside the Montreal Canadiens who had just won the Stanley Cup back in 1986. They were putting up a 20 minute video, and it was called “L’esprit d’équipe” in French, which means “team spirit.” And they wanted to have a song, two songs, one in French and one in English, that carry that theme. And so I came up with “Close Together” and we wrote it as a commission for them. Eventually the record company thought it was such a hooky song that they decided it would go on our next album and be the first single. But it was for leukemia.

And then one of my brothers, five years ago, needed a kidney because he was really sick and I volunteered to give one. I was turned down at the very end because of a stupid technical problem, health problem. Then my sister gave him her kidney. So we were very much involved in the kidney donor program. So it really doesn’t matter to me. Whatever the cause is, if we are available and if we can do it, we will.

Have you played with Images In Vogue before?

Yes, in that particular context, yes, with Ed Sousa.

So Ed is based in Toronto. Every year he organizes something called the Classic Bowl, as in bowling alleys. The show is actually literally organized on a bowling alley. There is a big parlor there in Mississauga called the Classic Bowl, and he recruits bands to play there. We play on the bowling alleys, and it’s sold out every time. The two last times that we have participated in that, Images In Vogue were there. The first time there was Honeymoon Suite, and the second time too. Then we had A Flock Of Seagulls who played there too . So it’s our third time playing alongside Images In Vogue.

I didn’t know these guys before, partly because they are from Vancouver. And secondly, because it didn’t happen just like that. But they are absolutely great people. We get along fantastically. So it’s it’s gonna be a blast.

So your new EP is Take Me Home. What can you tell me about that?

It’s kind of a reflection on how much of a lucky dog I’ve been all my life. I think that’s the main theme in there. And it’s funny because I didn’t realize it as I was writing it. When I had finished it, I said to myself, “That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

I mean, I kept talking about how fantastic a a a career I’ve had. I was very lucky in my marriage. I’ve been married to the same woman for 33 years. I had two wonderful children. I mean, this is exceptional in this line of business. It really is.

I never was into drugs. I had a great career, a great life. Everything. Health is fine. Everything’s fine. I can’t believe just a lucky bastard I am, and I think that that’s what transpires through the songs. I even say it in so many words. One of the songs, “Endless Days,” I say it in so many words: “The luckiest dog alive.” It’s not that I wanted it to be a song about me as I was writing it. It was just who I had become, I guess. And then I realized further down the line when the album was finished, I thought, “This is really you. You’re talking about yourself in there and how lucky you are.”

What’s next for The Box?

Who knows? You know why I’m saying that? Because back in 1993, when the first version of the band died, if you had asked me if The Box was ever going to hit the stage again in any shape or form, whether with the original members or someone else, I would have laughed. I would have said, no way.

And then guess what? Years pass. People keep saying, you know, The Box should get together again and play some shows, and we would be delighted to be part of it, and we’ll organize this and that. The constant pressure from the industry for the band to reform caused me to go and see the former members and ask them, “What do you think? Would you like to do that?” And they laughed.

They said, “Are you kidding? We’re not going back in that crazy business. We have lives now and we’re having nothing to do with it.”

But at that time, I had met a bunch of people because of that 11 year hiatus. I wrote a lot of songs for commercials, TV ads, music, films, and documentaries, that sort of thing. I met a bunch of people and we had a pet project at one point where we would go and play live at the same club in Montreal every Tuesday night. We had this project that was kind of a satire. It was a lot of fun. We would dress up to do it.

So I proposed to these guys. I said, “What do you guys think if we put The Box back together? We play all the old material and we start something new.” And they said, “Yeah, absolutely.”

So in 2004, we reformed under a new lineup. We came up with a new album in 2005, and then another one in 2009. Then we released a fifth record from the earlier version of the band, which was never released because we died before it could be released, and we released that.

And so who’s to say what’s going to happen next? I really don’t know. But one thing’s for sure…we are here to stay.