Sunday, 27 February 2011

Alan Vega by Jeremy Gluck



Another unpublished piece from the prolific pen of Mr Jeremy Gluck, this time on Suicide's Alan Vega, written in 1988 and intended for issue 7 of the magazine. We've a long in depth piece on Suicide themselves which we'll put up in the next week or so. More electronic protopunk than you'll know what to do with.


Rock'n'Roll is over thirty and, as the old saying goes, never trust anyone over thirty. But, on the evidence, maybe the only rock'n'rollers we can trust now are precisely those who have broken through the dreaded Big 3-0. Iggy Pop, Springsteen, Robbie Robertson et al., the old ones who can still vividly remember the roots of the music than won the West. And Alan Vega, as venerable a rocker as his richer musical blood relatives, part of the 2nd generation to follow Lewis, Berry and Presley out of the trenches.

Vega committed Suicide, sometimes still does, but equally his epic contribution has been his four solo albums: “Alan Vega”, “Collision Drive”, “Saturn Strip”, “Just A Million Dreams”. From the first finger popping strains of “Jukebox Babe”, the track that heralded Vega's lonely crusade for rockin' perfection in the 80s, you knew that the rest could go sit in a corner: Vega dialled direct into the rock'n'roll trunk line and chewed through the cables that carry the sacred rockin' juice to those who seek it.

Tantalising tales of Vega's early solo gigs seeped out, about how he toured France with a beat-up beat box and a bad copy of “Alan Vega”s backing tracks, standing up and singing the songs over an amplified studio track. “Jukebox Babe” went top 10 in France, launching Vega to stardom and some due respect. He eventually got a band, a killer combo starring ace Texan rocker Phil Hawk (Christ, what a name!!) and went about the world verbally abusing audiences, talking sense to dumb journalists and generally becoming a cult legend extraordinaire. Then Elektra got hold of him, courtesy of kindly Car Ric Ocasek, who got them to pump bucks into Vega's manic muse, allowing him to make “Saturn Strip”, a singular rock classic, no mean feat after two singular rock classics; “Collision Drive” is as mysterious and perfect as a night sky and no easier to analyse. “Alan Vega” is still a snakebite and a half after six-plus years of heavy rotation.



Last December I had the ultimate privilege of meeting Vega, just finishing a brief European tour with Marty Rev, and ended up bending his ear for three hours. The transcript scratches the choicest surfaces of that close encounter with rock'n'roll genius. Questions have been kept to the minimum; just swing with Big Al, the last true believer fighting the good fight against a rip tide of scum.



“It's hard for me to explain what I've done, because I did it, it's hard to say, Hey, I took this paintbrush and put on this colour this way because...why? I tried to get the core of what you love about rock'n'roll so much and what I love about it so much and keep it in there.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"That energy that rock'n'roll had, especially when the white boys started doing it, then it really got dangerous (to the establishment of the day). Elvis was dangerous; they probably killed him anyway – I'm amazed they let him live that long. I know what you're saying man, something happened somewhere to dilute that essence of rock'n'roll. For one thing they just got into that Sixties thing, all that flower power crap...I hate to say The Beatles, man, I never could get into that pretty stuff...and the world bought it. The record business became huge. Look at it now, it's all accountants and lawyers, it's been taken over by big business. It's funny, because we played the Acid Daze festival in Leeds and it just seemed like all these sixties bands. Where are they coming from, man, for crying out loud? Did it not end? Are we going to be forever stuck in the 20th Century at the year 1970? Is this our fate? The kids of my day wanted to play Led Zeppelin when Led Zeppelin was around, but Zeppelin has happened already. Why don't these kids go to a record store and buy a history of the 7o's, do they think we went from the 60s to the 80s with no stop go? To me the 70s had a lot of stuff goin' down; punk stuff, electronic stuff like Suicide started.”


“Rock'n'roll, if you're doin' it right, it's a painful experience, a hard-working, painful experience. You're giving out 150% and getting back zero just about. You spend years doing it and your body's just giving and giving and nothing's coming back in and you end up drinking and drugging. You don't mean to self-destruct but you gotta keep up that intensity level to do it right. That's what early rock'n'roll was: Elvis, Jerry Lee – didya ever see those guys play? Just look at them shaking. And early Elvis – spastic, totally, the guy couldn't stop twitchin'. Buddy Holly, it was in his voice.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“But you gotta hang in there, it's a longevity trip, man, you gotta outlive it, 'cause they really want to see you dead, they're trying to always push out the authentic thing. You;re always a threat if you're doing something different ; if the business sees a whole school of other artists coming behind you, the business will take you in. If they just see you out there alone, the business wanna keep the business they know....and those business guys, you know how fast they move! You can be asleep a hundred years and come back and you'll still give shock to them. You gotta be out there so long that they finallly accept you.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“I did these (solo) albums and I went through this whole thing, man, because a lot of Suicide fans didn't like the rockabilly thing...I got this art thing happening. It's kinda like collages, trying to juxtapose different colours and stuff that shouldn't work together but if you work hard enough at it you can somehow manage to pull it off. There's a way of doin' it but it takes years of learning, beating your head against the wall, literally studying, you gotta be like a scholar y'know?”


Link to picture source (Japanese Forms) http://www.flickr.com/photos/japaneseforms/4589280388/
(with thanks and apologies for using uncredited)

“Theoretically, one word should say it all. Some day I'm gonna write a song – find a word that I can keep repeating all the way through because it would be that meaningful to me. I don't wanna get into the mantra thing, though, because when you're repeating a word they say, Oh, it's gotta be a mantra – they've accused me of that already because there's so few words in my songs and the titles are so brief – but the manta thing isn't what I'm going for at all man. It's just that some words are so beautiful as they are, say so much...like Suicide. There's certain names of groups, song titles, words...if you can get it down to that, man, that to me is pure poetry. Less is always more; look at the great old masters with their drawings. Picasso with one line – the whole person, persona, the soul in one line. Rembrandt; one line...it's the less trip, man, the less trip.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

"I think that the simpler you get, the more direct you get, and part of that energy you feel is because of the simplicity. It seems to go into overdrive, 'cause when you play simple you have to play that little bit harder to maintain the flow and a certain intensity comes in – it's not easy to hit that one note over and over again. You get into a flow you don't get with all this flimsy, rococo crap. Look – early Elvis, what did he have? Scotty Moore, one drum, a bass, his voice....but listen to the Sun sessions. It's like a Cadillac is coming driving through the walls...why? You tear it apart and say, this music shouldn't be doing what it's doing...but those guys are playing so simple and direct, and there's something about the snap in the wrist of the drummer”

Jeremy Gluck


Friday, 18 February 2011

Thurston Moore on Swell Maps

Thurston Moore (Marty Perez "Sonic Youth '88")

In 1989, Mute Records put out in America “Collision Time Revisited”, a compilation CD of the very best of Swell Maps. As you'll read below, Thurston Moore had been meant to write sleeve notes for “Train Out Of It” (not...”here”.....) which came out three years earlier in 1986, but failed to meet the deadline. He got it together though in good time for this release. What he actually wrote was somewhat edited before it appeared (almost illegible) on the back cover of the CD. Here's Thurston's original typed notes with the deleted sections circled in pencil by Epic.





Left: Unused artwork for unreleased US Swell Maps LP.
Right: Poster for March 1980 London gig at the Moonlight.








And I've transcribed the text in full as it appeared in Thurston's original........

in the punk rock 70's of nyc the name swell maps made about as much sense to me as blood pudding (still have to figure that shit out). especially being i was 18 and fresh off the farm. i mean i fucked girls, saw heartbreakers gigs, played in a band, lived in cheapo squalor etc...i also bought all the groovy p-rock singles. at the time that was what you did and in the usa, uk singles were the hot prop. the more obscure/off/confused/and abstract the better (the first scritti politti and raincoats, the absurd label, first human league and cabaret voltaire, the normal, tg's “united”, etc). the first swell maps singles (i bought for no reason cept what th' fuck) was “let's buy a car” which still to this day gives me a soul scorched buzz'n'rush. as soon as the nikki sudden gtr comes slicing slabbing and all out fuzzifying off the crackling indie vinyl groove you know yr gonna rock. this was important to a dickweed like me cuz the sensibility of the nyc creeps i was pubing with was towards the no wave trip (and if you don't know about no wave nyc 78/79 then..well, don't worry about it) which i of course totally flagwaved. except the desire for post-dolls fuzzbox trash was not progging along with the rest of the “game”. at least thats what i was wondering about. anyway along comes this swell maps 45 and its the best of both whirls: fist in the heart guitar burnin' rock and ahead-of-its-time songsmith awareness. and the singers name was jowe head ferchrissake (still is). so fuck, it was amazing, but you know, i didn't go crazy looking for info on the band or maniacally seek out other records or anything. though i did buy their other singles. “read about seymour”, their first was the only other I really liked. never bought the lps tho i considered it. too much money on import. i mean at the time, to me, swell maps were a weird and foreign thing. its like they were lyrically/musically doing things only the fall might understand. i dont fucking know..i mean i get it now.
these liner notes were gonna be on the “train out of here” comp but i procrastinated and epic asked me to do 'em for this reissue. i haven't heard the swell maps lps in 5-6 years. the guy upstairs from me has 'em. i'll go listen to 'em now. you'll know what i think cuz i'm..............thurston moore sonic youth..........and the swell maps had a lot to do with my upbringing.
i wish i saw them. ^E
           nyc 1987

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Woody Guthrie by Brian Young


Woody Guthrie

Another frequent contributor to What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen was Brian Young. In the 70's he played guitar and sang with Belfast's pride and joy, Rudi, and their single "Big Time" in 1978 was the first release on Good Vibrations. Another EP on Good Vibrations and two singles on the Paul Weller funded Jamming label later, in 1983 they'd split. Since then there's been Station Superheaven, The Tigersharks, The Roughnecks and currently The Sabrejets ("Revved Up Rockabilly From Belfast!").

We first met when I interviewed him in 1983 on Rudi's last tour (supporting The Jam) and stayed in touch through the life of WANWTTS when he wrote on Marc Bolan, Johnny Thunders, Prince and this cool introduction to Woody Guthrie which appeared in issue 2 in 1984.

Brian Young

This Machine Kills Fascists

“I hate a song that makes you think you're not any good. I hate a song that makes you think you are born to lose. Bound to lose. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or that. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard travelling. I am out to fight those kind of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood.”

Fine words indeed....but who said them?

If you guessed Joe Strummer, Paul Weller, Pete Townshend, John Lennon or any other self-proclaimed “spokesman for a generation”, you'd be wrong, and how!

The correct answer is one Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, and before you ask what kind of haircut he had or what label he's on, stop....'cause he's been dead almost twenty years and spoke these words decades earlier. If it's any help, he was better known as “Woody”, and if all that means to you is either a Bay City Roller, a cartoon woodpecker or an equally cartoon Rolling Stone, you've got one helluva lot of catching up to do....

Woody Guthrie was born in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912, strictly small-town USA. He grew up the hard way – his father's business went bust; three times the family's home was destroyed, once by a cyclone and twice by fire, in one of which his sister was burned to death. His mother was suspected of starting these fires, and was later institutionalised with Huntington's Chorea, a rare and particularly debilitating disease for which there is no cure and which rots both the brain and body from within, resulting in a slow, painful death...though not before she tried to set fire to her husband with a blazing oil lamp. As a result, he too was hospitalised, leaving Woody to fend for himself at 15. He lived rough, eating only when he could beg a few cents for a meal, in return for the pictures and cartoons he drew in the bars, saloons, pool halls and dives he frequented. He played the harmonica, constantly pumping out renditions of the ballads and songs that his family and friends had taught him, picking up new songs at every opportunity ....he soon found out that they paid better than cartoons, and it was only a matter of time before Woody got himself a guitar...taking his wide repertoire on the road, playing in the “barbers shops, at shine stands, in front of shows, around the pool halls...(he) rattled the bones, done jig dances, sang and played with negroes, indians, whites, farmers, town folks, truck drivers and with every kind of singer you can think of.”




But on his travels, Woody saw, heard and experienced things that sickened and outraged him. This was America entering the depression, and it soon became obvious that all was not rosy in the land of the free The Wall Street crash and the collapse of traditional farming in the dust bowls, sent families and whole regions off in search of work; once proud men, now humbled, begging and scraping to make even the most meagre of livings. Shanty towns sprang up anywhere work was rumoured but jobs were few and far between, and pay and conditions were appalling. Supply simply outstripped demand and if you didn't like it, you didn't work...somebody else would. Unscrupulous bosses could hire and fire at will, and any complaints meant you lost not only your job but often your teeth as well, as discipline was enforced by fist or bullet. The American dream had gone sour...

In this climate of discontent, Woody began to adapt the traditional songs he played, to reflect the hardship and deprivation he saw all around. “All you can write is what you see”. He played anywhere and everywhere, on street corners, in migrant camps, on radio and at union rallies. He sang the only way he knew – from the heart, wielding his guitar like a Tommy gun, spitting out defiant and proud lyrics of struggle, determination and hardship, reflecting the hopes and fears, trials and tribulations of those around him. Skinny, scruffy and unprepossessing, he sang in a rough raspy “ash can” voice, but with immeasurably more sincerity, warmth and emotion than a whole battalion of Hollywood crooners. After all who wants to hear about “the moon in June” or “Big Rock candy mountain” when you're homeless, jobless and your family haven't eaten in three days? Woody wrote thousands of songs, ballads, blues and even children's' songs, all laced with an inimitable candour, poignancy and compassion that belied their humble origins. Above all, he wrote songs of hope, pride and dignity even (and especially) in the face of the very greatest diversity.

“I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world. And if it's hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter how hard it's run you down and rolled over you, no matter what your colour, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and your work.”

Woody knew which side he was on - “I aint a communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life.” He scribbled “THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS” on his guitar, and when the war finally hit America, went off to war to prove it. After the war, he continued much as before, fighting injustice and inequality through his music, at every opportunity.

But by now, his incredibly turbulent private life was beginning to take its toll. (I won't dwell on this here, though it does make interesting reading – among his less savoury habits, he tended to abandon family and friends on the least pretext; he was often paralytically drunk and he even went to prison for writing some particularly obscene letters....I never said he was a saint!) and after several major domestic upheavals, Woody was finally shattered that he had inherited Huntington's Chorea from his mother.

Ironically, during the last few years of his life, America suddenly “discovered” Woody Guthrie, and he achieved a widespread popularity as he lay paralysed and useless; he was suddenly hip, and too old and too ill to do anything about it. Intellectual America flocked to his bedside, and hordes of young men followed his angered suit, usually ripping him off lock stock and cracker barrel, even down to his harmonica stand (Hi Bob) and setting in motion the folk boom in underground America of the sixties. Even this side of the Atlantic, Donovan adopted Woody's slogan, THIS MACHINE KILLS on his guitar; tellingly, he omitted FASCISTS....


In 1998, Billy Bragg and Wilco recorded an album, Mermaid Avenue, using lyrics written by
Woody Guthrie. This is one of the songs on that album.


Now, in 1984, the age of the micro chip, where nothing dates faster than yesterday's music, every word Woody wrote still holds true, and with the wheel about to turn full circle, as a new generation of angry young gravediggers turn to the past for their, er, inspiration...acoustic guitars and twopenny halfpenny “protest” songs at the ready, let's spare a thought for Woodrow Wilson Guthrie. Check out his back catalogue and smile, secure in the knowledge that regardless of the dictates of the media, of fashion or style, Woody Guthrie will always be with us, his guitar spitting fire and his words spraying bullets ready to rip the soft white underbelly, and send a shiver of fear down even the most complacent of spines, and the most sanctified of consciences....eat lead suckers!

Brian Young
Belfast 1984

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Pat Thomas grills Dennis Duck of The Dream Syndicate


Dennis Duck - Gothenberg, Sweden - November 1986
Photo by Christer Stromberg



Sitting on yet another article all these years, we got hold of its writer, Pat Thomas, to see if he was happy for us to run it. Not only did he comply with our request, he volunteered to update it, making the whole thing that much more valid now that it's some 23 years since it was originally prepared. There's definitely some good folk out there and Pat's one of them.

From 1983 to 1987, Pat himself was drummer with Absolute Grey, during which time they released two albums, "Green House" and "What Remains". He rejoined in 1989 for another studio album, "Sand Down The Moon" and a live album "A Journey Through The Past" was also released before the band folded in 1990. A solo album on his own Heyday label, "It's A Long, Long Way To Omaha, Nebraska" came out in 1989 and a number of others followed including, in 1995, "Fresh" which also featured The Dream Syndicate's Steve Wynn (and Green On Red's Chris Cacavas).

Since 1997 he's been pecussionist and band-leader of "psychedelic post-jazz collective" Mushroom who've released some 10 albums, most recently 2010's "Naked, Stoned And Stabbed".

Photo - Pat Thomas
                                                    
                                                                                                                                                                                                    
For the life of me, I can’t remember where or when I did this interview with Dennis Duck. It may have been when I visited Los Angeles in the summer of 1987, which would make sense, as I spent an afternoon at Dennis’ house and we must have talked about something! At that point in my life, the Dream Syndicate was not only my favourite band, but had been an integral part of my life. Steve Wynn was becoming a close friend and musical confident. We’d exchange tapes of each other’s latest recordings and critique each other’s work. Some 20 yrs later and we still do that! Over the years, with the exception of Karl, I got to know everyone in the Syndicate pretty well – countless hours hanging out in dressing rooms with Steve, Dennis, Mark Walton and Paul Cutler. Kendra Smith and I still keep in touch from time to time as well. Anyway, this interview was due to be published about 20+ yrs ago by Chris Seventeen, but he got a little side-tracked! When he dug it up recently, he and I agreed that we’re run as it was – with all the original content included. However, I thought it would be interesting to treat this as a ‘reissue’ and I’d make additional comments in places. When I do, these appear in italics.


"Besides Steve Wynn, Dennis Duck is the only other original member left in the Dream Syndicate. I decided it was time to take some of the focus away from Steve and allow Dennis to speak his piece. Dennis has a long musical history that begins long before the Dream Syndicate: Human Hands, Dodoettes and the LA Free Musician Society – to name but a few. Here we focussed on Dennis' involvement with the Dream Syndicate – for those who want to check out his earlier stuff, grab a copy of Nigel Cross's interview with him in the John Coltrane Stereo News fanzine. At the end of our talk, Dennis speaks of one of his fave current LA bands, the Need: shortly afterwards, they changed their name to Divine Weeks and released an album on Steve Wynn's Down There record label, with Dennis sitting in on drums. The Dream Syndicate recently recorded some new demos produced by Vitus Matare, with Green On Red's Chris Cacavas helping him out on piano and organ. A new album is expected in Spring/Summer 1988.

Interestingly, those demos I mention above did not get released as the ‘new’ Dream Syndicate album at the time, but came out a couple of years later, when Steve Wynn and I decided to release them on CD and LP with the title “Three and a half” on the German label Normal Records. I got to see Divine Weeks play live while I was in LA visiting with Dennis, by then they had found a permanent drummer – and the thing I remember about that gig was – for the encore, the band played a Tommy medley – sounding just like The Who circa about 1972 when they band had cut the entire opera down to about a 15 minute thing.

PT – How did you come up with the name “The Dream Syndicate”? Are you a John Cale fan?

DD – When I joined the band in December of 1981, it had not yet been officially named. Steve thought we might call it “15 Minutes” after his self-produced single of the same name . Personally, I felt that was a little weak for a band with such a unique sound, so I began searching books and records for a name that would somehow reflect the sound of the band in words, as well as one that would look good in print and inspire curiosity. I found it on an album by Tony Conrad, who, as well as being a film-maker, used to play with a German group called Faust. His album was called “Outside The Dream Syndicate” because he'd formerly been in a group of that name, along with Lamonte Young and John Cale. When I saw those words on the record cover, a bell rang inside my head, and I knew that was the name for this band. At first the rest of the band was reluctant, but we soon all agreed that it was right for us. I remember telling some of my friends the name we'd chosen; several advised me to change it, and I think most people at least thought it rather strange. At this time, remember, there was no such thing as the “psychedelic revival” or “paisley underground”. No one other than record collectors were talking about'60's music, and there were no bands around with names like that, so I guessed it might stand out from the rest. Most bands in Los Angeles at that time had short sophisticated names, rather than long, cryptic ones. Since the songs were long and somewhat cryptic, that seemed like the right thing. Yes, I am a John Cale fan; I especially love “Paris 1919”, “Fear” and “Helen Of Troy”.



I also liked Lamonte Young although I haven't really heard anything about him in10 years or so. People might be interested to know that he was one of the first minimalist composers, and exercised a tremendous influence on such artists as Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, some, or all of whom, I believe have studied under him.

At the time, Tony Conrad and Faust didn’t mean shit to me, now I’m a major fan of both! With my band Mushroom, I got the chance in 1999 to play with Faust and in 2001, Mushroom got to collaborate with Faust on a studio project.

PT – Is it true the band originally formed to play Rolling Stones covers?

DD - Steve and Karl got together because they loved to jam with each other on guitar. They'd start playing, one playing rhythm, the other taking the lead, and they'd trade back and forth. He important thing was the sound of the two guitars crashing up against each other, and since there was essentially no structure other than the rhythm, they took full advantage of this freedom, to let the music go in whatever direction seemed interesting at the time. I know they talked about doing all sorts of things musically, but I think their hearts were always rooted in spontaneity and sonic exhilaration. The Rolling Stones idea was just a way to make money at frat parties. It never actually happened, and my guess is that it wouldn't have lasted more than one night, if that. In any event, by the time I showed up, Steve had written about half a dozen originals that ended up on the first EP and the first album. The main reason I joined the band was because I thought Steve's songs were quite special. As a performer, he possessed a certain assured naivete that one rarely sees in singers these days. I believed, and still do, that I had met a person of raw, intuitive genius. That's what fascinated me about the band. If I'd walked into a rehearsal session for Stones covers, I'd have walked right out again.

PT – What is your favourite line-up or period of the band?

DD – I have two favourite periods of the band actually, and each for different reasons. The first line-up with Karl and Kendra was incredible. I honestly thought at that time that it was one of the best and most unusual bands around. I always said I was the biggest DS fan, and that if I wasn't in the band, I'd be in the audience at every show.. For about a year, I listened to nothing but tapes of our shows and rehearsals – I couldn't get enough. I must have driven a few of my friends crazy at the time, as the band was about all I ever talked of. I've always liked, even loved, the bands I'd been in previously, but this feeling, this obsession was new to me. It was a bit like being in love with someone. When Kendra left, it was such a shock – a disaster. I knew she'd been thinking about it for a few months before she left, and I'd tried to talk her out of it, but when Steve called one day and said she'd quit, I couldn't believe it. Now I understand that it was the best thing for her. She was looking for a kind of music we weren't doing, and I don't think she felt confident about contributing to the band. Her departure closed a unique chapter in the band, one that will never be repeated. What we lacked in musical ability, we made up for in sheer audacity and the willingness to take chances n stage every night, in front of people. Some of it was boring, but boy, some of it was amazing too! After Kendra left, David Prevost joined on bass, we spent 6 months recording “Medicine Show”, toured America with a keyboard player, toured Europe and Japan as a four piece, and split up. I now see that period as a test of determination; I don't think any one of us was completely satisfied with what we were doing, each for his own reason, I guess. I loved the songs, but missed the spontaneity and aggression of the old band. When Paul (Cutler) joined, some of that was re-gained. But he also brought with him a discipline and consistency that Karl didn't have, as well as a keen sense of melody. These attributes, together with Mark (Walton)'s gutsier bass playing have given the band new life. So this is definitely my favourite other period. Most of the bombastic jams have gone, but the group is more musical than ever now, and I think Steve's song writing and singing are more assured than ever. This is beginning to sound like a review! I only mean to tell you why I love this phase of the band so much.




PT – Why did the band leave A & M?

DD – When the band reformed with Paul, A & M wanted to hear some of the new songs and sent us into the studio to make some demos. In the space of one day we recorded five songs and handed them over to the label. Apparently they weren't satisfied with what they heard, and asked us to let them know when we had some more new songs. A few months later we went back into the studio with Greg Edwards (John Cougar's engineer) to do demos of more new songs. They weren't thrilled with these either, but finally sent us into the studio to record three songs for the album, with Greg Edwards producing. We did “Now I Ride Alone”, “Out Of The Grey” and “Blood Money”, and A & M said theses weren't quite what they were looking for. They kept talking about something called “The Next Step” which, if you're walking down the gangplank, as we felt we were, is not necessarily something you feel good about. It finally came down to the fact that we'd spent the better part of a year not making a record, so we asked A & M to let us make the record we wanted or let us find someone who would. They chose the latter, which was, in some ways, quite generous of them, since it involved erasing a sizeable debt.

PT – Was leaving A & M the reason the new album was released in June 1986 and not earlier?

DD – That was part of it. Also, working out the details of the agreement with Big Time took longer than we'd hoped. By the time the album was finished, we were all in a hurry to get it out. In retrospect, we should have waited until August to release it. Summer is a bad time to release a record because colleges are out until September, which makes touring difficult for a band like us. I'd expect the new album to be out during August.

PT – How do you feel about the “Out Of The Grey” album?

DD- I am very happy with it, though since it was recorded, the band has toured for 4 months in Europe and America, and consequently sharpened and solidified its sound. I think it would sound quite different if we recorded it now. But it's done , and I like it a lot. My favourites are “Boston”, “50 In A 25 Zone”, “Now I Ride Alone”, “Dying Embers” and “Drinking Problem” which is only on the cassette and CD (and on continental European copies of the record – Ed) Naturally we always look back and say “I wish we'd done that differently”. I can't wait to see how the next one sounds – should be pretty different.




Drinking Problem” was released around that time (1986-1987) as part of an EP of other unreleased Out of the Grey era songs – later on (early 1990’s) when I reissued “Out of the Grey” on CD for Normal Records, I added on those EP songs as bonus tracks.

PT – Who are some of the drumming influences?

DD – My all time favourite rock'n'roll drummer has got to be Charlie Watts. You can't beat him for simplicity, looseness and spontaneity. He always sounds like he means it when he does a fill, or hits a cymbal, and his playing has real personality; a real, human feel, almost sloppy, kind of behind the beat sometimes, but always right. Even when he's playing against, or with, a drum machine, as in the later Stones records, he manages to make it sound like Charlie Watts. I also like Stewart Copeland quite a bit. Unlike Charlie he is very precise, seamless. He has a marvellous sense of tone colour and an incredibly delicate use of space, especially on the “Synchronicity” album, where his work on songs like “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and “King Of Pain” is exceptional. And unlike other drummers with an arsenal of drums and gadgets, he knows when not to play. I also have a great deal of respect for Chris Franz. His strengths are economy and steadiness, playing just enough to punch the song through, but never showing off or trying to be noticed, true also of the other band members too. As for jazz drummers, you can't beat Max Roach. He's one of the very few drummers who play melodically as well as rhythmically. I have an album of his that is just drum solos, and you would not believe how beautiful they are. Not many people could do an album of drum solos and not bore you by the second cut. The drums themselves have a warm rich sound that reflects the care and love he puts into his playing.



I must also mention the first jazz drummer I ever listened to, Tony Williams. His work on the Miles Davis albums in the 60's was ground breaking. The only other drummer I've heard who even come close to Williams is Jeffrey Watts in the Wynton Marsalis band. And I should also mention Elvin Jones who always tried to give Coltrane a run for his money.

As a follow drummer, I love that fact that Dennis is NOT too cool to mention Stewart Copeland, who is often considered un-hip because of his membership in the Police (not because he was in Curved Air !?!) It took me another couple of years past this interview to discuss the magic of Tony Williams.

PT – How did you get into playing drums?

DD – I always loved music, and really started out with The Beatles. I thought they were magic, almost gods, in a sense. From that time on, I always dreamed about being in a band. I learned to play trumpet in the Fourth Grade and always assumed I'd be like Herb Alpert, who was my musical hero at that time. By 1973, I'd long since lost interest in the trumpet. It certainly didn't have much to do with rock'n'roll anyway. I did try to teach myself guitar for a while, and probably imagined I'd be a guitarist some day. One day I happened to be at a friend's house with some other guys. One of them had a cheap electric guitar which was plugged into his stereo amplifier. Another had an acoustic guitar with all the strings missing, save the lowest string, so he played bass. I grabbed some pencils and arranged some cans, boxes and a metal lamp shade – a cymbal, I guess – in front of me, and we just played. I really loved it, but didn't think too much about it until a few days later when I saw an ad in the paper for a used drum kit. Since most of my friends were guitarists and none were drummers, I reasoned that at least as a drummer I'd be more in demand, which is still true even now. I immediately drove to the address and bought the drums. The next day I set them up in the living room, and, along with a friend who'd just bought an electric bass and amp, tried to play our favourite song, which at that time happened to be “Brontosaurus” by The Move. My mother did not like the idea, and I had to hide the drums from my step father who would have been furious. He wanted me to go into business.




PT – Are you a big jazz fan? What music do you listen to? Did you spend a lot of time listening to Crazy Horse and the Velvets?

DD – It's true, I love jazz, especially from the 60's; Coltrane, Art Ensemble Of Chicago (who are still great), Dolphy, Coleman, Sun Ra. There was a time in the 70's when there wasn't much good rock music coming out, so I bought mostly jazz records. There are fewer people that I like in jazz now. Marsalis is very good, Miles is still very good. My listening habits have changed over the years. It used to be that once I got into a band, I'd get all their records. Now I have very little faith in bands as such, with a few exceptions, such as REM and Green On Red. Most bands don't have a strong identity, or if they do, it's manufactured, affected rather than genuine. It is true that I didn't spend a lot of time listening to Crazy Horse before joining the band. I liked CSNY but always thought Neil Young was a lousy singer on his own. It was quite a shock to find that my new band mates considered him a hero of sorts. Steve played me records by him and Credence, who I really didn't like, that made me realise how great these people really are, or were, and how much good music I had missed. At that time, I was really into European groups like Can, Amon Duul, Kraftwerk, Neu and Faust; and since our songs were long and kind of mysterious, I approached them on a kind of trance level. It really doesn't show in the music; I suppose it comes down to the frame of mind I was in.

Dennis was way ahead of his time with his love of Krautrock! It took the rest of us at least another decade to catch up! Along with the Dream Syndicate, my other fave band of the era was Green On Red as well. Although I started to lose faith in them when Chris Cacavas and Jack Waterson left.

PT – What are some of the bands that you've seen or heard that have caught your attention?

DD – As I said before, there aren't many I have faith in. Bands make good and bad albums. I try to find the good ones and avoid the bad ones. I think Green On Red are my favourite band right now.



They just keep getting better and better. “Let It Be” by The Replacements was great. I heard Volcano Suns in New York and liked them. There's an LA band called The Need who are pretty good. Of course REM are wonderful. Phranc the folk-singer is good. There's another LA band called The Romans who have a record out on Down There. I'm afraid I don't make a great effort to keep up on new bands sometimes. I rely on friends to keep me up to date. I have a 4 month old daughter who loves music. If a record's good, she stops crying and her eyes light up. I hope she likes our next album!"


Pat Thomas
on America’s west coast waiting, February 2011


As an extra to the articles and interviews folks wrote for us back in 1987, we also asked for their top tens. Here is Pat's.

Pat Thomas 1987 Top Ten

Originally my Top Ten list had no comments, I thought it would be fun to now make a couple of comments about these and what I think about them in 2011.

Russ Tolman – Glory Holes & Totem Poles
Still one of the best things Russ Tolman ever did – very raw and loose, which is just how I like Russ

Barbara Manning – demo tape
This demo tape with some additional songs and remixing became Barbara Manning’s album “Scissors” which I released on my Heyday Records label – still one of the best LPs of the 1980’s.

Brad Bradberry – Keep Passing The Open Window
This was a cassette only release – Brad passed away several years ago, a pretty decent singer/songwriter from Northern California with great musical taste. I miss talking to him.

Steve Wynn – KCRW Radio broadcast (w. CC, Mark Walton and Robert Lloyd)
If I’m not mistaken, when I produced and compiled the reissue of the Dream Syndicate’s “Ghost Stories” album on CD for Rykodisc several years ago, I included a song or two from this radio session, I still love it.

Tim Hardin – Best Of
I’m still waiting for Tim to be rediscovered by the 20 year olds with beards I see walking the streets.

Sandy Denny – Who Knows Where The Time Goes (boxset)
Nick Drake – Fruit Tree (boxset)
Sandy and Nick – what more can I say, except that even back in 1987, Nick wasn’t nearly as famous then as he is now – this is pre-Volkswagen TV commercial!

Eddie Ray Porter – When The Morning Falls
Wonderful lead guitar playing by Chuck Prophet on every song. Sort of a cross between Green on Red and Bruce Springsteen by way of Van Morrison in terms of singer/songwriter stuff. Eddie was wonderful, he died about 2 yrs ago and many of us were bummed out when that happened. Impossible to find on CD, but there’s still some vinyl floating around – seek it out.

John Martyn – London Conversation
Another man done gone. I miss him too – even though I never met him.

The Silos – About Her Steps
A couple of years later, Walter Salas Humara and I became pals and I jammed with him a couple of times and got drunk in some German restaurants with him as well. He wouldn’t like me saying this, but I wish he’d kept Bob Rupe in the band. I recently dug this LP out after many years of not listening to it – it still holds up.


And to finish, here's Pat's first band, Absolute Grey doing a Dream Syndicate song, "Tell Me When It's Over".

Friday, 11 February 2011

Epic Soundtracks by Peter Paphides



Not strictly a WANWTTS outtake (not at all one to be honest) here's a strange little article that appeared in the now defunct weekly music magazine Melody Maker on October 31st 1992. Epic didn't get a lot of press in the UK so this was a rare joy, yet you'd read the first 100 or so words and not realise that Paphides is effectively raving about Epic's very first solo album "Rise Above". Peter Paphides went on to be music critic for The Times, a job he resigned from towards the end of 2010, and currently writes for Mojo amongst others.

I'm running it as a prelude to the soon to be released 2CD set "Wild Smile", a CD of Epic Soundtracks' best songs and a CD of rare and unreleased songs. This will be on Easy Action Records and should appear in the Spring of 2011.

Thanks to Andy Bean for sending me this.

Little Big Music

Post-punk pioneer with Swell Maps, EPIC SOUNDTRACKS has taken 14 years to release a solo album. It's out now, complete with guest appearances by Sonic Youth and J Mascis, and it's cracking.
Peter Paphides reports

“I remember everything I say, right?”
“Sorry.”
“No it's just that I've been misquoted before.”
“Oh.”
“The thing is I'm having this affair with HRH The Princess Of Wales and she doesn't mind if I tell all, so long as you don't publish the bit about the orgies with Princess Anne, Fergie, Mother Teresa and Steve Sutherland”

Actually someone just added that bit while I was out of the office. In our pleasant Notting Hill coffee house rendezvous, Epic, so wary of being misrepresented, said barely anything worth quoting, let alone misquoting. What did transpire though, is here's a somewhat nervous man who'd been milling about on the periphery for longer than the Labour Party, who seems so surprised at being finally allowed to make a solo record, that he thinks someone's going to find him out and bar him from making another.

Fat chance. “Rise Above” is a work of pensive autumnal fragility and of such high quality, that it would be a monumental injustice to halt the fresh flow of Epic's muse. After nearly two decades as drummer for These Immortal Souls, Swell Maps and Nikki Sudden, a trip to New York in order to help out his old muckers Sonic Youth, led to Lee Ranaldo enquiring whether Epic had written anything they might return the favour on. Take it away, Epic
.
“Well, I showed them a bit of a song I'd written, and Kim (Gordon) asked me if I had a lot more songs like this, so I said yes, which was sort of...a lie. But Lee Ranaldo encouraged me to sing a bit more, and as I got more confident I wrote some songs and my voice improved.”
Strange that you should have ignored such an obvious talent for a really sweet melody for so long. “I wish I'd done it before now, but in a way it's what everything I've done has led up to. I'm into melodies. More people should be. I mean you might as well write a melody if you're gonna write a song.”



It only takes a cursory hearing of “Rise Above” to see that it's packed with that attitude. No song more so than the dazed grandeur of “She Sleeps Alone”.
“That's one of my favourites. It's just about a girl who's really attractive, intelligent and popular, but wants to be accepted for what she is, and the loneliness that comes with that. That one's not about anyone, but most of the songs are very personal. Sometimes I think, “My God! Am I really gonna put that out!” But in ten years time I'll be glad I let those feelings out."

“Rise Above” boasts a stellar list of guests, from the drumming talents of J Mascis, to Rowland S Howard helping out with guitars. It's emboldened by the inspired string arrangements of Primal Scream's Henry Olsen and the sly appropriation of the typography of The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” on the sleeve. Between you and me, Epic's realised that there's no feeling in the world like recording your own songs. He wants to make lots more, but he's scared that we will ignore this one.

We wouldn't do that, would we folks?

Peter Paphides
Melody Maker
October 31st 1992


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Brian Wilson by Jeremy Gluck - "Y'know what I mean? I'm a crazy person, I'm really crazy. I dunno...."


Another piece we'd got lined up for the never to appear issue 7 of WANWTTS, and it's the second offering from our good friend Jeremy Gluck.

It's 1988, Brian Wilson had just launched his solo career with the release of the eponymous “Brian Wilson” album, and Jeremy Gluck gets to interview him - “without doubt the apex of my journalistic career” - spending several hours in his company. Some of the interview appeared in the Guardian (entitled “Good And Bad Vibrations”), some in Sounds, but there is a whole chunk that hasn't seen the light of day in the subsequent 23 years, until now.

                                           
Jeremy Gluck

Their lengthy dialogue provides plenty of evidence of Brian's confused state of mind and his then almost total dependence on Dr Eugene Landy. With the benefit of hindsight of course we now know that accusations against Landy of brainwashing, drugging and isolating his patient, then benefiting from an improper business relationship with him, ultimately cost Landy his professional license and reputation and in 1992 he was barred by court order from contacting Wilson. But all this was in the future.

The “Brian Wilson” album was critically well received but didn't sell in any great numbers, and a second Eugene Landy helmed album, “Sweet Insanity” was rejected in 1991 by Sire Records and was never released. It wasn't until 1995 that Brian got busy again with his non Beach Boys career.

Brian Wilson Interviewed By Jeremy Gluck

(Note: The content of this feature is based on the assumption that the reader is, like the author, a Brian Wilson devotee. It may read rather oddly in parts; I've included some material that is rather oblique, but gives an indication of Wilson's persona. Interviewing Wilson is an unusual challenge; bear with my self-indulgence.)

To his die-hard fans, Brian Wilson is indisputably the greatest “pop genius” of them all, and they are few. If you believe – as I do – that “Pet Sounds” is the greatest pop LP and that the Beach Boys are the summit of American pop (just as The Stooges are the summit of American punk), then you'll understand how exciting the prospect of actually meeting Wilson is.

Last October Wilson was in Ibiza to shoot a segment for a European satellite TV special. I missed the shoot, but was reliably informed later that he had difficulty facing the cameras and had been sick from nerves. Wilson has, after all, been diagnosed as “pathologically shy”.

I met Wilson the next day. His party- including Dr Landy, Landy's mother-in-law and his two personal assistants Chris and Kevin – occupied one wing of an exclusive private hotel in a small village about 15 miles north of Ibiza. When I arrived, in the mid-afternoon, Wilson was idly reclining on a couch. Kevin introduced me.

Wilson was cagey at the outset. He's fit, but also looks his age, 46. He extended his hand mechanically and asked me to “sit on my good side”. (Wilson has long suffered from a painful hearing loss in one ear). His eyes were a little narrowed and he was fairly still as we started; he stroked a cushion periodically, as a child would for comfort.

I asked Wilson several questions that weren't recorded; he affirmed that the “Smile” tapes would be remixed and released ASAP; he said that “Little Children” drew on “Da-Doo-Ron-Ron” for its structure and melody, beating on the cushion to show me how alike they are.

I began by asking Wilson about what he means by referring – as he does in Rolling Stone – to the “spirituality” of his music. His answer was off-centre but nonetheless interesting

BW - “You see: I've had a lot of practice, not just playing the piano. I've had practice interviewing and playing and a lot of practice with keyboards. I'm very familiar with what keys I need to play in and all that....now, instead of having to accept what you just did with a band in 3 hours, I can't see going back to the old way when this new way works so well. It's tempting to get a group spirit thing with a nice sound going in a studio, but it's so much better to do it the tried and proven (i.e. modern) method. (At this point Wilson explains laying down the tracks, making the appropriate sounds of the instruments). It's not that funny working this way, interpreting what I do, I look back and see what I'm doin', and I see what I'm trying to do and I think I'm doing really well at it. You don't have to think in terms of perfectionism; just do what you do and it's right, even when you don't think it's right, it's perfect.

JG - It's the creative mystery I suppose.

BW – Yes, yeah.

JG – What are you favourite Beach Boys songs?

BW - “Good Vibrations”, “California Girls”....”Do It Again”...

(Midway through the next set of questions – not included here as used elsewhere - Wilson suddenly stops and says “Wait, I've got a stomach ache” and tilts his head back, raises two fingers and apparently concentrates. A moment later his eyes open and he says “OK”, smiling. Not for the first or last time in this lengthy interview, I'm startled and incredulous that I'm actually with Wilson and that he's so....weird.)

JG - “Brian Wilson” seems to represent an “act of faith” in yourself and the business and your own creative process. You'd have to have a lot of faith of a kind to make the music you have.

                          
"Brian Wilson" Album 1988

BW – Yeah. I keep referring back to the bigger picture; learning to get an overall feeling for something is very important in life for me. The business I'm in calls for a lot of overview...I have risen to a personal gift that I can understand other people liking, but not ridiculing me for it. I'm not in business for someone to tell me that I'm just a fuckin' bastard - as a matter of fact I would take a punch at someone who did – I wouldn't start a fight, but I would take a punch. And I don't like people telling me I'm all fucked up and I don't really know what's going down in the world – to heck with that! But I will say this; I do love people. And my music through the years was a great deal of hell for me, to get into those songs out to the public and it was a great deal of discomfort to go through. I had to hang on like all hell for a few years there.

But lemme tell you; no pain, no gain. When you're doing it you don't want someone to remind you that there's no pain,no gain....but later on, after I'm through doing my pain and I'm actively productive again, then I'll be glad to sit down and think yeah, right, I did have to go through that to rise to this sort of personal power.

For that reason alone there are people that wouldn't buy Beach Boys records because they don't think the Beach Boys stand for anything that's happening now. I can't argue with the fact that someone might get punched in the nose (? - JG)....if somebody punched me in the nose and broke it, it would anger me to all hell. I might slow down for a month or two and not wanna do anything, or just call people bastards or whatever; that's just going on inside my head – what's going on outside my head is a lot of people saying “C'mon Brian, let's get a hit record, you can do it” and there's people saying “Fuck you Brian Wilson, you aint happening, it aint you, it's not your scene”. I've gotta contend with that all the time, y'know?

When I went into the studio with Steve Levine, he started cryin' because Al Jardine told him he was a washed-up little punk...I felt terrible. I said “Is there anything I can do to make it better?” He said, “No, Jardine has destroyed me!”. Finally, an hour later, he walked back in, Al apologised, Steve stopped crying – it was unbelievable. But noting's so bad that you're not going to go back into the studio and work...and he got in there and got a couple of good songs on there and everything was cool – except for that fuckin' Al Jardine screwing him up!

See, Al was feeling bad that day. Al feels bad sometimes, feels like life is a rip-off and he doesn't get to sing enough leads on the Beach Boys records. So you can imagine how much the guy has built up inside of him; so he lashed out at Steve Levine.

JG – With a gift like yours you can also frighten people, make them jealous, so they want to et back at you.

BW – That's happened to me! What happened was some of the guys work for – (laughs) excuse me, some of the guys who work for me and Gene (Dr Gene Landy, Wilson's manager/doctor/guru) – I got into a bag where I exercised quite a bit of creativity with people and it backfired. It was more difficult to be with somebody. I said what the hell is happening here I have set myself up to be somebody whose attitude to life – which was so precious to me, that I was a genius – what is this shit? Ah, it was nothin', it was just that I should've been all my life but wasn't....all my life I was missing a screw in my head 'cause I wasn't eating healthily. So the people around me were saying, Brian, don't eat steak and sugar....until I was converted to being a good healthy food eater. I couldn't handle where I was at that time – I went berserk and hid in my bedroom...there's a lot of personal questions I can't answer, that I can't go too deeply into what occurred in my life about....I can't do it, it's hell for me to have to go from the healthy foods to all the stuff I deal with, with my friends, the people I live with. It's too difficult. So I steer clear of it – that's how I do it.

Landy and Wilson

JG – In view of your use of the word spiritual and its relevance to your music, do you believe in God? Are you religious in that sense?

BW – I never was....uh, I had what is called a “toehold”. I got that from a book called “A Toehold On Zen”. I learned from that book and from people who had a toehold on...say somebody had a grasp on life, a good grasp – they ought to be able to transfer that over to another thing. That's what happened with me; I got good with a great many things in my life. Business, music and sports....I'm a good athlete – I can play racket ball and basketball with the heavies, with the young people. I'm co-ordinated. I've got a grasp on music, sports....life

(A long interlude of questioning and counter-questioning followed. At one point Brian briefly interviewed me! A fragmentary account of the subjects we discussed follows.)

JG – In the future, might you take the “Rio Grande” idea that much further and do a whole album of suites, experimental and/or instrumental music?

BW – That depends on Gene Landy; he's kinda an educator and director all in one. It would be a little rough to speculate on what's going to happen in the future because....I can't. I refuse to turn my world of reality over to someone else and then say, that's what it is; I can't do that (Confused? I was....JG). I can't be myself and see another person at the same time; I'm too petty and I get real fussy – to the point where I can't deal with somebody I would consider being that great.

Say we all look up to somebody or something. Well, I can't sit around and look up to a person too much. I just do my thing and be myself. But at the same time I guess I have this thing for someone.

JG – How do you feel about people who look up to you?

BW – I try to be something that I can. I really don't take it too seriously – who looks up to me or not – y'know, because I'm afraid that if I did I might just take a tumble to the bottom of the barrel. I'm real scared about being left in the dust and I don't want somebody to leave me in the dust to figure the whole thing out. I'd do it, but I'd be angry, envious and lonely. I'd say fuck that shit; am I really going to be that dependent on my environment? I'd say, fuck it, I won't be.

Like, say I had a God I looked up to. Right away I'd be discouraged. I could never do what that person can. Nah, let's go onto the next question. I think I answered that one...

JG - Many performers talk about their responsibility to their audience. Do you feel that way?

BW – No, not really. I think that's something that comes naturally. I don't think too much about that word “responsibility”; I can accept and work with my responsibility.

But, like I said, it would be a drag to look up to somebody who was too great for me to handle. It would be a drag because I'd never get to their place...if that person disappeared I'd say, wow, a whole lot has been lifted off my chest! (Laughs) I'd go through that...it's not really funny. It's not a joke what goes on in one's mind when they consider all thy have to face up to, right? Gee, I dunno....that's another subject I could talk for hours about...

(Wilson and I got to talking about the '60's versus the '80's and he was saying how, in the '60's, he had a “gut feeling” for a hit that was infallible. I asked if “Good Vibrations” was an example.)

BW – Yes, that is a good example.

JG – Somebody told me that you conceived of “Good Vibrations” and had it planned completely in one night. Is that so?

BW – Well it all sorta happened....uh, I can't remember....I think my mother told me about vibrations when I was a kid. She said that dogs bark at some people but don't bark at others because they pick up vibrations from people. So I remembered that one time and just added the “good”, and therefore we had “Good Vibrations”, a number one. But, no, it was rough to make though; six weeks, four studios; it was an adventure. I was very proud of myself for that one.



JG – Could you tell me about the song you wrote for Frank Sinatra?

BW – It didn't happen. I sent it to him through his right-hand man. He swore up and down that, Frank would like it but I never got word. It's not a fight, though, to see if you can get a song goin'' ....it's not a fight at all. What it is is a good clean-cut argument, a word debate. You get in the word debates with people , but you learn from them.

Go off on tangents, word debate tangents, and I suffer from it y'know....why don't I know when to quit, to just leave it alone, turn the page...and I think I let myself down. But that's because there's so many options in life as to how to cut a record.

“Good Vibrations” isn't a good example of just goin' into a studio and cutting a hit – it was a long drawn out process. The point I'm making is, when you run into a studio to cut a record, as opposed to walking in...if you walk in to cut a hit you probably won't get it....but if you run in you could get it. So, my formula would be to run into the studio, take your jacket off, throw it on the floor – or hang it up – and say OK, and just go in there and cut it, cut straight ahead. Not worry about, oh, my mother might think this is too rowdy, or some people will put me down because I did something too heavy. I go through that a lot...I take my jacket off and, uh, let's see what do we do here? I got the song and arrangement, there's the session men out there – uh, cancel the session!

Y'know what I mean? I'm a crazy person, I'm really crazy. I dunno....

JG – Did you at some point, say around when you left behind surfing music and were beginning to get into the “Pet Sounds”/”Good Vibrations” period, sit up one day and think, Wow! I have to go this way? Did you feel yourself becoming more powerful as an artist...?

BW – Yeah, I did! Uh....let's see...well, let's talk about it from this standpoint. What are the four ingredients in a production? Songwriting, arranging, singing and producing. I can do all four of those things – so could Phil Spector. But there's a lot of people who don't really care if he ever releases another record; the world doesn't care. Like I said in “Melt Away”, “The world don't care what I can be”. It's really true, no one cares. When you're on top they'll smile and shake your hand but when you're on the bottom, they won't talk to you. You gotta go out there and do it all by yourself. Isn't that something?

A lot of the time you get caught up in these competitive bags and the way to overcome that is maybe to stomp your foot on the ground and yell, carry on...do something like that until you've got that song in you, y'know? When you got the song in you you know you can get the vocal.

JG – What are the most personal songs on “Brian Wilson”?

BW - “Melt Away”, “Love And Mercy”



JG – Do you consider yourself very much more sensitive than some people?

BW – Yeah, I do...with music especially.

(Brian asked me for my opinion as to which Beach Boy should sing lead on their next single! He tapped out a sample rhythm, which matched “Do It Again”, a song he'd mentioned earlier as a possible role model for a new rock/pop hybrid he would like to attempt. I suggested Carl, having been listening to “This Whole World” on the way to the interview. He said he'd think about it.)

And so concluded my interview. Brian is fascinating, enigmatic, some sort of split-personality high-energy field. He can be – as numerous other articles have attested – extraordinarily childlike. I'll never forget how, when he banged his leg coming into the room a at one point, he exclaimed like a twelve year old; he spoke in the same voice to Dr Landy when he showed up at the tail end of my visit.

I was lucky to have hit it off with Brian. I can see that he could be a very awkward man to be with if he took exception to you for some reason. I'll treasure forever meeting him, and certain moments will especially stick in my mind; how his hands trembled when he poured us out some mineral water; his odd chortles and exclamations when he would get excited; the peculiar facility he has for answering a different question than the one asked; his determination to go on making records; his apparent appreciation when I gave him a few Barracudas 45s, “Man, wow, you'll never know....”

Probably only Brian himself and possibly Dr Landy will ever know what really goes on – and went on – in the mind that made “Smile” and then went to bed, like Rip Van Winkle, for years – both figuratively and sometimes literally. Wilson says he has over 100 new/old songs demo'ed for future use. God only knows what gems there could be amongst them.

Jeremy Gluck.



A shaky performance of the "Brian Wilson" track "Night Time"