Independent Music Online interview with Pat Wilson - October 2006

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Interview with Pat Wilson

Contributed by Danyul Costin

Recently Independent Music Online had the opportunity to have an email discussion with Pat Wilson (of Weezer fame), the founder of The Special Goodness, one of today's most genuine bands in the scene. You can listen to one of the tracks from his most recent album “Land, Air, Sea”, released on Epitaph Records, in our music store NOW!

When and where did the idea to form The Special Goodness come from?

When Weezer first started, I would give completed music to the band and Rivers would sing on it. Then around the time of Pinkerton, I decided to try and sing on this music and that's when TSG started.

How did you come across your band mates?

Actually, on the Bunny record I played nearly everything with Tony Lash recording it. Since then I've tried to get my friends involved but usually it turns out badly! (laughs) Right now Atom Willard is playing with Angels and Airwaves so I think I'll probably go back to doing everything myself. It's hard to get people together in one band let alone two!

Do you record with your full band or do you do the studio sessions yourself?

I made a recording with Atom and Scott Shriner about 18 months ago but , through no fault of theirs I was pretty unhappy with it. So I'll probably just do everything myself.

What is your favorite part of the recording process?

I have a love/hate relationship with recording cuz I have a sound in my head and once you get rolling along you sort of see if you're going to achieve it or not. So probably being happy with the finished product is my favorite!

What are your feelings about live albums, do you foresee TSG doing anything such as that?

I think they can be great if it's a great performance and it's recorded well, and I'd love to have TSG together enough to do that.

Any plans for a US Tour soon?

Nah, no tour soon but I'm very excited about new songs.

How has the reception of your new works been in the US? Anything you would do differently and/or again?

People have been very cool. It's interesting, a lot of TSG fans aren't =w= fans which I think is cool.

Who have you toured with or would you like to?

Audioslave, Foo Fighters. I'd like to tour with anyone I like!

Stadiums, dive bars or ballroom type venues, which do you prefer and why?

Ballrooms are probably the best just because it's intimate enough and large enough for everyone.

What are some of your most prized ticket stubs? Who have you seen and really enjoyed?

I saw QOTSA last year when =w= was touring in Europe last year, I'm a big fan. Especially of the first cd that's out of print. It's seriously overlooked.

You offer two free downloads on your site, what is your stand on internet downloading?

Bob Dylan had an interesting take on this recently. He said today's music isn't worth anything anyway so what does it matter? Seriously, I think people the RIAA are worried about aren't music fans anyway. My view is people purchase bands they really like.

What has your experience been with mp3 sharing so far? Does it help with promotion and when does it get out of control?

Really, if you're a fan of a band then you will purchase products they make available for sale. Conversely, it's a bummer when you have to compete with free! So if no one buys things there will be less incentive to make stuff which may in fact purify the motives of artists! Regarding rock music, part of the experience is seeing them play so I don't think it hurts them as much.

It seems that TSG is something you are working on with a small effort from outsiders, what are the advantages and disadvantages to working with a full band vs. a "Do-It-Yourself" approach?

It's interesting that you ask this as I think about it quite a bit. At the end of the day all I'm really after is a recording that I want to listen to so with that in mind, how you get there is sort of secondary. Practically, you risk losing the energy of a group of people playing together especially if your not using computers to fix your mistakes. So a well rehearsed and capable group has the potential to get things done very quickly if your after their sound. Also, you may benefit from more than one brain working.

The downside is getting everyone physically together, focused and musically and artistically satisfied can be difficult. Often, there is a compromise on several fronts that may lead to a bland, committee-like result.

The "Do-it-Yourself" approach can work if you're disciplined. It takes longer because you have to figure out a lot of things like, "What exactly am I trying to accomplish at this point?" and "How will this decision affect future ones production-wise". I think if you treat it like the big job that it really is, you can use the extra time saved from not dealing with other people to your advantage. It takes a lot of mental effort, so it's best to take it slow and not expect a finished product right away.

You said before that a lot of the attention TSG gets is not from Weezer fans, what do you think makes the difference in this?

It's the personality behind the songs and playing that to me is the main difference. I'd say that =w= has been more successful in realizing it's intent but I'm happy to say I'm more pleased with my efforts of late.

When you started putting together songs for the Bunny record was there an effort made to block certain influences?

Ha ha! I didn't really have "songs" on that cd. I had a bunch of music and melodies and enthusiasm for playing and recording and trying to capture a general feeling rather than disciplined songwriting. But no, I was just very self indulgent.

With each record released by TSG, how has your writing style changed?

Bunny was having a subject but it was kind of divorced from the music. The lyrics and sentiment existed on their own and I would make them fit into whatever music I had. Land Air Sea was a little more together but still not what I really wanted. Now, I'm trying to marry the music with the subject of the song and I'm more strict about the arrangements. Trying to preserve what excites me about playing instruments without being wanky. Ideally, I won't be able to tell the song from the playing. So much of modern recording is a person telling you what they think/feel and the music acting like a placeholder or necessary evil. People have sort of forgotten how magical and mysterious music can be.

On the recording with Scott and Atom, in 2005, were there any particular tracks, from that session, that you feel may surface on a later album or on your site as downloads?

Probably not as I'm either trashing the songs or doing a complete rewrite.

What music were you listening to during that period vs. present day?

I had a mad QOTSA fetish that probably misinformed my goals! I love them but I can't be Josh. At that time I felt like rock energy was enough to get it done but it was unsatisfying. I've been digging Peter Murphy, Bauhaus, The Jam, Nick Drake, Led Zeppelin.

Your quote: "I think people the RIAA are worried about aren't music fans anyway." From a working musicians point of view, who are they worried about (other than themselves)?

They're worried about people who buy pop music.

Some artists write to an audience, others write compulsively and share with an audience, some are statement makers, others, such as Bob Dylan, think it trivial to be labeled as such. When you write are you catering to anyone or are you just writing songs?

I'm catering to me. I have a sound in my head that I want to hear and hopefully others will want to hear it too!

The equipment you use for TSG, does it differ from your =w= kit?

Nah, it's all the same stuff but I've been really getting into recording lately which I don't really do with =w=.

How does media exposure, or the lack of it effect your motivation if at all?

It's of course nice when people like what you're doing but really, I just want to make a recording that makes me happy and then share it with others.

What lead you to sign with your current label?

I really like Brett Gurewitz at Epitaph and I like they put out things they believe in.

Here at Independent Music Online we host many bands that are striving for label success, can you offer any words of encouragement, caution or just some good old advice?

Forget about big label success. If it comes, fine but it's a horrible business and it can break your spirit. To quote HST, " The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." Just make righteous music. Anyone can recognize it.

Patrick G. Wilson