Michigan Daily interview with Patrick Wilson - September 6, 2000

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Weezer Sneaks into Detroit for a Show; Chats About Future Plans

By David Enders

When Weezer played at St. Andrew's Hall Saturday night, it was part of a tour so underpublicized that neither the venue's website or www.pollstar.com had confirmed the concert before tickets sold out. But if the show came as a surprise to fans, it was almost as much as a surprise to band members.

"I would say no one anticipated anything happening until we got an offer from Japan saying come over and play the Fuji Festival, [in August] and it just kind of went from there," drummer Pat Wilson said before the show. "We played some kind of secret shows, some clubs in Bakersfield, (Calif.) and that turned into 'Hey, you want to come do eight shows on the Warped Tour?,' and that turned into 'Why don't we just keep going?'"

That's exactly what they did. The U.S. leg of the tour began in New York August 23 and is expected to end in California this month. It marks the end a nearly four-year absence from the music scene for the band, which last toured following the release of the their second album, Pinkerton, in 1996.

Saturday, it appeared the band had never left. Frontman Rivers Cuomo was unflappable: When was the last time you saw a shirt stay tucked in for the duration of a rock concert, let alone buttoned all the way to the collar? His trademark horn-rimmed Buddy Holly glasses look like they would be at home in your parent's high school yearbook. He doesn't stage-dive, and he almost never moved around except to get down on one knee and drive home a chord with a big overhand swing. He is dwarfed by the other band members. It's such a non-presence that it's a presence.

Wilson explained why the band was gone for so long.

"We lost a bass player and had to get a new one," he said. "Basically, we just took our time."

Former bassist Matt Sharp skipped the tour to work on a new album with his band The Rentals. But Wilson said he hasn't been permanently replaced by new bassist Mikey Welsh, Julianna Hatfield's former four-stringer.

"It still wasn't technically a split, I think Matt's still technically in the band. It's a classic case of he said we fired him and we said he quit. Unless we want to litigate, we're going to have to settle, and no one wants to litigate. Although I think we'd win, we have more money. That's what it comes down to, hire a big time litigator. Whatever. It's bullshit."

Wilson said the absence of Sharp has allowed the band to concentrate.

"I think we're just more focused now - Matt and Rivers had their own creative thing. I think Rivers had to kind of figure out how to write the songs he was happy with without anybody else's help and think of the band as players that would come in and flesh the shit out, instead of 'this is how I want it to be.' You know, it was never really like that, but it was more like that with Matt. And plus, Matt really wasn't in to playing the bass...he didn't love it. Mikey, it's like his only thing. He just likes to play the bass."

Whether or not Sharp has been permanently replaced, it was evident that Welsh feels right at home. Perhaps most telling was his starting of the band's three-song encore with the bass-heavy "Only in Dreams," which was written by Sharp.

Welsh brings a new dynamic to the band. He is more of a rock star than Cuomo, Wilson or guitarist Brian Bell - the only one who jumps around, climbs up on a speaker or incites the crowd to clap. Perhaps it's the stoic nature of the band that has led to the "nerd" moniker so often applied to them.

"Everyone so far is like, 'What do you think of the word nerd?' it seems like a loaded question," Wilson said. "The implication is that it's a negative thing to be a nerd."

"I don't feel like I've aggressively adopted a nerd pose - but I wouldn't say that other members of the bad haven't," he said with a sardonic smile. "How come nobody says people just look normal in America? You're either a jock, or a stoner, or a nerd. But no one's just normal, it seems like."

"I wouldn't deny that our fans look nerdy. I think they're totally nerdy. In a good way, I think. Good for us."

Nerdy may be an accurate description for their fans - but perhaps devoted is an even better word. While waiting for the doors to open, fans with tickets turned down offers of over $100 from fans without. Face value was $14.50.

So nerdy are the fans that Cuomo came up with the idea to let them vote on the band's internet site (www.weezer.net) on which new songs the band should include on an upcoming third album. The band has been playing four new songs at each show on the tour.

So devoted are the fans, they listened reverently. Usually when a lead singer introduces a new song, it's the best time to use the bathroom so you don't miss the songs you want to hear. It's almost guaranteed that the bathrooms at St. Andrews were empty when Cuomo announced each new song. About the only time he spoke during the set was to introduce "Mad Kow," "Too Late to Try," "Peace and Quiet" and "Superstar."

Wilson said he is pleased with the new material.

"I like it. It's kind of a cross between the two [albums]. None of the songs are arranged as crazily as stuff on Pinkerton was. There are songs on Pinkerton with like 15 chords, but this isn't really like that as much. The songs are tighter. But I think some of the ideas on Pinkerton were good - like don't just play chords but have an actual guitar part, and I think we're going to have more of that on this release."

The end of the tour should also signal the beginning of a new album.

"I think we're going to start recording in the middle of October. I'm not sure if it's going to be in Los Angeles or New York, and I think Rick Ocasek (formerly of the Cars) is going to produce it. He was our first producer."

The band met in Los Angeles and played club shows in relative obscurity until releasing a self titled album in 1994 with Ocasek's help.

"We just sent him a tape. We couldn't think of anybody who would be a good producer, so he was like the only guy we could think of," Wilson said.

Sharp is not the only member with a side project to work on - Bell's is a band called the Space Twins, Wilson's is called the Special Goodness.

"Mikey's in it," Wilson said. "We have a new drummer, Adam Willard, he used to be from Rocket From the Crypt," he said.

"I think we're going to try to come to the studio early when Weezer's recording, and like do a couple hours each day before they get there. Maybe we'll have an EP by the end of that.

"I think eventually we want to open some shows for Weezer, although it might be hard to play two shows in a row. It wouldn't be hard for me, because standing up and strumming a guitar isn't that hard, and I don't sing in Weezer, so I wouldn't have to worry about my voice, but it's going to be hard for Mikey, because he has to play and sing a lot."

But whatever side projects are going on, Wilson said he will return to Weezer.

"It works good when we're in this band," Wilson said.

See also