Ex-Beach Boy acceptsHow does one interview an icon?
the term genius
By Tim Ryan
What you don't do, according to his publicist, is rehash much of Wilson's past: Don't mention the Beach Boys, his former psychiatrist Eugene Landy, drug problems or the physical and emotional abuse he suffered from his father.
Remember, Wilson retired to his bed for nearly a decade to get his head together. (How I wanted to share that we've all felt that at times.)
At Honolulu Marathon carbo-loading luau with an 11-piece band
Where: Waikiki Shell
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Tickets: Sold out
Wilson is a soft-spoken man who occasionally slurs his words like comedian Bill Murray and answers questions in one word or, when he's particularly interested, one sentence.
Wilson's not antagonistic or uninterested. He just seems preoccupied with more important things -- composing masterpieces? -- but is in a hurry to get through the interview as quickly as possible.
Wilson, who performs his first solo Hawaii show Friday at the Waikiki Shell, certainly doesn't seem to care what people think of him or even find it curious that someone who created surf music doesn't surf.
The man behind the Beach Boys -- who wrote his 10th album, the heralded "Pet Sounds," when he was only 23 -- has come out of seclusion and is in the middle of a revival. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame a year ago, toured this year with Paul Simon and has two albums in release: "Live at the Roxy Theatre," a solo concert album recorded on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip, and "The Beach Boys' Hawthorne, CA," a two-disc CD of alternate takes, studio snippets, interviews and instrumental beds.
After decades away from the stage, his return to the stage is being heralded as historic wherever he performs. Wilson's huge body of work is half sunshine, half shadow. There's the upbeat "409" and "California Girls," the melancholy "Caroline No," the mystical, revelatory "Good Vibrations" and the tomes about introspection and isolation, "Surfer Girl" and "In My Room."
Beach Boys tunes were even a tonic for the country when President John F. Kennedy was shot. "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "I Get Around" were released within six months after the assassination.
A year later, Wilson had a nervous breakdown and announced his decision to skip touring to concentrate on building the Beach Boys' musical catalog. He experimented with new sounds and new ways of recording, reaching a peak with the mini-opus "Good Vibrations" and the "Pet Sounds" album, which inspired the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper." Soon after, Wilson retreated into seclusion, food and narcotics.
He answered the following questions:
Star-Bulletin: Your avoidance of touring began in 1965. Why did you start again?
Brian Wilson: My managers and my wife told me if I tried a solo career, it would go over really good. I disagreed with them but I still tried it, and it went over fantastic, standing ovations and everything. Really cool.
SB: Where was that first live concert?
BW: Chicago, and I was horrifically nervous and scared, but I walked out and the crowd just cheered and cheered, and I sat down and did my show. I was very proud that I was able to do it. It was a big step for me.
SB: How do you deal with performance anxiety?
BW: I have a cup of coffee or get a massage.
SB: Do you ever think that touring again is somehow part of your ongoing catharsis, healing the creative wounds left by "Pet Sounds"?
BW: Well, you know, "Pet Sounds" was a difficult album for me because I didn't write it to get folks dancing in the aisles. I conceived it as one of those albums you put on in the small hours when you can't sleep and want to remember the things you did right, the things you did wrong, the people who were there while you did it. It's best played alone.
SB: This will be your first solo show in Hawaii. So why did it take you so long to get here?
BW: We were just traveling to other parts of the world and hadn't gotten to Hawaii yet.
SB: This year you did a successful European tour with sell-out venues and critics' praises.
BW: People in Europe are more receptive to my music than people in the United States. I think they just appreciate music better there, and they appreciate the love that we bring with our music.
SB: What're your shows like?
BW: We do a lot in 90 minutes. Some "Pet Sounds," some Brian Wilson songs -- "California Girls," "In My Room," "I Get Around," Fun, Fun, Fun." And one of my lesser-known songs "The Night Was So Young." Lots of good stuff.
SB: What song are you most tired of singing?
BW: "California Girls" gets on my nerves.
SB: What inspires you these days to make music?
BW: Ahhh, my wife, my managers and my kids, and my fans, too.
SB: If you had not been a musician, what would you be doing today?
BW: Working in a gas station, really.
SB: When people refer to you as a musical genius, do you accept that significance?
SB: That's a lot of pressure.
BW: No. When I sit down at the piano to compose, I do feel like a musical genius.
SB: How do you compose?
BW: First I get an idea, then a title, a chord pattern, a melody, and a collaborator gets some lyrics for it.
SB: Are you conscious of how you've been able to compose gorgeous, haunting melodies?
BW: No, I guess it's subconscious. I try to get in touch with how my soul feels.
SB: Why do your songs succeed?
BW: I think most of them have eternal love in them, a spiritual love, that came from deep inside. The songs celebrate the joy of life in a real simple way.
SB: What was the toughest song you've composed?
BW: "God Only Knows" was very difficult because we wanted it to be very good. It took me about two days.
SB: And the easiest song?
BW: "It's OK," 20 minutes.
SB: What song was a surprise success for you?
BW: "409." I just wrote it because I knew (in Southern California) all the guys liked cars or surfing.
SB: Did you ever surf?
BW: Nope. My brothers told me all about surfing, and my girlfriend's brother would tell me about surfing and that's how I wrote those songs.
SB: What frame of mind is best for you to compose?
BW: I gotta be really calm.
SB: What is your composing schedule like?
BW: I go to the piano at least once a day and play chords and stuff for an hour.
SB: You wrote "The Warmth of the Sun" the same day Kennedy died?
BW: Well, the song was about a good relationship breaking up, and I think I was trying to show how to think of the positive memories ... focus on that rather than grief.
SB: What do you think about rock 'n' roll these days?
BW: Music is in a lull, at a lowest point. Everyone seems so angry. From what I can pick up on MTV, it's a bunch of trash. It seems cold.
SB: Who do you like musically?
BW: I like the harmonies of the Backstreet Boys. I think they're a pretty good group.
SB: How's your voice these days?
BW: It's been better. My upper register is pretty clear, but I fumble a bit in the middle register.
Click for online
calendars and events.
BACK TO TOP