Having re-recorded Smile (to major critical acclaim), thirty
seven years after he shelved the most famous unreleased album in history,
former Beach Boy Brian Wilson then played the album in it’s entirety at
several hugely well received UK shows and now returns for a more prolonged
tour of the UK. Here he talks to TotalMusic-Online’s Jonathan Wingate
about battling with demons and drugs, and why his struggle for pop perfection
nearly finished him off
In 1966, after releasing Pet Sounds, now
considered to be one of the most innovative and influential LPs ever recorded,
the creative genius behind The Beach Boys started work on an album that he was
determined would surpass The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
and elevate popular music to a completely new level. His plan was to create
what he called “teenage symphonies to God”, but in the end, the pressure he
imposed upon himself sent him over the edge and into a downward spiral that
resulted in a horrific mental breakdown. Brian Wilson regularly heard voices
in his head and spent much of the next two decades out of his mind on a
daily diet of dope and LSD. Although he still hears ‘the voices’ nowadays
Brian Wilson is more in control of his demons and, if he has not exactly
totally come to terms with the past he can at least now look back without
wincing too much…
On Pet Sounds: "Well, everybody was very energetic, and
I was in charge in the studio,” he says proudly. “They all listened to me,
and I gave them all of their arrangement sheets that I wrote out. We’d
teach everybody their parts, and then we could do it all together and see
how it sounded. I think Pet Sounds is always going to be considered good
music - a good social statement, good artistically, harmonically and vocally.
The melodies were creative, but the sweetness in our voices was the key for
Pet Sounds. I think it will go on selling forever…just like Bach,” he begins
humming Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man Desiring’. “I think music is the international
language…the best language of all."
On the original recording of Smile: "I remember working
very hard on the original Smile sessions and being on a few drugs that
I wish I hadn’t taken,” he sighs. “LSD made me very afraid. You’ll never
be the same after you take drugs like LSD. Marijuana made me paranoid,
but it also gave me a better insight into my own musical brain. It taught
me how to concentrate on my piano keys. I should never have smoked marijuana.
It really made me think about who I was, who I was supposed to be, and whether
I could ever live up to my name."
On outgrowing his band: "The other guys
in the band wanted to do surf songs and car songs, and I wanted to grow musically
to a higher level. Finally, they agreed with me. They said: ‘Brian, you’re
right. We should grow musically.’ I don’t talk to the other Beach Boys anymore.
I got tired of them anyway. I feel sad about losing my brothers, Dennis and Carl,
but I try not to think about it too much."
On his father Murry Wilson: "We probably wouldn’t have
succeeded without my father’s drive. He lit a fire under our asses that
got us going. He’d go (shouts) ‘Get in there and make a Number 1
record,’ and we’d go in there and make a Number 1 record,”
he chuckles. “He was a real assertive kinda guy. He used to whip me with
his belt. He left a lot of internal mental scars. Even to this day, I feel sad
On the pro’s and cons of live performance: "My happiest
moments are probably when I’m on stage. When the audience listens to me sing,
I feel like I’m part of the audience listening to myself. I feel like I’m
connecting with people mentally and emotionally and artistically [but] I still
suffer stage fright before every concert I ever do. I suffer hell for half
an hour. I feel sick, not to my stomach, but in my head. I say: Please God,
please make this concert over. Please, please help me."
On the years spent in the sandpit in his house.
Exaggerated?: "No, that’s very true, sir,” he admits sadly.
“That’s very true. I look upon it as a very sad part of my life. I could eat
my food and talk to people, but I wasn’t able to write songs or exercise, go
to restaurants or parties. I really was unable to function. Most of the days
I spent sitting in the sandbox, yeah. I have to end the interview now. You’ve
asked me enough questions. Thank you. Goodbye."
Brian Wilson tours the UK in July More Here, for more info, news and Wilson based banter head to... www.brianwilson.com