In 2002 Brian Wilson spoke with Paul Cashmere of Noise11. Here is the interview from the Noise11 archives.
You can sum up the 60s with three bands The Beatles, The Stones and The Beach Boys.
The creator of the Beach Boys sound was Brian Wilson. He is one of the most important songwriters of all-time.
Wilson is also recognised by his contemporaries as one of the greatest contributors to music ever.
Here is what they have to say:
“It was Pet Sounds that blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I’ve just bought my kids each a copy for their education in life and figure no-one is educated musically ’til they’ve heard that album”
“His music definitely affected mine – the harmonies. Of course I never played in a band that could sing like that”
“Brian Wilson is without doubt a pop genius”
“Pet Sounds is a landmark album. For me to say that I was enthralled would be an understatement. It is a timeless and amazing recording of incredible genius & beauty” ELTON JOHN
“Brian Wilson is one of the greatest innovators of my decade or any decade”
Brian Wilson talks Paul Cashmere
Paul Cashmere: We are looking forward to your visit to Australia. When were you here last?
Brian Wilson : I was last in Australia in 1978.
PC: You have a fabulous band made up members of The Wondermints. How did you come across them?
BW: We found them in a nightclub in Hollywood one night. We signed them up. They agreed to be my backup band. We just happened to find them by accident. They are the best, the best I’ve ever heard.
PC: What is the personal difference you find performing with The Wondermints as opposed to performing with The Beach Boys?
BW: It feels different. They are better musicians than the Beach Boys were. They are great musicians.
PC: You’ve worked with a lot of interesting characters over the years. One in particular, Van Dyke Parks has an increased profile in Australia at the moment. Do you work with Van Dyke much these days?
BW: He is great. He wrote some great lyrics. I don’t work with him as much as we used to but I might work with him on some songs later, yeah.
PC: Did you hear the work he did with the Australian band Silverchair?
BW: No, I didn’t. How was it, good?
PC: It was fabulous. They were originally a hard rock grunge band and you put the Van Dyke Parks touch on there with the orchestrations and it just an amazing record. It is something you must listen to when you get to Australia.
BW: I will, I sure will.
PC: The legendary story about your parents going away on vacation once and leaving $250 for food. Is it true that you really did spend that money on renting equipment?
BW: Yes, that is very true. That happened. They were proud because we wrote a song. We played them our song and they loved it. It was ‘Surfin’.
PC: That was a very worthy $250 investment by them then.
BW: Yeah (laughs).
PC: As a parent, how did you handle those sorts of incidences with your children as they were growing up?
BW: Well I was a lot nicer to my kids than my dad was to me. I’ll tell you that.
PC: There have been some documentaries of the Wilson family we have seen on TV. How accurate are they?
BW: I didn’t think it was quite factual enough. It was wrong. They didn’t get the facts right. They didn’t talk to me about the facts before they made it.
PC: One thing that fascinates me about the Beach Boys career. The first 7 albums were made in your first 2 years together. That is an absolute amazing statistic when you compare it to how bands record these days.
BW: Yeah, I know isn’t that amazing how that happened. I wrote all the time. I was always in the studio. I was inspired the whole time.
PC: In between you managed to fit in touring and television appearances.
BW: Yeah, we managed to get it all in. I was always working.
PC: The Brian Wilson albums come years apart now. Are you still writing?
BW: I started writing about a month ago and I have 7 songs. I won’t be playing them on this tour but I will be putting them on an album probably around January or February of next year. I will be producing.
PC: You have had some incredible production values over the years. One of the techniques I loved was on ‘Love and Mercy’ and the choir in the background. There is no choir though is there Brian.
BW: No. The backup voices are beautiful. They are all me. I liked the way it was. I liked the way we stacked my voice up 8 times in the sound to make like a Choir.
PC: Is that song in the set?
BW: Yeah. My band members sing the background parts. They are great.
PC: How do you rank Phil Spector and how inspirational was he for the production values that you learnt.
BW: He turned on the lights for me. He turned me on to records. He is my main hero of life.
PC: Your ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ was inspired by his ‘Be My Baby’ wasn’t it?
BW: Right, right. I heard these voices. Ronnie Spector’s voice sounded so good, you know. I wanted to try and do something good like that.
PC: Going out as you did recently and performing the entire Pet Sounds album live, was that something you had to do as opposed to wanted to do? Was it something in your blood that you had to get out?
BW: I needed to get it out of my blood on tape. I needed to get it on tape.
PC: Do you have plans for doing any of your other records as a complete piece like that?
BW: Yeah, sure. I would like to do a version of Proud Mary. I want to do that one.
PC: How accurate is this chain of events. Rubber Soul inspired Pet Sounds, Pet Sounds inspired Sgt Pepper?
BW: That is absolutely the truth, yeah. That happened. I was listening to Rubber Soul one night and I could not believe my ears. I loved those songs. They all went together like a nice little collection of songs. So I wrote an album of a collection of songs called Pet Sounds.
PC: And since then Paul McCartney has become a very good friend of yours.
BW: Yeah, he’s my friend now.
PC: And on your Pet Sounds live album, you mention ‘God Only Knows’ being his favourite song.
BW: Right, yeah.
PC: And you did the concert at Buckingham Palace recently with him.
BW: Yeah, we did. We played for The Queen. It was a great honour for me. We met them after the concert.
PC: And who was your favourite performer on the concert that day?
BW: Paul McCartney
PC: I was hoping you’d say Paul and not Ozzy Osbourne.
PC: Have you ever watched The Osbournes?
BW: No I haven’t.
PC: On Pet Sounds you had a song title “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”. That title must have a deeper meaning for you because years later you used it as the title of your documentary.
BW: It was like a social statement, wasn’t it. My lyrical collaborator was the one who wrote the words. Don Was, my friend Don Was wanted the title. That was his idea.
PC: The first Beach Boys record was recorded in 1962. Why did it take you 26 years to make your first solo album?
BW: Because I didn’t really want to separate from the Beach Boys, you know what I mean? I was originally prompted to do it by my manager and my wife, so I did it. I am very proud of that album. It is a great album.
PC: What do you perform from that album now as well as ‘Love and Mercy’?
BW: We do ‘Let It Shine’.
PC: Last year you were honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy’s. Want is the most prestigious award you have ever been given?
BW: Songwriters Hall of Fame.
PC: Was that around the time you were touring with Paul Simon and as a tribute to you he sang ‘Surfer Girl’?
BW: Right, right exactly. ‘Surfer Girl’ was the first song I ever wrote.
PC: How did it come about that day? Did you wake up that morning and just decide to write your first song?
BW: I was humming a melody in my head in my car. I drove home and I finished the song on the piano.
PC: And you have been writing ever since.
PC: I loved David Lee Roth’s version of ‘California Girls’. Did you?
BW: I thought that was great too.
PC: And it is one of your favourite songs too, isn’t it?
BW. Yeah, it is my favourite Beach Boys song. It is fun. When the audience sing along it is fantastic, really great. ‘California Girls’ took about two days to write.
PC: That’s a long time for a song. A lot of artists say they write their biggest hits in 15 minutes.
BW: ‘God Only Knows’ came in 20 minutes.
PC: And that is 20 minutes well spent Brian.
BW: Yeah (laughs).
PC: Two of my favourite songs of yours are fairly obscure ones. It is good to see ‘Sail On Sailor’ is on the album you put together recently.
BW: Yes it is, thank you very much.
PC: Another one I love is “Everyone’s In Love With You’.
BW: Yeah, that’s a nice one isn’t it?
PC: It must be hard for you to put together a Setlist when you have so much to pool from.
BW: Yeah we have to eliminate a lot of songs and settle for what we like. The show is 2 hours.
PC: We talked about Van Dyke Parks before and he was involved in the ‘Smile’ album. How good an album was ‘Smile’ in retrospect?
BW: It wasn’t really appropriate music for us. It wasn’t the right kind of music.
PC: Are you disappointed that it has never been released?
BW: No, not at all.
PC: Will it ever come out?
PC: Did it you ever sequence those songs?
BW: No, we didn’t get that far.
PC: It is one of the great unreleased albums of all time, as you know.
PC: Another fact about Brian Wilson is that you were the Beach Boy who didn’t know how to surf.
BW: Right, I never learned how to surf.
PC: Brian, you are coming to Australia. There are beaches everywhere. Is it too late to learn?
BW: No, it is not too late but I’m just not interested in surfing.
PC: Well, we won’t be looking for you on Bondi Beach in Sydney when you get here. I look forward to the shows in a couple of weeks.
BW: Thankyou so much.
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