Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Will They Be Your Valentine?: An Interview With Brendan B. Brown from Wheatus

Brendan B. Brown from the band Wheatus has very kindly taken the time out of his massively busy performing schedule to pop in to our little slice of the internet to talk to Patrick Scattergood about their career, their new album and much more.

PS:  Thank you very much for taking the time to pop in today to talk to our readers.

BBB:  Thanks for having us and thank you to your readers for being interested...

PS:  If you had to describe your music to someone who was unfamiliar with the band, how would you do and what song would you choose to play for them?

BBB:  I'd play them Valentine from our new record and I'd tell them we're heavy at times, that hip hop, pop & prog are a big part of it but that we have absolutely no genre allegiance...in fact, we avoid it fiercely.

Verbal descriptions of music are a sore spot for songwriters...but it is a reasonable question. Once it's written, when I make the record by assembling a collage of production aesthetics that I like for each song, for example, AC/DC Guitar tones, 70's Motown drum sounds, bass tones like you'd hear on a Paul Simon record, keyboards from a Rush or a Yes record...etc. All this in service of one written song...so there are 2 parts to it, the writing and the production. During production, it isn't possible for me to shoot for a goal that already exists. When it's finished it inevitably sounds familiar but, I can't guarantee that outcome so I don't try. While the process is unique every time, the outcome is gonna be both unpredictable & recognizable. In other words, I can't control a purely creative process. Now...if I was tasked to make something sound like something else I could do it but I wouldn't try to make it original because it would feel like a waste of resource in some ways. So, our music sounds like it does because of the sounds i like to use to build a recording of a song, which is really just a story I've written or, in best cases, an honest observation of some flaw I have.

PS:  You burst on to the music scene after five years together with the best selling single ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ from the movie ‘Loser’ but how would you say you have changed from those early days of the band?

BBB:  Well...the 1st 3 years, 1995-98, it was really just me & a laptop. I had musicians I tried ideas with but the band didn't fully form until the summer of 1998. The current Wheatus has only me in common. That said I am easily bored. For me to motivate & make a record I need it to be new. If you listen to our songs across all 6 albums I think the only common factors are, guitar sound research and my voice...otherwise, I don't think Sunshine (album 1) and Valentine (album 6) even sound like the same band.

PS:  After the controversy surround your massively under rated second album ‘Hand Over Your Loved Ones’, that was later renamed ‘Suck Fony’, was there ever a time when you felt like giving it all up? If so, what kept you going?

BBB:  I'll confess something to you now. The ONLY thing I've ever considered giving up is life but never music. I did have and I have struggled with, suicidal thoughts...financial stress inflames them, and during the lawsuits and major label monarchist bullshit from 2001-2004 they were dangerously intense, and again in 2008 but they are tied to old trauma and I've sought and found effective help. It's a bit my own failing really because I needed for a long time to face events and take responsible action to deal with them via a professional...and I blew it off for many years. So when I finally endeavored to get well it was a severe reboot....It's ongoing and very positive at this moment. It's been a steady improvement since 2010. Happiness & survival can be the same thing. In either case they are things that must be toiled for.

PS:  You’ve returned with your new album ‘The Valentine LP’, how would you say this release differs from your other albums?

BBB:  It's the 1st record with real drums since 2005. It's a dimensional experiment in some ways. I wanted to write stories about survival, after the collapse of society, our banking system, economy, security etc...and stage things in a world where we all have to learn how to hunt again. What is love like in that environment, sexual identity etc.

PS:  Is there a song that you are most proud of on the new album?
BBB:  The title track, Valentine. It's the only song of ours I can listen to as a fan. It's the song I've been dying to make that I thought may be out of my reach.

PS:  The new album has a theme of sexuality equality and LGBT issues in schools. What inspired you to create an album revolving around those issues?

BBB:  The short answer is tweets from the One Direction Fandom. There are MANY kids out there struggling with their identities in hostile environments. I had the song The Fall In Love written with place holder lyrics for many years but had no specific narrative for it. I was riding my bike in the woods a few summers ago. I came tearing down this hill & streaked to a halt in front of the pond with a tree swing at the bottom. I didn't know it at the time but I'm pretty certain that I interrupted a clandestine gay high school date...I got the hell out of their quickly but it occurred to me that I may have ruined their only chance at privacy & safety. The narrative unfolded from that perspective and the story I came up with focused on a gay couple in high school making the decision to come out to their classmates, teachers & families when they return to school in the fall. It's a shameful tragedy that we still have places in America where kids cannot face this decision without being terrorized.

PS:  The band is the subject of the documentary ‘Wheatus, You Might Die’. How did the project come about?

BBB:  AD Lane, asked me if he could come along on a tour and film. 98% of the requests that we get in that regard end up 2 days later with a hurried apology mumbled at a bus stop where your would be videographer is being dropped off. ....but AD was different...he was willing to sweat with us. He actually found out what it's like to tour and he doubled down...surprised us all and it seems he may have an interesting story to tell for it.

PS:  In an industry full of bands with a short ‘shelf life’, what would you attribute your longevity to?
BBB:  A stubborn obsession with rocking out, denial of suicidal impulses and intense paranoia...I'll explain that last paranoia one: The singular defining lawsuit we went through, the one we simply had to win or forfeit all, was ruled in our favor because I kept a post-it note on a contract from 1998, intact, under my bed for 6 years. I still keep every little scrap.

PS:  What would you say has been your favorite moment of your career thus far?
BBB:  There are 3...

Opening for Joey Ramone at CBGB's a year before he died...While I'd played there many times in other bands, that was the only time wheatus ever played at CB's.

Opening for James Brown about a year after that in Belgium.

....and finally, producing a single version of our song, Wannabe Gangstar in the Beatles Room (studio 2, Abbey Road) with Bruce Dickinson on guest vocals.

PS:  As a band that have been on a myriad of tours, where would you say has been the best place to perform?

BBB:  Definitely Scotland & Wales are in a close race for # 1. I think if I could play King Tut's once a month for the rest of my life I'd be happy. There's a church in Holyhead Wales where the same applies...It's called The Ucheldre Centre. ...and The Borderline in London.

PS:  What can your fans expect from you next?

BBB:  We're releasing a song I wrote with Josh Devine (One Direction Drummer). It's about me being attacked by a guy during a performance in Margate in 2013...true story. Aside from that, for whatever reason I'm writing a lot of stuff that calls upon my metal days, from when I was like 12-16 years old...heaviest wheatus stuff ever, although, you can't call it metal really, it's just got some of that heavy technique in it's DNA...I spent a lot of time playing along with ...And Justice For All ...it's all coming back to me for some reason...riff city.

PS:  Once again thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us here today.

BBB:  Thanks for having me :)

'Valentine' is out now to buy from here.

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