Gary Wilson: “Sometimes when the mood hits me the flour comes out.”
Still catchy, still creepy, still obsessive, still (mostly) masked, still rocking the white-framed cat’s-eye sunglasses he’s favored for decades, longtime San Diego resident Gary Wilson has a new album out, Friday Night with Gary Wilson, and a never-released 1967 single from his Lord Fuzz band. He took a few email questions.
Any juicy San Diego gig stories lately?
“My band and I did a show recently at a local venue. A very wild and avant-garde show. A band from Texas opened up for us. Everything was fun and cool. After the show they wanted us to pay them out of my fee. My contract with the club did not require me to do that. I looked over from the stage and the drummer and a big guy from the other band is right in his face demanding the money from us. A fight nearly broke out between my band and the band from Texas. That’s show biz.”
"Sick Trip on Friday Night"
...off of Gary Wilson's Friday Night with Gary Wilson
Are you still an outcast on the music scene?
“When I arrived in San Diego in 1978 my band had a hard time being accepted by the original bands that were playing around town. At that time you had the Penetrators, DFX2, and others making the local scene. The press loved them and not us. We did a number of shows back then at places like the Roxy Theater, Straight Ahead Sound, etc. It doesn’t bother me that sometimes I still feel alienated, though things have improved. Did a few cool shows in San Diego a while back at the Belly Up with Foxygen and Ariel Pink and Black Lips at the Observatory. As far as being an outcast, it’s been that way since I was 13.”
How did you record the new album?
“When I start a project I first need to be inspired. It might take a day, a week, maybe a month. Then slowly the recording process begins. I don’t use a computer. Each song takes quite a bit of time as I play all the instruments and that takes a lot of self-editing. Small things like the bass drum hitting it wrong just once can ruin the song. Then you go back and try it again. I throw a lot of songs out. They must sound like a Gary Wilson song, or else what’s the use.”
Your lyrics often pine for a woman just out of reach. A fantasy object. How did your lyrical methodology take root and evolve?
“Most likely growing up in a small town. And being lonely in some ways. I played in rock bands since I was 13 years old, so that helped because the girls would come to the shows. Still had some painful nights. A lot of the girls I sing about were previous girlfriends. Some for a day. Some for a month. Some for a year.”
Do you ever revisit your old employer, Jolar?
“I haven’t been there for a number of years. When I started working there around 1990 the place had a rock and roll feel to it. Loose and wild. I did the graveyard shift for many years. My last few years at Jolar I thought of putting together an album called ‘Jolar Girls.’ It still may happen.”
Are you still playing in a lounge act when you’re not freaking out?
“I still play piano and left-hand bass with jazz/pop singer Donnie Finnell. Donnie does the music of Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Lou Rawls, Mel Torme, etc. The Great American Songbook. I’ve been with Donnie since 1984. The lounge folks still don’t know about my original side and I like it that way. Keeps my sanity to play both styles.”
The Lord Fuzz single blew my mind! What’s the story there?
“Lord Fuzz lives on!!! Lord Fuzz was my first rock band. I was 13 years old when I joined. I played Farfisa organ. We were a bunch of Italian kids living near one another. Our parents would take us to the gigs and we held our own against the older bands. We were all about 13 years old when we cut ‘Move On’ and ‘The Freak.’ A good time for music. It was recorded with one microphone on the band and a separate track for vocals. May be a Lord Fuzz reunion in the works...”
Are you still rolling around in flour onstage, and/or have you thrown new tricks into the show?
“Sometimes when the mood hits me the flour comes out. I played the venue Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco a while back and PB Wolf invited the audience to throw bags of flour on the band. The venue docked the band $200 for cleanup. Thus, I’ve curtailed using flour onstage, though I’ll sometimes sneak a bag onto the stage.”