Interview: Wesley Gonzalez
Former Let’s Wrestle frontman Wesley Gonzalez is about release his full-length solo debut, Excellent Musician.
After ten years with Let’s Wrestle, Gonzalez is looking to furrow his own path and has embarked on an ambitious new project – disowning the guitar and embracing the synthesiser. The raw energy and emotional exposure is still a cornerstone of Gonazalez’s work but musically, the forthcoming album should be a tour de force for a musician that has never shied away from experimentation.
We caught up with Wesley to discuss his new musical direction, his disdain for indie music and the underrated quality of Beatles’ B-sides.
Q. Excellent Musician has got a lot to say about drugs, battles of the mind, and the early days of relationships. What were your ambitions when you set out to write this album?
My only ambitions were to be honest, I guess. I didn't expect anybody to hear it, in a way, which sounds slightly stupid but we recorded the album before approaching anyone or even telling people I was making music again. I didn't know if I wanted anyone to hear it, so in that sense it’s an album made without any inhibitions. I think that’s all I wanted to make; I didn't want to have to hide behind any facades.
Q. What inspired you to put down the guitar and explore a more soulful sound with classic Korg synthesisers?
There was nothing left to do with guitars, I was so bored of it. My thought is that everyone plays guitar and it just seems lame. When I see a guitar now the last thought in my head is to pick it up and play something. Also, with the kind of music I wanted to write being so distant from my previous musical endeavours I thought that maybe I should start completely from scratch and not let myself fall into the boring rockist clichés that my hands would slip into when playing a guitar. You can only get a handful of sounds out of playing a guitar, with a synthesiser you can do anything. Synthesisers are the most fun instrument and you can use them with no musical prowess and still make something interesting, they are far more dignified as well!
Q. Even though you’ve moved away from punk, you still deliver vocals with real anger. Do you feel like this anger reflects the themes you explore within your lyrics?
I’m an angry person, there’s anger in the delivery and the lyrics because I'm frustrated by my surroundings. I can’t write songs about partying and having a good time because, usually, when I've gone out partying it has caused me to spend the rest of the week feeling anxious. Also it seems a bit vacuous to write pleasant songs, being under 30 in London is not pleasant - its shit. Why pretend that it isn't?
Q. Your new live show sees you give more theatrical performance. Does this kind of expression come naturally to you on stage?
It was a terrifying thing to do the first few times we played, but it’s so much more fun to come offstage really aching than giving a slightly subdued show. I'm not interested in seeing bands a lot of the time because it doesn't feel very urgent, and it may not be the most natural thing for most people to try and “perform”, because it’s hard to gain the confidence to do so, but I think to give into feeling lacklustre about it is doing yourself a disservice. I don't think it's instantly natural but I think it was an important decision to make, if I’ve got the opportunity to make records and play shows I should try and be the best at putting out records and playing shows.
Q. How difficult was it for you to finally call time on a musical project like Let’s Wrestle?
It took a while to come to terms with, it as it made me feel slightly aimless after putting 10 years of work into a project and coming out the other side in a similar position to when I started, though saying that I couldn't have been more ready and willing to move on. I can’t stand feeling like I’m doing the same thing over and over again. In the position I’m in now I’m not at all nostalgic for it, I did some good records with close friends and that’s all good, but fuck looking back!
Q. You’ve been pretty outspoken about your dislike of the attitudes and values that the indie genre has come to represent. What changes would you like to see in that scene?
There’s no part of me that wants to incite change in something I’m not interested in. It's a closed minded circuit, people unwilling to look at modern life or speak their minds, musically unambitious and invalid. Every other genre is more interesting. I don't think all indie stuff is bad, of course. It would be ridiculous to dismiss everything. I still own all my old Byrds and Kevin Ayers records, but I don't need to listen to some wankers rehash some piss poor version of the 60s. People are listening to all the same music their parents like and that’s gross - stick some Acid House on!
Q. You’ve been releasing music since you were 15 years-old. Looking back, what are some of the more valuable lessons you’ve learned over the years?
I think the main thing I learned was that trying to be cool was a waste of time, I know my stuff, I’m confident that I’m good at this. Watching people you think are cool and imitating them is the lamest thing you can do, everyone can see through that, it’s embarrassing.
Q. Considering you’re something of a super-fan, give us five Beatles tracks you believe to be sinfully underrated.
First one is 'I Will’ - it’s so short and easily ignored on the White Album, but I really love this song. It makes me think of the old trouble and strife.
'Old Brown Shoe' is great - the B-Side to ’The Ballad of John & Yoko’. Another great B-side is 'This Boy’. People can miss the B-sides but they are usually just as good as any of their album tracks. I love 'Sexy Sadie' too, and I think at the moment it’s my favourite Beatles song, mad props to that banger.
Lastly I’m gonna say the whole of RAM by Paul McCartney, just as good as any Beatles record and it isn't given nearly enough attention, which you can probably say about quite a few solo Beatles records.
Q. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Play as many shows as I can, release this record, make another record and put that one out, make tonnes of money and go on holiday. Maybe to Jamaica.
'Excellent Musician' is released on Moshi Moshi Records on June 30th.