Brian Wilson had a stroke
50 years of Beach Boys : And it was summer
Not even the Rolling Stones are that old: The Beach Boys, founded in California in 1961, are celebrating their 50th birthday with a tour that will take them to Berlin's O2 World on Friday. Brian Wilson (70) is the creative head of the Beach Boys and one of the most gifted songwriters in the world. His songs, especially the albums "Pet Sounds" and "Smile", have shaped pop music. After drug experiments, schizophrenia and depression diagnoses, therapy attempts and an alleged stroke, Wilson has been treated with medication for several years. During the telephone interview, he spoke slowly. His cousin Mike Love (71) is the lead singer of the band.
Mr. Wilson, you've spent a lot of time in your life singing about the seasons. Are you really that dependent on the weather?
BRIAN WILSON: Yes, when it's cloudy or raining, I feel bad.
Then what do you do when you have to write a song?
Most of the time I write in the late afternoon, just before it gets dark, which is my favorite time to be creative. You don't notice the weather that way anymore.
Are the lyrics as important to you as the melodies and harmonies?
No, the melodies are the most important. I don't have much to do with the lyrics.
What music do you listen to at home?
Exclusively songs from the fifties and sixties. Nothing modern at all. I also really like classical music.
Do you know the bands that refer to the Beach Boys and name your music as an influence?
I can't think of right now.
Her music is extraordinarily emotional and full of atmosphere in terms of harmonies and arrangement. Are you a synesthete?
No, unfortunately not.
What inspires you
If something occurs to me, I immediately go to my piano and start writing.
Do you write the melody in notation or do you just play it and record?
Do you change a lot of your melodies later?
No, nothing at all. That's always the first idea.
Mr. Love, what is more important to you, text or music?
MIKE LOVE: I used to write mostly the lyrics for our songs, sometimes I also worked on the song structure, like with the first Beach Boys hit "Surfin’ Safari ". I also wrote “California Girls” alone, as well as “Get Around” or “Help Me Rhonda”. I stuck to the lyrics because Brian is so incredibly musical and it makes it easier for him to come up with melodies. Of course, sometimes he makes suggestions as to what our songs might be about. I'm also very interested in literature and poetry, so I looked for inspiration there too.
What about music that you didn't write yourself?
We started in the sixties, where there were wonderful songs, I've always been a Rolling Stones fan, they're much more rocking than us. But we had the more interesting vocal harmonies, which made us so unique. But I love Motown, Marvin Gaye was a good friend of mine, and the Temptations were excellent too. They are all excellent instrumentalists and good lyricists. The songs from that time, including The Mamas and the Papas, had important messages in addition to the music, which impressed me very much.
The songs you just mentioned were often about politics and social conditions. Have you ever thought about negotiating current issues with the Beach Boys?
In my opinion there are already enough bad things in the world that you don't have to write songs about them. We wanted to emphasize the positive, to look for the beautiful in life and to process it in our music. Our songs are about warmth, harmony and positivism. Life is already demanding enough, I think that a record player or an iPod should give you some relief. So many problems bombard us every day, I have always imagined music as a sunny oasis in which one can relax.
That's what it sounds like. Have you followed the musical counter-movements since the seventies, from punk to new wave and grunge?
No, I don't know much more than that they took place. All these directions, including disco, that came and went. I think you have to clear your mind of all of these things in order to dig out your ideas. Diving into other genres of music can be good for a moment. But if you want to be really creative, you have to look within yourself.
But outside influences can also inspire.
Maybe, I can't make a statement about that.
The title track of the new album "That’s Why God Made the Radio" is about radio. Are you afraid that formerly important media, radio and television, will slowly disappear into the digital world?
I'm very old-fashioned myself, simply because I'm old, for example I always call when I want to talk to someone. And I only use my iPhone as a normal phone. But the interesting thing for me as a musician in these times is that you can download everything immediately. We played at iTunes headquarters the other day and then did an online concert for Rolling Stone magazine. All of this is not bad - you can reach a lot of people very easily. That would not have been so easy thirty years ago.
Are you on the Internet yourself to get to know new bands?
My daughter Amber is 16, if at all, she introduces me to music and all kinds of genres, so I get modern information. But when we make a new album, the inspiration basically comes from our own creativity. We don't look to others. We are very self-sufficient in this regard.
Your new album sounds like a sunny oasis again. Has nothing changed for you in the last few decades?
Yes, in the production process. Brian and I used to write together in his house or in my house, so our songs were always the result of working together. But now Brian sends me melodies, and I write the lyrics to them by myself at home. Unfortunately, this is no longer quite as spontaneous, creative happening as it used to be. But the recording itself is still like it was back then. The radio song made me feel like it was 1965! Brian is still just as good at arranging vocal harmonies as he was back then.
Do you also listen to instrumental music, classical, electronic or jazz?
Electronics not at all, rather jazz, jazz musicians have also played on our records. But to be honest, if I want to listen to music, I turn on the oldies station on the radio - maybe even a Beach Boys song is playing. All the music that was competition for us back then, I call it “friendly rivalry”, which I can now enjoy in a relaxed manner. I don't listen to classical music that often, I inherited a small collection of opera records from my mother, which I really like. I go to ballet every now and then. We have already played our music with classical accompaniment, which was great fun.
Can you still enjoy touring?
Even very. I love to travel.
Have you ever wanted to be something other than a musician?
I've always been interested in architecture, my father and grandfather were both in construction. I might have followed in their footsteps, designed houses.
It's also a creative profession.
Exactly, I think I would definitely have done something creative. I could never paint or sculpt, but I think there are very few painters who sell enough while they're still alive. We really have it better there!
Interview conducted by Jenni Zylka
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