Q&A with Eric Wagner
Sheila Rene': Do you need to get yourself a beverage before we start?
Eric Wagner: No, I've been up since seven taking care of the kids who just left for school. Then it'll be quieter for the interview blitz. It's day three.
SR: What's been the most interesting interview so far?
EW: Probably, R.I.P. Magazine out of Los Angeles. They've known us for a long time even when Lonn Friend was there. U.S. Rocker was a good one, Texas Beat was ok.
SR: What was the dumbest question?
EW: I don't know, because I've done 20 interviews already.
SR: Do you think doing interviews helps with the sales of the album?
EW: These are people out there that listen to our music. If they didn't like our music they would not be doing the interview at all. It's a good way to get the word out about what's going on with the band. The underground people are the real fans.
SR: Are you traveling on the superhighway yet?
EW: I have a dinosaur of a computer that someone gave me.
SR: If you're not online, just where are you? is one of my new sayings.
EW: (laughing) I'm in Aurora, Illinois therefore I am.
SR: I'm eager to talk to you about all the troubles you've put behind you.
EW: It was war for a while. A lot of times it seemed like every man was for himself. It's over and there is peace now.
SR: You managed to hold on through it all. It's not easy.
EW: One of the main motivations for me to do a new record was that I didn't want "them" to dictate to me and my life. Even walking away from something, if I did it and it was my idea, I could live with that. If someone else f**ked up and dictated my demise, I can't deal with that. This album was a little more aggressive and angrier than our other albums because of those circumstances.
SR: You've not fallen into the grunge basket either. It's just straight ahead
rock and roll.
EW: Pretty much. I've been sitting here since the end of June and I stepped back a little bit and did nothing. Now that the album is coming out in late January, and I'm doing all these interviews, I've got the itch to get on the road. Now I'm getting all excited about the album and touring. I'm working out in the gym to get in shape. You have to be healthy to do what we do on the road. You can only party so much.
SR: I've been playing this album of yours for months now. What are the
signs from Europe since they've had it since April?
EW: Very good so far. It's hard for us to really know how things really are. We're already working on new material and it's just coming out in the U.S. Century Media wants another record.
SR: How did you get hooked up with Century Media?
EW: Germany came calling first after we got our release. Century Media found out about us and we already had the album recorded. We took our time to find folks who believed in this project and would actually work the record to radio. So far, they've been on the ball. As long as everyone gives 100% and does their job, then if you win or lose, it's ok.
SR: Plastic Green Head is right in target with our troops leaving for
EW: Not only that, but there are another couple of meanings for me. It's also about the establishment, the money men who keep us poor people down or tries to anyway. Then it's the guy on the corner selling reefer. There are more than a few of us green heads around.
SR: I love the CD with all the plants represented.
EW: That picture is real. It was shot by a friend of ours who lives in Holland.
SR: "Opium-Eater" is one of my favs.
EW: Mine too. It's just about me getting stoned and writing the lyrics. I do all the lyrics on this album. Bruce and Rick handle the music.
SR: I think the singer has to be involved in the lyrics all the time.
EW: A couple of times over the years they've tried to help out, but get mad when I change it. The lyrics were not how I talk, think or feel. It was different growing up in Europe.
SR: Did you go nuts over the new Beatle tracks? Did you catch it all?
EW: I love 'em. Of course I did. I didn't tape it because there is a ten hour version on them. It seems with all the stupid commercials, they cut the songs off early. I would assume in the ten hour version there won't be any commercials. I understood what they were saying, especially at the end. I haven't ever been on their level, but you do get sick of being around each other all the time. It happened to us.
SR: Did you like the two new songs?
EW: I think "Free As A Bird" would get a B- from me. It's still the Beatles.
SR: I bought the special CD that came with an interview CD.
EW: I don't like the early stuff as much as the material starting with Rubber Soul and Revolver.
SR: "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a wonderful Lennon/McCartney cut.
EW: I've been wanting to do that song for a long time. I didn't think we were ready for it until this time. We have total control now. In the past we've always had somebody we had to argue with. That's always been the worst part. People who are supposed to be our allies were the ones we had to argue with. They didn't give us enough credit. We did this album ourselves. We planned the covers and we got the talent we wanted to do all that.
SR: How'd you hear about Vincent. He has done some good albums i.e.
EW: He's a good friend of ours from the San Francisco Bay Area. We get along great with him. I thought it made for a great working astmosphere. The family (us) is much healthier now. The people working with us love us and that makes a big difference.
SR: What was his best quality besides being a good guy?
EW: Vinny is a great engineer and knows his way around the studio. Sometimes when he walks out the front door, he doesn't have clue, but inside the studio he knows exactly what's happening. Plus he's a baby Jerry Lewis. For about four weeks, I was searching my brain for who he reminded me of, and it finally hit me.
SR: Everyone has respect for him that I've talked to.
EW: He's not going to B-S you. He has no hidden agendas, we're bros. We're going to use him again.
SR: You worked in Malibu and in Oakland.
EW: We did the basic tracks at Malibu. I stayed at Weller's house at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. I walked around in the relaxed hippie atmosphere of Telegraph Avenue. It was a good way for me to clear my head before going into the studio to lay down the vocals. It was a cool place to work.
SR: You're using a lot of different voices. On "Flowers" I hear a little
David Bowie in there.
EW: I was just listening to Hunky Dory. I love (he sings) Oh you pretty thing, don't you know... I love that album. The song, "Flowers" sprang from our visit to Jim Morrison's grave in Paris. We hung out there all day in that cemetary. That was a good day, a good memory.
SR: I just saw Bowie with Nine Inch Nails.
EW: It's a bizarre line up in a way. Nine Inch Nails are much bigger than Bowie at this time.
SR: That's true. Trent Reznor just wanted to tour with his hero and pay his
respects. Bowie, Eno and Fripp were the beginning of industrial.
EW: It's just music to me. If you like it, you like it. Nowadays, I think, the last couple of years, it's cool to like different types of music. It's alright to like Machine Head and Smashing Pumpkin or the Beatles. Back in the '80s it was not cool to admit that to your friends. There had to be a big label on everything. Like the late '60s, it was just good music. I liked Steppenwolf, The Doors and The Beatles were my favorite, but Deep Purple was cool. I have a turntable in my bedroom. When I was kid I'd go into my bedroom and lock the door and put on my records. I listen to a lot of the old stuff to get production ideas, but I don't want to sound like anyone else.
SR: How'd you settle on the Monkey's tune, the "Porpoise Song?" Those
guys were always accused of ripping off the Beatles.
EW: I was looking through my old albums and just stumbled across the song again. I thought it was funny. People are going to look at the booklet and wonder why we did a Carol King tune. The song reminded me of the Beatles and everyone loved it, so we recorded it.
SR: Any idea why drummers are so hard to hold onto? It's that Spinal Tap
EW: I'm not going to say anything about that. In case we can't find one because of what I said. They're just a different breed. It is harder to find a good drummer than any other position.
SR: Thanks for not bending your style to fit into the alternative scene. We
need warriors like you.
EW: I don't know what we are. I never considered us heavy metal either. We're just a heavy rock band.