Alexandra Kometovna

Brian Willson. The Beach Boys co-founder catches another wave

Alexandra Kometovna
Brian Willson. The Beach Boys co-founder catches another wave

interview by CHRISTOPHER TENNANT
photograph by LESTER COHEN

What’s the secret to doing a good Brian Wilson interview?
Talk about the new album.

Right, of course. What’s your new album, No Pier Pressure, all about?
It’s about happiness and good harmonies.

Did you go into the studio with lyrics, or write them on the fly?
I usually go in with a chord pattern and a melody, and then my collaborator writes the lyrics.

In this issue, we profiled Paul Dano, who plays your younger self in Love & Mercy. What did you think of the movie?
It scared me to see how much I went through. You know, mentally and with all my problems. It actually scared me quite a bit. I thought Paul did a very, very good approximation of how I used to be in the studio. He knew exactly how I produced records, and he sang the way I sang. I couldn’t believe it how good he was at portraying me.

Paul Giamatti plays your old psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Landy. How did it feel to see him on screen?
Well, when I saw the movie, the guy that played him approximated him very much. It almost made me think it was really him!

He’s pure evil in the movie. Did he have any good qualities?
Well, he taught me a lot of things about life. He was like a life teacher to me. He taught me how to socialize with adult people. He taught me a thing called self-sufficient, which is you’re able to watch over your life and take care of your finances and stuff like that. So, yeah.

Any big summer plans?
I'm going to do a tour in June, and I might do a tribute album to the great guys of rock and roll. You know, Chuck Berry, Little Richard…

I read you’re doing some tour dates with your old bandmate Al Jardine. Is he the coolest former Beach Boy after you?
He’s the only one that still talks to me after fifty years, so yeah.

The film covers a pretty heavy period in your life. Are you at peace now?
I have peace of mind, sure.

Do you practice any form of spirituality? Yoga, that sort of thing?
No, I just exercise at the park. I take walks every day.

Any advice for younger guys looking to make it in the music business?
My advice is for them to write a song, and then sing it, and produce it.

That’s it?
Yeah.

willson.jpg

What's the most important quality a man can have?
The most important quality is an ability to sing.

Above loyalty and integrity and—
All of it, yeah.

Do you like giving interviews, Brian?
Yeah, I do. Yeah.

Read any good books lately?
I don’t read books. I don't have the patience.

Any hobbies?
My hobby is exercise. Walking in the park.

Let’s see ... Who’s the coolest guy you've ever met?
Danny Hutton [lead vocalist of Three Dog Night] is probably the coolest.

What was cool about him?
His sense of humor. He’s a funny guy. I haven’t seen him in a long time, but I think about him a lot.

You’re a pretty funny guy, too, no?
I used to be very comical. I don’t have my sense of humor like I used to, though. That was all in the sixties.

Do you ever get tired of people asking about the sixties?
No, not at all. The sixties is my favorite time of life. I was working with the Beach Boys, producing and writing songs for them.

You’ve ingested your share of narcotics. Any you regret?
The LSD I would never take again.

You got what you needed out of it.
Well, I wrote “California Girls” shortly after I did my first acid trip. It expanded my mind a little bit, so I could write better songs.

Was it worth it?
It was worth it, but I wouldn’t take it again.

Cocaine?
Cocaine is a lousy drug, you know? It makes you nervous.

Looking back, what are you proudest of?
I’m proud of Summer Days (and Summer Nights). That’s my favorite Beach Boy album. I like it.

Not Smile or Pet Sounds?
Nope.

It’s been great talking with you, Brian. Good luck this summer.
Thank you very much. I'll see you sometime. Bye!