You might think you know Wilson after hearing its first two albums, “Full Blast Fuckery” (2013) and “Right to Rise” (2015). But those records, each leaning to the heavier side, only scratched the Detroit band’s surface. To really get to know the five band members, take a close look at the newly released “Tasty Nasty,” an album overflowing with personality, good-time vibes and influences from the decade when they started to come of age—the ‘90s. While the band loves to laugh at itself and the world around it, it’s clear after talking to frontman Chad Nicefield that it doesn’t look at its music or the process of creating it as a joke. Having fun is serious business if it is to have value. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with Chad to discuss “Tasty Nasty” and found out why “to know Wilson is to love Wilson.”
LIVE METAL: The new album, “Tasty Nasty,” just came out. I’ve followed Wilson for a few years now, and I know you’ve always been these kind of goofy, fun-loving guys. But on the first two albums, it didn’t really come through that much in the music. So what made you decide to bring that to the front on this new album?
CHAD NICEFIELD: I think you kind of hit the nail on the head when you said, “I’ve followed your band”—thank you, first of all, for giving a shit the past few years. But you’ve probably had an encounter with us in some way, shape or form, whether that was in person or on the Internet. I don’t know exactly how you came to the conclusion that you came to that we’re goofy, fun-loving guys. One thing that you mentioned is that it didn’t come across in the music until now, and that was very important for us moving forward as a unit. Somebody once told me, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget this, that to know Wilson is to love Wilson. In that great fight of getting people to pay attention or subscribe to what you’re preaching, we wanted to move forward in the next chapter of our band, letting people very vividly know who we are. So we put our DNA all over the record. Those past efforts had us hiding that part of us in the dark shadows of our van or with our confidantes and friends. Being a band that’s been putting out records now for seven years or whatever it is, it was overdue that we put the old schlong on the table for the world to see.
But it’s not just fun for fun’s sake. This is really who you guys are, and these songs still have meaning.
Yeah. At the end of the day, we take our music very seriously. It’s a medium of art. At the base level of it, just skimming the top, you’re able to take away exactly what you took away from it, that it’s a fun record. But there are very serious overtones in how we came to create that record and the layers that exist underneath that very base layer of it being a fun record. That’s the adventure of being involved in art and how you can make it your own and give the gift to the world to unwrap any way that they want. We look at it like this is a pretty box, and it might have some funny little comics on the outside of it, but inside of it, it’s a very deep, weird, twisted world if you want to uncover it. (laughs)
There’s a very strong ‘90s vibe throughout the album. I’m not sure exactly how old you are. Were you a teenager in the ‘90s?
Yes. (laughs) We’re products of that decade. More importantly, I was born ‘83, so around ‘94, ‘95, in particular, was when I first came to start to play guitar, and the bands like Nirvana, the Toadies and the Gin Blossoms—all those things that I started to learn—Soundgarden—just started to learn to play the guitar to, that is where I cut my teeth and started to find my own way as a human. Before that, you were listening to what your parents or your older siblings may or may not have been playing around you. For us, it was when we really got to explore who we were, and, I suppose, we built our DNA during that time.
So when we came back to make this record, I don’t want to say it was a conscious effort that we reverted back to that area, but you could tell as we started to make the record that we wanted to make that we kind of brought ourselves back to the reason that we started to play music or wanted to pick up a guitar or drumsticks or learn how to sing or whatever it was. It was always arrows pointed back to that decade, the early 2000s even. Look at the record as like a mixtape, where you’re putting together the best version. How old are you, Greg?
OK, you’re a few years older than me, so you totally get it. You get it even more than I do, ‘cause there wasn’t even compact discs probably when you were mixtaping. (laughs)
Yeah, I made actual tapes. (laughs)
So did I until ‘95 or ‘96 when I finally got a CD player and figured out how I could burn CDs on my own. But that’s how we made the record. Like I said, that shiny box is there, but if you were to even know what went into the sequencing of that record and how much time is between each track. If you’re a person that purchases physical copies still and puts a CD into your CD player or spins a vinyl, there’s a reason why there’s the extra grooves between each song because of how it’s supposed to make you feel. So yeah, totally a ‘90s vibe.
The album title, “Tasty Nasty,” comes from one of the song titles, but why did you choose that as the album title?
Well, the funny story about that is unbeknownst to us, that was our record title in 2015 for this record. (laughs) We were on tour with Halestorm and Nothing More over in Europe. The band has always had this knack to kill dead time by creating fake characters that we all portray, with names and backstories and whatnot. “Tasty Nasty” was a catchphrase of a character that I had made while in Europe by the name of Rex Rufkin, who is this young chap from Calabasas, California, who had left his dad’s house to be the best blogger in the world. The idea of this dude is he would bust into the back room of bands—basically, he was the most unwanted press person in the whole world. He would just get in your face, and his catchphrase was, “Oh, that’s tasty nasty,” and he had this shitty California surfer dude vibe going on. (laughs)
Anyways, we said this phrase over and over and over again, and when we came back to make the record and what we wanted to call it—that was a very happy time in our band, and what followed after that was a very dark period of time. So we went back to that.
The phrase in itself is hilarious, but if I can take it one step further, it’s like the sweet and sour chicken at a Chinese food place, which is (drummer Matt) Puhy’s favorite dish. (laughs) So without the sour, you can’t enjoy the sweet. So that’s where that comes from.
You mentioned a dark period. I don’t know how much you want to go into that, but what happened during this dark period for the band?
I guess the easiest way to describe it, because everybody goes through something like this, is the creative juices were sucked dry because of the business juices, and we had come into a situation where we weren’t happy. We felt like we had been a square pushed through a circle and our edges got removed, and things just didn’t feel the right way. I can speak for (guitarist) Jason (Spencer)—he started the band; I came in shortly after in 2010; he started the band in 2009, and from there, things changed radically for both of us. But Jason—he quit the band. Before we started to make this record, we had let some team members go. We left Razor & Tie. The future was very unknown for us.
So moving forward, Jason and I had made a pact together with the whole band that said no matter what, Jason would be a part of making this next record, even though he won’t go on the road and tour with us. On the other side of that, the creating of this record and the energy that it brought back into us as people and as a band kept Jason in the band. He came to us and said, “I don’t want to make the decision that I said I was going to make. I want to do this record with you guys in its entirety and see it through to the very end.”
So yeah, there’s plenty of information in that dark period of time that would bring us to here, but that’s the brass tacks of it.
At some point before this album—I’m not sure exactly when—you went to Asia. What happened over there, and why did you go there?
To search for perspective. I know that sounds really cheesy or something, but I shaved my beard and tried to find myself. (laughs) And I think I did an OK job at it. It was one of those things where I had to try to figure out how to get through the things that scared the shit out of me in life and do them and do them in places that I have nowhere to go if something goes wrong, if that makes any sense. Started with surfing. I had a great, immense fear of open water. And then that went to many other things. There’s a long laundry list of crazy shit that I did when I was over there.
That was where “Tasty Nasty” kind of started to get its wings. We had been writing at that point, because we were in a dark place with all the aforementioned things, some dark songs. We had played them for some people, and they were like, “They’re cool, man, but this is not Wilson. Wilson is a fun band.” And then I started to think about things like, “OK, I’m hearing what you’re saying, but more importantly, you don’t get to fucking tell me what Wilson is.” (laughs) And that’s what kind of sparked the whole attitude of Wilson where we are in 2018: You don’t get to fuckin’ tell me what my band is and what my band isn’t and what the art I’m going to make is and what it isn’t. It’s going to be this gift that you put into the world, so let me put it into the world the way that I want.
Not to say that they were wrong, because they were completely right. Those songs we writing weren’t right for what we needed to do. So that’s where the catalyst began for this record.
What countries did you go to?
The Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam. I went to Shanghai (China) for two or three days, and I went to Singapore for two of three days. But the majority of it was spent in Indonesia and Vietnam with a little bit of it being spent in the Philippines.
When did the acid come into this, and what effect did that have?
It came in after Asia. So when I came home from my little soul-searching journey, I didn’t feel like I had enough. So being on home soil and thinking about things, the whole goal I had in mind for all of this was searching for perspective and how I wanted to feel and what I wanted the world to feel from me and how I could be the best for the whole atmosphere that surrounded me. So microdosing is what I did after that for the entirety of writing “Tasty Nasty,” which was like nine months. This isn’t including the actual period of time we spent making the record as a band, but nine months of creating demos, essentially, was spent while I was microdosing on LSD. I’m a very big advocate of respecting a drug like that. It’s not like taking hits of acid every day. That’s not how it works, and I don’t want anybody out there to think that that is what I was doing or how it works, ‘cause it’s much more of a process than that. Yeah, it literally started after Asia to continue that journey.
At any point during the making of this album did you stop to consider or think about someone who was a fan of the first two Wilson albums, of the heavier stuff, what they would think of this new direction?
Yeah. There was two thoughts there. One of those thoughts is, like I mentioned to you, that first person who had said to me, “To know Wilson is to love Wilson,” and we all knew that no matter what we did with the record, the people who have followed our journey—like you said yourself, the people who know who we are, our personalities, our DNA—they’re going to see it vividly inside of this creation. The heaviness and all of the other things that mask the energy that essentially they were taking away from our band, that’s not going anywhere. If anything, we’re shining a brighter light on it.
Now the other side of that is the people who would hate our band for not making a heavy record never really got our band to begin with. Fortunately for them, there’s a lot of options out there for them to sink their teeth in if that’s what they’re looking for. If they want to take a journey and open up themselves a little bit to another style of music, that’s fuckin’ awesome. But if not, that’s your own prerogative. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life or what to listen to or what not to listen to. I don’t give a fuck if you don’t like what I just created. Like I said, I don’t want you go anywhere, but it doesn’t bother me. In fact, if you didn’t find it inside of us, find it somewhere else, because it’s a really important journey to open your mind to other styles of music. You don’t have to have the same exact fucking cup of black coffee every fucking day. Put some simple syrup in it. I don’t know. Fuckin’ add a shot of espresso. Who knows, maybe you might even like it to be flat. Just get out there and explore what the world has to offer. Don’t be so close minded.
You’ve done some touring this summer, and I’m assuming you’ve been playing a bunch of the new songs. Since they are quite a bit different from the earlier stuff, is it a challenge to put together a cohesive set list of blending old and new?
I think it will be as we move forward. If we do a headline thing, I think at that point we’ll have to think about it much more clearly, because I don’t want anybody to come out to a show, and say that they love all three records—I don’t want to disappoint them. To leave their house and be out with other people to enjoy something that, whether you came to the table at “Full Blast Fuckery” and stuck around all the way to now, or if you just really love that record or “Right to Rise,” and you’re just like, “Man, I really hope they play a couple songs like that.” I think we’ll find that to be more of a challenge than supporting, because (supporting) we’re just gonna play this record. We’ll put in a couple of things from the other records that we feel could be more cohesive inside of this record. I’m not really worried about it. On the Theory of a Deadman tour that we just did, we were able to add a couple of the older songs from “Right to Rise” that were more in line with what we were doing—”The Flood” and “Windows Down” in particular.
Those are my two favorites.
Those are our two favorites, so if it was up to us, those are the only two songs that we’d ever play from that record ever again in the entirety of our existence as a band. Maybe “Give ‘em Hell” here and there because it is kind of a headbanger for the crowd. We’ll see how that comes to fruition as we go and potentially do some headlining things.
What’s coming up next? I guess a lot of touring on the horizon?
Yeah. We’re about to announce a couple tours. In the next week or so, we’ll have something announced. And then following that, we’ll have another announcement. Then we have ShipRocked that we’re gonna be doing for the 10th anniversary, which will be fun. I think the lineup this year is awesome. In the meantime, we’ve got some other tricks and treats that we’ll be putting out there in the world to continue to ride the “Tasty Nasty” wave.