Indie, underground, or whatever you want to call it music would certainly exist without Gary Wilson; but it wouldn’t quite look or sound the way it does today without him. In 1977, Wilson took to his parent’s basement and concocted a sort of loner funk that is simultaneously unnerving and endearing. He came out of that basement with a full record in tow, You Think You Really Know Me is an exercise in crushing on girls, and just being a weird kid. Wilson put out that record himself and never made a follow-up. However, with that one record he inspired like minded people across the country. In Olympia, Wa college radio station KAOS played the record so much that it inspired them to change their programming to favor non-commercial music. This new programming schedule directly influenced the creation of underground record labels like Sup Pop, K Records, and Kill Rock Stars. Even a young musician who went by the name of Beck was so influenced by Wilson that he name checked him on his breakthrough album “Odelay”.
Since 1977, Wilson slipped into obscurity, but a few years ago he saw a surge in popularity. His first record was re-issued, a documentary was made about him, and he signed to the Stones Throw record label putting out a collection of new material. In the time in between, he was living in southern California and making ends meet by playing in lounge acts and manning the counter at an adult bookstore.
6.4=Makout from You Think You Really Know Me
How did you and Stones Throw records come together? It seems like an odd pairing for a traditionally hip-hop oriented label to release something that is decidedly un-hip-hop with your music. Motel Records released my record You Think You Really Know Me in 2002 and Forgotten Lovers in 2003. Shortly after Forgotten Lovers was released, Motel Records went out of business. Peanut Butter Wolf, from Stones Throw Records wanted to release You Think You Really Know Me before Motel, but Motel was the first to contact me in 2001. After Motel Records went under, PB Wolf contacted me about putting a record out of new material. We finally settled on the material for Mary Had Brown Hair. They (Stones Throw) are good people. I agree, it is kind of strange for me to hook up with Stones Throw, but it seems to be working out. Madlib and I may collaborate on some music in the future.
With a documentary made about you, and the reissue of You Think you Really Know Me and Forgotten Lovers and subsequent critical acclaim including write ups in the Village Voice and New York Times; how has all this new found attention affected you? I am happy that my music is being released and accepted now. How times have changed. I remember years ago, The Blind Dates and I were getting ready to go on stage at a music festival. We were all covered with flour, paint, milk, etc,. There were like 20 bands. They stopped us from going on stage. Sometimes the club would pull the plug on us while we were performing. Clubs in New York like CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City were a little more understanding. Now everyone is telling me to do what ever I feel like doing. I went back to New York last November for the New York premier of Michael Wolk’s documentary, You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story at Lincoln Center. It almost brought a tear to my eye to see my life story on the big screen at Lincoln Center.
I recently saw you play in New York and the groups opening the show kept saying how much of an honor it was to be on the same bill. What contemporary artists do you really like and why? Glad you got a chance to come to the Rothko show. Glad to hear the other groups enjoyed working with me. I always have a good time when I come to New York. I tend to listen to classical music these days. I like Debussy, Ravel, Cage, Bax, Vaughan Williams. When I listen to The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams, it humbles me. Such a beautiful piece.
Are you continuing to record new material? Are there plans for another record of new original material? Stones Throw has an option to put out another record from me. I have more material and I do continue to record when the mood hits me. I recently bought some more recording equipment.
I read somewhere that you would like to collaborate with Beck on a version of “6.4” because he used to cover that song live and famously name dropped you on “Where its at”; has anything come of this? I think it would be cool for Beck and I to do a version of 6.4=Makeout. Maybe a twenty minute version with strings. Maybe in the future.
I know that through the years you worked steadily in lounge bands and adult bookstores. Do you still work at these places or have you been able to quit in order to focus on other things?
I continue to play at the lounge that I have been at for the past 8 years (when not doing my original music). I play keyboards. It’s kind of like therapy for me. Most people at the lounge don’t know of my “secret” life as Gary Wilson. As far as working at the adult bookstore, that’s winding down. It’s not that I am into pornography. My girlfriend threw me out twice for working there. It’s just that the adult business has a kind of rock and roll attitude. It’s loose and flexible. The guy who hired me was a fan of my early recordings, so it’s like working with your friends. Very loose. We have girls that work in booths. The customer puts some tokens into the slot and the girl comes out and dance for them.
Favorite food? Double cheese pizza and roast beef.
Favorite movie? The original “Carnival Of Souls”.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday afternoon? Watch a horror film and eat a plain double cheese pizza. Hopefully it’s raining outside.
Favorite TV show? The original “Outer Limits” and the original “Twilight Zone”. Also the original “One Step Behind”.
Favorite state? My home state of New York and California. I like all of the United States
Gary Wilson with his backing band The Blind Dates are playing a rare show, April 26th at the Eight Thirty club in Los Angeles.