Today we return to Los Angeles to speak with Steven Eric Wilson of Plasticsoul. We’re going deep, kids. Hang on tight.
Tell me a little about your background. How you got into music.
Steven Eric Wilson: I had 5 older brothers and sisters who filled my head with all sorts of music from as early as I can remember. It was probably Kiss who made me want to be a musician. They were like super heroes with guitars.
How did Plasticsoul come together?
SEW: When I was 15 I joined my first band – a really horrible punk band – playing bass guitar. Our guitar player had a $15 pawn shop guitar that was made from particle board. Our drummer played Synsonics drums (no, seriously). I played with a couple more bands after that before I got disillusioned with the whole “band” thing and decided to do things on my own. I liked the idea of being a solo artist while using a band moniker like Matt Johnson/The The. Originally I wanted to call the band The Sal Mineos but my friend told me that I might have problems with the estate of Sal Mineo so I changed it to Plasticsoul. During the recording of our first album, Pictures From The Long Ago, Marc Bernal became a permanent fixture in the group. We did as much of the production, recording, and playing as we could do on our own, and got help from our friends when we couldn’t. During the recording of our second album, Peacock Swagger, we made the decision to add members to the group in order to better recreate live what we were doing in the studio.
SEW: Yes. After that Paul McCartney said “plastic soul man, plastic soul” in the fade out of The Beatles track “I’m Down”. Then they mutated the phrase into their album title Rubber Soul. I wanted something that reminded people of vintage music. All of our amps and guitars are pre 1970 and we are heavily influenced by classic rock, so it seemed appropriate.
I hear some Beatles influence, but mostly in the vocals. Is that intentional?
SEW: The Beatles are a huge influence on me. They were innovators and they wrote amazing songs. I don’t intentionally try to sing like any member of The Beatles and I don’t really hear it myself. It’s strange how many people hear different things in my voice. I’ve gotten Michael Penn, George Michael (??) and Billy Corgan (?!?!?!) and others.
Tell me about the song “Over & Over.”
SEW: Over & Over is about trying to ignore emotional pain by burying it deep within you and trying to forget it. I grew up trying to do this and it doesn’t work. Eventually all of that poison will bubble back up to the surface and really mess you up mentally and physically. That song was a big exorcism for me. I’m really proud of that one.
What inspires you musically and lyrically?
SEW: I’m inspired by whatever I’m feeling at the time. I’m not usually very direct in my lyric writing. My lyrics tend to be more about imagery than about saying something specific. I like leaving things open to interpretation.
I’m inspired musically by real instruments. Music that is made without digital correction. I love hearing mistakes. Some of my favorite parts of songs are mistakes or things that shouldn’t be there. The squeaky kick drum pedal in James Brown’s Sex Machine makes me smile every time.
Yes! Exactly. Jimi Hendrix is someone who has inspired so many guitarists to be extremely proficient and yet he has mistakes on his albums and also never played his songs the same way twice. Is Plasticsoul similarly fluid live?
SEW: Oh god yes! Our bass player Marc often complains because we sound so different live than we do on record. To me, that’s a good thing. There was a band in the 80’s that I really loved called Lions & Ghosts. On their first album they had all of these lush string arrangements, piano, etc, and when you saw them live it was just 2 guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. And they were AWESOME live! That was what I wanted with Plasticsoul. Our guitar player Daniel is always changing up his pedals so his sound is often different, and he rarely plays the exact same thing twice. My guitar solos tend to be more scripted but that is just because I’m not as good a guitar player as Daniel. Overall, I think we still sound like Plasticsoul when we perform live.
What do you want people to get from your music?
SEW: The beauty of imperfection.
What do you get from your music?
What are your highest aspirations for Plasticsoul?
SEW: I would be very happy if I could make enough money from my music to support myself, my wife, and our cats. That doesn’t mean I would be upset if suddenly we were as big as Queen and playing stadiums. If we can continue to make music that I can be proud of, make a living, and take the show on the road so we can meet the people outside the US that bought our records, I would be very happy
What is your assessment of the LA music scene and music in general right now?
SEW: There are some amazing musicians in Los Angeles making fabulous records. Brandon Schott (who is a casual member of Plasticsoul), the breakups, John Hoskinson, Everyday Ghost, The Condors, Brian Whelan…tons of great artists! Unfortunately, the club scene isn’t very supportive. If we could inject the passion of our LA musicians into our LA club owners we might be able to achieve something.
Chicken, pork, beef, or tofu?
SEW: Back in August I cut all animal protein out of my diet with the exception of chicken and fish. One of the things I thought I was going to miss the most was chorizo. Then I found SOYrizo and its delicious – so I will have to go with tofu.
Plasticsoul’s latest CD Peacock Swagger voted
#1 on Absolute Powerpop’s Top 100 CDs of 2009 List!
#1 on PowerPopAholic’s Top CD’s of 2009 List!