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Author Topic: Brian and interviews  (Read 2495 times)
shelter
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« on: April 09, 2015, 07:44:16 AM »

It's no secret that Brian often makes contradicting statements in interviews, but this has to be one of the most extreme examples so far:

Twitter Q&A, March 30, 2015

What was the most difficult song to write in your entire catalog?
"God Only Knows" because it was a very complex chord pattern.

The Guardian interview, April 9, 2015

Which song required the least effort?
I wrote God Only Knows in 45 minutes.

We all know he does it, but why does he? Does he really change his mind all the time, of does he just have a weird sense of humor?
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Matt Bielewicz
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2015, 08:18:17 AM »

Weeeelll... I'd say that those two statements aren't necessarily contradictory. Brian might feel that God Only Knows might be complex chordally (although I personally think there are much more complex works in his songbook, speaking purely from a chordal point of view), but he might nonetheless have got the basics of the song together in 45 minutes. He was on fire in 1965-7, musically. Great stuff was just pouring out of his imagination and on to tape. And he's often said in interviews that he got the basics for some of the Pet Sounds songs written pretty quickly. I seem to recall him saying that he wrote Caroline No in a few minutes after smoking some marijuana (that was in Don Was's 1995 documentary, I think?).

And because you had trouble with something, doesn't mean it takes forever. It could still have been a gnarly process writing the song, even if it took 45 minutes. It could have been a difficult three-quarters of an hour!

That doesn't tackle the wider issue of Brian contradicting himself in interviews, which he definitely does and another explanation is that he's just confusing things after all the decades that have elapsed since he wrote Pet Sounds. They have been pretty busy decades for him, after all.

So perhaps he's confused another Pet Sounds song with one that he DID write that fast. Or perhaps he was confusing the writing process for God Only Knows with that of another Pet Sounds song that WAS a beee-yatch to write.

Age, the unreliability of memory, a desire to whip through interviews as quickly as possible and get to the next available cheese pizza I think all of these are possible factors in an answer to your question...
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shelter
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2015, 08:55:13 AM »

I agree that those two questions are not the exact opposite of each other, but still: in no way it makes sense to call one song your most difficult one to write, and than to pick out that very same song as the one that required the least effort out of all the hundreds of songs you ever wrote.

And of course, this was just an example.

I suppose there are three explanations:

1. Like you said, whenever he doesn't feel like doing an interview, he just rushes through it without really thinking about the questions and goes with the first thing that comes to mind. Even if it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

2. He just likes to f*ck with journalists by giving them answers that totally contradict the answers that he gave a couple of interviews ago.

3. He's in a very subtle way actually not as humble as he usually pretends to be. He'll say that a song is extraordinarily complex, a week and a half later he'll say that it hardly required him any effort to write. Just like he has a different favorite Beach Boys album pretty much every time someone asks him, which might just be his way of saying that he made more really good albums than just 'Pet Sounds' and 'Smile'.

Either way, I don't really mind. I think the contradicting interviews are funny and they keep Brian intriguing.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2015, 08:56:24 AM by shelter » Logged
chrs_mrgn
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2015, 09:14:18 AM »

Doesn't seem like a contradicting statement to me.

Something can be difficult and also be done quickly.
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Autotune
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2015, 09:41:05 AM »

Good God, wait a minute. There IS a contradiction between stating that something was difficult and then that it took the least effort. Brian bullshits in interviews, God bless him. I love him as much as the next guy, but let us not be naif about this. It's part of who he is, it's funny.
My motto is one of his most famous off-the-whack answers. I think it's ok to laugh with him at these contradictions and surprising answers instead of finding a non extant explanation.
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Matt Bielewicz
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2015, 10:07:48 AM »

I agree that all three of your suggested explanations are consistent with things Brian does, and are possible explanations, shelter!

But another thing Brian is a master of in interviews is to not really answer the question posed. Sometimes he does this really obviously, answering only part of a larger question and omitting the tricky parts. And sometimes, he does it subtly, providing an answer that SEEMS to answer the question such that the interviewer is satisfied and moves on... but in fact, when you look more closely, the answer he's given doesn't address the question at all.

I think that's partially what's happened here. 'I wrote God Only Knows in 45 minutes' can be regarded as an answer to the question, 'Which song required the least effort?', but it could also be a statement of fact that's totally unrelated to the question. And I wouldn't necessarily put that past Brian either!   Wink

And I agree with Autotune, too; all of what I've said may be nonsense, because Brian does bullshit in interviews, or say things off the top of his head. Especially if that cheese pizza is waiting for him in the wings, a few minutes away...!
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rn57
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2015, 02:41:37 PM »

Best part of the new Guardian interview was when Brian was asked about similarities that the reporter perceived between Kraftwerk's Autobahn and Barbara Ann.
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Andrew G. Doe
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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2015, 02:57:16 PM »

The answer is much simpler: Brian hates interviews, because he's mostly asked the same few dumbass questions and will do, or say, pretty much anything to get them over and done with. There may be a rare exception when the interviewer has done their homework properly, or Brian feels in the mood to open up, but by and large, it's a chore to him.

Oh, and "GOK" ? Down the decades I've seen varying times of composition, from 15 minutes to 50. It's Brian.  Grin
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Mikie
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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2015, 03:19:31 PM »

Brian was asked recently why he's doing these Q&A's. He indicated that he was asked by the record company to do it. He's bored to death and full of contradictions. Looking forward to his book - maybe we'll have a field day with the "facts" when they come out.

Q. Are their any songs of yours you'd like to re-record?
A. I'd like to re-record "Let Him Run Wild." I didn't like the vocal.

Somebody needs to remind him that he already did re-record the song. And both versions sound just fine!

Q. What's your favorite track from "Love You"?
A. "Love You".
(?)

Q. What was really first song you ever wrote? How did you do it?
A. I wrote it on my Grandmother's piano. It was a SteinwayAndSons.
(Always read that when he was 19 and driving around in his car, he heard it in his head and drove home right away and finished writing it on his piano). There's been different stories over the years. Wikipedia even counters his answer here.

Q. Was 'Surfer Girl' inspired by anyone in particular?
A. it was actually inspired by Herb Alpert. The melody of "Tell It to the Birds" was the inspiration.
("When You Wish Upon A Star" ring a bell?) At one time he said it was Judy Bowles that inspired it.

Q. What was your favorite part about running the Radiant Radish Health Food Store? What was your biggest seller?
A. The cash register - I learned how to do it.
(Sure it wasn't Vitamin B-12, Brian?) Didn't know you sold cash registers in a health food store).

Q. I've heard you're a Dodgers fan. What's your favorite Vin Scully moment?
A. The Yankees. Because of Mickey Mantle. I played center field in high school.

Q. Who was you favorite baseball team as a kid?
A. The Yankees

Q. Hi Brian, which Beach Boys album would you say was your favorite and why?
A. Well, my favorite is Summer Days and Summer Nights because it had cool rock and roll songs like Salt Lake City, you know?
(Thought it was Friends. No, Love You. No, wait, Pet Sounds! No........)

Q. Hi Brian. Just wanted to know, years from now, what would you like your legacy to be?
A. That I was a good singer.
(?) Really Brian? Even after 1975?

From a recent Brian Q&A:
Q: Was Surfin' already written before you and the guys visited Hite and Dorinda Morgan at Stereo Masters?
A. No, it was written shortly after them.
(See AGD's timeline).

Q: Surfer Girl is a great song, what do you like about that one?
A. I was in my car listening to the radio and drove home and that song inspired me. But  no, it wasn't "When You Wish Upon A Star".
(See above)

« Last Edit: April 09, 2015, 03:20:34 PM by Mikie » Logged

I, I love the colorful clothes she wears, and she's already working on my brain. I only looked in her eyes, but I picked up something I just can't explain. I, I bet I know what shes like, and I can feel how right shed be for me. Its weird how she comes in so strong, and I wonder what shes picking up from me. I hope its good, good, good, good vibrations, yeah!!
Matt Bielewicz
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« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2015, 01:39:11 AM »

I agree with Andrew too. I think most of us, if we were put in a hotel room and made to answer the same poorly researched questions OVER AND OVER AGAIN for a whole day or more would start making stuff up too, just to make the whole miserable experience pass faster and get to the buffet, steak or cake at the end of the process...

Lots of the questions asked in interviews are so damn stupid. I mean, if *I'm* asked by friends what my favourite Beach Boys album is, I can't give an answer. It changes all the time, depending on my mood, what I'm into at the moment, whether I'd actually rather be listening to a completely different artist at that point (other artists are available in my record collection...!), and so on. Being asked which is my favourite Brian Wilson track is even worse there are hundreds, all of which at different times I might have thought 'Wow, this is the best thing ever' - but then that moment passes. Being asked which is your 'favourite' is actually an unanswerable question, unless you temper it by saying, 'when you look back right NOW, which is your favourite?' And then the person posing the question has to accept that the answer might be different tomorrow, next week, next year, or maybe even in five minutes from now.

Now imagine that you're not only a fan of this stuff you actually CREATED it. That means you have even MORE invested in each of the tracks; you have all the memories of what first inspired the song, the frustrations and highs of completing the composition, the possible disappointments and exultations of hearing the initial idea become performable and then recorded reality. How could you possibly choose between them, say 'this one is "better" than that one' (a meaningless judgement anyway, really). How can you even subjectively rate, say, 'The Lonely Sea' against, say, 'Cuckoo Clock', 'You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone', 'Surf's Up' and 'Runaway Dancer'? They're so completely different! I couldn't do it; it must be impossible for Brian himself. And he gets asked those questions in interviews all the time. Several times a day. Again and again and again.

I reckon it's no wonder we get a different answer each time.
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shelter
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« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2015, 02:29:23 AM »

I agree with Andrew too. I think most of us, if we were put in a hotel room and made to answer the same poorly researched questions OVER AND OVER AGAIN for a whole day or more

But isn't that partially his own fault? Couldn't it be that because Brian very rarely gives any long and deep answers, people just keep asking him simple questions?

I mean, you could ask him something like "Hey Brian, people obviously have different accents and different ways of pronouncing certain words. It can differ from town to town and sometimes even from neighborhood to neighborhood. I read somewhere that vocal harmonies supposedly sound best when the singers have exactly the same accent. Do you think that growing up in the same neighborhood, and in case of you and your brothers even in the same house, could be one of the reasons why the original Beach Boys' vocal blend sounded so magical?".

But you just know that he'll say something like "I loved harmonizing with Carl and Dennis. We sounded great on In My Room." Next question...

I guess that's why people keep asking him things like "What's your favorite song?", "Would you like to write more songs with Mike in the future?", "Do you still have that sandbox?" or "What's your favorite kind of pizza?". At least you might get a straight answer to your question...
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Andrew G. Doe
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« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2015, 03:14:41 AM »

Way back in the last millennium, David Leaf gave me some outstanding advice about interviewing, or even just talking to, Brian: never, ever ask him a question that can be answered with just "yes" or "no". Because he will.

Brian is very much a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. He can be more taciturn than Cal Coolidge, or more verbose than Van Dyke Parks (if somewhat less lapidary). Depends. I can dig it, there are times when I'd happily say next to nothing for days on end.
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mikeddonn
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« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2015, 04:00:47 PM »

I agree with Andrew too. I think most of us, if we were put in a hotel room and made to answer the same poorly researched questions OVER AND OVER AGAIN for a whole day or more

But isn't that partially his own fault? Couldn't it be that because Brian very rarely gives any long and deep answers, people just keep asking him simple questions?

I mean, you could ask him something like "Hey Brian, people obviously have different accents and different ways of pronouncing certain words. It can differ from town to town and sometimes even from neighborhood to neighborhood. I read somewhere that vocal harmonies supposedly sound best when the singers have exactly the same accent. Do you think that growing up in the same neighborhood, and in case of you and your brothers even in the same house, could be one of the reasons why the original Beach Boys' vocal blend sounded so magical?".

But you just know that he'll say something like "I loved harmonizing with Carl and Dennis. We sounded great on In My Room." Next question...


The answer might just be "Yes"!
« Last Edit: April 10, 2015, 04:01:49 PM by mikeddonn » Logged
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