Patrick Wilson's Never-Ending Shred Quest
Weezer’s Pop Punk Songsmith Just Wants To Jam
“I really don’t like songwriting, I think it sucks,” proclaims Weezer’s Patrick Wilson. “True, I have my own band [The Special Goodness], but when I think of my favorite music, like [Led Zeppelin’s] ’When The Levee Breaks,’ is that a great song? I don’t know, but it’s a great recording. I am more into the way players play – the song is a necessary evil to get people to remember the hook so they can enjoy the groove. The song is the vehicle that allows the players to shred, which is exactly the opposite of Weezer.”
Is Patrick Wilson a contrarian? Considering that he collaborated with principal Weezer songwriter Rivers Cuomo on some of the band’s best-loved songs: “My Name Is Jonas,” “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here,” and “Surf Wax America” (from Weezer’s 1994 debut, Blue Album), he sounds conflicted about the band that pays his bills. And while Weezer is better known for its geeky guitar-driven punch-drunk pop-punk than any serious shredability factor, Wilson the drummer (he also plays guitar – read on) is a frustrated prog-rocker, worshipping at the altars of Rush and Pink Floyd, as well as Van Halen (daily) and Led Zeppelin (often), for good measure. This makes for unusual banter at the Weezer water cooler.
“I hooked up with Rivers a year after I got to L.A., in 1991,” Wilson recalls. “Rivers was working at Tower Records with my friend, [bassist] Pat Finn. Rivers had a shred-metal, mathematical, hair band. Me and Pat auditioned. We played two songs that quickly devolved into me grabbing the bass and playing Rush songs. So Rivers was totally bummed from the start, which I guess is the basis of our entire relationship.”
The Shred King
A burly man whose drumming recalls Alex Van Halen, Ringo Starr, and John Bonham (with some 2112-era Neil Peart), Wilson is a prime ingredient in Weezer’s long-term, multiplatinum success. He’s the band’s master of all trades: drumming on records, playing lead guitar in concert, paying close attention to the recording process, and generally minding the store while frontman Cuomo collaborates – especially on last year’s glossy Raditude – with such industry stars as Jermaine Dupri, Lil Wayne, and Butch Walker.
At his core, though, he doesn’t practice often and spends as much time thinking about the sound of recordings as actually drumming on them, Wilson is an über-talented drummer, one of those guys who can just do it, never mind rudimental drills, instructional videos, and ego-driven solo concerns. It’s all evident on Weezer’s Hurley, the band’s debut on indie label Epitaph. With Cuomo writing songs full of indie energy and adolescent melodic mayhem, Wilson is free to stomp and shred (a term he uses often), kicking the crap out of his Ludwig Super Classics while not always realizing that’s the case. “Trainwrecks” is a controlled 2/4 fest worthy of The Cars’ David Robinson; “Smart Girls” rages like an 808 on overdrive; “All My Friends Are Insects” delivers off-kilter hi-hats and frantic beat bulldozing. And it’s all loud!
“I don’t hit hard compared to Dave Grohl when he’s on triple forte,” Wilson explains. “But if you’re standing next to me you’re going to need earplugs.”
The Special Goodness’ 2008 album, Land Air Sea, reveals Wilson’s unique blend of talents. Drumming, guitar, and bass work, vocals, and production mix it up like Weezer slumming with Van Halen. The songs thump, the grooves sway, and the drums and guitar interlock with near prog perfection. What keeps it all balanced is Wilson’s pop songwriting prowess. So while “N.F.A.” kicks major butt via Wilson’s extremely tight drumming, overall it’s the songs that bring you back. Wilson slams open hi-hat tenets on “Move It Along” and amps up a Weezer-meets-Slayer beatdown on “Life Goes By.” Does it sound like Weezer? Is it better than Weezer? We report, you decide …
“The Special Goodness is just super straight-ahead rock music,” Wilson says. “Shredding is the whole reason for the band, or what I consider shredding. To me, ’When The Levee Breaks’ is shredding. Imagine if you had Eddie Van Halen in the left speaker, John Bonham up the middle, then maybe Ron Carter from Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue playing bass in the right speaker. I’m just trying to put together everything I love about these instruments in an ensemble where I play everything.”
While Weezer’s Raditude was a lesson in clobbering drumming, and Hurley slightly downplays his titanic clout, 1996’s Pinkerton is Wilson’s favorite Weezer adventure.
“Pinkerton sounds like every song is off Houses Of The Holy,” he laughs, keeping the spotlight on the Zeppelin comparisons. “I just shred all the way through. The Green Album is straight – it’s been getting more like The Cars over time, and I love The Cars. I pretty much know how to play drums to Rivers’ songs. I just try to stay out of the way and pick a couple spots to do cool stuff. When you’ve got such a dense mix you’re not going to be able to throw a lot of subtlety in there.
“I grew up listening to Van Halen, Rush, Pink Floyd, Hendrix. I identify with drummers whose playing really matters versus, ’Oh, yeah, he’s just keeping time.’ Even Beatles records, the songs are great, but they managed to figure out interesting things to do on their instruments. That is all I am ever trying to do. Otherwise why not just get out your Roland 808 and program everything, cut it to the grid, and call it a day?”