Gentle Spirit Speaks: A Q&A With Jonathan Wilson

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On Frankie Ray, his unreleased album from 2007:

“It sort of came out with this record label called Koch. The album was supposed to come out and I could tell nothing was going on, there hadn’t been one interview. So I freaked out right before it was supposed to come out, and I was able to get it back but it took years and years. It did actually come out through iTunes.”

On learning to record:

“There was a studio that our band [Muscadine] kind of took over. I kept an apartment there and that was my super-head-first into a real studio. That’s why I have this [Studer tape] machine—because that’s the machine they had at that place. I got to be involved with all the best of the gear—compressors, Pultecs, mics, EMT ‘verbs—all the professional shit. That was my first… I did tons of stuff there.”

On producing Dawes:

“They were on the radar of some folks in town. There was actually a bit of a producer competition for them at that time, because they were the best young thing in town. There are probably four tunes on that album [North Hills] that were done on the first take. The drummer was 17 and just played his fucking ass off. That was a special thing that doesn’t happen every day.

On his studio and gear:

“There was a cable here that I’ve had since I was 13. It just got gone, somebody accidentally [took it]. I’m bummed about that. When I was 13 I got a Gretsch guitar from the ‘60s and an amplifier, which I still have. That was probably the beginning. Everything that’s here was a bargain, or a score, or a find. We build things too from scratch, like this compressor.”

On recording “Desert Raven”:

“People have asked me about that song. I honestly don’t how the fuck that song happened. It’s about going out to Joshua Tree and being pretty altered. I came back and that was the experience of that evening. That’s what it’s about – the imagery – this evening where… where I was out there. The way that it happened in the studio, I don’t even honestly know. I was definitely thinking about America the band. I’ve seen some comparisons to that [in the press]. Which is funny, sometimes those will be so far off but sometimes they’re exactly right.”

Read our March/April feature and see more photos from Jonathan Wilson’s recording studio here.

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