Nathan Williams is a 23 year old weed, video game and skateboarding enthusiast responsible for some of the scuzziest production values since, well, ever. Better known as Wavves, beneath the reverb murk and horror stories and internet hype the most important thing to remember about Williams is that he’s a regular 23 year old dude.
He watches television, he plays video games, he smokes weed, he hangs out with friends, and in his spare time he records thrashy reverb-laden punk straight into Garage Band using the internal microphone on his Macbook. That’s probably the only difference between Nathan Williams and every other aimless twenty-something year old in America.
I must admit, I was a tad reluctant to interview Williams as his past media interactions were filled with way-too-sarcastic and way-too-truncated answers that bordered on passive-aggressive. Considering his recent Pitchfork hyped “public meltdown” in Spain I was expecting a bratty, arrogant, short and potentially unstable caricature on the other end of the line. Instead I got an affable, often funny and very relatable young man. Like I said, the most important thing to remember about Williams is that he’s a regular 23 year old dude. That sentiment may go someway to explaining why the Primavera meltdown occurred in the first place (because getting fucked up is what regular people do), why Williams is reluctant to play nice with the media (because it’s not normal to talk about yourself endlessly) and why the interview felt like catching up with an old High School friend (because Wu-Tang, Seinfeld and weed are part of a certain age-group’s collective experience).
P: Hey Nathan, have you been doing interviews all day?
W: Yeah interviews all day.
P: Is that the worst part of the job?
W: It’s not one of the best.
P: What’s your least favourite part of being a semi-successful musician?
W: (Laughs) My least favourite part? Yeah probably press stuff.
P: Do you ever enjoy giving interviews? Has there ever been a memorable interview where you’ve come away from it going â€ yeah that wasn’t so bad’?
W: Yeah I slept with this girl once who interviewed me…No I don’t, it’s not that I dislike doing interviews
I just feel awkward talking about myself is all.
P: Yeah it’s a really unnatural thing I think, and having to do it over and over again wouldn’t be fun at all. What have you been up to today besides the interviews? What’s a day in the life of Nathan Williams?
W: I’ve been watching TV all day.
P: What have you been watching?
W: A reality show on VH1. Not â€ Flavour of Love’ it’s â€ Chance with Love’?
P: Is it like a dating show?
P: Do you think TV is getting better or worse? There’s so much crap on television now but its strangely watchable just because its’ so bad.
W: Ah it depends on what you’re into. The sitcom itself has kinda died which was my personal favourite but as far as reality and that sort of thing goes I think some of that stuff is mega interesting. They just find the craziest people possible and stick them in a house together and we all get to watch them act a fool.
P: Would you ever go on a â€ Real World’ or anything like that?
W: Fuck no. I wouldn’t last a day- I’m crazier than all those people combined.
P: Speaking of TV you’re a massive â€ Seinfield’ fan obviously, what â€ Seinfield’ character are you most like? Or who would you wanna be?
W: I’d say I’m mostly Bob Sacamano.
P: The guy behind the scenes that no one gets to see?
W: Yeah Kramer’s friend Bob. No I’m probably a little like Jerry and George I’d say.
P: A little neurotic?
W: A little neurotic and then I kind of have a semi-successful career like Jerry does so I’m somewhere in between.
P: Do you watch ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ by any chance?
W: I love ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’.
P: Are you excited about the â€ Seinfield’ cast re-forming for the new season?
W: Oh my god- I’m going to be on tour when it actually comes out so I’m bummed about that but I’m really excited to see how the plot unfolds with the Black’s and with Kramer and the new characters on there. I think it will be genius.
P: There’s a lot of expectation though, it’s like when your favourite band releases a record for the first time in a decade. It could be great or it could just be complete shit compared to the perfection of their previous work.
W: Yeah I’m trying not to hold it to any different standards as I wouldn’t like to be held to as well so we’ll see. I’m excited regardless.
P: Tell us about â€ Wavves’- your self-titled album. How have you found the response to that? Do you think the internet had a big part in people across the other side of the world even discovering your music?
W: Oh yeah it had a huge part, the internet has been everything to me being able to get my music out for people to be able to listen to it and to be able to listen to it for free so yeah the internet, I think not only with my music but with other people’s music has played a direct role in actually getting it out there in a public forum for people to listen to.
P: Do you surf the internet every day?
W: I don’t actually, I’m not really on the internet very much. The only internet I watch is when I’m on tour- I go to hulu.com and just watch TV on the internet but other than just checking my mail and stuff like that, I’m not on there too much. I used to blog a lot but I’m a little more busy than I was now so I don’t really have the time to do it anymore, as much as I want to.
P: Mentioning the blog, â€ Ghost Ramp’ people might not suspect that you’re a gangster rap fan but what appeals to you about that music?
W: Firstly, it comes from a completely different place to where I came from so there’s that immediate mystery and kinda different world of interest that is talked about within the songs that’s really interesting. Just generally speaking, the backbeats and base and soul samples- that sort of thing, are all big interests of mine. Rap music is a lot based on soul music and on old funk music and stuff like that which is what I grew up listening to. Also, something that my parents didn’t want me to listen to was punk and rap so I kind of just migrated to the people I felt like.
P: I know you like a lot of the East Coast stuff like Nas and Biggie and Wu-tang and stuff like that. Have you ever considered producing a hip hop track?
W: Ah I haven’t. I’m really, really bad at recording and producing so that would probably turn out horrible but I’m a big fan, I’m more just a fan than somebody that will ever be involved in it but you know- stranger things have happened.
P: If you could collaborate with any rapper or write for someone who would it be?
W: I’d love to collaborate with, of course people like Wu-Tang definitely but I’ve done some collaborations. I did a collaboration with this guy Charles Hamilton from Brooklyn that’s really cool and I really like this guy Black Milk right now but, it’s so far fetched, but I’d love to do something with like Kayne West or somebody like Pharrell or something like that.
P: Which Wu-Tang member are you most like? Like if we could call the act â€ Wavves-tang’ or something like that…which Wu-tang member are you?
W: I don’t know I don’t work well with people so I’m probably like none of them but I think they all bring really interesting different things to Wu-tang which is why Wu-tang is my favourite rap group, but I met Ghostface a couple of years ago and he was really cool so I’d say Ghost is who I’d wanna do something with most.
P: What is your favourite solo Wu-tang album?
W: Fuck I don’t know. I really like â€ Triumph’ was kind of like a showcase for all members of Wu-tang, but all their songs are classics to me. â€ Wu-tang clan ain’t nothing to fuck with’ is one of if not the best rap song ever written.
P: I think it’s one of the biggest â€ fuck yous’ in music, that track.
W: It really is. It’s one of the most punk songs ever written.
P: Back to the solo stuff, with albums like GZA’s Liquid Swords or Cuban Linx from Raekwon there’s definitely some standout hip-hop records from Wu-Tang members. If you had to pick one which would it be?
W: There are a lot of really good ones. â€ The Pillage’ I feel like was just totally looked over, Inspectah Deck- his first record was really good as well but probably my favourite of all of them is either â€ Liquid Swords’ or â€ Only Built’ I feel are like the two best.
P: I guess that’s the standard answer but they’re fucking amazing albums.
W: Yeah, I own three copies of â€ Liquid Swords’ just because. I feel like they both, as far as album art goes and as far as lyrics, beats and titles and the whole general record are excellent.
P: How does your song writing process go? Obviously it’s all independent and it’s all internalized in your head – do you jam shit out or do you plan stuff out or is it another way?
W: It’s all different. Generally speaking I’ll come up with a guitar part and just play around with it on my Mac. I find an idea for it in my head as far as structure goes and then I take the bones of it and fucking put it down.
P: Have you ever had any troubles with Garage Band? With shit breaking down and losing all your songs?
W: No actually I’ve never had a bad Garage Band experience.
P: I guess when people rely on technology it tends to bug out on them but that’s pretty lucky.
W: I mean I really record and use the stuff the easiest way possible- I just record it onto the trial version of Garage that came with the computer and use the internal mike that came with the computer so there was little to no things that could possibly cut out or fuck up. And luckily Garage Band didn’t do anything fishy soâ€¦
P: Do you have any plans to upgrade or record in a different way?
W: I just finished recording the third record in Sacramento with my friend Zack Hill and it wasn’t recorded in Garage Band it was recorded actually in a church in Sacramento with our friend Andy who engineered the record. So yeah, definitely don’t want to continue to do the same thing- I want to try new things and develop the sounds and have it just naturally kind of progress and mature.
P: How did you hook up with Zack, who is a fucking amazing drummer by the way.
W: Yeah that guy is an animal.
P: Yeah he is a beast. How did you hook up with him?
W: He had contacted me really early on before anything had really happened, before label shenanigans or anything like that and we kinda kept in touch. The last time I came back from Europe he had contacted me and he was in Sacramento and was coming down to L.A so we met in L.A and just wanted to kind of fuck around and play some music just as friends and it just kinda turned into more. The vibe was right and we just decided that we were going to record a record together and continue to do this for a while.
P: What’s the vibe on the new record? I know you brought in a micro-korg and drum machines on some tracks recently. Is it moving in that direction or is it still more guitar driven?
W: It’s still really guitar driven but there is a mico-korg on some of it, there’s less instrumental and less vibe songs but there’s a lot more variety in the actual songs this time around. They come from the same place, but they kind of come from a different place- I don’t know really how to explain it but there is a lot more time and effort put into it.
P: What’s the main thing that’s changed since your first recordings to then, like even outside the music, just you as a person- what do you think has been the biggest change?
W: I don’t know, a lot has changed. My life is just completely different than it was at one point. My headspace and all of that have changed a full 180 since the last record came out but as far as the songs go, not too much really has changed. To me, it just sounds like what has been a natural progression but I don’t know If other people will think that or not, probably not. I feel like it’s probably not what people are expecting. We’ll wait and see but I’m not really too worried about what people think, that’s not why I started making records and that’s not why I continue to make them so- only time will tell.
P: This is a bit off topic but I’ve always wondered what your definition of a â€ weed demon’ is, because with people I know there are two schools of thought. One is- the weed demon is when vibes go bad, my girlfriend actually calls it the â€ black dog’ when drug experiences go pear-shaped she’s like ‘I can see the black dog’ OR a weed demon is someone who smokes heaps of weed. With that track is it A, B or C- something else entirely?
W: It is A.
P: A, okay so bad vibes.
W: Yeah, weed demon is slang for a headspace that you kinda don’t want to be in at a certain time. It’s a nickname as well, the shack at the back of my parents house that I lived at was nicknamed â€ The Weed Cave’ so people started calling me Weed Demon and I was just the sole proprietor of The Weed Cave.
P: Have you seen the Weed Demon lately?
W: (laughs) Yeah every morning. What does your girlfriend call it? The black dog?
P: When shit gets weird she calls it the black dog.
W: Yeah that’s pretty good.
P: For you, weed is part of your regime every morning. It’s probably not so much a demon as a friend, wouldn’t you think?
W: No it really is now, just because shit is just so hectic that without it I’ll just blow a gasket. There’s a lot of weird pressure and backwards politics behind the scenes that goes on that I never knew that I would actually be involved in to just have people listen to my music so yeah I’m definitely, obviously a fan of weed. I think its pretty absurd that it’s still not legalised.
P: Touching on what you mentioned before, just the burden that comes with making music that has nothing to do with actually making music- do you think there’s anyway to avoid all that shit or is it inevitable? And it seems like you’ve copped it a bit recently as wellâ€¦
W: Yeah I mean it’s almost a similar vibe as something like a show like â€ Seinfield’- it’s just a different way of looking at things. They wrote characters and stories about nothing and it adds for a sense of honesty I feel like because generally speaking, there isn’t stuff going on always. Sometimes there’s just nothing happening and even when nothings happening, there’s kinda something happening but it’s all upstairs. So for the most part, that’s kind of the vibe that is throughout the record- not having to deal with anything except, what’s going on inside my own head.
P: The present tense right?
W: Yeah, yeah.
P: You have a pretty massive American tour coming up…do you find touring taxing or is it another part of your career you dislike?
W: No I enjoy it. It’s taxing in the situation that it’s been, you know, prior to now. I mean I guess it’s going to be taxing still but the stool that you’re put on in situations like this is one of an insane man, regardless of what anybody tells you, even these indie guys are looked at by most as a dollar sign. They want to get you out on the road and they want to just work youâ€¦
W: Well there’s that part of it, you’re not really a human you’re more just a product which is pretty shitty but in the end it’s really rewarding to actually be able to go out and A) have fun play music with my friends which is what I set out to do in the first place, and B) be able to play these songs to people that live in Australia and live in New York and live in these places that aren’t around me. To have the means to actually go out and do those things is incredible. It’s a totally rewarding experience in the end.
P.S. Wavvves is out now through Stomp!