Weezer drummer Patrick Wilson has been slowly building a body of work under the name the Special Goodness since the mid-Nineties. His fourth album, Natural, comes out this week and features Wilson’s most accomplished solo tunes yet. (You can stream “It’s Only Natural,” one of disc’s best tracks, above.) In a recent conversation with Rolling Stone, Wilson explained why he’s never been more confident as a solo artist, his early experience collaborating with Rivers Cuomo in Weezer and why he’s reluctant to recapture the magic of Weezer’s recent Caribbean cruise.
This is your fourth album with the Special Goodness. What has it been like keeping this project going while being in Weezer full-time?
Weezer’s pretty busy and takes up a lot of our energy but, at some point, I just sort of stopped trying to make [the Special Goodness] a band and just said, “I’m not going to be happy unless I do everything myself,” which is totally ironic because that’s not really my personality. My personality is to want to interact with other people and come up with something fun that maybe neither side would’ve done on their own. But it’s pretty hard to get anyone to even really rehearse these days. It seems like the time we live in is the time of the auteur, really – the one-man show.
That’s what I think is really cool about Weezer: it almost seems anachronistic, but our sensibility came from the time when you went in the studio and you all played together and you got it to sound good, you got the right take – and that’s where the magic is. I don’t really hear a whole lot of that in modern music anymore. I’m sure it’ll come back, though.
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Weezer also kinda went from being more focused on Rivers’ songs to becoming more democratic, with the rest of you writing and singing, too, as you went along.
That’s true. I mean, like, in the beginning, I wrote a lot of songs with Rivers. I was pretty fresh to Los Angeles. We were real young and somehow we all hooked up and I wrote a bunch of tunes with Rivers. I got a four-track and I would record all the music, but I didn’t know what to sing or how to sing. I wasn’t that interested in lyrics. I was kinda geeked out on how the music sounded. It worked good for him because I think he was kind of trying to be more of a songwriter rather than a shredder at the time, and that sort of gave him maybe a little bit of freedom to not think about the music so much and think more about the song. That worked for a while and then we blew up and I think he just decided, “You know what, I’m not really that into collaborating on that level.” It was a bummer at the time but I don’t really hold that against him.
When did you start feeling more comfortable as a singer?
I’d say two months ago. I kind of feel like the Special Goodness hasn’t really been what I wanted it to be, and I feel way better about this record than anything else. I don’t know if it’s just because you grow up and you figure out what it is you really want, rather than what you think you want. I really am comfortable with it. It used to be that I would play stuff for people and I would get that awful feeling of hearing it through their ears and be like, “Ugh, that’s not what I want them to hear.”
What did you feel was missing?
I don’t know, man. Maybe it’s just because it’s so stripped down and so direct, and it’s just pretty honest. It’s not really trying to be anything. It just is what it is, and it feels comfortable to me. And when I play it for other people, it feels the same as when I play it for myself, which is a great feeling.
Is that part of why you named the album Natural?
I guess so. Yeah, I mean, that name just came to me and it is pretty natural. There’s no overdubs. It’s a guitar and loudspeaker, a synth bass and the drums and the vocal. I would double the vocal and the choruses sometimes but other than that, there’s no harmonies or anything. It’s just as simple as I know how to make it. “It’s Only Natural” came out of a period which was about mid-adulthood, looking around and seeing how the world works. My whole life, I never really felt in sync very much with how to get along in modern life – the things you’re supposed to do, the things people expect of you – and I guess that song is basically a complaint that I don’t fit into the modern world.
You went out on a Caribbean cruise with Weezer and a lot of other bands not long ago. How was that experience?
It was pretty magical. I’ve never been on a big boat like that. It was surreal. We’re playing, it’s like eight o’clock at night, the sun’s going down, the boat’s leaving Miami, we’re playing on the deck of a giant boat and everybody on that boat wants to buy you a beer. I can’t even describe it better than that. It was insane.
Will you guys do it again?
I wouldn’t mind doing it again. I don’t know if we will. When I was in high school, we all went to Daytona for our senior year and it was a magical experience. Then the people who didn’t go went the next year and I didn’t go, and I knew it was going to suck for them. It totally did. It was a disaster trip. I’d be kind of afraid to try to match the coolness of what we did.