Longer version of this interview appeared in Ultrasonica, same month.
The proposition of putting your new record out came from the head of your label, Kitchenware Records. What did you make of the suggestion?
It’s very difficult to explain how you feel about something you’re proud of and you forgot, but that’s what happened. I couldn’t believe I’d put it aside. From the moment I did I started to compose new songs, because that’s the way I am… But if someone tells me “don’t do it, because we need something different”, I pay attention. In 1993 it suited me to do other things. This time the proposition was clear: the album exists and I could make money from it too. I had to listen again to check it really could be put out, and I realised that it could be released with very little work. I was surprised by Keith’s proposal, and even more by peoples’ positive reaction to this record, there seems to have been a lot of that. I think my “new” “old” album has parts that are the best I’ve ever written. I’ve never written something that’s so powerful from start to finish since perhaps Steve McQueen. That’s how I feel about it. In other albums I was more concerned by the atmosphere than to thrill people with the songs.
It’s an album that shows music’s ability to transcend, it has an almost religious power, at a time when it has been completely devalued. Right?
It’s strange. It is strange to think that an old album sounds much more relevant than a current one. It’s sad that it has more relevance now than when I wrote it. When I saw people’ positive reaction, I couldn’t help but laugh. If someone had told me in 1992 that record was not going to be released until the end of the first decade of the next century, and people would seem to find it interesting and relevant, I wouldn’t have believed them. No way would I have believed they would have understood it at all.
The sleeve notes you wrote presenting the disc and talking about Brian Wilson and Smile I think is one of the most beautiful pieces of prose ever written by a musician.
Thank you. It’s a declaration of love for Brian Wilson. At that time I felt that much of the history of Smile, the hippest aspects, had a lot in common with my own situation. I hope it doesn’t seem that I’m trying to compare myself with a genius like Brian Wilson. It’s true I felt some of the same things he certainly experienced when I was looking at my own songs, a sense of responsibility, the anguish of having to earn money with a record while you chase a wild dream… It was those analogies I was establishing in the piece. Other aspects have a certain irony, like my hearing. Someone in my family reminded me that when I was young I wanted to be like Brian Wilson, but it seems I got the wrong part of the dream, heh heh.