Embracing unconventionality with A Wilhelm Scream’s Trevor Reilly

A Wilhelm Scream is one of the hardest working and one of the tightest live bands in the punk scene. If you have ever been to one of their shows then you know exactly what I am talking about. It seems like they never really stop touring and never have an off night. In the studio it is clearly a group effort, but the one of the main engines behind the whole song-writing machine that is A Wilhelm Scream is guitarist and back up vocalist Trevor Reilly. Since their last album Party Crasher was released in 2013, it seemed like it was time to check in on them. So Punknews Editor Ricky Frankel caught up with Trevor Reilly to talk about his very first solo acoustic performance that happened recently, what he learned from working with Bill Stevenson, what the band is currently working on, if they have anything special planned for their performance at Fest 15 this year and a whole lot more.

Photo Credit: John Paul Allen

Video Credit: Mike Plante - ForeignFeelingPhotography.com

You recently played your first acoustic show. How did that go? What songs did you play?

It went surprisingly well. I was really nervous. I had never really thought about doing anything like that before. An old friend of mine, Chris Swanson, he puts on a lot of shows in New Bedford -- he puts on a lot of comedy shows actually. He is a stand up comedian so he had Mishka Shubaly coming and it was a really big deal you know, and he wanted it to be a real good show that had a good turn out and stuff like that. He just randomly hit me up and said, “Hey! You know, I got this guy coming in from out of town and he’s a comedian and everything. Would you want to do like a Trevor Reilly, acoustic living room sing-a-long thing? You know like we used to do back in that day at parties when we were kids or whatever?” And my first inclination was, “Fuck no! That is the last thing I want to do.” I’m an electric guitar guy, you know? I like loud amps and shit, even though I write our songs on an acoustic guitar for the most part and stuff. Then I paced around the house a little bit and then I said, “You know what? Since even the question is making me nervous and I would feel like a real pussy if I said no as well. Fuck it man, I’m just going to say yes.” And he was fuckin’ shocked that I said yes.

After that I was like, “Okay, I guess I got to fuckin’ learn what to play.” After agreeing to it, I was like “Fuck, what am I going to do?” I started think of A Wilhelm songs – you know a lot of A Wilhelm songs that I write start off on acoustic. So when I’m making demos for them it’s usually in my sort of “low singing guy voice” when I’m writing the lyrics to the songs and stuff. I kind of do it a way that makes me comfortable. And then when I get together with Nuno and show him the songs, like he has a great range to be able to pull that shit off like loud to be able to carry over the pounding drums and guitar everything like that. For me it was kind of like, “Wow! I don't want to go up there and just be like ‘fuckin’ depressing acoustic guy.’ That is the last I want it to sound like.” So I started saying, “What the fuck am I going to do?” There were a couple of obvious ones that I played like “In Vino Veritas.” That is one I sing on the record. We never play that live as a band because it’s like our Catherine Wheel alternative rock song that is just strange to put in the middle of a Wilhelm set or whatever. So that was an obvious one. I knew I would do that one. Then I did “The Last Laugh.” I said, “Yeah, I can definitely see myself doing that one. I like doing that one a lot acoustically as well.” I did those and then I was like, “Fuck. What else?” And then I said, “Fuck it, I better just write some fuckin’ songs you know?” I had couple of ideas lying around already. A couple of them had been lying around for years. I just had a chorus and I would have to like come up with the verses, which is always the hardest part for me. That’s what I obsess over. So I just put myself through like my own painful writing process and I just fuckin’ torture myself and bang out these songs. I’m really glad I did because it got me to finish two songs that I always knew were going to be good and I would be proud of them when I’d be done writing them. I don't think that Chris was expecting me to come and like write some songs for the show and shit. But you know, whenever I do something like I always obsess over it and take real seriously. The hardest part was just fuckin’ remembering the lyrics because I fuckin’ finished them four days before the show. So a couple brand new ones and one band knew Wilhelm one that I had already written, but we haven’t recorded yet called “The President’s Weed.” That’s a new Wilhelm one. I did that, too. I did “Boxcar” by Jawbreaker. We covered that one when we were 15 years old so that was one when as soon as Chris asked me [to perform] I was like, “Oh man! I’m definitely going to play ‘Boxcar’ for sure.” I played like seven songs. It was fun. Like I said, I was nervous as hell. I’m not used to engaging the audience like that. I’ve got the best in the business in my band that does that, you know? I’ve never seen anybody better than Nuno at communicating with the crowd. But it was cool. Nuno and Nick were there supporting me. Old band members like Jon Teves. He was there -- tons of friends and family. It was an awesome turnout. It was just a great night overall. I saw a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in a while. So yeah, it was great. Was is hard to translate those Wilhelm songs back into acoustic songs?

Not too hard. Well the ones that I chose to do -- (I also did “Fun Time” that was the one that I was forgetting). At the core when I’m writing a song, no matter what it is I try to make so you can get down with it if it if there aren't like Iron Maiden leads going all over the place. I try to make so that at its core it is a song that you like to listen to without all of the bells and whistles that we love to add into our songs. So on that part it wasn't too difficult, but it would depend on what songs we would have done. There’s a reason we put in all of these guitar leads and shit like that. It is because it’s like part of what we are. And when I am writing a song I am thinking about that shit. I’m totally the kind of guy that likes to eat the frosting before the cake -- at least I want to know what the frosting will taste like before I eat the cake, you know what I mean? Kitchen sink – you know, throw it all in there. Sometimes when I’m writing melodies for the songs and doing the lyrics too, for the songs that I write all by myself, I’m thinking of Nuno while I’m writing them. So know that it will be in a certain register I will test it out before I bring it to him so I don’t murder him with dog-pitch, high singing parts because knowing him (that dude’s a saint) he’ll fuckin’ try anything. He’ll be like, “No, Trev! You wrote it that way. I’m going to hit that note!” I’ll be like, “No, dude. I can just change this around.” So I am thinking about that kind of shit.

If I go to translate [a song] back then I’m like in the ”low-guy singing voice” and that’s not necessarily the way I want to carry a song because like I said, I’m like in that “weepy acoustic guy” territory, which I don’t what anything to with. I don't want it to be like, “Everybody chill. Everybody shut up and listen to me bleed all over the stage.” I’m not super in to that. And of course it depends on the song. A good example is this new song “The President’s Weed.” That song of course, no body has heard it outside of the people at that show and the guys in the band who I passed the demos around with. That particular song is like seven minutes long first of all. It is the longest Wilhelm song we have ever done and it is fast. So there is a ton of shit in the song – like a seven minute song that is just as fast as all of our other ones and it’s got a lot of peaks and valleys and a lot of like “what the fuck is going on in this part?” kind of a thing – a lot of “scratch your head moments” like “why did they do that?” kind of shit. Not like “how did they do that” kind of stuff, I’m talking about “why did they do that?” kind of shit. A lot of shit like that, that goes along with the title, you know? For that song I wasn’t going to do all these fuckin’ guitar parts. I mean there’s there a part where Brian alone is doing the craziest tapping shit I have ever heard him do. It’s like him going nuts. Of course I’m not going to that [acoustically]. So it was basically like the folk rock version of “The President’s Weed” that I pulled off, which is me shaving off about three minutes off the song. For things like that there are definitely certain areas of our songs where it is like I really love to do these “chuggy” things with the high notes, which sometimes comes off great on acoustic and sometimes they don’t translate at all because you don't have that sustaining notes and you don’t the distortion. I love distortion. I considered bringing in a distortion pedal kind of like Jay Mascis does when he plays acoustically. I considered doing that and maybe that is something that I might try in the future.

But for “The Last Laugh,” I remember when I recorded the demos for it Mike recorded me playing acoustically. And I doubled it up so it was like (makes low and fast guitar noises), but it was two acoustic guitar doing that, right? And I remember when I heard that second one that I kind of doubled up on I was like, “Holy fuck dude! That sounds evil as hell!” That would have sounded pretty cool. Of course when I played it live there was only one guitar. It was just m e so it didn’t sound that evil, but that’s what made me want to play that song – because of how evil it sounded in the demo. Does this mean that we can expect a Trevor Reilly acoustic album in the future?

Oh I don’t know. Like said, I’m an electric guitar guy. I do write a lot of songs and a lot of them aren’t quite right for Wilhelm so I’m sure at some point I will come out with something. But I love loud drums. I love the whole thing. There may be a Trevor Reilly solo thing, but I don't know if it would be acoustic. Maybe it would be a little bit of both. When I think of songs I just want to rock, you know? I want it loud. Like I love loud rock music. It is just a part of me. Never as say never I guess. I have some questions about specific songs. What is the connection between the lyrics of “Me Vs Morrissey In The Pretentiousness Contest (The Ladder Match)” and the song title?

That album Ruiner that was like that was a very I don’t know… That was the one record where like I wrote a lot of myself. John our original bassist, before we recorded the record and before a lot of songs written for the record, he had left the band and he was like my musical partner and my best friend and everything. So a lot of like when I was writing it a lot of like musical self-discovery. It was like he wasn’t my best friend anymore like, “Oh my god! Everything sucks!” It was kind of like I had to get used to writing songs without bouncing them off him and feeding off his energy. A lot of it was done on for track in the middle of the night and a lot of it has to do with -- where I’m going with this is basically like that time period I was in my mid-20’s which is a very selfish time your life -- probably the most selfish time in that you can have your life you know – being like an angry young man your mid-20’s. So a lot of the songs that I was writing -- it was all first-person type shit. So everything was “me me me” you know what I mean? And like a lot of negativity. I was also writing all these lyrics and it’s almost like a tongue-in-cheek thing because I’m writing these lyrics and a lot of the subject matter is like real personal – you know deeply personal style stuff and only stories that I know the full story of. I felt like some of the shit people could relate to or like other young men in my age bracket could definitely relate to and stuff like that (or younger or whatever). So really I’m looking at the lyrics and I’m kind of shitting on myself for writing that kind of shit you know what I mean? It’s like a constant cycle of self-deprecation – self-deprecating humor that fuels me like I would get stoked on it I would be like, “Oh yeah! I’m a shit head! I’m like pretentious for making this song all about me and me getting one over on you!” or whatever the case may be. It was just like a selfish time you know I mean? It was just a period of all of these emotions and put romanticism on top of that.

A lot of my favorite writers like Blake Schwarzenbach and Paul Westerberg and writers like them -- all that shit fueled me. Also, I’m huge fan of Morrissey. That’s like something that is ironic about all this. I know that Morrissey gets this big reputation of being this pretentious dude and like I saw myself is no different than that and I was just like, “Hell yeah! Big middle finger to everybody.” I was like into that. I was into the character that that I was creating myself as in order to write songs – in order to make me feel strong like I could take on the world. Really “Me Vs Morrissey In The Pretentiousness Contest” – I can see how a lot of people would think, “Oh, this guy is in a punk band so he shitting all over Morrissey.” I kind of regret naming it that because I’m trying to be too clever for my own good or something. When nobody gets the reference it’s stupid, you know I mean? There’s nothing clever about it. That’s kind of like my bad there, but I’m a huge Morrissey fan – everything he’s done pretty much, particularly his solo stuff even more than The Smiths. I’m into that shit, you know? My dad got me into all that stuff. That’s alternative rock tonight. That’s the beginnings of alternative rock like 90’s music. That’s the connection.

Was subject matter of “I Wipe My Ass With Showbiz” about an actual experience the band had to deal with? Or was it what you guys were witnessing?

The title for “I Wipe My Ass With Showbiz” actually came from my buddy Rick Sylvia. That was something that he used always say like, “Oh, I what my ass with showbiz.” He would say shit like that all the time. So I was like, “Oh, I’m stealing that dude!”

We have had a lot of opportunity to tour with a lot of awesome bands and see a lot of cool shit. So it really wasn’t about anybody in particular. It was just really about that whole time period of that record – writing that record (Career Suicide) we were sort of coming off of our second record and really for every band, your second record is when you get the most buzz about your band and we knew it at the time. We had people calling us up you know, all kinds of labels saying, “Hey. So what’s up? What do you have left on the Nitro deal?” and sniffing around and we hear like, “Oh dude! Wilhelm is fucking cool.” And that was Brett Gurewitz calling up our bass player that was with us for a little period of time (that’s a whole other crazy story) – he’s like calling him on the phone and he’s like, “Hey, I just talked to Brett Gurewitz and he likes the band and shit.” I’m like, “Oh fuck!” And there are all these other labels that are calling us up and sniffing around and everything and it was like, “Whoa! This is cool.” And really it was time for us to make a new record. It was like, what kind of record do we want to make? There were expectations from certain people that we were working with and stuff. The expectations we’re sort of that we would go in a more mainstream direction than I guess that the Ruiner album hinted towards I guess in certain spots that I didn’t realize. We wanted to make the best melodic punk or hard-core album that we could. We wanted to make the best ever. That was what we were going for. We really tried really hard. We treated it like a 9-to-5 writing enough songs for the third album.

A lot of that was just kind of like drawing upon all the negative energy – all of the shows where you’re playing to audiences that are throwing beer cans at your face and people just folding their arms and not giving a shit or not watching us at all or whatever –drawing upon all that energy and kind of flipping it and putting it back out the way we could. And we were all super proud of it and everything. Then we sort of started giving it to the people we’re working with and they were like, “Guys, what are you doing? This isn’t right for your career.” We got dropped by our agent. All this stuff like sort of happened where we believed so much in what we were doing that we were getting blowback from it. And that was before the record came out so it was like, “Yeah, we got to really believe in ourselves,” and Nitro was all about the record. They fucking loved it. They didn’t want to let us go. They dropped every band from their label except for us. And we’re like, “Yo, you guys sure? Are you sure you get that you guys want to put this record out? I know you dropped a lot of money on it and everything, but like you’re about to drop a hell of a lot more if you put it out and everything. Should we just like part ways?” And they were like, “No, Dexter [Holland] wants to keep you guys.” So we were like, “Okay, I guess we’re doing this.” It was just kind of like one of those things we’re it was us against the world and really feeling that way because you know, you know you work so hard on something and you really believe in it and you’re taking in all that piss and vinegar and you’re putting it through the channels of the band and you’re putting it through all the machinery that we’re doing and you’re going 9-to-5 at the practice space. It would be just us and the cheese sandwich guy -- that guy who makes grilled cheese and chili and shit. We’d be the only guys there every day during the week. And when the record came out we’re like, “Whoa! Holy fuck! Yeah, we just wrote something. I think we just killed our careers.”

The agent that we had she was like a hotshot agent – you know like “Hollywood” and the ones you would see on Entourage. I remember she put her hand over a candle once and snuffed it out and said, “That’s what I can do to you.” I always think of her saying that to me. She didn’t say that when she dropped us. It was a while before that, but that was what I thought of when she had a conversation with me. She said, “I love you guys, but we’re going to have to part ways. I’m dropping a bunch of bands right now and I moving in a different direction,” which was all cool. But it was definitely moments like those when you have a gut check. The big sophomore album buzz, where you are on top of the world sometimes it carries over and then you keep going and you rock it. Sometimes it doesn’t, but really the moral of the story is that you got to believe in yourself as a band. We always believed in ourselves is a band and that’s why we still do this shit. It really ain’t the money at all -- trust me. It is all about believing in what we do. Never was that truer then in 2006 when everything was like, “Holy shit! What’s going on? What’s happening right now?”

When you first heard the finished version of “The Horse,” was that a major accomplishment for the band?

Oh thank you. Yeah, we were so excited. It was definitely the thing where like – I remember when we were in the practice space putting it together. We were always into the tapping stuff. We had been doing tapping since the Mute Print album and everything and before that. So I doing the tapping and the singing, I did want to keep doing more of that – liked you as many singing parts around it as possible. When we brought Brian in the band, he definitely is an overachiever as a person and a musician. He wants nothing more than to blow you away. Even the other day he was like, “Trevor, I’ve got a thing and I can’t wait to show it you, man! It’s going to be fucking awesome when we get together on tour.” I remember being in the practice space and him going, “Dude, you got a tapping part for the song?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m thinking like tapping and kind of sing it while we’re doing that.” He’s like, “Awesome! I’m going to fucking do it with you. I want in on this action!” You know, he said something like that. And I was like, “That’s pretty cool, man.” Then we looked back at Chris and Chris was like, “Hell yeah!” It was definitely one of those things were like we put it together like the A-Team puts together a vehicle, you know to mean? Yeah, it was definitely like the four of us (Nuno was not there that day) and a massive crate of Rockstar Energy drinks that this dude just dropped off that we met in the hallway. And we just pounded down these energy drinks and really hammered away at “The Horse” like crazy. I remember being like, “Yeah, this is cool!” It was definitely one of those things where always has a band we are trying to take things to the next level and trying to keep pushing ourselves. That was definitely one of those things where we finally put the whole thing together and went on this journey and stuff with it – being able to hear it back was definitely satisfying.

And when we play it live it is definitely one of our biggest songs for sure. Everybody loves it and we love playing at still just as much as the day we put it together for sure. It’s crazy because like a lot of those Career Suicide songs, some of them are the biggest parts of our set, which is so cool and after all these years it is cool because I remember when we put it out, you know it’s that “third album” and there was such uncertainty around everything during that time period of our lives and our careers that we didn’t know if we did the right thing – even making the record! I remember Bill [Stevenson] took me aside and he was like, “Trevor, I think we took a little step back on this one, man.” I remember he said that to me and I was thinking, “Ah fuck! Couldn’t you have said that after we were done? …like a couple years later?” (laughs). But he was being honest. I mean I love Bill to death, like I love him so much. But he did say that and he wasn’t just talking about like the band or the writing, he was also talking about the production. Thinking back I’m like, “Fuck dude! Everybody talks to me about how the production was step up for Ruiner,” -- like the opposite of whatever. That was just such a crazy time. Of course after we put out the record we went to Europe and I have toured Europe probably fucking 16 times. I mean we would tour Europe twice a year in like seven years in a row. We would tour Europe more than anywhere else and the European audiences really love the album. To this day those songs really go over great there. They got it right away, too. It is just crazy how things work -- in hindsight it you know what I mean? Nobody knows what’s going to happen. The only thing that we could control was what we did and ourselves. We can’t control how things were going to be received or how things are going to come out sometimes.

You have done several albums with Bill Stevenson producing at The Blasting Room. Was there anything you learned that was important that really stuck with you? (An “a-ha!” moment?)

Tons. I mean for an “a-ha!” moment – to get his respect really as a writer and as a musician. That was huge to me that was a really big turning point in my life. I think when we did Mute Print, I don’t think he knew that I wrote the lyrics and stuff until Nuno told him. We were probably a week into doing the record and then after that point our rapport – we got real close real fast after that. He would ask my opinion on everything after that point and he really cared about what I thought. He wanted to pick my brain a lot and ask me just as a dude asking another dude about writing songs like that. To get his respect like that and for him to treat me as a peer was pretty mind blowing and humbling. It’s just like, “Oh my god that’s crazy! This guy’s giving me validation,” which I did not expect at all. I just kind of did my thing and hoped people dug it. That was pretty incredible.

From a recording and production standpoint -- seeing how he works and how Jason works, and how they kind of run that whole operation over there was pretty mind blowing. I mean everything that I do recording now, we just follow their blueprint – straight up. Everything that we knew that they were doing, even the order that they do things, all of the production and all of the little background stuff that they do behind the scenes and everything, that became like the gold standard for us.

When we were going there I wasn’t thinking like, “Oh, what’s he doing right there? Is he turning that knob?” I wasn’t thinking about that shit then. I had way bigger fish to fry. I had to worry about pulling off my fucking parts. I had to worry about whether not I had to cuts songs out of the record because we were running out of time and shit like that. I was worried about all that kind stuff. Just going through the whole process of how they did things – that really [influenced] [our] recording techniques I just kind of learned subliminally. We did three records with them so you kind get into your routine and you kind of learn fast what their program is. So when it came time for us to get back and start doing our own recordings and stuff, we definitely took what we learned there and we really just followed their playbook – even down to how they built their studio, but just on a way smaller scale [especially] if we can get some scratch from a label. We bought preamps and microphones. We made my dad’s basement studio and we just added to it and then we just learned, you know what I mean? We’re still learning – just kind of like trial and error. Mike and James are sound guys. Doing the EP together was incredible and doing Party Crasher were big learning experiences and really just a lot of fun. It really took a lot out of us, but at the same time we got a lot out of it. A lot of it we owe to Bill and Jason and all the guys over there, and Andrew and just kind of learning it from him. Bill said some very nice things to me, but I won’t repeat them in an interview – some things about it that just kind of blew me away. It was kind of like, “Whoa! Fuck yeah, man!” -- just like validation from this legendary friend – this guy is that I get to call my friend. Pretty amazing and very lucky.

You have built, or you are currently building your own recording studio, right? Other than the obvious equipment, what must a Trevor Reilly-built recording studio have in it?

Well, what must it have in it? The first thing is to get someone that knows what they’re doing to design it. I hired a studio designer, this guy Lou Clark. He was in Mix Magazine this month. And he came to the house along with our architect. We have a big undertaking here. My wife and I kind about this big house it was built in 1822, so there is all kinds of crazy history in this house. Is a big brick building in the downtown area of New Bedford. We’re building the studio in it and we are turning it into a two-family house as well. Right before we started this interview I was knocking tile out of the wall upstairs to build the bathroom. When you ask what goes into a Trevor Reilly-built studio – a lot of sweat in a lot of blood here and there. We are at the planning stages of it right now. We are working on building the two apartments right now. We have friends moving down from Boston. So we are working around the clock to get that ready for them for when they moved down here in September. So every waking moment is working on that. I have been talking to the studio designer Lou for months now and he just did his visit yesterday afternoon and we had a great conversation and he’s busy making some drawings and coming up with ideas for the space. I’m really excited I mean of course defined the money to do all of this shit is going to be like gnarly, I don’t even want to think about it. I don’t want to put a freakin’ deadline on it because I know I will never meet a deadline for it, but it’s one of those things where you take things one at a time. Whatever we can get done, we’ll get done. I am very lucky to have such amazing friends and family who are all offering to help and do whatever they can. So yeah, it is a fuckin’ crazy time, but a very exciting time for my wife and I. When you ask what needs to be in it… besides coffee? Coffee and more coffee! Did you ever feel that punk rock was too limiting in guitar technique for you when you first started writing songs for A Wilhelm Scream?

See Ricky, I don’t really consider myself a guitarist. My favorite instrument is drums, like I love them so much. The only reason that I’m playing guitar is because it is playing drums in the band I was writing a lot of the songs at the time on guitar and everything. I kind of became de factor guitarist when we lost our guitarist years ago. So it was definitely the kind of thing where I’m the kind of guy, like guitar doesn’t come naturally to me at all. I’m one of those guys where my ability level – I could play as flashy as our flashiest song is. I am basically – if I think it, if I come up with it and I practice enough, then this is the best thing that I can play, you know what I’m saying? That is totally like my thing. Of course our guitarist Mike Supina, he is like the opposite. He is the kind of guy that can play anything. The would be the guy on “Crossroads” where it would be him against Steve Vai as the devil and Mike is playing guitar for his soul and he will win. Mike will beat the devil for his soul. Mike is like insanely talented, like that guy is a guitarist. He’s like crazy fucking good just like Brain is crazy good on the bass. I’m sort of what you would call a “hack.” I come up with songs and whatever my imagination comes up with, I practice it enough to be able to pull it off. When Mike is writing songs I really have to got practice my fucking ass off to be able to pull off the shit that he is writing. I know that he can pull off probably way more difficult stuff than the stuff that he is writing, like he could probably do this crazy fuckin’ sweep picking and I can't do any of that shit. I’m like an alternative rock guitar player. It is definitely not the instrument that comes easiest to me or is like super comfortable to me, but of course I have played it for so long, like 18 years or maybe longer than that at this point, so I’m not going to be like, “Oh, I’m the worst guitar player or anything.” But when you play something for that long you are going to be alright at it.

As far as punk rock goes, I never really thought of genres that much anyway. I think a big change in the band’s sound happened just out of high school. You know, we were called Smackin’ Isaiah then and we had an album called < i>The Benefits Of Thinking Out Lo d< i> that we had made and that album was a big turning point for our sound. That was sort of the precursor to Mute Print. It definitely was like a big sign of where we were headed musically as a band, which was because of the shit that we were listening to. Right out of high school we were listening to In Flames and At The Gates and shit like that. Those bands really formed our musical identities – and Iron Maiden and stuff like that of course. We would be writing these things at our ability level. I was never learning like At The Gates or In Flames songs – never. I wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m going to learn this song!” I was never that guy ever. You would never see me sitting down and learning a song. It blows me away that people on YouTube the pull this shit off it’s like, “Holy fuck dude! Whoa! These guys are like crazy fucking guitarists.” You know guys and girls are fucking crazy with the shit that they can do, like holy fuck how did they learn the songs?! I could not imagine like sitting down and learning songs. It was just never my thing to do that. It would always be like my version of “that.” It would just be like, “Oh, this is my version of this [song],” which would be a simpler version. With enough imagination you can kind of like twist it so that it would be interesting. When Mike was learning [my] songs he’d be like, “It’s crazy. You're playing up here and then you are going down there. It’s crazy. It doesn’t make sense.” I'd be like, “Oh yeah, of course it doesn’t make sense because I don’t know like music theory.” I know more now than I did then for sure. Back then writing the songs like yeah, that totally makes sense that it is not logical to play it that way because it was just what I was thinking. Chris and I would right our guitar parts and that’s what happens when you get two guys and they’re just playing guitar in front of each other and working out slowly guitar harmonies and stuff like that. It wasn’t like, “Well oh yeah, you just go up here.” It would take us four hours what take another person one hour. What would come out of that would be and on unorthodox way of playing. So I guess people would think “Oh, that [riff] is fucking crazy.” And it would really be like, “No, we just took a really long time to put these guitar parts together. It just sounds like it is nuts.”

A Wilhelm Scream released guitar tabs for Career Suicide and Party Crasher recently. What advice do you have for people who are attempting to learn those songs?

You know it would be tough for me to give advice because I’m the guy that doesn’t know how to fucking read tabs. I have no idea how that shit works. Luke from Sheet Happens, he would like send me a MIDI file of like “fake guitars” or whatever of the transcriptions and then I would listen to those because I couldn’t just flip the book open and play it. It would’ve taken me forever to figure that shit out – even tabs, which I heard is supposed to be easy or whatever.

Of course definitely don’t listen to me if your goal in life is to be the best guitarist in the world or if you want to be that guy that can randomly jump on stage with Keith Urban and kill it in front of a stadium of people. What I would say is something that my dad used to say to me. He would just say, “You know, just play it and make it your own.” If you’re playing a song switch it up little bit. When Mike was trying out for the band, it was like 2006 or 2007, I think when he tried out, he’d go to the practice space where we would hang out with the grilled cheese guy and he would come down and he would be like, “Yeah, so I learned all of these songs.” And I would be like, “Whoa! That’s fucking cool, man. I could never do that in a million years, like learn all the band’s songs and play them. Holy fuck! I have a lot of respect for that.” Of course he played like three notes and I was like, “Oh! You’re in!” It was just like when Brian tried out for the band – he played a riff and I was like, “Yeah, you got the gig! Well you had the gig already anyway because you are my favorite bassist. So you got it.” And I remembered Mike was totally wanting to be true to everything that Chris did. And he would ask me, “Hey, is it okay if I do this a little bit there?” and I would be like, “Oh yeah, you know what dude? I want you to have your own personality to it. Of course don't just take a big shit all over these parts and make them all crazy or with a “wink and a smile” or anything like that. But add your personality to it. Make it your own in a way because you are playing this stuff. You know be true to the heart of it.” He was always so respectful about playing the stuff as Chris’s as he wrote them. I would always say, “Yeah, make it your own.” Of course now he puts fucking pinch harmonics all over the place and I always give him dirty looks when he does shit like that (laughs). You have to have fun and make it your own. I totally see what Mike was saying about being respectful to the source material and to the guy that came up with those parts.

But going back to your question though -- my advice is have fun and make [the songs] your own. I’ve seen some YouTube videos of kids adding some cool shit – one dude was playing like “5 To 9” or something and he added some cool shit to it and randomly I would go, “Ah! I wish I had thought of that! That’s pretty sweet.”

You did mention that you guys are working on some new stuff. Can give some details about it? Will it still be put out through No Idea Records?

That I’m not sure about. I don’t know what the future holds necessarily for us for that –as far as who is going to put it out. I haven’t had any talks. I’m sort of the kind of guy who wants to have it done first before. I don’t know. We have several friends of ours that have labels like, I love to work with our friends. Also, like who knows? Maybe put some stuff out ourselves sometime – at least digitally. It is hard to talk about something that isn’t done yet or isn’t a reality yet. I do know that there’s a lot of “riffs in the fire” so to speak. I have been trading a lot of material with Brian. A lot of Brian’s new stuff is awesome. I’ve been coming up with a lot of stuff that I have been passing around to the guys – some stuff that I feel will be right for Wilhelm.

Of course building this house out and then building the studio after that -- that occupies a lot of time. I would like to do our next thing here, after being here so long and seeing the potential in this big space to record in. We’ll have to see. I know that we definitely have a couple of songs written and ready to go, so I still want to do a 7-inch with those songs. But if I put a deadline on that, I would just be disappointing fans. I don’t want to do that. Who knows? We’ll see what the future holds. I know that there is going to be a lot of music. I’m open to hearing some new material from Mike. I love Mike’s songs. I hope he comes up with some stuff. I haven’t heard from him in a minute so that would be cool, but yeah I look forward to having the guys over soon and have some jam sessions here in the space before we build the studio. You know, rock the neighborhood, write some new songs, and put this stuff together. Very excited about that. For your performance at Pre-Fest 2014 you guys didn’t have a set list. Instead you took requests over Twitter (see video below). Do you plan on doing something special like that for your performance at Fest this year?

I don’t know. That’s a good question. I’m not really sure. Like you said, we did the Twitter requests. We have been around for a hot minute now. I mean we do have a lot of songs, but at the same time I think a lot of people requested those songs because we have played almost everything, so I feel like something like that might lose its luster at this point. I don’t know. We will have to come up with some sort of idea. I don’t know do you have any ideas?

I always thought it would be cool to see what kind of covers songs you could do. I think that would be really cool to see.

Nuno has got some ideas for that… It would be messy, but what if you guys had the audience vote between two songs that you are going to play next?

(laughs) I know Off With Their Heads sometimes have a bag full of pieces of paper with song names written on them and they would have audience members choose a random song for them to play.

(laughs) That’s a good idea. That’s a really good idea. I’ll have to talk to the guys about that.

I know Nuno had an idea covering an [entire] album or like a particular soundtrack. I’m not going to spoil it. I think Mike had never heard of it. He was like, “What is that? I have never heard of that.” And I guess it was just a different generation kind of thing. We’ll see what we can pull out. I know Nuno is dying to sing a couple songs in particular – a couple cover songs in particular that maybe we could bust out. I think we’re kind of talking about doing one of those after hours party kind of shows. We got burnt out on the whole “do a whole album thing,” but we have never done the whole Career Suicide album show. We did Ruiner and Mute Print. I feel like sometime we have to do that. I don’t know if this year would be there for that because whenever we talked about album shows everybody is like, “No! Fuck that shit!” Everybody gets like real mad about it. It is a lot of work to learn a whole fuckin’ album. At the end of it your kind of glad you did it. Once you get the idea and then you start digging in you’re like, “What the fuck?! Why did we come up with this idea?” We are going to get together pretty soon. We are going to Europe pretty soon so we will have plenty of time to talk about it in Europe. We are just excited to get back to Fest. We took the last year off. Mike went to Ryan’s (from The Swellers) wedding. He got married on Halloween, so it is really cool to get back. Everybody has a lot of fun down there. It is a great time down there.

Do you have anything else to add or is there anything you would like to say to our wonderful Punknews readers/commenters?

I want to say thank you for all of the support over the years. I mean fuck, ever since day one of our band Punknews.org has been just like championing our band – so much support, more support than we have gotten from any other online or any other publication in general. I just want to say thank you so much for all of the support for all of our records and all the great reviews. [Musicians] like to say, “Oh, we don't read the reviews,” but we really do. We read the comments. We are so thankful to get such great support from all of you guys over there in all of the editors over the years. So thank you so much for paying attention to us and everything. It is really huge for an underground band like us. It means a lot, Thanks so much for supporting great bands as well. Thanks and keep supporting underground music -- lots of awesome albums coming out. The PEARS album is awesome, Direct Hit!, Half Hearted Hero -- all kinds of great bands to check out and to support.