Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Charlotte Robin
Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Charlotte Robin
Wavves' frontman stopped by in Paris in mid-november to play a show at Le Badaboum, just a couple of minutes walk from Le Bataclan, where France's deadliest attacks ever have been perpetrated. He shared with us his feelings on this special tour, his status as a nearly 30 musician and how it feels to sign to a major label when you are a punk band.
Hi Nathan, how are you?
Well, Paris is the last show of Wavves' European tour. Then we’re flying back to the States.
Are you happy to go back? To leave this barbaric continent where people kill each other?
WHAT? Maybe you don’t know about gun violence in America. I’m going back to a much more dangerous place (laughs).
How do you feel about playing in Paris tonight, a week after what happened?
I’m excited, of course. We talked about whether doing the show or not, to make sure everybody was okay with it. But I never wanted to cancel any show. You try and tell yourself that there’s more likelihood that you just crash the van and die.
Did you have all your family calling you 5 times a day to make sure everything was okay?
Nobody cares about me… (smiles)
So you finally released your 5th album last month after a long summer saga including Warner. Is everything fine with them now?
Yeah, I’ve still never talked to anybody from Warner. But they seem okay. I think they were happy once the record was out and charted well on Billboard. But they don’t really want to talk to me.
Why did you sign to them in the first place?
Of the big money!
(Laughs) Yeah, of course for the money! But seriously, they don’t talk to me and nobody is involved in my shit. The only time I heard from them was when they suddenly questioned the album art. It just didn’t make any sense. I think after that debacle, they kind of backed off again. But they wanted to get their greasy little paws on it. But we just said no.
I heard you paid for this album with your own money.
I recorded it, I financed it myself and we showed it to Warner and they were like “we really want to do this, here’s your money”. But all things considered, it’s not that bad. Our contract with them is really good.
This time, Woody Jackson produced the album. Can you tell me more about this choice?
I’ve known Woody for a couple of years. He does a lot of video game work, like most of the scoring for Rockstar Games. He has a studio in LA, which is one of my favorite studios. When I was writing music for Grand Theft Auto, I would go in and work with him a bunch. At this time, he told me he only had video games projects and that he wanted to work with bands.
No band asked him before you?
I think people asked him but … he’s really awesome AND really weird. He’s a genius but sometimes he can be a little difficult. Which I think, many people who are mega artistic are like that. Especially producers. If you have a good producer, he’s probably a nutcase.
And as for you, are you turning into a gear person?
Yeah, I have a studio now. And I’ve been producing more bands. With King Of The Beach, that was the first time I’d ever been inside a studio in my life. Since then, I learned a lot about production.
As far as the audience is concerned, didn’t you feel any disappointment because of it being more produced and less DIY?
I don’t know, people aren’t sure. Some are like “you sold out, it’s very produced” and other people are criticizing me because it’s not produced enough. Somebody said that I had gone back to lo-fi! If something sounds better dirty, then it’s going to be dirty. And if it sounds better crisp, that’s how I’ll do it. The only thing that bothers me about stuff like that is tuning vocals.
It's your 5th album now. As a band, you gained maturity. Do you feel any change in the way the media see you?
Nah, I still get a lot of “slacker”, “stoner kid” thing. I don’t understand. I’m almost 30, I don’t slack very much. I just sold my house, buying my second house right now in LA. So I’m definitely not a slacker. I learned a while ago that with media stuff, you just can’t take it too seriously. I remember the first time that somebody – it might have been Vice – said I was a genius. I showed it to my dad and he told me “if you believe that you’re a genius, then when they say that you suck, you’ll have to believe that too”.
I have a quote from an interview you did last month: "If you work hard at, mostly, anything in life, you can probably succeed at getting it". It’s probably the most American thing to say. Which brought me to the question: are you a proud American?
(Laughs) I’m not proud to be anything. I really think that what I said is true. People told me that I would never play music. I was supposed to play soccer. I even had scholarships for that. That was what I was going to do with my life. And I just didn’t want to go to college and play soccer anymore. So I decided to pass all those up and go for this. It was hard, after our first album, Q Magazine put out a whole article about me basically just to say how much I suck and that I would never have a second record. Oh, and if the question is “Am I proud to be an American?”, the answer is no. I’m not proud to be something I can’t help. It’s like asking me if I’m proud to be white. But I like California. (smiles)
I didn’t know about the soccer stuff. Who’s your favorite player?
Ow okay… I was expecting something more original.
(Laughs) More original like Cristiano Ronaldo? When I played, I got many comparisons to Messi because we’re both smaller guys, scrappy players. People tweet at me that he looks like me all the time, which is not very nice.