Film Scores, First Records, and Science Fiction: A Conversation with Wild Nothing

By Randy Nieto
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Coming into Chicago for one night at Thaila Hall to support the new record, Life of Pause, Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum sits down with The Minimal Beat and talks all things music.

TMB: How’s the tour going?

JT: Going really good, we are about a week and a half deep, first kind of extended tour we’ve had in a while.

TMB: Who would you say is your single biggest music influence growing up?

JT: Growing up? Hmm. I feel like I’ve never been the type of person to have one favorite thing or one favorite artist. Growing up I listened to a lot of different stuff, starting with the records my parents were listening to. Luckily my parents had pretty good taste, typical kind of classical rock stuff floating around, Beatles, Stones, Led Zepplin. My mom would listen to Paul Simon and Simon and Garfunkel, but they would listen to more contemporary stuff too, they really liked R.E.M. I remember my parents were really into Beck. Which looking back at it now, it seems kind of weird that my parents liked Beck so much, but they did… haha.

TMB: They’re not Scientologists, are they?

JT: Hahaha, no. I mean, when I started listening to music for myself, I’m 27, so, I was listening to like Green Day and Everclear and all this 90’s rock stuff…

TMB: We’ve all had our phases..

JT: Yeah, for sure. As I’ve gotten older, it’s not the same now as it was even 2 years ago.

TMB: How would you differentiate yourself from the artists you were influenced by on this record? What are you doing differently from your influences?

JT: I think it’s all slight stuff, I mean I’m definitely the type of person that’s totally cool to wear my influences on my sleeves, I never try to hide the stuff I’m listening to, I don’t see the point, I try to be transparent. It’s just like anything else, I don’t know that anyone is truly original. Even the greats take from something, nothing is just born out of thin air. I like to think that hopefully it’s just a new combination of ingredients basically.

TMB: How do you feel about the album now that it’s been out for several months?

JT: I feel pretty good about it. I’m definitely drawn to what is newest when it comes to my music, so whenever I put something out, I’m like “This is it, the is my most favorite thing that I’ve done.” I don’t know if it’s just like the nature of the situation or accurate, but I definitely feel good about it. It is interesting starting to play them for the first time though. Kinda testing the waters and seeing what it is that people respond to.

TMB: How personal do you get on your records? Are the songs about anyone you know or is it just beautiful poetry?

JT: It’s always just bits and pieces. I can draw from my own experiences and my own relationships. It’s rare for me to write a song that is just purely true or a list of events  that have actually happened to me. I’m not that….forthcoming. I like to take little bits and pieces of one situation and maybe combine it with another and take something that was maybe ah appy experience in my life and flip in it song so it’s bittersweet or vice versa. I think definitely with this record it was a little looser and a little more poetic rather than purely super personal stuff.

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Photos by Edwin Menacho

TMB: You mentioned you have an interest in film scores. Are there any film scores that you’re a big fan of?

JT: Oh yeah for sure. I’m a huge Ennio Marricone fan, so pretty much anything that he’s done, especially his stuff throughout the 70’s or the late 60’s. He just scored so many films it was insane. There were some years where he just did like 10 movies a year, and that was just what he did. But there are so many composers from that same era, like Bruno nicoli or piero pitchioni. There is this whole group of Italian film composers that are so prolific and doing so many soundtracks. For me it’s more about them than it is about the movie, I could almost care less about what the movie is, I just kind of listen to the music.

TMB: Do you like movies?

JT: I do, but when it comes to them, it’s a bit irrelevant. I can kind of find anything and I don’t need to know what the movie was about, I listen to the music. There has definitely been contempary soundtracks that I really like too, the Virgin Suicides that Air did was a great one…

TMB: The Drive Soundtrack was really good too

JT: Yeah, for sure. Did you see that movie under the skin? That’s a really cool score as well..

TMB: Actually, the Portishead guys did the Ex-Machina soundtrack, and it’s also pretty great. What are you listening to now on this tour?

JT: Just a total hodge podge of everything. It’s kind of rare that we just put a record on and let it ride while we’re in the van. There’s a lot of people wanting to play certain songs…

TMB: DJ’s?

JT: Yeah, it helps the time pass. We’ll kind of take turns sitting up there and picking song after song. Especially now with Spotify it’s kind of easy to be like “I wanna hear this song, and this song”. Mostly older stuff, I couldn’t really tell you any recent records I’ve been to, not that there aren’t any records I don’t want to listen to, just at a certain point I gave up trying to be current with everything, it’s too much.

TMB: What was the most memorable concert you’ve ever attended.

JT: I saw My Bloody Valentine play in Richmond Virginia which was really cool cuz at the time they weren’t playing very much and just announced like 5 east coast shows, and randomly Richmond Virginia was one of them, and I was living in Virginia at the time, so that was amazing. It’s great playing a lot of these festivals cuz some of the time I wont’ even know whats going on until I get there just cuz I’m too braindead to even look into it haha. I saw Tom Petty play Coachella which was amazing, I love Tom Petty. I saw Pulp play at Radio City Music Hall which was really cool. I’ve seen a lot of good stuff, I’ve been pretty lucky.

TMB: How do you choose producers to work on your records? Are they friends or do you look people up and tell them you really like their stuff and want to work with them?

JT: Definitely more kind of looking people up. When I made Nocturne, that was the first time I really had a budget to work with. I just moved to New York when I made that record and talked to a handful of different people and ended up working with Nicolas Vearn. I was more interested in talking to him because he had done a bunch of Deerhunter stuff and I love Deerhunter. We just kind of hit it off. For me I want to like the way that they work, but I also need to know that we get along on a personal level. And that was pretty much the same too I had worked with Tom Monohan on Life of Pause. The stuff he had worked on, maybe on paper wouldn’t seem like the Perfect Fit, I feel like he’s best known for working with Vetiver and Devendra Bandhardt. He was in this band called The Lily’s, which I really like. We just got on the phone and hit it off and that’s all it took for me. It’s pretty easy to tell if someone is gonna get what you’re trying to go for.

TMB: If you could put together a dream lineup of your favorite indie artists, who would it be?

JT: Like contemporary stuff?

TMB: Yeah, contemporary stuff. You can go old too, whatever you want.

JT: No, I’ll try to answer the question. I mean, I love Deerhunter like I said. I’m a big Aerial Pink fan. Man, I am so bad about this stuff. Honestly, I get embarrassed cuz I don’t keep with things as much as I should.

TMB: I’m the same way, I host a radio show and people always assume I know all this music, I do research to play music on the radio, but when I leave, I really just want to put on some Led Zeppelin.

JT: Haha, I feel the same way, especially the older that I get, I just want to listen to what I listen to.

TMB: Are there any collaborations you would like to make happen?

JT: Hmm.. I don’t know. I kind of like the idea of that stuff sort of happening naturally. Sometimes you’ll be like oh it will be cool to work with this person, but the only way to make it happen is to awkwardly reach out to them and it feels like this sort of forced thing, but you do meet people when you’re on the road and playing these festivals, it’s pretty funny how small this touring world is when you’re in the midst of it because you find yourself running into the same people a lot. So I like to be surprised. I like to just meet someone that I feel I can hit it off with. I mean that being said….

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Photos by Edwin Menacho

TMB: Do you remember the first record you ever bought?

JT: I do! Sort of a funny story. The first record I ever bought was the Lion King soundtrack because I was into the Elton John song that was on it. Haha. I listened to it for a while and I was like yeah, this is cool, but then I asked my mom if she could take me back to the record store because I had decided I wanted to trade in my Lion King soundtrack for Green Day’s Dookie.

TMB: Burning Lion King for Dookie…

JT: I know, now I wish I just kept both. You can both, you don’t have to choose.

TMB: Do you read a lot on tour? Is there anything you are reading right now?

JT: Yeah, I’m reading Neuromancer right now, a sci-fi novel. It’s about this guy who used to be an elite hacker, and in the story there’s sort of a matrix-esque network that people connect into. So basically he’s working for these people and ends up stealing from, so they fry his nerves so he can’t connect back to the network and he’s just kind of down on his luck and living in Tokyo, and just out of nowhere he gets called up for this random assignment from this mysterious dude.

TMB: That’s pretty cool.

JT: Yeah, that’s just where I’m at right now, I’m not super far into the book. It’s just sort of like this classic cyberpunk novel. I’m into sci-fi stuff. I’m slowly making my way through some Isaac Asimov stuff.

TMB: Do you ever read any Phillip K Dick?

JT: Yeah, I just read Man in the High Castle fairly recently.

TMB: You just moved to LA from Brooklyn. What do you love about Brooklyn and LA and what are the differences?

JT: It’s cliché, but New York is just so much more fast pace and just so much more go go go. And I like that to a certain degree, but I’m kind of a homebody in a lot of ways, and it’s hard to do that in New York. And you can do it, but then it’s like you’re in your tiny apartment and you’re paying a fortune to sit in your three room railroad and kind of a bummer after a while. When New York is nice though I can’t think of a better place to be, it’s so buzzing in summer on a nice day just walking around it’s the best. All in all it started to run me ragged a bit. I like a quieter environment, which I like about Los Angeles, Los Angeles is a bit more varied in the way you live your life. You can be a bit more removed from things and be kind of quiet. Like where I am now, I have that, but I’m also super close drive to downtown, or you can go hike in the mountains, or you can go an hour and be at the beach, which is well rounded and where I’m at in my life right now which makes perfect sense.

Wild Nothing is currently on tour. Check out tour dates and purchase the new record HERE.

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