Will Wood and the Tapeworms -
Will Wood: Vocals, Keyboards
Mike Bottiglieri: Guitars, Vocals
Mario Conte: Drums
Matt Berger: Saxophones
Interview with Will Wood
Hillary Lewis: Why hello there, my dude! I am honored to have the opportunity to interview you, Mr. Will Wood of Will Wood and the Tapeworms fame. Listening and dancing to your tracks, I found phrases like "Santeria in Bedlam on Mardi Gras," "Saloon Polka Ball in the Twin Peaks Red Room," and "Claymation Horror Burlesque Carnival" coming to mind as the music and theatre delighted my senses. Your stylish disregard for convention and gushing font of creativity makes you wholly unique, and you are a truly talented artist, even further evidenced by your strong fan base. Well done! To begin, how did the group come together and form its identity from the band's earliest history through today?
Will Wood: Hard to say. There have been a few dozen "Tapeworms" since I first started calling people that. I yank poor buggers away from their personal lives by the throats, cram them into dank little rehearsal spaces and holler at them until I hear what I want to hear. I'm lucky to be able to say I'm working with some of the most talented musicians I've ever known right now. But like most things, any cohesive identity you detect is in your head. Brand continuity is not my strong suit.
H: You certainly have collaborated with these musicians to make extraordinary art! I'm sure if I had the talent or vision being screamed at in tiny basements would be pretty rad, haha. "Tapeworm" evokes a sort of, being-consumed-from-the-inside vibe. How did the band's name come to be, and how have you found your tapeworm cast over the years?
WW: The name "The Tapeworms" means nothing to me. We can talk about the potential symbolism of bowel-dwelling 20 foot parasites subsisting off stolen vitamins and body heat being a viable method of weight loss till we're blue in the face and red in the eye but I have no attachment to the words. They just happened.
And I've found instrumentalists in gutters, university rehearsal rooms, casinos and drug dens. Everywhere from under a dumpster in Alphabet City to under the rug in the foyer of a New Jersey heights McMansion. I stumble across odd people. I must put out a very specific vibration.
H: Haha fair enough, I won't look into the term too hard. And odd people can be the most inspired indeed! You mentioned "brand," albeit somewhat satirically. Yours is a stunning combination of the visual arts and music. Tell me first about the body paint, if you would. You've had a ton of looks, each unique and striking. What does the inclusion of body paint, face paint and makeup do for you?
WW: If I tell you, it stops working.
H: Yes, but I'd be remiss if I didn't ask - after all, who is the real Will Wood? Haha, regardless, I love it - we will continue to observe the magic. Your music combines a sort of flippant whimsy and raw emotional vulnerability; your lyrics involve taboo subjects, heartbreak - a number of deep and personal inner monologues. What inspires you/has inspired you to write?
WW: I studied Chinese literature and Jungian psychology at Yale, and developed an affinity for long nights at the library and the solitude and respite from regular chaos they provide. My circadian rhythm is essentially nonexistent now, so I drink black coffee and pore over stacks of shoplifted and overdue textbooks tangentially related to the concept I encounter through my continued self-education and inner exploration. Not to self-aggrandize, I flunked out of school when I discovered hallucinogens.
H: I sincerely credit you for your dedication to self-discovery and learning! Being curious, educated and passionate is not so popular in today's America.
You mentioned during one of your shows that someone pointed out a similarity in one of your melodies to another song. You countered that there are "only 12 notes" to do so much with, but I think your manipulation of those notes has been exquisite and different. When/how did you begin studying music? Were your college pursuits influential in the less-western scales you use?
WW: According to my stepmother, Elle, my home growing up in North Carolina was occupied by the spirit of my great-grandmothers (my great-grandfather conceived with a pair of conjoined twins who shared a uterus) and they played solo/duet piano for one of America's last true vaudeville troupes. Elle claimed that her grandmothers' spirit had insisted her firstborn would be a pianist. So she hired an elderly Ukrainian lady named Fadeyushka to come and whack my knuckles with a ruler until I could plunk out Stravinsky blindfolded. It didn't work, but it caused me to derive a Pavlovian sort of pleasure from the sound of minor harmonic and Hungarian minor scales.
H: Vaudeville indeed, whether by spiritual or literal inspiration. Praise be to Fadeyushka's teachings, if somewhat brutal! Those mournful scales and upbeat tempos make the music moving, as well as make people move to the music. You've become an incredibly talented pianist, among your many artistic expressions. Is there a particular way you go about writing music, or do you find time in front of the piano simply pulls the music from within you?
WW: Songs seem to all crawl out of some dark hole in the wall- some place I know is there but can’t see- and when I shine a light on it, it disappears. Somewhere I've been a thousand times but can never remember how to get back to. I just stumble across it when looking for something else.
They can crawl out in the shape of hallucinations, dreams, arguments, something I said when I meant something else, or even people - whether they exist or not. And when I meet them, I don't know they're songs. If I try to identify them as such they run away, and if I try to force them to sing, their voices will come out all wrong.
I don't really know how it works. Could be Wu Wei, could be mental illness. I've yet to figure it out. I hope I never do.
*Wu Wei is a Taoist concept of “natural action” or “non-doing,” where your present state is effortless
H: That's beautiful, dark and poetic. You mentioned also during a television interview you were influenced by older French pop music. Are there any other musicians or artists of any medium that have been particularly meaningful in your work?
WW: I once got stuck and then detained by police at a Lumineers concert in high heels and a wig after a shouting match with a bartender who refused to give me a diet coke I had paid eleven dollars for. My mistake in many regards, but I was trapped for the entire goddamn set while that contrived, meaningless, trope-laden drivel blared in my ears for what seemed like a fucking epoch, and I was bored to literal tears. The mace may have played a part in the tears.
I fucking hate the Lumineers - and I will never forget that night. From then on I vowed that I would never let people be bored. Even if they were trapped at my show against their will and found my work to be grating, obnoxious, cacophonous and all kinds of cruel adjectives, I would make sure they would at least enjoy the train wreck. Because the Lumineers are a train wreck - mangled bodies and twisted steel erupting putrid smoke while helicopters circle like vultures counting the dead -and they’re still fucking boring.
Anyway, when security footage showed the bartender had indeed pocketed my money, the manager apologized profusely and gave me his number. We had dinner last week actually. No sparks. Won’t be seeing him again.
H: Wow - dick bartender, very expensive soda! But successful inspiration - you certainly are never boring or predictable, though mace and forcibly listening to bad music are unexpected motivators. Sorry for the tears, the Lumineers and the lack of sparks, but I'm glad justice was served and a brilliant entertainer emerged triumphant.
So presently you have two albums available, Everything is a Lot and SELF-iSH, numerous videos of performances online, and I'm sure even more that the world has not heard yet. I know my favorite jams, but what is/are your favorite(s) to perform?
WW: Oh, yeah, there’s more that hasn’t been heard. There’s something on its way. Choosing between songs is hard - every audience supplies different energy, and every song receives different energy from each different audience. I’d imagine it’s somewhat like asking a parent to choose between their children. I only have one daughter so I don’t know for sure, if I had another kid I might hate its guts I don’t know. It’s not like the world needs more of these genes anyway, they’ve done enough damage. Besides, life is most likely the most unpleasant thing you could be subjected to. Why would I want that for my kids? What are your favorite jams? I hope they’re not my least favorite.
Yeah, I know what my least favorites are. I wouldn’t want people to know which ones I hate playing though. Musicians are supposed to love what they do. We’re all told that we should all dream of being rockstars, so nobody wants to hear how much it actually sucks to have a career in music. It’s like telling people “your dream sucks and you’re an idiot.” Sort of insulting to be told that your dream is someone else’s day job. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for anything - but it’s a day job. Some of my songs are chores. But if I say which one, I don’t know if folks will enjoy hearing me play it. Nobody likes watching people do chores.
H: I guessed that you might say it's hard to choose and that it largely depends on the crowd, but I wanted to ask anyway. I'm glad your daughter can be a favorite - and a song too! It's natural to like to play some tracks more than others, work is work even if it's something you love. I don't think anyone can think anything about your dream/job comparison outside of admiring the honesty.
As far as my favorites, I think my favorites are "6up 5oh Copout" - the triplets to the shuffle, catchy chorus and "2012" for the contrasting timbre, and pace of the vocals, as well as the haunting bridge. I hope you don't hate them - I don't like the idea of being someone that takes pleasure in someone else's chores.
You mentioned something on the way - any other hints for me and the readers? I hope the November 4th show sells out, but maybe after I get my ticket this time, haha!
WW: I can’t say anything about anything new right now. I shouldn’t have mentioned it. But I hope you can make the show! Over 250 tickets sold within a couple hours of it being announced so you should probably hurry.
H: Oh heck I will! Don't worry, we'll keep the lack of knowledge secret. What upcoming thing? I know of no such upcoming thing. Ha-cha, denial.
Last question and obviously the most important and relevant. What is! Your spirit animal.
WW: Andrew Bird.
H: Clever, right on. Thank you again Will, it's been a pleasure chatting! Best of luck and love to you.
WW: My pleasure, thank you. Make sure to buy everything I sell.