I had a chance to sit down with Chad Nicefield, lead singer for the Detroit rock band, Wilson, prior to their show at Route 20 Outhouse in Sturtevant, WI. He shared some cool personal stories about the music impressed upon him by his Dad when he was growing up along with his first introduction to the horror movie genre at a similarly young age. We talked about the band and their mindset on bringing people together in a way that makes Wilson the ties that bind. Chad shared the biggest misconception people have about the band and he gave us some pretty personal insight on the lyrics for The Flood and Waiting for the World to Cave In from their album, Right To Rise. He shared his thoughts on success, what he enjoys about being involved in making the band’s videos and more.
Recently you guys have been playing dates opening for other bands. Do you feel you have more to prove when you’re on stage compared to your own headline show?
That answer is kind of yes and no. It’s subjective. I don’t know if we have anything to prove. I don’t know if our goal is to prove anything as much as it is to tie a room together. For us to prove anything in general is either you’re here, you might be Teresa Burke and that person might be Steven Glandsberry and you might be there to see, Teresa Burke’s there to see Wilson and Steven Glandsberry is there to see Megadeth. All we want to do is make those two people essentially, their energies meet. That kind of sounds a little hippy dippyish but the reality of it is that’s it and that’s the same in a headlining show. You’re Teresa Burke and Steven Glandsberry and you both met at a Megadeth show that Wilson was opening up for and now you’re seeing Wilson headlining or whatever. You might not even know that you were in that same room together so our proving thing is just to make sure that every single person leaves feeling that they got a just experience for their time.
That’s an interesting way to look at it. But I can dig it. I’ve seen a few Wilson shows and I’ve seen some of the crazy antics that you guys have done on stage whether you were climbing a lighting rig or hanging from something from the ceiling. Did that start more so out of boredom on stage or are you trying to make sure people remember that band Wilson, that maybe they weren’t there to see initially?
There is definitely the sense of, I don’t think it would be boredom, I think it’s the spur of the moment, “I’m going to fucking do this thing.” It’s grabbing life by the nuts. There is definitely the shock factor, like “We’re going to make these people feel like just they saw something special,” right, but at the end of the day you’re trying to assume the position of having a good time yourself too so you just kind of get lost in the moment. Personally sometimes, especially when we first started, it was an uphill battle and I’m trying to get people to pay attention to you so of course you’re out there flailing your body around, peeing your pants or whatever it may be, so they’ll tell their friends but I think it was just like, “How can we take it to the next level with our version of what we’re doing,” and that was pretty much how it’s always been.
What has been the biggest misconception people have about your band?
That we’re just this party band. To tell you the blunt truth, for a record like Full Blast Fuckery and all the crazy song titles and stuff like that, that was because we never expected any of this stuff to happen. It was like, “Yeah, this record sounds like this, sounds like Full Blast Fuckery, we’re going to put it out.” These songs that are called this because they were silly working titles that we were bouncing, sending a demo over or working on something. We just recorded them and put them out and there was never a thought of, “You’re going to be doing all this stuff with it.” We’re just like, “We’ll see what happens.” And we party, as people, we’re Midwesterners, so like yourself here in Wisconsin, you work your ass off so when it comes time to clock out, that’s your time. This is your time to shine, essentially whatever it is, like your life is important and you should be thriving on those little moments so people just assume that we’re just these fucking dildos running around, fucking everything, drinking everything, pooping on everything. Well, maybe we are doing a little bit of some of it, but we still call our mothers, you know? We still check in from time to time. (laughter)
For you personally, do you recall your first introduction to music and then how did you kind of take that path to becoming a singer, playing guitar and wanting to be in a band?
My father was an integral part in who I am for sure. I even notice myself doing similar mannerisms when I’m driving the car like, “boop be boo doo doo doo,” because that’s what my dad does. I was like man, I just learned all these things. My dad would take me on these long car rides and I remember when we first got our first car that had a CD player and my dad was so stoked. We grew up in a pretty meager home, like a Ranch style, three bedrooms, mother and father, sister and brother. It was never any sort of lap of luxury at all but my dad did what he could do for us to make sure that we could experience what he never got to experience as a kid because he grew up in a house with three bedrooms too but there were seven of them, same with my mother. So, he would take me in these long car rides and be like, “You’re going to listen to this. Here’s some Black Sabbath. Here’s some Thin Lizzy. Here’s some Nazareth. Here’s some Aerosmith,” or whatever it is. That was my first introduction into it. When I found Nirvana and The Toadies and the 90’s thing, that’s when I realized this is my version of what my dad was super into and I got really, really heavily into music at that point. That’s when I started playing guitar. I actually wanted to play bass first and my uncle was like, “Bass is for pussies. You play guitar.” He let me borrow a guitar that he had at his house and I fell asleep with the thing every single night. Woke up in the morning and played, that sort of thing. It was very vividly clear when I was 12 years old and picked up a guitar that this is what I wanted to do. I just wanted to be like Kurt Cobain, to tell you the honest truth. I think almost every kid did at 12 years old.
You commented on this, but you guys do give off the party vibe, but when it comes to writing new material do you have that same attitude or are you much more strict on yourself and have a structure?
When the band’s writing in general, you’re kind of like, you know, Jason will set the tone with some sort of riffage that’s going on. I could build a song around something, you could just picture, I’m like a musically metaphorical person so when I hear something I think about how it sounds. Does it sound like a motorcycle riding down a dirt road or does this sound like the world’s ending or does this sound like the best time ever, you know, then you paint a picture with lyrics and melody around that sort of feeling. Then there’s the opposite way of writing a song where you have an idea, you have lyrics, you have a melody that you think in your head and you try to write music around that. There’s never really a rhyme or reason of how we get to the spots that we get to with music. I think our end goal is to make sure that we’re all happy with it and it speaks for each person’s part in the band. You know that’s sometimes really hard too because as a lyricist, you’re painting a picture that’s in your mind. That’s basically like painting the tone of what your band, the perception of what your band is out there doing, so that perspective and that subjectiveness of music the way that somebody else is absorbing it is kind of, it’s always different. I don’t know. Nowadays, I’m more interested in having a good time with music than I am, like talking to you about my love life or whatever, you know? I don’t want to talk about stuff like that unless it’s my own way of doing it. I don’t want to be, “I love you, I’m so sad,” I’ll find another metaphorical way to get around it some way.
For Right to Rise, you followed a different process when it came to writing. How challenging was it working with more than just you and Jason?
It was great. I mean, there’s always curbs, learning curves and all that stuff that happen when you’re writing with somebody that you’ve never really been writing with and there’s obviously egos that get involved there. There’s people’s peace of mind that they want inside of the process, but at the end of the day, as long as there is some push and pull, there’s some little bit of, we’re all a piece of fabric. Everybody is underneath that fabric, the song’s connected, is that fabric. You’re just the pieces that are all interchangeable. I mean, we had a good time writing as a full band. We pretty much try to do everything, we still stick to the regimen of Jason’s at home writing a music demo or whatever or I have an idea that I record on my phone acoustically with a vocal thing or James has an idea that he records. Jason, who last night programmed a song and a little demo, just all drums. It was like, “Let’s write something musically to that.” So just exploring different ways of doing it, for sure.
Of the songs on Right To Rise, I’ve always been drawn to The Flood and the lyrics are quite interesting. Are you writing from a place of experience or do you maybe make up stuff that works for the song?
There’s both. With The Flood, yeah, I’ve dealt with a lot of my own issues with sexuality, you know, growing up I lost my virginity in my early years and I was kind of put through a mental ringer with a couple females early on because I was kind of like that miscreant kid that you didn’t really want to date or whatever it was and then I’d get hooked up with these girls and they would drive me crazy or whatever. I mean, when I was younger for sure, probably hooked myself into what wasn’t as important as it should have been, that relationship, those girls, that sort of thing. Moving forward, talking about The Flood and how it’s painted, I was kicked out of church when I was younger because I wanted to be a Boy Scout and they didn’t like the how they put God in the Boy Scouts motto or whatever, so I carry that with me everywhere. I don’t denounce anybody’s religion but I know who I am and I made a lot of mistakes and I’m continuously going to make a lot of mistakes and it’s important to me to not feel bad about those mistakes and not let the past mistakes drag down the future essentially and The Flood is definitely a sexual song that’s saying, “Hey man, don’t be afraid to be the person that you are.”
What makes the dynamic between the five of you work and how much of an impact do you have on each other when it comes to becoming better musicians?
I think the dynamic in any band works when you, I think it’s about praise, for me personally, when I hear something that I like or I hear something that is not as, I won’t necessarily bash on something but I will definitely praise, “That fucking rules,” or whatever, you know what I’m saying? If I’m not really into it I’ll usually kind of stay silent or whatever, but if you’re pumping up your fellow person, it’s important. It’s important to feel like the people around you are, that you’re creating with, are not only feeling inspired by what you’re doing but also appreciating your talent, whatever it is, your part of the pie. So for me, I like to encourage that when I can. I think that our dynamic in general is that there is trust that’s involved and everybody comes together in the 90’s. We all have that same love for that period of music. I particularly don’t like much newer heavier stuff. That’s not my vibe. However Jason or James will put in something that is technically huge and heavy. I like The Struts and fun rock and roll shit nowadays if it kind of reminds me of Thin Lizzy or anything that sounds like the 90’s. I’m just really into fun stuff. Then you’ve got people like Kyle who might be into stuff that is maybe a little bit more techy and things like that, same with James and Jason. I like melody and I like sonically cool sounding things, you know? That’s how our dynamic kind of really works. We come together and does it fucking speak about the band? Does it speak about us individually?
How important is it that your fans connect to your songs vs just being at a show to have a good time?
It is very important. Sometimes I think that that’s the hardest thing to get people to do, especially with rock and roll nowadays. You know, it’s funny when people are out there saying things like, “Dicks up, windows down,” or whatever it is or “you can lead me to water, but you can’t save me,” those tongue in cheek little quips in our music, it’s like, “Okay, cool. Did you listen to Waiting For The World To Cave In and do you know what’s happening in that song because that my most barest of bones of letting myself tell you that I fucked up and there’s pain in that song.” For me, the song, and there’s pain in Before I Burn. That whole record in general besides the fun loving stuff is basically saying, “Hey man, I’m just a regular piece of shit like every other regular piece of shit and it’s okay.” It’s okay as long as you are trying your best to do the best that you can and that’s all you can really do in life. Treat your neighbor like you want yourself to be treated and keep fucking forging ahead.
So you’ve been as the band Wilson for a few years now and I’m sure you’ve seen the ups and downs of the music industry. How do you personally define success?
As I get a little older it’s a little different. I think that the only real way that you can measure success is exactly kind of like what followed up to that question. It might not be a million people in the world that you’ve connected with but the fact that there’s people out there that see what you’re doing to be bigger than just a song, although you’re connected to the song, you’re more connected to the experience of the whole thing. That to me measures success. In this climate when you’re talking about record sales and streaming and all this other shit that’s happening, people talk about, “Why isn’t this working?” Well, is it fun? Do people have something to sink their teeth into? Do they have a story? Is there something out there that’s bigger than just the band? Once you’re connected to that sort thing, that’s how I define success. We can sell a bunch of records, on one record, and you can just disappear because who knows what’s going to happen. Maybe that was successful but it’s not the longevity of it isn’t what I call success, personally.
I read that you’ve produced all of the Wilson videos. Did you start doing that out of necessity or you were like, “Hey, this might be fun?”
At first it was my friend Ray [Raymond Rivard], who does the videos with me, he begged me a bunch of times at a bar, he wanted to shoot videos. He’s like, “Dude, just let me do a video for your band,” and we had done this one video before that another guy had asked me about doing a music video for and I had this concept and idea and I worked with him to, and it was old stuff, it was just Jason and I in the band, and it was this song called Snake Eyes that later then put on Full Blast Fuckery as well, we redid it, but we had this idea and I kind of saw, “This is fun.” I really like seeing these, to me, it’s like this fucking crazy maniacal cob web in my head that’s getting cleared out and all that web is being formed into some sort of tangible thing and that is super awesome. I like visual stuff. So he hit me up and I had this idea about something and we did this video and from then on, and I don’t know if I’d call it necessity as much as, yeah, I mean at first it was like, “We don’t have money. This guy is going to do it for dirt cheap and he’s going to do a great job with it and he’s going to work around the clock to make sure this vision that we have comes out because he’s also hungry and looking to succeed.” So we just aligned ourselves with these people who are the same exact kind of sort of sphere as we were and we haven’t really looked back in any other way. We’ve done some cool stuff together on very little amount of money. That shit is not like, “Oh, that’s our idea and we’re gonna go do it,” it’s literally months and months and hours and hours and hours of work. Even on the side of not just the days of shooting it. I’m talking so much time planning out things, securing locations, getting pieces of wardrobe that you don’t have fucking money for anyway, so you have to find how to get it off the skin of your back and making those sort of successes. For me personally, it’s like, “Yeah, man! You just took absolutely nothing and created this thing by just having the where with all to do it.”
In your last video, Give ‘Em Hell, how was it working with kids and do you think you’ve scarred them for life?
(Laughter) No, my friends are the parents so they’ve been definitely scarred already before that, but working with kids was pretty interesting. There’s lots of challenges. They don’t totally get what’s going on, you’re definitely not their Dad so how are you going to direct them to do that. One of my main duties on shoot days was to direct these kids and get them in situations because I’m the only person who knew all these fucking kids. I think it was fun, it was a little taxing. Definitely made me think differently about being a parent and how much shit parents really have to go through (laughter). I dealt with those kids for a day and I was like, “Fuuuck. You have to do that all the time? That would suck. Everything about that sucks.” (laughter)
Sometimes it’s different when they’re your own kids too.
If it’s my kid, “Oh, look at that poop you made in the middle of the floor. That’s so adorable. Let me spend the next two hours of my life cleaning it up.”
I read an interview where you mentioned your love for, and I quote, “shitty horror films.” Can you elaborate on some of your favorites?
When I was a kid, my down the street neighbor, Ryan Knowlton, his dad and my dad were best friends and they were biker dudes and he would spend all this time, all night long, in his bike garage doing whatever the fuck, smoking weed or whatever, so we had free reign of the TV and he happened to have, back in the day, the premium TV channels. We were up all night long watching all the different Friday the 13th’s and even Bruce Lee movies and Elm Street movies and shit and then we started getting really deep into it and started doing things like Maniac Cop and gory stuff and all the Troma films and stuff. I’m talking like up from 7 to 13, I was watching all this stuff and it just kind of transcended through from my life through there. I wish I had more time to watch films now. Generally when I’m on the road, when we’re on the road, I watch a lot of documentaries or something that makes me laugh. When I get home, that’s when I sit down and if I have time, clear my head I’ll take a couple hours and watch a new horror film.
Wilson just released a new video for Window Down! Watch it below.