answers the MUSIC WORKS Questionnaire
I don’t really have any formal qualifications, I got 4 GCSEs, didn’t do school very well, I started an Electronic Music course at Goldsmiths School of Art but dropped out after about 6 weeks, I learn better on my own than being taught.
2. CREATIVE LIFE HIGHLIGHTS?
I really don’t know, I’ve been lucky that making music has given me the opportunity to travel and tour and make records with really interesting people, but I can’t think of a specific thing that seems very big, I went to a cocktail bar in Kings Cross with an ex-girlfriend a few years ago and they had a cocktail called Let’s Wrestle named after my old band in there, I doubt anyone who ordered the Let’s Wrestle had probably ever heard of us but it felt really validating.
3. WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU STILL HAVE TO FULFIL?
Make more money, I’m sick of being skint. There are plenty of people I’d love to write for as well, get a proper pop song in the charts, would be the main thing.
4. SONGS YOU WISH YOU HAD WRITTEN?
Flirted With You All My Life by Vic Chesnut
5. DESERT ISLAND DISCS?
Wholy Holy by Aretha Franklin
Were Selfish Lazy And Greedy by Go-Kart Mozart
Cool In The Pool by Holgar Czukay
Instant Karma By John Lennon
Is That All There Is by Peggy Lee
Pop Life by Prince
Til I Die by The Beach Boys
If You Want Me To Stay by Sly And The Family Stone
6. FAVOURITE ARTISTS/BANDS OF ALL TIME?
Yellow Magic Orchestra, Can, The Beatles, The Fall, Prince
7. WHAT MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO NOW?
I like the new Cate Le Bon album Pompeii. Everything Warmduscher are putting out is fantastic, can’t wait for their next album. Lots of the Griselda records scene, they seem to be putting out the most exciting Hip Hop stuff at the moment. The new Earl Sweatshirt album too!
8. THE LAST BOOK YOU READ?
I’ve been reading a lot of plays recently, I really enjoyed a play called The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. I’ve just started The Crucible by Arthur Miller about the Salem Witch Trials.
I don’t really have any hobbies, I spend all my time Painting and Writing Music but that’s my job, lucky to enjoy what I do. I guess my hobby is drinking or watching trash television.
10. VINYL, CASSETTE, CD, MP3, WEB STREAMING?
I’ve always been a record collector and worked in record shops so I’ll say Vinyl, Though I sold the majority of my record collection over Lockdown to survive financially, it weirdly felt quite freeing like I’d made a good investment and needed to cash out in a time of crisis. I do find myself going into record shops and stopping myself starting up again, hopefully, I’ll earn enough money to start collecting again at some point.
11. WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL MOTTO?
Hell is the heaven we all deserve.
‘Wax Limousine’ is the third solo album from London’s Wesley Gonzalez. Set for release on 18th March 202 via Moshi Moshi Records, the record is the follow up to last year’s critically acclaimed ‘Appalling Human’ and finds the indie stalwart delivering his most personal album to date, via a collection of 12 irresistible pop songs. The announcement arrives alongside the title track, which received its first play from Marc Riley on 6Music and its accompanying video, the second to be revealed from the record following ‘Greater Expectations’, released earlier this year. In support of the release, Gonzalez heads out on tour this November, headlining Electrowerkz on 25th and supporting Young Knives across the country.
With its truly eclectic range of musical influences drawing on Gonzalez’s ever developing sonic palette, the album’s uplifting sound juxtaposes its themes, documenting the end of a long-term relationship and the overwhelming experience of dealing with a family member’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. ‘Wax Limousine’ navigates these hurdles with a razor-sharp wit and often brutally perceptive self-awareness, nowhere more so than on the new single. Inspired by both ‘Faithless’ by Scritti Politti and Aretha Franklin, it is Gonzalez’s version of an 80’s gospel song and, as he explains, written at a crucial point over the last 12 months.
“This was written right after the breakup and cancer diagnosis. It was that early stage of a breakup where you can’t really understand what went wrong for you or for your ex. There was resentment for the extreme change I had suddenly found myself in, and I was asking what it really was I did wrong. The title Wax Limousine came from old phrases like “as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike”. I was trying to express how useless I felt within every situation that had just arrived at my doorstep.”
When it comes to songwriting, Wesley Gonzalez has always been a rule maker. There’s always been a plan for each album, right back to when he was a teenager, through his tenure as leader of Let’s Wrestle and over two critically lauded solo albums that translated his undeniable pop smarts from the scuzz of rough lo-fi to the rich production of mid-70’s soul and funk. When it came to writing his latest record Wax Limousine, however, Gonzalez had grown tired of rules.
“This new album was a process of letting it come out naturally, there was no ‘plan’ for what this was supposed to be,” Gonzalez says. “It was a brilliant experience to just write with no pretense at all and to not worry about something fitting a certain musical narrative. The lyrical themes are the connective tissue of the record which came about organically from life experience rather than something altogether more conceptual.”
That’s not to say that the songwriter has left his penchant for an earworm hook behind. He is, after all, the sort of artist who possesses the rare knack of naturally being able to bring things back to the center no matter how far leftfield he goes, and Wax Limousine is resplendent with the sort of snappy melodies that have long been a hallmark of his writing no matter what style he pushes himself towards.
Take the two tracks you may have already heard: the title track possesses an almost Randy Newman-like quality in its piano-led soul, Gonzalez going big over an increasingly theatrical build. A Taste Of Something, meanwhile, bounces along atop joyous synths and funk-fuelled rhythm guitar as Gonzalez toes the line between croon and cry.
Elsewhere, though, Wax Limousine is a record uncoupled from Gonzalez’ previous ways of working. Many of the tracks are built up from little riffs overlapping with one another, intertwining in order to form something larger than the sum of its parts – a departure from the more chord-based structures of his previous work. It’s something he says is in part inspired by Indonesian Gamelan music, the post-punk of his youth, and Prince and you can hear that influence on the likes of layered disco-flecked pop of When I Fell For You and the swirling, Day-Glo textural synths of Drive You Home.
It’s these two events in his life inform most of the album, many of the songs taking on snapshots of moments that took place during this period. Grateful, for example, deals with toxic masculinity and the return of an estranged family member during Gonzalez’ mother’s illness despite shunning him for years prior. 1,2,3,4,5 Just Get Rid Of It, meanwhile takes place in the radiotherapy ward where the artist would spend long days and is perhaps the most autobiographical in terms of dealing with her diagnosis, and illness – lyrics detailing the journey to the hospital and the hopelessness he felt in the situation.
Waiting For Your Letter and Penelope Ditches Ulysses are more focused on the failed relationship – which ended the day before he got the news of his mum’s cancer diagnosis. The latter’s chiming keys deal with a post-breakup argument. Waiting For Your Letter, meanwhile, is the album closer, a poignant piano-led ballad scratched over with guitar but otherwise giving space to Gonzalez’ vocal.
“Over the years developing as a lyricist I’ve found that I always gravitate to honesty whatever emotion that may be portrayed within,” he says. “I have always been interested in writing about the darker elements of existence within a palatable set of lyrics that have meaning but also don’t come from a place of judgement or making some big statement. With this album more than any other I couldn’t hear the more uplifting qualities to the music at the time but reflecting back now there’s some super pop stuff on it. When I was writing it, it didn’t feel that way maybe due to being in quite a heavy mood.”
Largely put together with the help of his bandmates, Joe Chilton (bass), Jack Bleckinsop (drums) and Callum Duffy (piano/synths) between home and socially-distanced studio time – with additional mixing from Jamie Neville at Teeth Studios – Wax Limousine is in a lot ways what you might expect of a Wesley Gonzalez record: unflinching, at times acerbic but wound around irresistible pop motifs.
However, on this third studio album of his there’s the undeniable sense of an artist letting go, pushing away the barriers and pushing himself to seek out new terrains. It’s a record that showcases an artist who, despite the personal sadness he’s had to document across these tracks, perhaps feels more at peace with himself than ever before.