IRock: Interview with Brian Bell - May 3, 2021
The following interview has been translated from Spanish.
Original article: https://www.irock.cl/entrevista-brian-bell-weezer/
Weezer is a band from L.A., California, formed in the mid 90s, known for having a versatile and unique sound in the world of alternative rock. Their hits “Buddy Holly”, “Undone (The Sweater Song)”, “Say It Ain’t So”, and many more, have been played around the world for decades.
They published their 14th album “Ok Human” at the start of the year, an orchestral pop rock album that immediately got into playlists, and as if that wasn’t enough, they’re about to release new material, mostly recorded during the pandemic. The hyped hair metal tribute “Van Weezer” is coming out on May 7, which already had some songs released, like “Hero”, “Beginning of the End” in 2020, and “End of the Game” in 2019. There’s also a fragment of “Blue Dream” that was played on an episode of The Simpsons last year. With some obvious inspiration by Kiss, Van Halen, Black Sabath, Rush, Metallica and Slayer, this seems to be one of the more promising releases in the north american country.
We talked to Brian Bell, rhythm guitarist in Weezer since 1993, who talked to us about this new release.
- Hello Brian, nice to meet you! First of all, I have to mention this is the 15th album this band released. How has it been for you to still be active for almost 3 decades?
- Yeah, wow! Well, it’s been interesting give how everything turned out, a few years here and a few years there, checking in the studio every now and then and then touring. Since the beginning we said the transcendence of the band was a very big deal, but nothing was really 100% planned, sometimes stuff happens and plans change, this time 3 years and 3 months went by before we could release something new (Ok Human) and people loves us even more after that. When all the chaos started we didn’t know when we were coming back but we were certain we would. After the “Green Album” (2001), we’ve had several faces on the band, we’ve toured around the world, and that’s where we knew there was no turning back, it’s what we chose as our lifestyle and ever since we haven’t stopped, I don’t know what mu life could have been and I’m still shocked when people ask “How long have you been playing?” and I’m like “Wow, very long” and it’s wild. Even then, I still think we have so much more to give.
- You always had a link with hard rock, that’s more than obvious with Van Weezer now. Tell me about the influences of the album, starting, of course, by the name.
- Well, Van Halen would be the biggest influence, that’s where the name comes from, and our drummer is a big fan of Eddie, since he was a boy. Most of the stuff you listened to when you were young goes on a second plain, but it’s still something that sticks with you forever, because you liked it back then so somehow you’ll keep liking it even when you’re older, your taste and identity will be painted by those influences, hard rock, metal and even pop is something that was always on our DNA, we grew up with that. Van Weezer is a fusion of everything we loved when we were young, and the workflow was very natural.
- How did you feel recording an album (not just one) in the times of a pandemic?
- Oof, that somehow gave us a purpose to keep recording, even during the pandemic, we said “Ok, I’m not going to waste time while I’m locked up”, if we couldn’t tour we knew we had to do something and keep ourselves busy. Even when we recorded Van Weezer and Ok Human at the same time, it felt like 10 years went by between each recording instead of one. We started working on Ok Human in 2017, so it was a relief to finish it while we were also working on Van Weezer, so we had a lot to do during the pandemic despite the obvious inconvenients.
- And how did it feel to work with Suzy Shinn as a producer?
- Well, we collaborated with a young producer that works in the current music industry. We had some doubts about working with her at the start, because we didn’t know if she knew what Megadeth or Exodus were. The best part of all of this was that we could mix our influences with a breath of fresh air she brought to our work, and it was perfect. This wasn’t the first time we worked together either, she did backing vocals before, and she has a particular voice that we love, nevertheless, it was amazing to have a record produced by her, she managed to get all of our ideas perfectly. I sometimes arrived with 3 or 4 ideas for a song, and she knew how to season the dish, like a recipe, she would tell me what works, what doesn’t, this works better than this part, she knew how to distinguish what was the most appropriate thing for a song, even giving her own ideas. It was very fun and productive because that’s what we needed on the studio.
- The difference between Ok Human and Van Weezer is huge regarding musical styles, was it difficult to change styles so fast?
- I mean, not really, no, because the identity is the same, the only difference is the instrumentation, particularly on guitars, even when there’s electrical guitars on Ok Human, there’s also acoustic guitars, with 6 or 12 strings, and also spanish guitars with nylon stings, and I played them all, and also the piano. We have a complete orchestra doing our melodies, and part of that can be seen on Van Weezer, which in that case is more versatile and has leadership, when you do bends or sweep picking, there’s no other instrument that can do that, it’s very unique and characteristic. Van Weezer is metal, we used techniques our idols used, like tapping or picking, things that you learn when you’re 15 and blow your mind. VW has a much more worked and polished sound, but it’s also heavier, more than any other album, it had to be.
- The cover art for Van Weezer is a bit different from the rest of your releases. Talk to me about it
- The cover was supposed to represent the image of the record itself, we have a team of artists, and when I say team, I mean 3 people, they’re very talented and they always impress us with their visual and artistic style. It was something that almost came up by itself, I think I mentioned Ride the Lightning by Metallica, I was thinking about how the colors and the shapes worked, that was one of the ideas I had. Generally, they propose alternatives and we start picking from them, like an interior designer when they ask you about what color you want on your walls and curtains, they show you a pallet and you pick. Its a fun cover, very energetic and powerful, just like the record. We thought that this wasn’t the time to use a picture of us, but we did do a session in 2020 that’s going in the booklet, but this cover had to be special somehow.
- Changing topics, is the Hella Mega Tour still on track?
- We hope so yeah, but that depends on the day to day, we know they’re doing sporting events with people, and some musical events too. It’s still very chaotic because we need to reschedule everything that’s been delayed for a year or two, and you don’t know what might happen tomorrow. The problem is when things open up, because everyone is dying to go to an event and everyone might not get in, we know we have to do this tour, because there’s a lot of people that want to see this tour, but we don’t know when or how. If we do Hella Mega, we need to sync with each other, with Green Day and Fall Out Boy, and whoever else might be there, which is still not possible.
- You played a great show in Chile in september 2009, do you have some memories and is there a message you want to send to your fans there?
- First of all, I have lovely memories and can’t wait to get back. The people in Chile and South America in general are unbelievable, it’s definitely a place we’d like to come back soon. When we were there I thought “Why didn’t we come earlier? We need to come back, sorry for not being here before”, the problem is that we’re very far to come so often, but we miss you and we miss South America, so we’re hoping to go soon. Take care and I hope to see you sooner than later.
- That was a great chat, thanks Brian for sharing your time with us!
We’re anxiously waiting for new Weezer material, which will come out in May of this year through streaming platforms. Meanwhile, here’s the latest single from the album, titled “I Need Some of That”, that came out less than a week ago.