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Savannah Stopover: Wreckless Eric on punk, politics and pensions

 

Savannah Stopover: Wreckless Eric on punk, politics and pensions

07 Mar 2017

His name is Eric Goulden, but he’s better known around the globe as Wreckless Eric, and he’s returning to Savannah for Stopover on March 10. He is touring on his latest album “amERICa,” which is receiving universal acclaim from critics and his fans.

Wreckless Eric began his recording life on Stiff Records in 1977 with his enduring hit “Whole Wide World” (the song attracted a new audience after it was sung by Will Ferrell in the 2006 movie “Stranger Than Fiction”). He went on to become one of Britain’s biggest underground household names. According to his label, he’s known onstage for his “big open chords, squalls of feedback, lilting enchantment, bizarre stories and backchat.”

Do Savannah was able to catch up with the busy musician as he works on another new album and sets off for yet another tour — this year marks 40 years since his first album and tour. His return to the Coastal Empire will most likely be another unforgettable performance by a music legend. In this interview, Wreckless Eric talks punk, politics and pensions and how he sometimes doesn’t know what to play on stage.

Do: You made your first trip to Savannah last year — how was the show and did you enjoy your visit? What did you do while you were in Savannah?

Wreckless Eric: I had low expectations — the show was a free admission Sunday afternoon thing in the courtyard of the Congress Street Social Club. I was amazed at the size and attentiveness of the audience.

I found Savannah absolutely charming, and I didn’t want to leave. The day after the show the promoter, Peter Robaudo, took me to the Jepson Center to see an exhibition of photos of Elvis Presley taken by Alfred Wertheimer.

Do: You’re working on a new album. Can you tell us a little bit about how the process is coming along and when we can expect to hear new music from you?

WE: It’s a slow process steeped in self-doubt and insecurity! I do my best work when I’m thoroughly convinced that nobody in the world gives a damn whether I do it or not. I never want to feel comfortable, in control or that I know what I’m doing.

Mostly I work on my own in my own studio — I do the engineering myself. I get musician friends that I admire to come in and play: Brian Dewan, a keyboard and electronic music genius; a couple of different drummers, Jeremy Grites and Doug Wygal; Artie Barbato, a jazz trumpet and horn player from Boston.

I’ve been writing songs on a Wurlitzer electric piano. It hasn’t been easy — as a piano player I’m somewhat inept, but I’m getting better! It’s 40 years this year since my first record came out, and I started touring. I know a lot more than I did when I started, but I never want to have the smugness that I associate with having it down.

Do: I read your blog post about accompanying your wife, Amy Rigby, on her solo gigs — very sweet. Do you still collaborate on music together? And did you ever think you could have that kind of successful romantic/professional relationship before you both starting working together?

WE: I wouldn’t call it sweet! I love playing with Amy; she’s a songwriting genius. We started playing together because it was the only way we could get to see each other when we were first dating. We’re very supportive of each other.

Do: Do people ask you often: “When are you going to retire from music?” And what’s your response to that?

WE: I’m an artist so I don’t get to retire — that’s for people with pensions!

Do: With today’s political climate — in both England and the U.S. — where do you expect the context of punk music to go? Or maybe you feel the same forces are at work today that were alive in the late ’70s/early ’80s?

WE: I can’t really speak about punk; I don’t know much about it. Me and punk parted ways a long time ago — I was kind of in sympathy with it but never really part of it. I was never really part of anything. As punk got more professional and clearly defined as something it certainly wasn’t when it started out, I went more and more DIY and homemade.

The political situation is utterly appalling, particularly in America. I wouldn’t trust any artist working in any field who isn’t 100 percent against what’s going on. Art is so closely bound up with humanity and truth.

Do: What do you plan to play for your upcoming Savannah show? Do you plan a setlist or just feel out the audience during the show?

WE: I never wing it — I always start out with some kind of game plan. I don’t usually walk onto the stage clutching a carefully drawn up setlist. I used to write setlists even though I never really stuck to them.

I like the idea of having a list so if some tunes go really well together, I can look at the list the following day and figure out what I did right. It never worked out like that because someone would always nick the setlist as a souvenir, so I gave up in the end. But I have it in my head — it’s good mental exercise! I still sometimes freak out and wonder what the hell to play.

Wreckless Eric

6 p.m. March 10

The Jinx, 127 W. Congress St.

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