Interview: John Stirratt (Wilco)

by - 9/16/2020

Wilco (from left to right): Nels Cline, Glenn Kotche, Jeff Tweedy, Mikael Jorgensen, Pat Sansone and John Stirratt | Photo credit: Annabel Mehran

Entrevista com o baixista do Wilco, John Stirratt, publicada em português no Scream & Yell. A seguir, disponibilizo a versão original.

In this interview, Wilco's bass player John Stirratt shares his thoughts on the band's 25 year-run as one of the world's most creative and admired rock outlets, as well as a scoop: come next winter, the group will try to make a new record, remotely. The full article was originally published on Scream & Yell, in Portuguese. Below you can check out the whole e-mail conversations which took place between October 2019 and September 2020.

Mr. Stirratt, thanks for the interview. I hope you're staying safe during the pandemic. After Uncle Tupelo disbanded, you formed Wilco with Mr. Tweedy and other musicians. Now, 25 years later, you are the only original member who remain in the band. How did you and Jeff decide to keep playing together after Uncle Tupelo and form a new group? Did you ever think the band would last this long?

As Uncle Tupelo was breaking up, Jeff came to Ken (Coomer, drummer), Max (Johnston, multi-instrumentalist) and me and told us — in no uncertain terms — he was interested in continuing the band. We had just gotten some momentum as a five piece and felt there was a certain amount of chemistry, and he was ready to jump straight into a renamed version of this.  It was great as we all were having such fun and it appeared to be ending as soon as it had begun.

Around the time A.M. was released, the record wasn't immediately successful. Nevertheless, as Wilco progressed and changed over the years, and you drew the attention of more fans with each new release, your first record started to grow on people and to this day you play songs off of it live. What do you remember the most about those sessions and what are your thoughts on A.M. 25 years later?

I have distinct memories of the first thing Wilco committed to tape, which was the version of "I Must Be High" on record, the first song — we set up, got sound and rolled that song, which came out really good. It was a good beginning.

The other tune I remember most was my song, "It’s Just That Simple", as it was such a blast to play it live with the band as well as Lloyd Maines (texan musician) on pedal steel.

Speaking of “It’s Just That Simple”, it’s such a beautiful song. What are the chances that we get to hear you singing on a Wilco track in the future?

It would be amazing, although now I am fixated on the idea of any Wilco recording happening during this pandemic. But we kicked it around here and there, other voices.

Both A.M. and Being There have already gotten the deluxe treatment in 2017. What are some of your favourite outtakes from those albums? Do you guys plan on releasing new versions of your following records (like Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) as well anytime soon?

We’ve just announced the Summerteeth reissue, which has got some great bonus tracks and live stuff.  I was happy to see "Myrna Lee" and some other songs of mine make it onto the A.M. reissue, as we were demoing lots of stuff.

After a quarter of a century playing with Wilco, I’m sure you’ve lived tons of unforgettable moments, felt all kinds of emotions and experienced great things like recording classic albums, playing a part in amazing music documentaries, collaborated with other great artists such as Billy Bragg and played to adoring audiences all over the world. Is it possible to sum up these 25 years in one great moment? Which moment would it be, the one that keeps coming to mind over an over?

That’s a nice question, and I wish I could sum it all up in one story or memory. Something I think about a lot is actually doing the basic take of "Sunken Treasure" during the Being There sessions, being moved by the music to that extent and knowing that, at that point, we were making something lasting, and there was real potential for a career with this band.

Photo credit: Anton Coene

What do you remember from the last time you came to Brazil? I remember seeing quite a few pictures on Instagram of you and Pat Sansone (Wilco's multi-instrumentalist) in Rio, hanging out with fans.

I just remember that wonderful Samba Club in São Paulo — how I remember music being in the air everywhere in Brazil. The only thing that comes close in the world is New Orleans.

In 2016, Jeff was interviewed by a Brazilian newspaper and he mentioned that the song “Hate It Here” was one among hundreds of regrets he had regarding the band or something like that. The fans never really understood what he meant by that comment. Do you guys really dislike that song? Or is it just something about the recording or other technical stuff that you don't like about it…?

I believe with the song "Hate it Here", he was making a joke to some extent, as he can be very self-deprecating in a funny way lots of times. I think with that song he was trying to write something very straightforward and conversational, not oblique at all, which is the hardest type of song to write. Like "Passenger Side", for example. I don't think he dislikes the song at all.

Besides being Wilco’s bass player and also playing in The Autumn Defense, you are now a businessman — you own a hotel in North Adams, MA. How’s the experience going so far? And how much has your life on the road playing in bands influenced the way you designed your own hotel?

I’ve always been into hospitality on some level, hosting bands in the early days etc. And later Airbnb. But seeing the hotel industry finally achieve some sort of individual and smart product by the likes of Ace and the Bunkhouse Group, in Austin, inspired me to create a hotel that spoke to people like me, my age. A lot of similar parallels between making music and hotels, basically like creating a record you would want to listen to, in this case creating a place you’d love to stay.

Wilco is a band that does a lot of touring. How do you conciliate both careers?

I found that doing business and being in a rock ‘n’ roll band is somewhat easier than I thought. As your days are completely open preshow, you can get a lot done, especially administrative/deskwork. It’s basically the boredom of waiting to go on stage that's always been the challenge. For anyone with a family, they understand I get much more done on the road then at home.

In the Ashes of American Flags DVD, which was released about 11 years ago, Jeff mentions in one interview that, although he didn’t want any more line-up changes within the band, he believed Wilco could survive another shift — as long as it was not you, John. One decade later, the band’s line-up remains unaltered. What are your thoughts on that? Could Wilco survive another change?

I do remember Jeff mentioning that, it was very kind. But at this point, I believe Wilco as a brand would almost continue on some level infinitely, as long as he was fronting it.

What are the band's plans for the future? I know you postponed your tour with Sleater-Kinney for 2021. Are there any recording plans for a new album or single, considering you are not able to tour for the time being?

I think Wilco will try to make a record remotely over this winter, and see how that works. We did try it with the song "Tell Your Friends" and it came out quite good.

You May Also Like