A harlequinade is a form of pantomime wherein the clowns are center stage. It is a play in which fakeness is the thing. Criticizing a harlequinade for lacking substance is like accusing McDonald’s of not being a very good vegetarian restaurant. Criticizing the blues for being fake, well that borders on sacrilege, but it’s exactly what Wilson T King has been doing for some time. During our hour-long Facebook chat he tells me “The blues is very close to being stuck in karaoke quicksand. It could become a quaint antiquity.” Without having heard his second album, The Last of the Analogues, you might dismiss his views as irreverent for the sake of attention, but after you listen to the album ten times in a week to feel the feral lines punch you in your primal spine, you take him at his word. He says “When I solo it’s literally pure madness. If you saw me cutting solos you would call a psychiatrist.”
King draws from influences outside the world of music. The track Born into This is a nod to Charles Bukowski’s famous poem, Dinosauria, We. King says “The song is about the continuing historical loop we find the world in, and our ability to break that if we so wish. As Bill Hicks said, ‘It’s time to evolve folks.’ You have to dig deep and find light in the shadows to experience anything in life. The tune is me channeling Bukowski, Band Of Gypsys and grunge.” Like Bukowski, King is breathing new life into an old form. Like Bukowski, King doesn’t give a fuck what the keepers of the form think. Like Bukowski, King pulls his art from the darkest depths and does not see the need to make it pretty.
Of Last of the Analogues, he says “I wanted to make a record that comes from the blues and has burning playing but can be played along side new bands. It’s a mixing of my blues voice and my indie/alternative voice. That succession of records in the ’90s by Nirvana, Radiohead, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins and U2 is in the mix.” Also in the mix is an homage to Duane Allman, the track 29.10.71. King tells me “I knew At Fillmore East note-for-note by the time I was seven. People forget about Duane’s non slide playing. The BB King Medley and Goin’ Down Slow are some of the greatest blues performances ever cut.” Of other influences he says “I think Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Machine Gun by Jimi are the zenith of modern art over the last 100 years. Real time math, execution, and psychotherapy.”
King follows an interesting recording process. Of the track Bury Me with the Bible, he says “I cut everything apart from the drums which were performed by a great friend and killer player, Wayne Proctor. The song is me trying to write a bass line that Miles Davis would have dug. I wrote the bass first then added a loop then wrote the vocals. The guitars came later, and the drums last. It’s a strange way of working. It comes from me wanting to work alone and also from my time in indie rock bands where I would demo hundreds of songs. When we play it live it evolves further, and we are cutting a live studio version back in the UK later this month.”
The final track on the album is Broken Son, which reminds me of the TAB song Dark and Down. King loves Trey Anastasio’s playing (though he had no idea Phish has a song about an evil King Wilson), but says inspiration for the cut came from “listening to Maggot Brain and having always loved Eddie Hazel’s playing. I wanted that vibe where he grooves with his lines but its dark at the same time.” While King’s guitar playing has earned him endless praise from guitar player magazines, there’s a definite groove to the entire album. Not the dance your ass off groove, but the snarling and nodding groove. King thinks the jamband audience would dig his music, and I could not agree more. He plans to begin touring the East Coast soon, so keep an eye out.