"Eight (and a half) Questions" with Brian Wolff
1) TNF TV: Brian, please share with us…. Was there music in and around your household as a child?
BRIAN: Some, but not a ton. My parents mostly listened to classical music, which I didn’t really get into until I was older. My dad also listened to traditional German music on Sunday mornings on a local radio station, polkas and the like. A little bit of chicken dance. It wasn’t so much my thing, though there was one little accordion number they’d occasionally play that I really liked, that will still occasionally pop into my mind. No idea what it’s called or how I would ever find out, so it’ll probably just have to live on as a memory.
2) TNF TV: What drew you to the guitar as opposed to other instruments? Do you play any other instruments?
BRIAN: More than anything else, Dave Gilmour is what drew me to guitar, and why I’ve mostly played a Strat. I started playing guitar when I was hugely into Pink Floyd, basically as an effort to become Dave Gilmour. I categorically did NOT succeed, though I think I wound up somewhere interesting. I also play some piano, not well, but I’m improving. I can play drums enthusiastically but poorly, which basically means I can rhythmically hit things with a stick.
3) TNF TV: Do you recall the very first complete song that you wrote? What are your thoughts about that song when you listen to it now?
BRIAN: Vividly! It was called “Happy”, and was basically 4 chords plus some lyrics about general existential angst. Not a masterpiece, but after years of abandoned efforts, writing lyrics that I could share with others without embarrassing myself was a big step for me. If I listen to it now, it takes me right back to 2004, sitting in a bar in San Francisco with a pen and notebook, writing down song ideas while waiting for a friend’s band to start playing.
4) TNF TV: Is it important to you that listeners enjoy music that you write and perform or are your musical endeavors pursued out of necessity, instinct, desire, and personal satisfaction?
BRIAN: A little column A, a little column B. I’ll do some more experimental stuff that I don’t care if anyone likes, but I would definitely be lying if I said I didn’t care whether people like The Neuro Farm. But I think my main motivation is just a love for music, both for the creative process and for being there in the moment with other people. It’s a beautiful thing.
5) TNF TV: Do you feel that you’ve improved over the years as a guitarist and songwriter? If so, why? How do you measure or account for ‘improvement”?
BRIAN: I don’t think my technical abilities as a guitarist are improving anymore, though I think I’m getting better at coming up with guitar parts that sound good. As a songwriter, I definitely feel like I’m improving. I guess I’d measure it as an ability to write songs reasonably quickly that still sound good when you listen to them months or years afterwards.
6) TNF TV: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received, musical or non-musical? How did you receive that or process that compliment?
BRIAN: Hmmm, that’s a tricky one. I guess for non-musical, the best compliment is my wife marrying me, because she’s awesome at everything and nonetheless chooses to be with me. Musically, I think it’s a lot of the positive responses to The Descent. It’s not like it’s going platinum anytime soon, but there have been some people who have said some very, very kind things about it.
7) TNF TV: What, if any, parallels can be made between science and music?
BRIAN: Great question! I think the songwriting process is a lot like the scientific method! In science, you come up with a hypothesis, thinking “I know how the system works!”, then you design experiments to test it out. Writing music, you come up with an idea, “I think this is going to sound awesome!”, and then you test it out. Both with science and with music, things usually turn out a little differently than you expect, so you then go through an iterative process of changing things and testing things, maybe even moving the goalposts a little, until you wind up with something satisfying and interesting that you can share with the world.
8) TNF TV: If you were asked to associate listening or playing music with a color, what color would that be?
BRIAN: BLOOD RED But just because we’ve lately been writing songs about vampires.
8.5) TNF TV: Do your dogs enjoy your music?
BRIAN: They tolerate it. Unless it gets too loud. Band rehearsals do not turn into dog dance parties, unfortunately.