Nate Wilson Pilots A Journey to Jupiter
What did you learn from your experiences in Percy Hill and AOD that you apply to Ghosts of Jupiter?
Man too much to put in one interview that’s for sure. I think mostly those earlier bands gave me an opportunity to work on my songwriting a lot, to kind of figure out what my style and process was. I was able to hone in on what I really thought was important in music. Also working with lots of different people helps you understand personal dynamics and how to work well in a group. I also had plenty of mistakes to learn from.
What do you miss about playing with AOD?
I’m not terribly nostalgic about music I’ve made in the past. I know that can rub people the wrong way if they’re fans of those bands I’ve played with over the years, and it’s not that I dislike that music at all but if I get inspired to go in a certain direction musically, I pretty much have to leave all the other stuff in the rear view mirror. Ghosts of Jupiter is a huge departure from the music I made in my earlier days, and I’m really proud of that departure. I think that’s what you’re supposed to do as a creative person. I do miss a lot of the relationships I made with people that I’ve played with in other bands. It becomes difficult to maintain touch with people when you’re no longer playing gigs together all the time.
Along these lines, can you describe the feeling you had when you reunited to play back in December of 2009 for a night of “Old School Percy Hill?”
It was a real trip. We did it at the Stone Church which is where I played some of my first gigs when I was 16 or so! Definitely a fun night seeing a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in many years
When I saw you perform under the name of Nate Wilson Group, you played several Percy Hill tunes: “313,” “Beneath The Covers” and “Sun Machine.” Are those still in the set rotation or are you moving away from that? And why?
We played some of those tunes in the early days to help flesh out the set list but it’s been quite some time since we’ve played any of that material.
Can you talk about your songwriting process.
I try to write all the time. Mostly, ideas come from just improvising something on the guitar or piano and trying to fit a vocal melody around it. If it sticks I’ll work on recording a demo on my computer and then I work on the lyrics last. A lot of ideas get canned before I ever write lyrics, and since that’s always the hardest part for me I wait to see if the song is going to make it through all those filters before I bother. Then, I’ll take the song to the band and we’ll work on the vibe and arrangement together.
How was your playing style on keys changed since Percy/AOD?
It’s a lot more reserved for the most part. I really let each song dictate what I do on the keyboards. Some songs we’re recording in the studio actually have no keyboards at all and others have tons of layers; mellotrons, moog, farfisa, hammond, piano all at once. Leaving space is just as important as filling it up so you have to know when to lay out.
The band’s music become the soundtrack for a multi-media presentation at Boston’s Hayden Planetarium. How did that come about?
It was kind of the brainchild of our manager Phil who went to the Planetarium and met with the people there. They really liked the band and thought the music would fit an animation program. The show they came up with is really impressive – kind of like the Floyd laser light show idea but with a modern facelift.
You’ve been playing mostly in the Boston-area or New Hampshire, are you looking to expand your touring?
Definitely. We’re trying to grow things slow and steady so we don’t over extend ourselves. Touring is a very tough thing to do and you can easily wind up losing money and burning yourself out if you’re not careful so we’re trying to keep the horse in front of the cart as much as possible. That being said, we’re starting to venture a little further out. We’ve got shows coming up all over New England and New York surrounding our EP release in April, and we’re working on some festival dates for the summer that will get us out and about a bunch more.
Has it been difficult for the band to find its niche in the jamband scene?
In some ways it has, in others it hasn’t. I think we’re very different from most bands in the scene. We’re a lot more song oriented for one, although we do improvise live and everyone in the band is a top-notch player in his own right. But in Ghosts of Jupiter, the songs really dictate the form; they’re not just platforms to improvise on. Also our sound is much heavier than I think what most jamband fans are used to hearing. Not that we’re a metal band by any stretch of the imagination; our influences come a lot from early 70’s hard rock like Free, Humble Pie, Captain Beyond, as well as some more progressive rock like Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer. But the term jamband is nearly impossible to define for me at this point. I think there are people in any scene who would dig what we do.
What can fans expect from the EP in April?
Our concept is to release a full album in two installments. In April, we’re releasing Green is Gold Volume 1 and sometime in the fall, we’re planning on releasing the second side of the album Green is Gold Volume 2. There’s a whole bunch of new material we’ve been recording, almost all of it we’ve never performed live. So people who are familiar with our last record, or who have seen us live a fair amount, will have a whole lot of new material to check out.