AVC: We had a debate on our website recently about whether guitar solos are lame. Judging by Sky Blue Sky, you seem to be very much pro-guitar-solo.
JT: I'm pro music. Guitar solos in general aren't one way or the other. There's good ones and there's bad ones. There are reasons for them that are legitimate, and reasons that aren't legitimate. I mean, it's just some fucking dude making sound with his fucking hands. [Laughs.] I don't really see how there could be a debate. And not just guitar solos, but all solos, dating back a long, long time. It's just a way for people to express themselves with an instrument. How could I argue with it?
AVC: I think the broader issue in the debate is tight songcraft vs. loose jamming. In your career, you seem to keep moving toward loose jamming.
JT: I understand that it's fun for people to draw those lines in the sand. I don't see why, as a band, you can't pursue both. I don't really feel like it's productive to box yourself in. Anything musical, the whole fun of it is not knowing what's best or what's right. That's one of the reasons I'm making music and not working at a university or in an office. I don't have to come up with a coherent philosophy. I don't have to establish a set of rules that has to be adhered to. I wake up every day and kind of do whatever I choose.
Wilco's new record may turn out to be like the last four or so Wilco records for me. It will take me a while to love it. It all started with A.M., their first record after Uncle Tupelo split into Wilco and Son Volt, two incredible bands. A.M. is the great lost Rolling Stones record, and it is still one of my all-time favorites. My students liked it, I liked it...hell, my DAD liked it.
Then Wilco released Being There, a double disc. I bought it right after it came out, and I was disappointed with the first listen. And the second. Then, one day while I was out mowing my lawn, I really listened the "The Lonely 1" for the first time, and I almost started crying. I finally GOT the record, and I love it still.
Then Wilco released Summerteeth. God, I HATED it when I first bought it. All I could think was, WTF? It sounded like the Beach Boys met the Cure for a one-off collaboration. I was about to sell the record to a used CD store when I did what I usually do with a record I know I should like but I don't yet. I listen to it over and over at least six times. It doesn't always work. I still don't get Radiohead's Kid A. But it worked with Summerteeth, and I still think it is my favorite Wilco record.
Then Wilco released Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I was so excited about this one I downloaded it illegally months before it came out on record. And I hated it. For months. Then my friend Mark and I went to see Wilco at Bumbershoot while they were touring on YHF. We were ten feet from the stage, and it was a magical experience (the second best concert I've been to, behind Elvis Costello in his last date with the Attractions.) I love that record now.
I have yet to love A Ghost is Born or Sky Blue Sky, but I know it will come. So far, all Wilco records are just far enough ahead of my expectations that I need to catch up a little before I get it. Contrast this with Weezer records, which sound bitchin' the first time you hear them, but a week later you are sick of them. While some art/artists are WAY ahead of their time (Citizen Kane, Big Star), Wilco is always just a little ahead of its time, making complex music that never gets old, always stays new.
Read the entire Jeff Tweedy interview here.