WILSON (Live at the O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., February 25, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Detroit Rockers Wilson are over on their very first headlining tour of the UK. Mick Burgess caught up with lead singer Chad Nicefield to talk about the tour, their latest album Right To Rise and life in Detroit.

You’re over in the UK for a few dates very soon. Are you looking forward to the tour?

Oh absolutely. It’s our first time ever headlining and to be able to play to people who have just come to see us is amazing. We’re very excited.

You were over with Halestorm last year. What did you make of the UK crowds?

I will say this, Rock ‘n Roll is very much alive in the UK. Back home it’s there but the energy isn’t the same. It’s something to be a little ashamed of as you guys come out in your droves, want to get sweaty and as soon as the chord strikes you can feel the room light up. Americans are much rougher, we need to do much more to prove ourselves but in the UK everyone is ready to have a great time.

You’ve also toured with Motörhead. How was it touring with such an iconic band?

We did the first Motörhead cruise on a cruise ship. It was an incredible experience. Not only do you have bands like Motörhead but Anthrax and Down and other bands we grew up listening to so to be part of their roster and share the same stages, food and conversations for a week in a confined space was a very cool and humbling experience. What’s also great about those cruises is the fan and band interaction. We’ve met a bunch of people on that ship where we’ll be staying with them at their houses in the UK while we’re touring. We became friends and they offered us a place to stay with home cooked food. It’s so much better than a cold dank hotel room. That sort of thing started to happen through our time on the Motörhead cruise.

What have you got lined up for your headlining shows?

The best thing about this band is we started playing at small bars with no barriers so we spent a lot of time in and out of the crowd. The whole essence of Rock ‘n’ Roll is that we are all one with the crowd. Everyone is together and there is no hierarchy. What we are excited about is that these rooms are small so instead of playing to 1500-2000 there’ll be 200 or so it’ll be just you and me and I’ll be in your face and you can’t get away. The energy that will be given and received will be amazing, not just for the fans but for the band too. It’s going to be fun.

You are a bunch of guys from Detroit. Detroit is the home of such great music as Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, The Stooges, The Four Tops, Funkadelic, John Lee Hooker and MC5 and KISS wrote Detroit Rock City in tribute to the City. What is it about Detroit that makes it such a vibrant place for music?

We come from a long line of hard working people. We’ve had a lot of strife going down in Detroit over the years. With hard strife comes hard partying. People needed an outlet as times were so hard. They needed to feel alive after a hard week’s work. Detroit was responsible for so many different types of music from Motown and Rock ‘n’ Roll, MC5 and The Stooges as there was so much hardship in our lives. People needed a release from what was around them and that seemed to spark a real creativity in the various types of music that grew up in Detroit. I think people are proud to be from Detroit as the rest of the world has turned its back on us.

What’s the scene like there now? What bands are worth checking out?

There’s so much happening from Rock ‘n Roll, Indie Rock and Hip Hop. There’s so many cool things happening. There’s an amazing artist Tunde Olaniran who is like a cross between Prince and Lady GaGa. He’s incredible. Then you have artists like Against The Grain, who are a Speed Rock band like Motörhead who are great. We have Metal bands like Battle Cross and Black Dahlia Murder who have been around for a long time and we have bands like Old Gods and Nice Hooves and The Armed as well. There’s just tons of talent out there in Detroit. There’s a great Grunge band called Anna that’s a real ’90s throwback and a great Pop band called Shapes and Colors. From all of the spectrum of sound, Detroit has something really great.

How did you put the band together? Were you school friends or did your paths cross on the local circuit?

We were all in different bands touring the circuit around Detroit. I first met Jason when I was booking bands and I really liked his band and wanted to book them for a show but he said their singer was leaving and they were only really together through college to get free beer. I suggested we write together and we put out our debut album with members of other bands. We worked on getting people into the band who were willing to give up their lives for music and from there we got Kyle and Matt Phuy and James Lascu came in on bass. James was actually living in Romania at the time and we’d played in a band in the past and I said it was a long shot but suggested James. I convinced him to move back here and join the band and here we are.

Did you have shared influences or did you each bring something different to the band?

We all kind of met in the ’90s era as we all grew up around then so Alice In Chains, Nirvana and Soundgarden are all big influences and that’s what ties us all together. I like to listen to some real heavy stuff but I also like weird Indie Rock like Meg Myers but then I’ll put on some Danko Jones or Motörhead and we’re all together. Jason loves real heavy technical stuff like Meshuggah. He likes techy stuff ‘cos he’s a guitarist whereas Phuy likes Folk and old Jazz stuff. We’re all over the spectrum but Rock ‘n’ Roll binds us together.

You’ve recently issued your second album Right To Rise. Are you pleased with the reaction it received?

It’s overwhelming to us having people like yourselves know it even exists. It’s pretty wild. It hasn’t really started to sink in so that fact that it’s been so well received is huge and we’re very pleased.

They say you spend your whole life writing your first record then you only get a short space of time for your second. Did you find it a challenge to write the second album compared to the first?

I think it was easier. There were some hurdles but not too many. We didn’t want to wait until it was time to record before we started to write as it’d sound contrived. What we do is write all the time. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and will record a voice memo and Jason may be at home demoing something that he has in his head. Over the course of a year doing that we’ll have 20 to 30 song ideas and we’ll hash them out and pick the ones we like the best. We’re always working so we don’t have to find ourselves under pressure to write when it’s time to record an album.

You and Jason were the main songwriters on the first album. This time everyone’s contributed. Why the change?

We have a great group of players now and we can lean on everyone for ideas. We didn’t really have that with the first record. With other people pitching in it made it so much easier to write.

What impact did producer Johnny Andrews who worked with Halestorm, have on the record?

As clichéd as it sounds, he was a typical sixth member. He not only helped us come up with tonal things but he helped make us leaner and stronger. He was able to add creative ideas. Sometimes it helps having an outside perspective to our songs and performances.

The cover features a photo of a dog. That looks a bit of a tough cookie. Who’s dog is that?

Sadly that dog passed away recently. You might read about Detroit being this barren wasteland full of zombies. It may not quite be like that however, but there are all these packs of stray dogs running around. That dog is one of those dogs running around Detroit and its life was captured by a great photographer called Joe Gall. He would find these dogs and take photos. The dog on the cover was the leader and we called him Satan as it looked like he had an upside down cross on its head. He had a group of dogs he had to provide for and we thought about it as the story of a Detroiter. Here’s this dog that every day has to find food for its family and every night has to find shelter. To us that was like being in Detroit. The dog standing in the foreground in front of Detroit was like our statement of defiance. That dog will live on forever. I have a huge picture of that dog on my wall so you open my door and see this crazy scary dog.

There’s no connection to any of your names. Why did you call the band Wilson?

We tried to think of some funny way to tell the story but the actual way is just as funny. When Jason was going to school and was in a band just to get beer and girls he was asked to play at a house party. When the guy asked him for the band’s name for the flyer he said to just put Wilson on it as he couldn’t think of anything else. We started playing a few more shows then some more and by then it was too late and the name just stuck.

After the UK shows are over where do you head next?

After we’ve finished in Europe we are home for a little bit then we have a tour in April then we’ll start at the festivals in June. Then we’ll see where the summer takes us. We hope to tour more on this record but we are writing at the moment and hopefully we’ll start recording and maybe put out a new record next year.

Wilson are currently on tour in the UK. Their latest album Right To Rise is out now.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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