World Party Offers Visions of Another World After Brain Aneurysm
Karl Wallinger has been conspicuously absent from the music scene over the past decade -- and with good reason. The former Waterboy and World Party founder suffered a debilitating brain aneurysm in 2001 that left him unable to walk and talk, let alone sing and play any of the many instruments he's mastered.
Yet for the composer of such Britpop hits as "Ship of Fools," "Is It Like Today?," "Put the Message in the Box," "Give It All Away," "Way Down Now" and "She's The One" (a mega-hit for Robbie Williams), it was only a matter of time -- and rehabilitation -- before again taking to the stage. In fact, Wallinger was on stage a mere two months after getting out of the hospital and the experience put him "at ease" that he could still perform.
But Wallinger didn't rush right out with a new band. Instead, he under took a more spiritual rehabilitation in constructing his music studio, Seaview (also the name of his record label), and culling the depths of the World Party archives in compiling a five-CD box set, Arkeology, released earlier this year.
Up on the Sun caught up with Wallinger in Nashville when he was running his band of "young bucks" though the paces in preparation for his first large-scale tour since 2006. In a typically English jovial manner, Wallinger discusses his life-threatening brain aneurysm, the road to recovery, creating the box set, and the surreal experience of seeing his brain in real-time on a monitor in the hospital.
Up on the Sun: Let's start with the now: I read that you have 70 new songs. That's an incredible amount, so how fresh are these?
Karl Wallinger: The 70 songs have been recorded over the last 25 years, so really just three of them are new [laughs]. That cuts it down somewhat. The idea was to do a box set and I really don't like box sets. I don't like making people buy the same albums again, or putting them in a box. I hate the whole idea of it.
I was sitting at home writing in my diary and I thought what a great way of putting out a box set. Put the CDs inside and make it a diary instead of a box. I thought that would be great, and then I thought about going through the archives and taking different versions of songs from albums or songs cut at the same time that never made it onto the albums, and covers as well. It's a whole slurry of songs over 25 years. I put out five albums in 25 years, so I thought I'd celebrate that by putting out the equivalent of five albums now.
It's the diary that interests me more than anything else. I like the idea of a dual use; you can be writing in it as well. I suppose that comes from when I went to Russia in 1988 with Greenpeace and found the coffee was also used to stain fences [laughs].
I put out five albums in 25 years, so I thought I'd celebrate that by putting out the equivalent of five albums now.
-- Karl Wallinger
You say you have three songs that are actually recent, and the box set is still relatively fresh so you want people to dig into that, but it's been 12 years since we've had a proper World Party album.
In 2013 we'll have a new album. We've been working on it.
Of these 70 songs, the songs that never made the cut in the past, are you playing this material now, or more of the tried and true hits?
We're playing a couple of the new ones, and we're starting the set with ("When the Rainbow Comes,") with the line "It's Been Such a Long Long Time," with no irony intended. I think it's a great way to start. It's very strange because I don't think there's been many bands that have been away so long and been on this comeback trail sort of thing. It's making it quite enjoyable. You have to maximize the results.
So, in considering your health issues with the aneurysm, did compiling the box set help with the healing process?
In some ways (doing this helped) in more spiritual ways than physically or medically. I put it together in my living room. I had some help from some friends and their kids who have become producers and DJs and such. These young Bobs were very helpful.
I couldn't actually choose the tracks. I gave five and a half days worth of music to Mike Worthington from the label [Seaview] and he took that to New York and returned with four CDs. I went through some other archives and came up with another CD. That's how we got what we have. But I sort of needed that third party to make it possible. After 25 years you get a bit wood for the trees, you know?
Yes. It's a lot of material to go through.
But I am really glad a few of the things on there are out. There were some surprises; things I had completely forgotten about but really liked. And words I really liked that showed me the mood I was in at the time.