From time to time, we ask local musicians for their Top 5 absolute desert-island discs, the records that made them the musicians they are today. This week: Craig Wilkins, the brilliant guitarist and synth-master general for The Wheel Workers.
NINE INCH NAILS, The Downward Spiral
Probably my favorite album from my favorite band of all time. To me, Nine Inch Nails sounds like Mozart if Mozart had lived in the time of modular synthesizers. Nobody on this planet can mix cold metal-machine noises with beautiful heart-wrenching melodies like Trent Reznor can.
And even though this album might house one of the most overplayed songs on alternative rock radio, it's the best damn overplayed song ever. Take that, "Don't Stop Believin'." Craig tip: Get a great system and turn it up as loud as it goes. Don't invite people over.
THE CURE, Mixed Up
I'll go ahead and date myself and say I had this cassette tape in 1992. My father had this elaborate Macintosh home stereo system that he loved more than life itself, and I ended up blowing one of the speakers listening to "Close to Me" at about 130 decibels. That moment I thought I would-die aside, I still love this album. Maybe I love this album because I really love the Cure, but I always want their songs to be weirder and longer.
Most important thing this album taught me about music? Build your songs. Don't blow your load at the beginning every time. Nobody likes premature climaxes, amirite? Craig tip: Buy your own stereo or my dad might not talk to you for a few weeks.
MOGWAI, Government Commissions
"Ladies and gentlemen, Mogwai!" Hard to pick a favorite Mogwai album, but I'll go with this one because it illustrates the point I like most about this band. DYNAMICS. (Varieties of volume, for all you non-music majors.) Music isn't just about playing notes. You have to infer emotion through a variety of venues, one of the most important being dynamics.
These guys get silken-tofu soft. And just when you think it can't get any louder, they step on some overdrive pedal that makes your ears crap themselves. Case in point, the last album I bought came with earplugs. Craig tip: When you're listening to "Like Herod" and you think it's over, it's not. It's just waiting behind a dumpster to stab you.
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WENDY CARLOS, Switched on Bach
I grew up on classical music, but something about it never truly appealed to me*. Like, another oboe, huh? Alright. Fast forward a few centuries and Wendy Carlos was born. Switched on Bach was my introduction into synthesizers in general, but most importantly my introduction to the unmistakable sound of the analog synthesizer.
She took Bach (my favorite Christian band of all time) and turned it into some quirky, circus LSD trip. Lady, you are a genius. You go on and make that archaic church music relevant. Craig tip: Play this record on the wrong speed. Great fun.
*not applicable to the entire genre
PINK FLOYD, The Wall
If I had my way, I'd bring their entire works from the late '60s until this album in 1979, but if I have to pick one I'll go with The Wall. Even though it may be peppered with self-indulgent David Gilmour nonsense, this is still some of the best Roger Waters stuff ever. Truly the ultimate album for the self-isolated bitter misanthrope.
Also, I was born the year this album came out and I named my daughter after one of the tracks. If I believed in planets aligning, astrology, universal meaning and the like, I'd probably apply that here. But I don't. Craig tip: This album may cause sad feelings. Don't forget to go outside or maybe open a window.
The Wheel Workers play tonight at Rudyard's with I Am the Albatross and Inside Voices.
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