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A Dirty Dozen with WILLIAM EDWARD THOMPSON – June 2024

| 18 June 2024 | Reply

Photo credit: Gary Governale

According to a recent press release: “William Edward Thompson (aka Billy) is a composer/multi-instrumentalist from Louisiana. Thompson has been a part of many heavy/melodic projects (Think: Secret Smoker) but in his solo work, his sound takes on a stripped-down, acoustic-rock-type quality…. And his newest album is a sonic practice in Wabi-sabi- perfect imperfection. With the emotive essence of Thursday and Secondhand Serenade and a rough-hewn bare-it-all delivery, Sleep Test is a vulnerable collection of experiences. There are moments of raw shakiness, modern emo ballads, and strummy, palm-muted moments intertwined with bedroom pop. Sleep Test treats us to small snapshots of Thompson’s memories. The songs are refreshingly short and unconventional, ranging from 41 seconds to 2 minutes in length- a fry cry from the average 3:30 second verse-chorus-verse radio tune.” We get William Edward to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

I tried not to overthink the songs. I kept the chords and compositions as simple and stripped down as I could. It’s a very different approach than what I do in my bands for the most part. I wanted other people to hear it and tell themselves they can do it too.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I went to high school in Mount Vernon, which is a suburb of Washington DC. I was really into skateboarding back in the 90’s. My friends and I were so competitive that I started to hate it.  We would watch skateboarding videos on VHS tapes and they always had really good punk rock songs. Plan B Skateboards had a video called The Questionable Video and the music really affected me and got me stoked on music. I started playing bass in bands as a way to connect with my friends without creating the rivalry skateboarding had become.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

There are really too many to mention. My first hardcore punk show was Snapcase at the Black Cat in Washington DC in 1995. I felt like I belonged there and it was so crazy and chaotic and new at the time. Avail, Boysetsfire, and a band from Richmond called Funsize would play a lot locally. It meant a lot to be able to talk them like regular people and their kindness was infectious.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

That’s a difficult question. I collaborate with my different bands’ members and really don’t need any one else. But if I had to I guess it would be Rick Ruben because he seems like a weird dude and doesn’t seem to have any ego that would ruin the fun and the process.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

I still enjoy skateboarding and going to shows. I collect old watches and love classic cars. I like dining out and eating vegan food with our friends. I spend time with my wife and teenagers watching campy horror movies on a projector screen in my backyard pool. We also do Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Baton Rouge where we live. There’s always something to do.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I get compared to Geoff Rickley from Thursday and sometimes Chris Carrabba which seems pretty obvious. They sound completely different to me. I’m lucky to have met Geoff and he is such a talented and kind person. I definitely don’t mind the comparison.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Depends on which band. I play in three and they are all pretty different (HAHAHA). I’m oddly pretty reclusive in general but I guess I somehow am the one who gets everyone together. Brian Domingue from Heavy Mantle is always driving no matter which band is traveling. He loves a road trip. He once drove secret smoker and heavy mantle from Baton Rouge to a show in Nashville where we played. After the show that night we drove straight to Chicago to open for Small Brown Bike. He is the driving champion. Truly unstoppable.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I once met Ethan Hawke at an Urban Outfitters while killing time with my kids when they were young. He had his kids who were the same age and they were running around together. We just made dad jokes and I couldn’t remember his name so I just treated him like everyone else and he seemed comfortable. I told my wife about meeting the guy from Gattaca and she was so angry that I couldn’t remember his name and didn’t freak out about it. I guess I never get star struck anymore. I love it when I meet people I look up to and they are kind and genuine.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Doing music is just a natural thing for me. I just do it. I can’t imagine not doing it. It’s like being asked if I were not able to breathe. I would never survive.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

That’s a hard question. I used to do interviews 25 years ago for small punk zines. Some people preferred silly questions and others took themselves too seriously. I rarely get asked non-music questions. But I suppose that’s why we’re here.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Every failure is a lesson right? I’m thankful to have just survived and still be around. There are moments where I wish I had been more engaged and kinder to people who needed it. I have lost so many friends who battled addictions and depression. I wish I could have been there for them more but it is done.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

That seems like a lot of pressure. I don’t think I would want to have that kind of responsibility. I would rather just be a fly on the wall maybe when the band Lifetime recorded Jerseys Best Dancers. Maybe. Or maybe it would just ruin how much I love that record. For me it’s just nostalgic and brings me back to high school.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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