Wesley Gonzalez: Isolation Selection

It’s often tough to discern between sincerity and flippantness when a public figure has built such an enigmatic persona around them, and Wesley Gonzalez has become something of a master at blurring these lines. On stage, we’re presented with an occasionally gobby and cock-sure character that isn’t afraid to make out as though he’s God’s gift to performance, yet the music paints a completely different picture. Across his newly released sophomore album, Appalling Human, we’re invited in to meet the real Wesley through a number of songs that portray a vulnerable and anguish-ridden individual. 

Having said himself that Appalling Human is the ‘post-therapy’ counterpart to his stunning ‘pre-therapy’ debut album Excellent Musician, it’s plain to see that all of the pent-up emotion and self-deprecation that was present before is finally released in an instantly powerful burst of a record. There’s something incredibly casual in the way he conveys his anxieties through witty lyrics, and that all adds up to make the connection between the artist and audience feel incredibly, well, human. There’s nothing appalling about the way in which he communicates this either, if anything it contributes to creating some of the most raw and heartfelt material of Wesley’s to date.

In terms of the musical influences behind the new record, it’s clear that the penchant for synth-pop still shines through. However, as this playlist (curated by Wesley especially for Wax Music) would suggest, everything from 80s art-punk to soulful hip-hop passed through his headphones during the creation of the record and has remained on heavy rotation for him throughout the lockdown period. 

In this edition of Isolation Selection, Wesley Gonzalez provides an hour’s worth of varied jams and deep cuts, and sits down with Wax Music to talk about the making of the new record and how these songs played a part in it.

These really are unprecedented times, how are you, how are you all feeling in all this?

I’m doing okay, mix of emotions, very grateful for what I do have at the moment and that I’m in a position to cope. Then other days I want the world to fuck off!

Can you quite comprehend the impact this is having on the music industry? 

Can anyone? I was listening to the New York Times podcast about it and It was ultimately quite dull because it was a load of people going “yes this is bad, but we don’t quite know how bad”. Humanity will always need art, and I made the decision to make art and not work a regular job, so I’m pretty comfortable with the thought that I am going to be poor whether this pandemic takes out a big chunk of the industry or not. I obviously worry as nearly all of my close personal friends work in the arts in some form.

I know at this stage it’s perhaps not the most important of things to consider, but do you think when all this is said and done, the foundations and the nature in which the industry runs will change??

It’s definitely going to make an impact, but I have no idea how though. As I said, you make a decision to pursue music I’d be doing this wether or not anyone is listening, I have no interest in doing anything else. so in whatever way it changes i’ll have to run with it and find a way to adapt as most musicians have had to do throughout their careers over the last couple of decades anyway.

With the new album now out, what have you taken from making it? Perhaps in comparison to the first record? 

I think Appalling Human is my best work to date, Ive heard it many times now and it strikes me as a different thing each time. Sometimes I see it as something very dark, as I know where the pain from a lot of the tracks comes from, but at other times I see it as a fun positive uplifting record. What I’m most proud of is its honesty, It doesn’t pussyfoot around things I’ve concealed in my writing previously. It is the closest representation of ME that I’ve released, I’m still very proud of Excellent Musician but that felt I was finding my feet in how to be myself. On this record, I feel I’ve arrived.

Take us through your playlist, what does it mean to you?

I write at a studio in Wandsworth a lot and I live on the other side of London, so I try to make a really varied playlist to listen to on the way  and I’ve been yearning for the long tube journey as it really makes me listen. Ive been finding it harder to keep still and just listen to music during this pandemic.

On the playlist I always have some dancier stuff, some modern pop stuff, a bit of hip hop and a handful of timeless pop songs – it’s a varied listen so I’m open minded to what kind of music I make that day.

I miss travelling to a space to be creative in as it structures the day, playlist on the tube, start an idea think about it for a bit, either finish it off and fail but either way I can go to the pub guilt free having done my “work”. This is a mix of stuff that I have kept including in playlists over 2020 when I could be outside.

I also ended it with a track by a band called Silver, I found the track when I was at the record shop I work at. Going through some really cheap vinyl for the sale section whilst I was pricing it up, I noticed they had a track called “Musician (It’s Not An Easy Life)” which amused me greatly and thought I should include it.

Wesley Gonzalez’ ‘Appalling Human’ is out now via Moshi Moshi. Listen to his Isolation Selection below.

Feature Photo by Holly Whitaker

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