Probyn Gregory Interview

November 25, 2005

Probyn Gregory has been an integral part of Brian's band since Brian's return to active touring in 1999, and I had a chance to "interview" him by e-mail during Thanksgiving 2005. As you can see from the answers, Probyn comes across as not only extrememly supportive of Brian and his music, but also someone who is extremely talented in a number of different areas. He is also known for being extremely accommodating with fans, and I would like to thank for taking part in this exercise and replying to my questions in a few days despite a hectic schedule. Questions are in bold, Probyn's answers in normal type.

I grew up as a "faculty brat", meaning we moved wherever my dad taught, he was professor of botany at the University of Maine in Orono,Stanford in Palo Alto California, and Keene State College in New Hampshire. After graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio, I moved to Los Angeles and attended the Guitar Institute of Technology, settling in Hollywood, where I still live. Though I will also say that home is where the heart is, and I am most at home lying in some mountain stream.

I am an auxiliary member of the band, and have played live with them for over a decade. I don't write songs with them but do play and sometimes sing on recordings. I hold this same post in several other bands.

When Wondermints played at the Brian Wilson tribute show of 1995 in Los Angeles, we played some challenging material (Surf's Up, This Whole World). Brian and some of his camp were present and apparently took note, and after backing Brian up occasionally over the next few years, we were lucky enough to get the nod to come audition with Joe Thomas who was putting together Brian's touring band out in St. Charles IL. First Darian and Nick went, later Mike and I were invited as well. Looks like we passed the audition!

It changes constantly, right now it is Deck the Halls, but a while back it was Breakaway. Perhaps we should make a distinction between "enjoy" and "feel relief that I pulled it off"; into the latter category would fall just about every time I have to play the theremin part at the end of I Just Wasn't Made for These Times.

I think nervous would be the consistent sentiment amongst us all, especially Brian; of course, not wanting to affect Brian with our own nervousness, we tried to hide ours. After the show: elation.

HA! I don't even know! You mean the number I have made money playing? Or the number I play well enough to put myself in the union book for? My main instruments are guitar and brass. On SMiLE I played guitar, french horn, trumpet, flugelhorn, tannerin, piano, melodica, dobro, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, slide whistle, sheet metal, acme whistle, a few others I forgot, plus I loaned Staffan my sousaphone on Child is Father. I also have been in bands on bass, cornet, valve trombone, baritone horn, percussion, synthesizer. i have recorded (for pay even!) on saw, Highland bagpipe, kalimba, theremin, pedal steel, ocarina, tenor sax, alto sax, clarinet, euphonium, mellophone, tuba, recorder, flute, piccolo and taut pieces of grass.

Very aware; Darian and I met long ago over our mutual love of the original SMILE fragments. I once posted a personal ad in the Los Angeles Reader magazine in the early 1980s begging anyone with influence at Capitol to release SMILE. My view was that it was a sublime piece of work interrupted and tantalizingly never brought to fruition, but certainly worthy of being put in the public eye, even unfinished.

The new McCartney album at home, the car radio is tuned to National Public Radio, so I can get as much world news as possible. So much music goes through my head and hands that I need a sonic break! .

This is my 20th year as editor at the consulting firm Economics Research Associates, working the red pen and doing whatever else needs to be done (last week I sawed a huge countertop to make way for the new printer). Though I used to work fulltime and for a while played 5 sets a night on top of that, ERA has been gracious enough to let me go on tour for many years. I just come in when I can (usually nighttime after any daytime music jobs are through) and do what's on my desk. I'll be playing trombone at the company Christmas party.

Well, my only Wondermints lead vocal is on that song, but I have done many other recordings over the years with me on lead. For a while I ran a business called Valentunes, creating personalized musical valentines. In general, I have come to the realization that as far as loud rock bands are concerned, I don't have the kind of voice which cuts through the din. In fact, for the first half of my life, I only possessed a falsetto. So I play to my vocal strength, which is as high harmony singer.

Not really, other than that it is very sad because these continuing lawsuits get in the way of a real rapprochement between Mike and Brian, which I would hope would be worth more than money to both men.

If you are a budding musician, you could do worse than to study Brian's music not only for the harmony and theory but also for the way he has created sonic combinations of instruments and voices that consistently deeply touch more listeners than any other major pop artist. And everyone, please play Beach Boys music to children, they need this stuff growing up!

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