Random Rules: Dave Willis
The shuffler: Dave Willis, co-creator, writer, and the voice of Meatwad on Adult Swim's Aqua Teen Hunger Force, currently in its sixth season. (The fifth recently came out on DVD.) He's also worked on several other AS shows, including Space Ghost Coast To Coast and Squidbillies.
Chris Whitley, "Kick The Stones"
Dave Willis: I loved seeing this guy live. I'm pretty sure he died a few years ago. This is his sort of major-label album [Living With The Law], and Daniel Lanois produced it, and it sort of has that sound to it, kind of U2. I love the songs on this album. Some of it feels kind of overproduced now, but it's one of those albums that came out when I was maybe 23 or 24, so it tends to find its way back into my rotation all the time.
The A.V. Club: How old are you right now?
DW: I'm 37. I think as we go through this, you'll see that that's about right. I think I'm long past the days where I would go to the store and drop a couple hundred bucks on CDs, so my playlist is gonna be pretty long in the tooth. But I love that album. I saw him probably half a dozen times. He was an incredible, unique guitarist.
Toots & The Maytals, "Pressure Drop"
DW: This is another one of those albums [The Harder They Come soundtrack], where—I mean, I worked in a record store when I was 16, and religiously read Rolling Stone up to a certain point, and then I switched to Spin and stopped altogether. This is one of those things that I probably would not have picked up on my own, but you just continually hear about how great it is. I'm not a big reggae dude. I have maybe two other reggae albums. But obviously, this is a classic. I'm starting off good here. Getting kind of lucky. I'm gonna end up with, like, seven Everclear songs. "He's a freak for Everclear," it'll say on Wikipedia.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore, "After Awhile"
DW: I'm not incredibly familiar with this song. We asked him to audition for the role of the sheriff on Squidbillies. He's got an incredible voice, and it's not a Georgia accent, but it's one of these accents you can't fake. He was amenable to it, but it just never happened. I was sort of looking forward to maybe meeting him, at least over the phone. We couldn't use the other voice of the sheriff after six episodes. That's why we have this clone-farm of sheriffs—we thought we were gonna have to change the voice every episode. We were able to audition David Allan Coe and John Prine, and we were also gonna audition Billy Joe Shaver.
Pavement, "You Are A Light"
DW: [Terror Twilight] is not one of my favorite Pavement albums. I only have, like, three songs off of it on here. This is one that I like. They put this album out when we worked with them on Space Ghost. We brought them into a blue-screen room, and they were incredible. We went up to New York and had dinner with them, and I was just awkwardly keeping my elbows pressed to my torso so that I didn't brush up against Stephen Malkmus. Just trying to gently eat my chicken without offending anyone. They hung out in a blue-screen studio, which is not really a pleasant experience, and they had to play imaginary drums, and they had no idea, and we were like, "Well, it's not really scripted yet, per se." We'd just feed them random lines, and they were up for it. It was great. They were one of those bands that you sort of make a vow: "Regardless of what they do, I'm always gonna buy their albums." And I still do with the Malkmus solo stuff.
Everclear, "The Twistinside"
DW: Oh, look at this! I have Sparkle And Fade on here, and when I go running, that's probably one of the best albums to have on, 'cause it just rocks all the way through. I think that "Santa Monica" song is one of those radio hits that holds up. Whatever happened to them? A friend of mine went to a Christmas party at a recently opened Fox Sports Grill, and Everclear was playing. What happened?
Waylon Jennings, "Honky Tonk Heroes"
DW: I bought this album because we were working with Billy Joe Shaver on Squidbillies, and I knew that he'd pretty much written all the songs on [Honky Tonk Heroes], and it's an amazing album. It's one of those definitive outlaw-country albums. There's one bad song on it, and it's the one Waylon [co-wrote, "You Ask Me To"]. The more you read about it, the more you realize that there was a bit of an ego clash. There was talk of a knife fight between Billy Joe and Waylon. Having worked with Billy Joe a couple times now, he seems like a real sweet guy. There's so much metal and hip-hop all over the network that I thought it'd be nice for someone to bring an authentic country, tear-in-your-beer song to the block.
Everclear, "Queen Of The Air"
DW: [Laughs.] What can I tell you? I've got the entire Everclear box set on here.
The A.V. Club: Really?
DW: No. Just Sparkle And Fade.
Beck, "Lord Only Knows"
DW: I love Beck, even though he is a Scientologist. Beck is definitely, if I were to pick one artist that I would get everything he's ever done and will ever do, he would be it.
AVC: Any particular reason?
DW: Every different album, he's trying to do something completely different, and he can generally pull it off. Sea Change and Mutations, I love those albums. Midnite Vultures is him just trying to rip off Prince. I thought his last album [The Information] was great. Someone, I can't remember who, described it as "amazing but not challenging." They described it as a victory lap. Either way, it holds up great as an album. I don't know what else I can say about him that's not something eight million other people would say. I interviewed him for Space Ghost, and this was back when Mellow Gold was out, but I don't think Odelay had come out yet. He was not who he is now. It was in some rundown Ramada Inn. I was sort of not very experienced at those interviews then. I had a bag of Taco Bell because I was starving, and I was gonna wolf it down as soon as the interview was over. In the middle of the interview, I thought, "Oh, I can come up with some stupid joke about his taco," and I did, and then I just started hurling tacos at Beck, and they exploded on his chest, and he didn't miss a beat. He just kept going with it. And then I talked to him afterward about the album off-camera. He was a really nice guy and really generous with his time, and he was really funny, too. There was a whole section about these real-estate tapes that he bought, that he just came up with himself, and all we had to do was sort of write the answers for the script.
Wilco, "Via Chicago"
DW: This is probably not one of my favorite songs of theirs. Obviously, it seems to have a big meaning for certain people in the crowd. I saw them live in Atlanta last year, and they were great. Someone described their new album [Sky Blue Sky] as "dad rock," which hit me really hard in the stomach, 'cause I am a dad. [Laughs.] What else did they call it? "Eagles for Generation X" or something, I can't remember. I think I'm more partial to A Ghost Is Born and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but it's just like any one of their albums—after I play it five times, then I start playing it over and over and over again, and one day I just forget about it, and then I don't pick it up for two more years. I did have a moment where it was me and my other two friends who are both in our late 30s, early 40s, and we're sitting there double-fisting beers with garbage bags all over us because it was just pissing rain in Atlanta, and we were listening to something like "Via Chicago." And I was thinking, "I wish they'd pull out that guitar solo at the end of 'Spiders (Kidsmoke),' something that at least merits me sitting here, because I've reached an age where I just don't want to be in wet socks and shoes any more. I'd rather sit under a roof." Wow, that came off as a stinging damnation of Wilco. They're probably one of my 10 favorite bands, but that song doesn't do as much for me.