Team Sleep’s Todd Wilkinson Talks ‘Woodstock Sessions,’ Recording Live + More
Team Sleep emerged in 2005 as the oft-rumored project of Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno and his friend, guitarist Todd Wilkinson. But after a well-received debut disc arrived, the group has been quiet ... until now. In October 2014, just shy of a decade since their debut disc, the collective of Moreno, Wilkinson, Chuck X, CrookOne, Rick Verret and new drummer Gil Sharone of Marilyn Manson fame ventured to Applehead Studios in upstate New York for a unique recording opportunity.
Dubbed "The Woodstock Sessions" by the label putting it together, the band invited fans to join them as they laid down a mixture of new songs and familiar favorites for a live disc. Loudwire had a chance to talk with Todd Wilkinson about reuniting with the band, taking part in the unique recording sessions and more. Check out the chat below.
Great to have Team Sleep back after several years away. Can you tell me about the idea to get the Woodstock Sessions rolling? Where did it start and how did you guys get back into action?
The guys behind the Woodstock Sessions, I guess this is the fourth session they've done. They've done it with more jazz stuff or experimental or some combinations of that. But our bass player, Chuck [X], who is also in Crosses with Chino, he is friends with the guy at the studio, Applehead, in Woodstock. He and I had been playing music for a couple of years and we weren't sure if it was going to be a separate thing or with different people or whatever, but it seemed like it made sense to have it as Team Sleep. Then the guy approached Chuck about that. This was over a year ago.
Chuck and I went out there last summer and we've been writing for a couple of years. We went out there and recorded a little bit at the studio, just to kind of feel out the vibe. He knows those dudes. He's done a ton of recording there and I got to meet those guys and hang out. It's a great studio to really cool down, it's a real cool ... like out in the woods, man. There's like cabins. It's a real cool place to hang out, good place to make music. The engineer, kind of like the house guy, his name is Chris and he's a real good dude, a talented engineer and everything really worked out.
I know Chino has done some things here and there with Palms and Crosses, and some of it kind of has that Team Sleep vibe to it. Did any of that transfer over into what you were doing?
I think that maybe it went the other way. Maybe Team Sleep could be compared to that stuff too, so I'm not sure. Aaron, who is kind of the main dude in Palms, we're all friends. He's a real talented musician, and a talented engineer too. We recorded some stuff with him. I don't know. I think there are some similarities. I don't think it's like, I want to be like that. Those guys haven't put out a record in a long time. I think it's just natural. We write some cool s--t. The question of how influence works is hard to know. Do you know what I mean? It's so deep psychologically.
You mentioned that you and Chuck had been working on some stuff over time. The songs that are new to me are more instrumental-based on this record. Can you talk about the two of you working together, getting in there and seeing where these songs were going?
For this thing, I think it's a real cool thing for us to come back in this scenario. Playing old songs, because just as people it was cool for us to come to together in Woodstock and just have fun and play, it was a little bit nostalgic. We played some old songs, honestly in a lot of ways the songs that were the easiest and probably the best to do live in that setting were old songs that were focused around live music. Drums and just loud guitars.
This new stuff is probably as much centered around Crook's beats. Crook has been sending beats, Chuck and I have been writing parts over them. Gil [Sharone] has been playing drums on it, and then Chino does the vocals. I guess that's kind of the way Team Sleep has always operated. That process of starting with beats with Crook has always been there. I think that what's most representative of where we're going is maybe the video that was announcing the session had the song called "No," which was just a demo of me playing guitar at home and then a song called "Dream Land," which is Crook playing beats, Chuck playing keyboard and me playing guitar.
This live record was kind of a rock record, I don't really want to be in a rock band necessarily. But it's so f--king fun, [laughs]. Playing with Chuck and Gil, who is just an real amazing drummer. Playing with those dudes as a rhythm section has made it so much more substantial. I think we're a real bad ass live band right now, we've all spent time together - all of us together to be able to rehearse and I think the live record kind of speaks for itself, us as a live band with not a lot of practice but like still f--king awesome.
As I'm listening to it, I get lost in it. I really love what I'm hearing. I'm wondering for you as a player onstage, are you in the zone when you're playing or are you aware of the fact that there's an audience while your recording?
I don't know, I am kind of spaced out [laughs]. That's why I like it. I think with this live set up too, I'm not a technical guitar player. I've never really wanted to be or have tried to be. Chino is obviously a talented dude, but it's the same for him. He writes really good melodies. The two of us can be on our stoner rock / melodic thing and I think that's a real accessible thing. It's easy to digest but then I think with a rhythm section like Gil and Chuck -- those dudes can rip and take that accessible music and push it through the advanced thing where it's just real fun. I think it hits on a lot of levels.
You mentioned Gil Sharone. Every musician brings something different to the table and I know this is the first time in Team Sleep for Gil. Can you talk about what he's brought to the process?
He's just really mellow and easy, easy to get along with guy. It's cool playing with him because he is really deliberate about listening to what the song should be. If there's a guitar part then a change, bridge or whatever, he imagines what it could be and really develops those parts to make it a more dynamic song which is a really cool thing. That's what all musicians should do. I wish that I did that better [laughs]. I think that's a really great skill to have, especially as a drummer because he holds it down and gives strength to the songs, which is just a lot of fun.
This sounds like a real cool thing you guys did here at Applehead studio. You're in the studio but you're essentially bringing people in to see a recording live. Can you talk about that experience and getting a chance to maybe hang and meet some of these people that love your music?
That was such a cool thing, man. I feel like there's so many cliches about how much the Internet allows people to connect with their fans. I think to some degree, it's true. But to some degree, I don't know. I'm not super into posting shit daily on Instagram, or Facebook. A lot of time, I feel like a lot of it is bulls--t. Or, it's a publicist or management person. I feel like I really enjoy talking to people face to face and be in the same room as people. We kind of wrote a song while they were there. Crook deejayed and then we played a little bit. It was real weird, we didn't know what we were doing [laughs] -- we were like, OK, we're going to play music people are going to come and we're gonna eat food and then we'll play music and then have drinks and then ... it wasn't really super planned out. It felt awkward, it felt like a first date or something. It was like, "OK, well all I know how to do is play music," so we actually wrote a song and just brought some parts together with people in the room. As weird as that sounds, it was kind of amazing. I actually stepped out for a part of it, I wasn't even playing and I was just in the audience watching and was like f--k, this is awesome!
Which song was it?
It's not on the live record. It's song called "September 21st." They didn't even know we were recording or anything. Crook deejayed and we were going to eat food. But we played some stuff off the record, the old record and some demos and then we were going to have food and then come back and play the set. We ended up, like I said, first date ... what do you do? Listen to music. Just do what you know how to do. It turned into this, everybody jamming. It was really kind of a magical moment.
I don't like to know what I'm doing that much. I'd rather be in a weird situation where we're just trying to do something different and it might be a f--king disaster. That day could have been a disaster in a lot of different ways, man. It almost tried to be a disaster. The horse died on the farm that day. It was like a 40-year-old horse. Just weird s--t. It ended up being a real kind of amazing day. Chino even dedicated a song to the horse, [laughs], but there was a 9-year-old girl there, she lives there and her dad owns the studio. It wasn't really a joke, but it just turned into a cool thing without being super corny. A sendoff for a dying horse. I don't know, man. I would much rather do that, be in that kind of situation than some really scripted scenario.
You said it wasn't overly planned out but you did get a lot of songs in from the past. Is there a song that your thankful from the back catalog that you made sure got into the final recording that day?
Oh man. There's a song, I don't know what the name is but it'll be on the record. It's called "OP." That's a new song. It's one of the first thing Chuck, Gil and I started playing together. It's kind of like a weird time, and it's not a typical ... It's kind of a weird song. I think Gil kills it, I think everybody played super tight on that song and it turned into a real distinctive thing which I think is a little weird. I'm really excited for people to hear that. And just playing the old stuff, playing "Skull" and "Blvd" are super super fun -- straight up rock songs. It's real gratifying in an adolescent way to just f--king rock, that was great. So I guess those would be the ones.
I love "Your Skull Is Red," one of my favorites.
It's such a fun song to play. It's not a hard song to play on guitar, so I don't have to think too much. The vocal melodies are cool, I like all the parts. I can play it and be just, "This is mine" and see what everybody else is doing.
Can you tell me a little bit about "Death by Plane"? It's one I hadn't heard before.
That was a spontaneous thing too. I don't think we've ever played that song live. That's a song that, I made that demo way before. That was one of the first things, an original demo on a four track a long time ago in the '90s or something. Chino sang on it and it got leaked online with the original stuff that got leaked, so it never actually came out properly. I think we were just there playing, kind of just talking to people in the audience and someone shouted that out and I was like "Yo, I don't know." I tried to play it. I kind of got the chords right but I'm not sure. It's actually just a real simple chord progression but I'm not sure if it was actually right. It kind of did turn into one of those things, where it was not knowing what you're doing making it more fun. First date s--t. First date music.
Very spontaneous, very cool. Todd, Team Sleep started with you way back when. How cool is it to see how this has evolved since it started off with you noodling around on guitar not necessarily even thinking of a band?
It's crazy, man. It's definitely a lot of fun. And you're right, we never really did anything ... well, I can't say we've never done anything compromised. I think in life you make things like that. We've never really did anything I thought was really corny. We've seen a lot of different changes of the music business and in each other's lives. It really stemmed from high school with Chino, he's my friend and Crook is my friend and then these completely normal dudes playing guitar and making music. You're right. I kind of just look at it like, "Whoa, I can't believe it. We've done all this s--t together, and same thing with the new dudes, Chuck and Gil."
I just became friends with Chuck because I went to the RedBull studios when they were working on Crosses stuff. I rode my bike to Los Angeles from San Francisco so [laughs] I just got to L.A. and Chino said they were at RedBull studios right down the street from my mom's house. So I went over there and it was instantly, Chuck and I became friends and he was like, "Come up to the house, we'll work on some music." So that translated into us writing a lot and same thing with Gil, he came up to the house one day. That's just what we do.
Today is a very typical day in Los Angeles. I woke up and went surfing this morning and then I was ... not that I do phone interviews every day ... but I'm going to Chuck's house in a minute to work on some more music and eat some food, go to sleep, start over again tomorrow.
Looking at what's on the horizon, I saw there was a possibility of more music coming down the road and maybe taking this to the concert stage and playing some shows. Anything you can tell us or tease about what's coming up for Team Sleep?
So, we have a ton of songs that are in progress, more than 20. That's no guarantee that we're going to put out 20 songs, but we've nailed it down to five. I'm working on this today with Chuck in the next few days, then next week we're going up to Oregon where Chino lives and we're going to work on some stuff up there. We'll continue to work on it over the next several months and we hope to have something out around the end of the year, beginning of next year.
[We're looking at] a five-song EP of all new stuff with vocals and we're kind of looking at two different tracks. We've got that five-song EP lined up, we've got songs not entirely picked out but a pool of songs picked out for the next EP of about five or so songs of studio material, with vocals. In the meantime, on a lower level, we're working on getting management and a label set up to where we can put out studio stuff like that but also put out more left field instrumental, off the wall stuff. We have a ton of instrumental stuff we want to put out as well. There's a lot of music were going to be putting out over the next, we're all looking in terms of the next two years. More EPs, more studio EPs with Team Sleep as a whole with vocals and then several more instrumental or maybe different vocalists EPs with just more left field s--t.
Touring plans? Or does it just depend on everyone's schedule?
We definitely plan on it, but it's gonna be hard. We talked about some things. I was with Gil and Chuck yesterday and we're talking about dates. Hopefully by the end of the year and then into next year. I think that's one of our strengths now, our ability to play live and just do it well with the setup that we have. We definitely want to show that side as much as we can. We're not going to be able to do a lot of extended touring, but we know that it's a big -- just serendipitously, it's a big asset that we have. F--k, it feels so good, the response has been good for us playing live and it's a real good mix of talented dudes like Gil and Chuck who can just go off and just melodic, accessible stuff from the rest of us. I think it hits in the right spots.
True, and when you have a vocalist like Chino, my God, all he can do -- the range on that guy.
[laughs] Oh yeah, I forgot about that. He can sing too. [laughs] My friend can sing a little bit.
Thank you so much for your time today, much appreciated.
Right on, man. Thank you so much for writing about it.