Wilco (The Interview) with Pat Sansone
By Evan O’Brien and Malcolm Doak
Photo by Richie Wireman
From harpsichord to bass guitar, Pat Sansone can cover it all. This multi-instrumentalist is not only a member of the successful band Wilco, but he also lends his considerable talent to a variety of other big name projects. Pat has found his Korg M3, TRITON and CX3 to be indispensible as he travels the globe performing and recording.
Born in Meridian, Mississippi, Pat later moved to New Orleans in 1999. There he teamed up with Wilco bassist John Stirratt (formerly of Uncle Tupelo) to create the band Autumn Defense. Autumn Defense released three albums, most noticeably 2003’s Circles. In 2004, Pat joined Stirratt in Wilco following the departure of Leroy Bach. Wilco also welcomed new member Nels Cline to the band at this time.
It was this Wilco lineup that released the acclaimed Kicking Television: Live in Chicago album. The album debuted at an impressive #47 on the Billboard 200 chart. The band followed up with the 2006 release Sky Blue Sky, and has been touring recently in support of last year’s Wilco (The Album).
Throughout all of this, both Sansone and Wilco have been busy with a number of projects, including contributions to Neil Finn’s Oxfam project The Sun Came Out and the recent MusiCares salute to Neil Young. With a history as a session player (including piano on the Squirrel Nut Zippers Christmas Caravan!) and producer, Pat Sansone has kept busy with the likes of Josh Rouse, Joseph Arthur, Beck, Feist, Jamie Lidell, and more.
We managed grab a few moments with Pat and talk about Wilco, recent projects, and his favorite Korg keyboards!
KORG: Hey Pat; Thanks for talking with us. Your talents include guitars, keyboards, percussion, bass – all sorts of instruments. How did you discover music?
Pat Sansone: I was born into a musical family. My grandmother, mother, and father were all performers; my father also did a great deal of show promotion in my hometown. So I grew up with lots of music in the house, and music on everyone’s mind who was around me.
KORG: Wilco (The Album) was released last year and has some great stuff on it. Any favorite songs?
PS: So hard to say...there is so much connection to each track. I do have a special place in my heart for “Deeper Down,” as this was a song I actually co-wrote with Jeff [Tweedy]. And I got to play the harpsichord on it – which is always exciting for me!
KORG: You’ve been on the road quite a bit as well. How has that been going?
PS: It’s really been a whirlwind of activity since the album came out, with lots of great shows and great travels. Recording with Beck, Jamie Lidell, Feist, and a cast of other amazing musicians in LA last summer for Beck’s Record Club series was a real highlight.
KORG: Wow! That must have been great. Tell us a little about that.
PS: We spent the evening in the studio covering one of our favorite records (Skip Spence’s Oar) in its entirety – in just one night! I believe that was the week that the new record came out. We had played on the Tonight show with Conan O’Brien that afternoon, and then did the session that night. That was a real thrill.
KORG: Anything else that really stands out for you?
PS: Playing the MusiCares tribute to Neil Young this past January was also a great experience. Wilco loves Neil, and to be among so many legendary artists honoring him was huge for us.
KORG: Now you recently worked a Korg M3 into your setup. Why were you drawn to it?
PS: I came to the M3 through the TRITON Studio 88, which I had been using since I joined the band in 2004. When it was time to expand our gear for overseas touring, the Korg M3 seemed like the next logical step after the TRITON.
KORG: Have you had a chance to really dig into the M3?
PS: In reality, the M3 is WAY more keyboard than I could ever use. What I do with it is extremely basic in light of all the things it can actually do. I really use it as a sample player for various things I use in the Wilco set: Mellotrons, strings, harpsichord, electric pianos, etc. These sample sets take up a lot of memory, and the ability to load all those sounds for the Wilco show directly onto the keyboard is really great for me.
KORG: You’re also playing a Korg CX3, right?
PS: Yes! I play a first generation CX3 from the ‘80s, and I love it. I have two of them in fact. It doesn’t really sound like a realistic imitation of a Hammond; but it has its own vibe which I love, and seems to just fit into our sound on stage. It’s so simple and flexible, and the tones are really pleasing to me. I run it through a few pedals and am always surprised by how much I can get from it.
KORG: Are you using any other Korg gear now?
PS: At the moment no, but I wish I still had my Korg Polysix from the ‘80s. That was my first synthesizer...and I can still remember exactly how it sounded. Can’t believe I ever let it go! I do have my eyes on a KAOSS Pad. Nels from Wilco does so many amazing things with it every night on stage that I would like to dive into that world at some point. And that new SV-1 Stage Vintage is pretty awesome. I just tried one out yesterday in Helsinki and really dug it.
KORG: So what’s next for Pat Sansone?
PS: Well, my other project, The Autumn Defense, which is myself and John Stirratt of Wilco, will be putting out a new album in November, and hitting the road in late 2010 and early 2011. And my Korg keyboards will right there with us, for sure!
Good luck on the road, Pat, and thanks again for your time.