For the first time in a long time, Jeff Wilson is happy, sober and drug-free. In fact, the lead singer-keyboardist for The Hunger says he’s “real happy.”
Amid the buzzing guitars, industrial-strength rhythms and graspable pop hooks on the Houston rock quintet’s second Universal album, “Cinematic Superthug” (released March 24), there’s plenty of renewed optimism.
“I didn’t want to write a happy record, with hums and pretty bells,” Wilson said, “but at the same time I didn’t feel like writing a tired, the-world-sucks kind of record. It just didn’t suck. I didn’t want to write about something that isn’t true.”
The songs, though, were a raw catharsis for Wilson – particularly “Free,” which addresses the 1991 murder of Wilson’s younger brother.
“He was staying in my apartment in downtown Houston,” Wilson said. “He just got back from a Christmas party, 10 days before Christmas Eve. Basically, somebody tried to rob him and shot him at point-blank range in the face.
“To make a long story short, there’s a friend of ours, a temporary crew guy, and he’s a criminal justice major. He’s been to Texas Death Row, going there for tours through school. He tells me everything about it. The song’s about all the privileges death row inmates get, how they can get computers and talk to anybody on the outside. It’s about that and the unresolved issue of my brother; they’ve never found the guy who killed my brother. He’s still running around somewhere.”
Elsewhere, Wilson and his other brother, vocalist-keyboardist Thomas Wilson, guitarist Stephen Bogle, bassist Brian Albritton and drummer Max Schuldberg cut a wide swath on “Ray,” “Closer to Me,” “Hey God” and “Sunk So Low,” the latter of which was Wilson’s own reality check.
“I never had an addictive personality with anything, alcohol or whatever,” Wilson said. “Drugs weren’t really any different, but there was a point in my life, I made it to age 21 and never did any drugs. I just never felt the desire to. One weekend eating ecstasy and blah-blah-blah, it spiraled from there on down for a couple of years.
“I was the kind of guy who would party nonstop Thursday or Friday till Monday morning, then I would sleep for two days, wind up working a couple of years and go again. To me, that song is just a reflection on what a joke that kind of lifestyle is when you get down to it.”
“Cinematic Superthug” takes The Hunger up another notch from their 1996 major-label debut, “Devil Thumbs a Ride,” but Wilson said they still have a long road ahead of them.
“The way radio is right now, I can’t honestly say how it’ll do,” he said. “I can say we did a better album than the last album, by far. It’s a great album, but we have some barriers we need to cross. Alternative radio, being what it is, doesn’t play anything this hard, that’s for sure.
“My goal is to sell 500,000 records or more, and the second time around, if we don’t sell records, then get out, that’s what they’re gonna tell us. There’s more pressure this time, I think. People weren’t expecting much the first time, now everyone’s expecting a lot out of us.
“We took the time to do a good job on it. It might start a little slow, but I think people will get it.”
ON THE WEB: www.thehungeronline.com.
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