Man Vs Indie
At a time when he was still playing guitar, Wesley Gonzalez walked into a guitar shop on Denmark Street in Central London, pointed at a Fender Jaguar and asked to buy it. The thing was, he didn’t want to try it first, and that really pissed off the guy making the sale. This 18-year-old kid walks in, asks after the Jaguar and doesn’t want to check the tone?! It’s funny what upsets the people who work in specialist shops, but in 2009 Wesley Gonzalez might as well have spat in the guy’s beard.
“I fucking hate guitar shops,” he says today. “I never felt like I fitted in at school, and there was a guitar shop near where I grew up, so I thought, ah, maybe that’s the kind of place where I could fit in, but I felt even more out of place there. They’re so fucking rude!” He tells me this as we stand in a guitar shop on Denmark Street. I should probably be confused, but I’ve followed Wesley’s unapologetic career since 2005 and the beginning of his DIY band Let’s Wrestle. To do that is to be aware of his straight honesty and an incorrigible mischievousness that, in his younger days, he’ll admit was plain snotty.
Still only 26, Wesley is preparing for the release of his debut solo album, and today he’s had an idea. He’s called the record ‘Excellent Musician’, so let’s go and play it to some excellent musicians who work at the guitar shops of London. Confirmation at last, as to whether Wesley Gonzalez is as good as he thinks he is. Never mind that ‘Excellent Musician’ doesn’t feature any guitars – in fact, that’s even better: a bonus kick from an extra layer of absurdity, like posing for photographs in front of a wall of instruments that you’ve come to loathe, in sunglasses.
It doesn’t take us long to get nowhere with this plan. Wesley is convinced that everyone we play new single ‘Telescope’ to will be appalled by his efforts. He almost wants them to hate it and he welcomes the criticism and the awkward moment when it’s delivered. But while guitar shops aren’t short of forthright dudes presumptuous of your talents and budget, there are some nice guys around too. These are the ones that entertain our folly – the others tell us in no uncertain terms to fuck off and stop wasting their time. Even with every store we go in being completely empty, they do have a point.
The feedback we glean from this exercise, then, comes from people like Tom, who concentrates intently, tells us that he doesn’t listen to any music made post-1980, and that he’s mostly a fan of prog-rock. Still, he compliments ‘Telescope’’s production and Wesley’s singing, who points out to him that his band’s debut album was called ‘In the Court of Wrestling Let’s’ in homage to Crimson King. Ramires across the street is more begrudging as he confirms, “Yeah, it’s fine. I mean, I don’t hate it,” while a young man who asked to not be named in print picked up on the track’s Korg synthesiser, compared it to Mystery Jets (inaccurately) and then complimented Erol Alkan. While Wesley waited outside the final store we tried, the friendly guy behind the counter said to me: “Oh, I know Wesley Gonzalez. Not personally, but I know his music because my friend Euan plays in his band, so I’ve heard it a lot from Facebook and stuff. Yeah, you definitely shouldn’t play that in here – it would make everyone feel super awkward.” Wesley howls when I tell him that, happy that they knew who he was.