Getting Personal: Ward Gollings
Getting personal is a Q&A with a local personality. Here, Ward Gollings of Urbana chats with The News-Gazette's Paul Wood. Gollings used to play in bands, but now he brings them to Champaign-Urbana as a respected booking agent. He says he feels like he's 47 going on 27.
Who's up and coming in C-U? In the world? In the galaxy?
Sun Stereo really seems to be getting after it this year. We The Animals is brilliant. Grandkids. Wicked Walls. The Dirty Feathers. I feel bad for not mentioning more people, but I'm sure there is a word limit on this.
What brought you to Champaign-Urbana?
I went to a large high school in suburban Dayton, Ohio. But roughly 25 percent of each graduating class goes on to Ohio State, so I kinda wanted to do something different. My family is from Decatur, and my grandfather went to the University of Illinois. So I came to C-U for college ... and never left.
Did you start out in bands or in booking?
No, I started out merely going to punk shows when I was 18 and hanging out with people I met who were in and around bands. Eventually, I formed a band or two myself and also helped a friend named Chris Corpora promote shows at Trito's Uptown.
I'm guessing you are a superfan. What were your early favorites?
The Clash, The Ramones, U2, The Replacements, 7 Seconds.
How have your tastes changed over the years?
Not much. Maybe a wee bit more country in my older age than punk, but I still listen to all genres in the rock 'n' roll vein.
The Black Eyed Peas was one of your top bookings. Who else?
The Flaming Lips, Queens Of The Stone Age, Black Keys, The White Stripes.
How do you keep current with the ever-larger scope of bands that the Internet seems to enable?
I'm on a variety of venue email lists. I peruse magazines like Rolling Stone. Generally just poke around on the Internet to listen and stay aware of new bands and what everyone is up to. And go to shows.
Do you have a favorite pair of headphones when you're listening to new bands?
Nope. I own a ton of vinyl LPs but have never really been much of an audiophile, oddly.
Is there any band you'd never book again because of bad experience?
I'd share some dirt/funny stories on a few people in person over a beer or two, but in print, I'll take the fifth, haha.
What's your dream concert?
To attend? The Clash with Mick Jones before he left the band. And with Topper Headon on drums.
Is the club scene here on an upswing now?
It's steady-Eddie lately I'd say. Plenty of great venues of all shapes and sizes, including a great all-ages space at Error Records.
How did you first grow interested in music? Does your family have a musical history?
My family does not have much musical history at all. So I don't quite know where the lure to it came from. I remember being in middle school and making plans to be in a band. But we had no instruments whatsoever! Honestly I was a hair-metal fan (Van Halen, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, etc.) until I discovered punk (Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Black Flag).
Which bands did you like when you were a teenager? Which bands now? Who has influenced you the most?
Currently my favorite band is Drive-By Truckers hands down. Their songwriting duo of Patterson Hood/Mike Cooley is akin to a John Lennon/Paul McCartney or Joe Strummer/Mick Jones. And the live show is great, a 2-1/2-hour barnburner every single time (go see Drive-By Truckers at the Canopy Club on Sept. 14).
Did you do much touring?
Touring with HUM (and others) was the best job I ever had. Getting paid to travel all over the country with your best friends and put on rock shows and drink free beer? Wow. Sign me up. To be fair, it can be grueling. But my friend Joel Spencer (from Menthol) once said, "Even a crappy day on tour is still way better than a good day in the 9-to-5 world." And I wholeheartedly agree, although my time in the van is long over.
What's your favorite song?
"Train In Vain" by The Clash? "Dance The Night Away" by Van Halen? "Glad Girls" by Guided By Voices? There are three top-notch pure pop songs that I will always love.