Each month over the next year Sothis Medias will post a very brief sketch of someone who did things their own way, who lived their own iconoclastic life. Last month we looked at the hobo lifestyle of rail rider and writer Jim Tully, this month we look at the weird life of David Wills, aka the Weatherman.
(If you are interested in the background of WHY I am writing these notes on American weirdos you can read this post by John Michael Greer on Johnny Appleseed's America.)
In the patches of sound bites that make up the quilt that is Negativland's 2020 album The World Will Decide, the song “Before I Ask” portrays an underlying feeling of panic that persists throughout the experience of the album. With the help of the voices of Siri, Alexa and Google, the song is able to convey a certain message about social media usage in this day and age, and how scary it can be. It contains the vocals of David “The Weatherman” Wills, who intensely shouts absurd questions into the void, each question getting weirder than the last. Like some songs on the album, this track contains a dark undertone in terms of sound. It’s the type of sound that makes people’s heart beat faster and faster, the feeling of uncertainty pushing down on them.
Longtime Negafan's will know that the Weatherman, or the "dumb stupid Weatherman" as he is called. (Yes, sometimes he operates under the moniker of the Clorox Cowboy under certain unclean and dirty conditions.) The Weatherman is no stranger to shouting at electronic voices or having conversations with recordings.
He is also no stranger to wiring up his whole house with outside microphones to record ambient sounds. The Weatherman is something of a "home tape" recording enthusiast, and also a radio scanner enthusiast, and a radio ham jamming enthusiast.
Remember JamCon '84? This was the collection of Over The Edge episodes presented as a radio documentary covering a convention of amateur radio jammers, with commentary on radio jamming and Culture jamming, and the history and cultures surrounding them. This whole aspect of listening to jammers in California jamming other ham radio operators was something the Weatherman really got into with his many trusty scanners.
All this jamming makes more and more sense the more you listen to Negativland. David Wills (born April 3, 1954) is one of the founding members of Negativland, and since the band hardly made any money over the first few decades of their existence, he worked as a cable repairman until he retired from that job in the 1990s. If you know he worked as a cable repairman it makes songs like "The Playboy Channel" of which he is the main narrator, or "lead singer" take on a whole new resonance.
As a cable repairman, audio enthusiast, and person who loved to make all kinds of tapes of just about everything, especially family tapes, the detritus of the Weatherman's audio recordings are littered throughout the Negativland discography, and he took center stage in many episodes of Over the Edge.
His notable Over the Edge contributions include the episodes that make up the Willsaphone Stupid Show, The Weatherman's Dumb Stupid Come Out Line, Sex Dirt, and many others. As a frequent contributor and caller over the years the Weatherman's contributions can be found in many episodes of the Over the Edge. One of his greatest contributions to the show was the Booper, heard on nearly all episodes of the OTE since he first gave one to Don Joyce.
The Booper is an electronic oscillator invented by the dumb stupid Weatherman. It has been described as "an electronic noise-making device that creates unstable feedback using multiple transistors and an FM radio receiver. The resulting sounds are different each time they are played but are sure to excite the ears and engage the mind."
Wills is also a founder of the Fake Bacon Society. He is also a recluse with a bit of OCD about cleaning and cleaning products. Fans will recognize him armed with 409 and other cleaning products to wash away the sex dirt. Because he is a recluse, it has been difficult for fans of Negativland and sometimes even the band themselves to contact him. He just goes into recluse mode. Sometimes he has shown up in virtual form at Negativland concerts on a TV screen or video projector. Starting in June 2008, The Weatherman has been posting audio, video, pictures and more from his enormous archives on his section (Dumb) of the Negativland website. Many off air recordings there to listen to for the radio and scanner enthusiast.
The best way to get a sense of his personality is to listen to the radio shows he is a part of, and those Negativland songs where his vocals are prominent. You could also learn a lot from this video At Home with the Weatherman.
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Justin Patrick Moore
Husband. Father/Grandfather. Writer. Green wizard. Ham radio operator (KE8COY). Electronic musician. Library cataloger.