The Toolmasters of Trip Shakespeare
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The Toolmasters of Trip Shakespeare The beginning and end of this memorable band were unclear, but the results stand loudly. The band was Trip Shakespeare and it included frontman Matt Wilson, co-founder/drummer Elaine Harris, and Semisonic’s John Munson and Dan Wilson. Shakespeare was a lively musical act that captured the Minnesota local scene in its years together. Matt Wilson and Harris decided to start the band after the break up of their Boston based band, The Crachett Family, which was an experimental group with three drummers. They moved back to Minneapolis and got together with bass player Munson. The name Trip Shakespeare was thought up and was a keeper mainly because it was funny.

The trio would soon be joined by Matt’s older brother Dan Wilson to develop an original rock sound like no other band on the scene. Many would describe the music as “fun rock” with playful lyrics regarding such nonsense as the Toolmaster of Brainerd and a silly dance called The Slacks. Their music quickly established its place among college students. Shakespeare spent an most of their time doing live shows rather than being in the studio. Matt Wilson remembers his time with Shakespeare as “a lot of road.”

“There was a really large amount of very fun and exhilarating nights on stage. Overall looking back--no regrets whatsoever--there was an out of balance high amount of road screwing compared to studio work. I think it would have helped us to spend more time just making demo tapes, learning to become masters of the studio and more hands on in the studio.”

Shakespeare signed on to A&M Records in 1991 and put out four records: Applehead Man, Are you Shakespearienced?, Across the Universe, and the unforgettable Lulu, before they broke up in 1994. As Matt Wilson tells the story, “Dan and John got the van, I got the recording gear, and I think Elaine got the money.”

Harris, according to Wilson, moved back to Boston and got a license to drive Greyhound Buses. “I think she’s gonna get married but I’m not even sure--we just kind of grew apart.” John Munson and Dan Wilson continue playing together in popular Minnesotan band Semisonic.Trip Shakespeare

As for Matt Wilson, he took a short lived position as the drummer for local rock band Polara before making his way into the studio work scene. He had only done it his way, so he enjoyed the spot he held as a member - and not the leader - of Polara. Wilson’s experience with this band helped him find his way back to his own music skin. “When you have that really strong sense of what’s cool and what’s not, that’s when you’re on fire and inspired as a musician in a good way. And I was kind of going through a time where I didn’t have that. It was good to be in a band with all the people in Polara because they had strong opinions. They thought that certain stuff sucked and others didn’t. They didn’t think I sucked and that was pretty gratifying.”

On account of Shakespeare being a live act, Wilson had to school himself on recording and working in the studio. He started out with bands that he wanted to record and produced for, building up production and engineering production credits for such bands as Magnet, The Wonsers, and Velma. He eventually started up his own label, Planetmaker, to put out his own records. Wilson in Polara

His solo debut, Burnt, White and Blue, raves an evolved and grown up Matt Wilson. The album is full of pleasant and deeply written songs with masterful music arrangements. He chose to move away from the playful Shakespeare sound and added his mastered art of the studio.

“The music that I’m making now, it doesn’t have the silly part. I played around with the sounds more in the studio. I’m pretty excited about what you can do with different instruments and arrangements. Recording is much more central to me then playing live, I feel I can play live but now the shows follow from the recording, it was the other way around in Trip Shakespeare. Now that I have a whole CD that doesn’t have any silliness on it, I might let it creep back.”

Wilson is currently spending a lot of his time learning more about the technology that will soon and hopefully throw out all the big, hungry record labels. Selling and releasing of songs straight to people without the stores and basically doing business over the computer is slowly taking charge and Wilson is fully aware of this.

“I think that once musicians don’t need to have big giant trucks moving their CDs around, the expensive shipping that’s keeping people from having their own record label. It’s gonna put the bands and musicians in the driver’s seat more, and that’s a good thing.”

Wilson’s current project is creating a “main output” for his website( where there would be a periodical update every month or so. It would include songs, his own and others, and articles to download. Though Wilson has grown apart from Harris he still keeps in close touch with brother Dan and John Munson. “They always check in when they get back to town which is about once every month and a half or so. I usually go play basketball with John.” With the end of Trip Shakespeare sprung the beginning of musical opportunities and growth for three of it’s member and found the fourth a new career. To quote the the Shakesperienced Dan Wilson: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

[Unoffical Trip Shakespeare Site][Unoffical Matt Wilson Site]


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