There’s a good chance you’re familiar with the name Brad Gerlach. Formerly ranked #1 on the ASP (before it became the WSL), one of the best tow-in big wave surfers in the early 00s and now the stylish surf sensei to a new generation of champions-in-the-making. Racking up accolades, such as Billabong’s XXL Wave Award, and adjectives—”witty, hard-charging, outgoing”—come as no surprise when in mention of the gent’s name.
From the garage to the bedroom to the nursery, music is a big part of Gerlach’s world. A recent transplant to Australia and new dad, the surfer-turned-coach was nice enough to take time out of his schedule and share his personal soundtrack with us + provide a bit more background on why that soundtrack is so damn good.
Part of the ongoing series of interviews created in conjunction with AllSwell read on and listen in to the playlist DJ Glen Walsh created based on Brad’s appreciation for Motown nookie music and his dad’s laser light shows.
Do you listen to music while you create or do you consider that a distraction?
My taste is all over the place. Lately been listening to a lot of classical so that my son has a good musical base. I’ve also gotten into 90’s grunge again. Acoustic grunge [laughs], like MTV’s Unplugged stuff. I love the guitar and voice from a band in the 90’s called Days of the New. Of course, Layne Staley’s voice from Alice in Chains is insane. I also can’t get enough of Mad Season—a little off-shoot he did with Mike McCready of Pearl Jam. I have also been listening to a lot of Cornell after his death. The live stuff is really emotional. I was a huge Soundgarden fan from way back. I listen to music all day long. We have Sonos all over our house, including the garage.
Rocking out in the garage. Classic. What’s your go-to first listen of the day?
I like to listen to a song that I’m in the middle of writing because I will sing it to myself all day. That way I come up with different versions of the melodies and chorus, etc.
Aside from that, I like to listen to KCRW on Spotify or Triple J here in Oz. I love new music so am always open to putting on something I haven’t heard before. Lately, I’ve been into Frank Ocean’s album, “Blonde.”
What were you listening to in junior high?
I liked Rush, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Fog Hat, Bad Company, The Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, and Talking Heads. Then 9th grade was full punk rock. The Dead Kennedy’s, Sex Pistols, B-52’s, and The Ramones.
We can empathize with that transition. First concert you ever went to?
Rush in 1978, “All the World’s a Stage” Tour at the San Diego Sports Arena.
Most recent live show?
I saw Jim James at Pappy and Harriet’s last October in Joshua Tree. Love that dude and his music.
Jim James + small venue + amazing BBQ. Hard to beat that equation. Do you have certain music that puts you in the mood to create?
I love Miles Davis’ “Agartha,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Axis Bold as Love,” Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti,” My Morning Jacket’s “Waterfall,” and all the War on Drugs and Kurt Vile stuff. Queens of the Stone Age is a favorite, too.
We appreciate that you answered that question almost entirely in albums. Bonus points. Who are your musical muses? Who inspires you and influences your work?
Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder and the whole Sub Pop scene in the early 90s were a huge inspiration. I loved this band out of Seattle called Brad that went on to be called Satchel. I still love their music and lead singer Shawn Smith’s voice.
We love a good road trip. What musical memories do you have from road trips past?
Black Crowes’ “Wiser Time” is an incredible road song. They have so many. So is STP’s “Interstate Love Song.” Allman Brothers’ “Rambling Man,” Rolling Stones…
You know, with road trips you want to listen to stuff you can sing along and also new stuff so you have a soundtrack to your memories.
True that. Top live music moment?
It’s a toss-up between two. Metallica at a modest venue called the Horden Pavillion in Sydney, 1989 during their “Justice For All” Tour. Could not believe the power and clarity of the guitars. Inspiring shit.
Or my first time seeing Jane’s Addiction. It was in San Diego around the same time. I could not take my eyes off Perry. He is the most incredible frontman, not to mention I loved every single song they played. Full power.
Most unlikely but amazing live music moment?
My Morning Jacket in 2015 at a sneak preview of their album, “Waterfall” in Silverlake at a KCRW/Sonos showing. Totally face-melting.
First album you ever bought with your own money?
George Carlin’s “On the Road.”
Comedic gold, right there. Was music a big part of how you grew up?
Yes, it was! My dad loves Pink Floyd and would play it really loud when we drove across the country. He had a mobile laser light show that he took to fairs around the U.S. and music was a big part of the show. The Cars’ “Let the Good Times Roll” and Pink Floyd’s “Money” would be playing loud while everyone was walking in.
My mother loves music, too, and would always have stuff playing in the car. I still hear it today when I listen to classic rock. Gordon Lightfoot, Fleetwood Mac, Phoebe Snow, Boz Scaggs, Neil Diamond and Motown. How good is that song “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac? I mean that shit was at full blast in my mom’s Riviera when I was learning to surf.
“Dreams” is all time. We recently saw Mick Fleetwood and tried really hard not to totally fan out. But, let’s get real. We know you’re happily married but what’s a date-dealbreaker in terms of music? AKA: If they own the T-shirt from the tour, you’re out.
I don’t know really ‘cause it’s all in how you wear stuff [laughs]. I am not into the fake punk rock, commercial rock, or commercial country. Music that is made to sell is usually vapid and doesn’t do anything for me emotionally. Then again, you have someone commercially successful like Adele and her voice hits me deep.
Quick: vinyl, cassette or digital? Don’t think just answer.
How do you discover new music? Who widens your musical world?
My wife is a musician and we have different taste in music. She likes more shoegazer stuff and 70s. My friend, Robbie Fraser, is the agent for Jack White and Josh Homme and he always has new stuff for me to listen to. I have a lot of musician friends and ask them for recommendations.
Best lyricist? Barry Manilow to Solange, nobody is off limits except Springsteen and Dylan. Too predictable.
I was always impressed with Chris Cornell’s songwriting and of course Leonard Cohen. Also John Lennon, Elton John/Bernie Taupin, Marshall Mathers, Tupac, Biggie. Andre 3000 from Outkast and Prince. I don’t know if Sam Cooke wrote his songs but man, I love those, too.
We agree (and yes, Sam Cooke did write most of his own music). What music puts you in the mood for nookie?
Brad Gerlach is currently writing an instructional book on surfing based on the method he developed, “Wave Ki,” that he uses when coaching students, such as Conner Coffin. Clearly, he’s a pretty good teacher. Keep up with Brad’s latest stylish maneuvers at @bradgerlach.