Bennett leaving Wilco, band says


August 16, 2001



Chicago rockers Wilco have parted ways with key member Jay Bennett, the multi-instrumentalist who was a big part of the success of 1999's lushly orchestrated "Summer Teeth."

A spokeswoman for the group confirmed the split Wednesday, citing the time-honored explanation of "creative differences." A source close to the band added that the talented Bennett "needs to strike out on his own," and there was simply "less space for him" in Wilco's new music.

Interviewed before the band's triumphant July Fourth concert in Grant Park, singer, songwriter and bandleader Jeff Tweedy admitted that Bennett stepped back for the band's fourth album, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," preferring to play a bigger role behind the mixing board during the recording.

Controversy continues to swirl around "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," the band's as-yet unreleased new album. As the Sun-Times reported in mid-July, the internationally respected cult favorites have broken from their label, Warner Bros. Records.

While some executives at the company loved the new music and said it was some of the band's best, others thought it lacked commercial potential in an era where a group that sells "only" a half-million discs is considered a commercial failure.

The band refused to change its sounds to meet Warner Bros.' demands. Instead it opted to leave the label (which is in the midst of a corporate shakeup) and buy back the finished album for $50,000.

While the group determines how it will be officially released, copies of the new record have been trading hands among fans via the Internet.

Wilco's manager Tony Mar-gherita declined to comment Wednesday on the break with Bennett, but he said that the band is currently weighing offers from several independent and major labels, all of whom are vying to release "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." The group hopes to issue the disc before the year's end or by early 2002 at the latest.

Meanwhile, Wilco starts a national tour on Sept. 20 that had originally been slated to promote the band's new sounds.

With Bennett out of the picture, the group will perform as a quartet, with Tweedy being joined by bassist John Stirratt, multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach and new drummer Glenn Kotche.