In 1966, a 24-year-old Brian Wilson began work on the song "Good Vibrations." It took him over seven months to complete it, but it became one of the centerpieces of the Beach Boys would-be followup album to their landmark "Pet Sounds". Originally titled "Dumb Angel," the album that eventually became known as "Smile" was to be Wilson's "teenage symphony to God," and a grand survey of popular American music influenced conceptually by the work of George Gershwin. But between the challenging material, heavy drug use, and inter-band fighting, the project came to a screeching halt in an incomplete form, and left Wilson in a fractured and insecure mental state.

Over the years, however, songs from "Smile" were released on various other Beach Boys albums (including inferior remakes on the messily assembled "Smiley Smile" record). The legend and mythology of the project spread amongst music aficionados, turning it into thegreat lost rock 'n' roll album. Then in the early '00s, Wilson suddenly decided to revisit the material with collaborator Van Dyke Parks, re-recorded the completed album with The Wondermints, and even toured the material. And next week will see the release of "The Smile Sessions", a five album box set featuring a final version of the album (and tons of outtakes), all of which seemed completely unimaginable a few years ago.

We spoke to the notoriously difficult-to-interview Wilson about the "Smile" project, what derailed its completion in the '60s, and his recent creative explosion.

I wanted to start off asking you when you decided to revisit Smile? You mean after 2004? For the box set? We just wanted to explore and see how much we had in the can. We discovered something very, very lotto, really good music.

Why was Smile so difficult to complete in the 1960s? Because we were on drugs and we didn't really know how to finish it.

Right. Listening back to everything, did anything surprise you, or jump out at you from what was in those sessions? Well I was surprised because I couldn't remember, you know? It was so long ago I couldn't remember what we had in the can.

But you found a lot of material that you liked? Yeah.

Do you have any favorite songs from the project? Yes. "Heroes and Villains," because it was a very good melody and lyrics.

Van Dyke Parks wrote a lot of the lyrics, right? Yeah.

I've read that you've said you speak more clearly through your emotions and feelings. Do you feel like the lyrics are a reflection of that, that he channeled that? Yeah, we tried to rechannel into the same thing so we could get as much music as possible.

Was it one of these collaborations where the two minds working together came out with something better than either individual one could have done? No, not really. Just a collaborative effort.

Is it difficult to listen to any of the music from Smile now? No, just some of the songs we did brought back bad memories because of the drugs we were taking.

Do you enjoy listening to your own music? Sometimes. Not all the time though. Sometimes.

You prefer Gershwin, things like that? Right. Gershwin, Phil Spector.

The people who touched you when you were younger. Yeah.

Why do you think the Smile story and music has touched so many people? Because I think the music speaks for itself. It's very special music.

Are you aware that people created bootlegs and spent years mythologizing it? Right.

Was that something that was interesting to you? That phenomenon? Well yeah because we used very many of the usual tools like Pro Tools, computers and things. That helped us get the most out of the music.

Do you consider this to be the final version of Smile? Yeah, this is the final one.

Why do you think certain bandmates of yours had such trouble with the material back then? Beach Boys? They thought it was not commercial enough, and they just didn't like it.

It's kind of incredible now because everyone agrees that it's one of the most brilliant things you've done. It must be a little funny looking back at that, and thinking about everything that's happened since. Yeah, I can see what you mean.

What do you think the legacy of The Beach Boys is? The legacy? "Good Vibrations."

You think that's your crowning achievement as a band? Not the crowning, but it's a good record though. I still love it, very much.

Have you considered touring with The Beach Boys who are still alive, and performing the Smile material? I don't know, we haven't discussed that yet.

What do you think about the raft of newer musicians, such as Panda Bear, who see you as an influence. Do you listen to their music at all? No I don't actually. I listen to oldies but goodies records.

Are there any contemporary bands or singers that you enjoy? Oldies but goodies.

What are your plans post-Smile, now that you've finished this project? We just finished up a record called In The Key Of Disney.

Do you want to record your own songs again after this? Maybe, yeah.

Do you write a lot on a day-to-day basis? Do the songs pour out ever? I've been having a creative explosion lately, I really have. Just lately. I've written some good songs.

What are they about? Well, some of them are about shelter, some are about the private life of Bill and Sue. Different kinds of songs.

Is spirituality important to your music? Spirituality is very important because it makes you feel the music, you know?

Do you have any particular religion that you follow? Not really, no.

How do you feel now about the 2004 Smile album, the version you did with The Wondermints? I thought that was a great album, it really was.

Yeah, it was a lot of fun. Do you have any particularly favorite memories from your time with The Beach Boys? Yeah, the night we cut "Good Vibrations" and the night we cut "California Girls" stand out as great memories in my life.

I know you're not a huge fan of movies. Do you have any involvement with the film being made about your brother, Dennis? Not really, no.

How do you feel about that? Do you feel wary about depictions of your family on film? Yeah, they'll be doing it next year sometime.

Would you ever want your own life to be a film? Yeah.

Who do you see playing you? I have no idea who could play me. No idea.

Do you have any plans to revisit any of your other albums, such as Love You? I feel it's one of your neglected masterpieces. Have you ever thought about going back and re-releasing it? I don't think so, no. I just hope some people find joy and happiness in it.