The Dandy Warhols: TAS In Session
Few bands have had as fraught a history with labels as the Dandy Warhols. After squabbling with Capitol for years, the band has finally found a new home, The End Records, and has released their tenth album, The Machine, this past spring.
The album not only explores a dark, goth-heavy sound, but also marks the first time that the entire band – not just frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor — wrote songs together. In addition, the Dandy Warhols reached out to David J, of Love & Rockets and Bauhaus, to co-write "The Autumn Carnival."
Not long ago, two of the four Dandy Warhols, singer and guitarist Taylor-Taylor and drummer/guitarist Brent DeBoer, came by The Alternate Side's Studio A for a stripped-down session of new songs from The Machine and older material, like "Country Leaver" from 2000's Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia.
The Dandy Warhols are currently touring Europe, including stops at this weekend's Sonorama Festival in Aranda de Duero, Spain, and they'll be touring Australia's Harvest Festival through Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane this November.
Watch the live videos below and listen to the session when it airs on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, August 10, at 11 a.m. EDT and streaming on the TAS site. And if you haven't seen the 2004 documentary "DiG!" — a seven-year look at the mercurial, affectionate, but often destructive friendship between Taylor-Taylor and The Brian Jonestown Massacre's Anton Newcombe— definitely take the time to watch it.
Listen to the archived The Dandy Warhols: TAS in Session here.
Alisa Ali: Are you guys winging it when you come in to do these special acoustic sessions or do you work it out ahead of time? That version of [“Sad Vacation”] sounds very different than the way it sounds on the record.
Brent "Fathead" DeBoer: Yeah, you’ve got to change it around a bit. It’s a whole different things.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor: Too many bands go into a radio station and it’s supposed to be acoustic, but they bring guitar amps. And basically they’re doing a toothless rock set. And we did that a number of times ourselves. We started as a band, I just told everyone that any place we could play, we would play. Coffee shop? Maybe one acoustic guitar, three cats with maracas, you know? And we’re all gonna sing in unison. Make something interesting happen. There are very few songs that can’t be adapted to different instruments. It’s just a song for chrissakes. It either has feeling inherent in the thing or it doesn’t.
Alisa: Did you plan this ahead?
Courtney: Yeah, yeah. Somewhat. You get it in the ballpark. You finally go, “Oh, that’s how we do it.” That’s the approach and the details come with grinding it out repeatedly.
Alisa: We can accommodate full-scale rocking in here.
Courtney: I saw that you had a drum set in here which is nice for drummers because that’s the most crap to haul around.
Alisa: Do you enjoy mixing it up? Going acoustic?
Courtney: Absolutely. Any time to make music is the best part of your day. Maybe getting drunk or having sex, those are the only things that can really compete with making music for sheer life affirmation.
Alisa: Let’s list them in order.
Courtney: That’s the top. The pyramid. They rotate according to what you’ve had more or less of recently.
Alisa: You put out This Machine on a new label, but you were previously putting things out on your own label, Beat The World.
Courtney: Yeah, we put out one of our records and a couple of our friends’ records and we learned the hard way that we really suck at being a record label. We have amazingly true and real taste in music and we understand when a band is a truly great art force, a real band. There’s no confusion in our minds. Then to actually put their records out and how to do that? We are fools. So, we needed to find a label that not only do we respect what they do and their approach to the business end of things, but they respect what we do and leave it alone. They like it the way it is, they get excited about it and then they push.
Alisa: It was a lofty goal though. Admirable.
Courtney: People are excited by playing different roles in this world. Being an egocentric individual is the common thread between all of us. For us to think that we wanted to do [a label] too is a pretty normal, immature thing to do. I guess you’re not much of an artist if you’re not immature on a number of levels. We learned our lesson and this record label is fantastic. They’re under the Sony Red music umbrella and as a corporation, rarely gets involved. They just leave it up to the people who know what they’re doing which is super smart. You’ve got the Red music cats and you’ve got End Records, which is our label.
Alisa: Were you able to record in your own home studio?
Courtney: It’s not a home studio.
Alisa: I meant Portland.
Courtney: We always do. Before we bought the studio that we’re in now, which is huge, a quarter of a city block. We’ve got film production and I did a lot of my work on my graphic novel there. We make our videos and record our records [there]. We have other bands come in and we let them mix there.
Brent: Rehearsal as well
Courtney: And major, major parties and dinner parties. We have other bands come in — everyone from the New York Dolls to the Strokes. Dinosaur Jr., Swervedriver … endless. Jamming and having big dinner parties. It’s what you dream of. We had a couple of years in which we were a huge band and something weird happened. The world hadn’t switched out of rap-rock yet and we were the only band on a major label not doing rap-rock so we got bigger than maybe we should have and it was really hard on us and depressing. We really didn’t know how to do it. Ultimately, it crumbled and we failed at being a huge band. But we made a s**t ton of money and I basically took all of it and invested in purchasiing our freedom from the opinions of others. That was the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life. We just do that now; we hang out in the auditorium, make our records and live our lives. We all live in different areas of Portland. Fathead moved, a few years ago, to Australia.
Alisa: It sounds like the studio is your second home.
Brent: It’s certainly headquarters.
Alisa: So how difficult is it for you, Brent, if you’re living all the way in Australia?
Brent: It’s a short flight. A short 16 hour flight. I’m back and forth a lot and whenever I’m in Portland, I get in and get to work. Before tours we meet up and rehearse for a couple of weeks.
Alisa: What made you go to Australia?
Brent: I met a woman in Australia and that was that. We lived in Portland for three and a half years and then we thought to try living near her family for a few years. It’s nice.
Alisa: Do you miss Portland?
Brent: Parts of it. But six months of the year I’d be in other parts of the world anyway. I feel like I see my gang there just as much.
Courtney: We tend to tour with our best friends.
Brent: I miss hamburgers. Mexican food. I don’t miss that constant downpour of rain and greyness. I don’t miss it getting dark at 2:30 in the afternoon! It’s nice to be able to see where you’re going at 7 p.m.
Alisa: It’s so beautiful and green though.
Courtney: For two months in the summer. There’s a story about Bugsy Siegel who came to Portland when he got Vegas up and running. Portland was a major criminal town for its entire history until the early 70s when it got cleaned up. But gangster and mobsters were the mayors and they got ousted by being murdered; that was the history of Portland. So Bugsy Siegel came up and he was like, “This is my kind of town!” The mayor and his thugs welcomed him with drugs, gambling and girls. But he was supposed to stay there for ten days and after five days it hadn’t stopped raining for even one second; he got so depressed. He said, “You guys are f***ing losers” and he was out of there.
Alisa: You don’t want to see Bugsy Siegel depressed.
Courtney: “Well They’re Gone” is sort of like beautiful, creepy, 1800s carnival music-meets-spaghetti-western.
Alisa: How do you think it [sounds with just two acoustic guitars?].
Courtney: Just straight spaghetti-western. Kind of.
Brent: I don’t know.
Courtney: Like a fat marshmallow oreo.
Brent: Like Simon and Garfunkel after a nine-day bender.
Courtney: In Texas.