By: Andrew Bruss
In a bar on the boarder between Boston's Theatre district and Chinatown, Courtney Taylor-Taylor sat down for our interview surrounded by seemingly out of work alcoholics, already buzzed by the middle of the afternoon. The founder, sole songwriter and frontman of psych-rock outfit The Dandy Warhols, worked on a frozen drink, soothing a coarse throat he was suffering from due to the current tour. "My voice is fucked right now," he said. "I'm going to have to drink a lot of water and go to sleep."
In the background, the midday broadcast of the Fox25 newscast, shot several blocks away, made its presence known in the room. Coverage ranged from the high cost of energy, a depressed housing market and a damaged Wall Street. As soon as Taylor's eyes hit the screen, he was absorbed.
"I just don't like politics," he said. "There's so much dishonesty. It makes me really uncomfortable." Dishonesty is something Taylor has always had to deal with, and he's learned from it the hard way. But before the conversation went into his music, he apologized, saying, "I keep wandering off. The TV's on and the brain wanders into the horrors of mankind."
The Dandy Warhols arrived in Boston the previous day, and spent a good chunk of time hanging out with a group of fans that happen to work for a lab specializing in tissue reconstruction. Commenting on the encounter, Taylor said, "We went to a tissue research center. It's the place where they grew an ear on a mouse. They do a lot of really amazing work there. They've figured out how to separate oxygen from the blood, and blah blah blah. And they're growing bones, and a lot of really phenomenal things. They're such great people. They're smart, and the ten of them are fans of the band, so yesterday they took us out for lunch and showed us the lab and they showed us the stuff they've been working on."
As Taylor continued discussing the merits of human achievement, the conversation took a strikingly darker tone.
"Are people worth saving? The amazing creatures we are; I mean human beings are unbelievably cool. We've created a lot of amazing things, and made so much joy for ourselves. But we've created so much pain and agony for ourselves, so much torture. I mean, there are a lot of really mean spirited people in this world, and you run into that and it makes you think, 'Are we worth saving?' If we hack down the rain forest and run out of air to breath aren't we at fault?"
|The Dandy Warhols by Jake Sinclair|
Taylor's connection to the Earth stems from his childhood surroundings. The story of The Dandy Warhols began in the mid 1990's, south of Seattle's grunge scene and north of San Francisco's psychedelic past. Founded in Portland, Oregon, his band's hometown lies in between the two aforementioned cities, a reality embedded in his songwriting and guitar tone.
Growing up, Taylor was raised in the Portland suburbs. His mother, a school nurse, was very tuned in to her son's development.
"My mother was a school nurse, so naturally ADD was everything, and I was immediately diagnosed by my mother in all her wisdom, because I found TV too boring and couldn't hold my attention. I'd constantly flip the channels until I turned it off, so obviously I was ADD. Except I can sit in a studio for two years and work on the same twelve songs, so I don't know. I don't believe ADD is anything more than another way to sell drugs to people who don't need them."
Following the release of their 1995 indie debut, Dandys Rule, OK?, the group signed with Capitol Records and in 2000 released Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia. The album saw commercial success in the U.S. and abroad, with the tune "Solid" finding use as the theme song for Judd Apatow's cult-classic college sitcom, Undeclared.
As Taylor's fame grew, so did the frequency of soulless media-hounds and starfuckers looking to surround the group. They learned a lot of hard lessons about the true ambitions of those they associated themselves with, and none were as hard to learn as the fallout from Ondi Timoner's documentary, Dig!. The film was supposed to chronicle the stagnant relationship between Taylor's Dandy Warhols and their cohorts in the Brian Jonestown Massacre, a San Francisco-based act led by Anton Newcombe. Both Newcombe and Taylor have criticized the film's integrity, and Taylor feels both acts got burned by a manipulative director. The fallout from the experience has made the film a sore subject, to say the least.
|The Dandy Warhols|
"The movie has no linear timeline. There's no story," observes Taylor. "There's this thing the directors invented, with Anton sending us bullets and us going over to shoot photos at their house when we thought we were going to be shooting photos [with Brian Jonestown Massacre] and they weren't even there. It really did ruin our relationship."
As he discussed the Dig! experience, Taylor added, "This movie, the whole time they kept saying, 'We're just doing a documentary,' and at the end of the day we hadn't seen them for a year and I guess I knew something was up when she had me read a few pages of stuff, and she chopped some of it in there so I sound like a narrator. But I remember going, 'This isn't really how it was.' And it turned out to be dark and it made them look like one kind of shit bag and made us look like another kind of shit bag. That was a bummer. Just a huge bummer."
The experience seemed to have left Taylor feeling as though he had been taken advantage of, and as a result, he seems to have learned to distrust journalists and filmmakers, who he feels habitually manipulate trusting artists. However, given his past experiences, Taylor was in no way shy about the value of the lessons he learned.
"At the end of the day we were suckers. But god, we learned to keep better company. We got off Capital Records, and we have a lot of things in place now, [including] a manager whose a friend and organized and intelligent. We learned every hard lesson and with our one tooth left, we're now going to become a chef. It feels good."
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