The Dandy Warhols: A New Day Ahead
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.
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.
“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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Several hours after his interview at the bar, Taylor took the stage with his band at the Wilbur Theatre for a sold out show that he afterwards described as being unlike any other show he’d ever performed. The Dandy Warhols dished out tunes from across their catalog, setting the mood with tracks like “Muhammad,” “We Used To Be Friends” and “Godless,” as well as tunes off their new album, …Earth To The Dandy Warhols (released August 18, 2008 through World’s Fair), such as “Mission Control” and “Love Song.” During “Godless,” and “Bohemian Like You,” his sore throat was a very present reality, as he strained to hit the high notes. However, the next day when Taylor spoke about the show, his vocal chords weren’t an issue.
After the show, Taylor and the rest of the Warhols hit up the bars with their tissue-growing Boston fans before schlepping out to New York City for a show at Terminal 5. But while Taylor was sipping his drink at the bar, he couldn’t stop talking about how happy he’s been with the recent developments within the band.
“It’s the only record since our first indie record [that we didn’t do with Capitol]. I don’t think Capitol really liked us that much. They had a lot of not very ‘us’ ideas, and I wouldn’t say this was harder but I wouldn’t say it was easier. But, it’s better because now it’s people who really love our band who are the ones who want to interview us. We don’t deal with the creepy dude who hangs out with us and has a great time, going out to dinner and having fun, and then writes the most horrible personal [piece], venting his frustrations, letting it all out like they’re our problems. There are truly some mean people, and we don’t have to deal with them anymore. We’re selling slightly more records than we were, and we’re playing bigger venues and selling more tickets, and we’re doing it with less money.”
As Taylor finished his drink, discussing the fact that they don’t get recognized in public, he got stopped in the street by a group of fans on his way back to the tour bus. While they took turns taking photographs with him and telling him how much they love his band, Taylor quietly but humbly accepted the complements. He clearly was not expecting to be recognized in broad daylight in a neighborhood full of street vagrants, but he was genuinely happy to talk with the fans that have supported him while others were looking to screw him. Given the amount of negativity that has followed his band through their rise to fame, Taylor has somehow seen the value in anyone who appreciates him for who he is and not what he can bring them. Taylor embraced the fans, because they loved his music not his status.
At the end of the day, Taylor feels as though all of the interviews and documentaries he’s participated in will be a footnote to the music he’s made. As seemingly self-conscious as the press process has made him about his group’s public image, he seemed confident that his music, not his quotes, would prevail in representing his art.
“I would rather all the dialog and interviews and pictures go away, and have the records and the music last. And I’m pretty sure that’s how it will go down. Look at Jim Morrison. There are like four photos of him that people have seen, but the music is what people remember. I wouldn’t mind one bit if my name went away and people just thought, ‘Wow, this band and this music.’ That’s what I think will last.”
The first song from the Dandy Warhols’ Breathe Easy project has been released and is available for download on the Breathe Easy MySpace site. The sessions with J Mascis and the Black Angels, recorded on different days at the Dandy Warhols’ Odditorium, were filmed and compiled into an episode, which helps to trace and explain the progress of the first track, and is now playing on the Breathe Easy MySpace site.
The Dandy Warhol tour dates available here.
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