“I listen to this album twice a day…” hmv.com talks to The Dandy Warhols
Even when stupendously hungover, Courtney Taylor-Taylor still gives great interview.
It’s mid-March, and The Dandy Warhols frontman is on the line from his Portland, Oregon home. We are discussing the band’s new album Distortland, out April 8th through their new album, Dine Alone Records.
Recorded between his and bandmate Brent DeBoer’s basements, as well as the band’s Portland studio complex, called the Odditorium, the follow-up to 2012’s This Machine was produced by the frontman and mixed by Jim Lowe (Taylor Swift, Stereophonics).
While Taylor-Taylor admits that he is the worse for wear this afternoon, that does not stop him from waxing eloquent (and ironic) on a wide variety of topics, including Portland, the sound of Distortland, and not feeling grown up.
Portland is a lot bigger and cleaner than when you grew up. Do you appreciate that about it?
“It’s both. I like it for some things, and then I’m sad that it’s not a dark, weirdo place anymore. It’s not OK for weirdos here anymore. You can’t be a loser here. You have to be a go-getter; it’s filled with go-getters. And a lot of that’s great, and a lot of it is a bummer. Everything is the yin and the yang.”
Why did you call the album Distortland?
“I just found myself putting distortion on every track: drums, keyboards, vocally. ‘That’s funny: Distortland.’ I just thought, ‘Wow, that’s really great.’ And Distortland came into my head, and I immediately thought about the city and thought, ‘Wow, that’s got to be the title for sure.’ Anything that has more than one meaning to it tickles me.”
What kind of album did you want to make with Distortland? Were there particular ideas floating through your head?
“Yes. I was at a friend’s house who has amazing taste in music. So I was discussing Inspiral Carpets and how I really liked that era of Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays. And for years now there has been a massive shoegazer movement, and I like it, but it doesn’t do to me what those bands did and still do. I mean if you listen to [Happy Monday’s] ‘Step On’ or [Inspiral Carpet’s] ‘Commercial Rain’ or whatever, it’s just different. And my friend Ryan said, ‘Those are really clean records.’ And I just thought, ‘Wow, you’re right. They really are.’
“We have every other kind of record. We go to [mixer] Tchad Blake and have since the beginning. And he’s great - he’s Arctic Monkeys and Black Keys - but he dirties things up. And we’re such a dirty recording band - we record so rough and dirty - so it was an interesting idea to just go with as clean a mixer as you can possibly get.
“So Jim [Lowe] popped up at exactly the right time. And being exactly the right guy was just one of those things where you go, ‘Man, I could not have planned this. If I had planned it, it would not have worked out somehow. I would have f--ked it up.’”
So you’re pleased with the album?
“I listen to this album twice a day. Sometimes I listen to it four times in a day. I’ve never done that either. I’ve never finished a record and can’t stop listening to it. I usually have to take a few months off, and then on a tour bus rager night [I] put it on and really hear it for the first time what it is objectively and go, ‘This is awesome! It’s better than I thought it was.’
“But this record kiillls me, man. I can’t believe it. I love it. It’s turned me into the Gothic teenager I used to be where you just smoke pot, go to your room, put the headphones on, [and] just get away from the world. It makes me feel better. It makes me feel great.”
“The Grow Up Song” is about letting go of the indulgences of youth. Do you feel like a grown-up now?
“I don’t really. At all. Except that… (long pause) Well, no. I don’t know. That song is funny because I don’t actually feel like that very often. That was a rare moment! (laughs) Like today: I am stupidly hungover. Like amateur hour hungover. So ‘The Grow Up Song’ was a rare moment.”
What are the benefits of working with passionate independents like Dine Alone versus majors like Capitol Records, your record label for your biggest album, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia?
“I just think they have cooler taste. I think that’s basically the main difference. They just get to put out cooler stuff and have a cooler roster, and they don’t have to be concerned with selling a bunch of music to 9-year-olds which is what big labels have to do. That is a huge relief. It’s the difference between having a little weird grey cloud hanging over your head in your relationship with your label and not having it.”
Dine Alone has a pretty cool roster, including Marilyn Manson, Cancer Bats, and City and Colour. How important is it that The Dandy Warhols still be perceived as cool 22 years into their career?
“I’m sure there must be cooler bands than us, or there have been in the past and will be in the future and are currently. So your cool factor, that is why you’re a rock band, in the traditional sense of Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd. That’s the kind of thing you do. And how cool you are, it should be represented.
“You shouldn’t be trying. You should never put out things that aren’t as cool as your band is and you shouldn’t put out things that are trying to be cooler than your band is. You should just be a true stylish and emotional and intellectual representation of what you are. And I think we’re a pretty cool band. Were I not in this band, I would like pretty much everything about this band.”