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Dandy's Return To NZ For Southern Amp

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Dandy Warhols.jpg
Dandy Warhols.jpg

The Dandy Warhols are heading to Christchurch for the Southern Amp music festival next mont h. CHRIS ORMOND of NZPA spoke to the American band's frontman, Courtney Taylor-Taylor.

Wellington, Oct 16 NZPA - It's been nearly five years since The Dandy Warhols were in New Zealand, and fans also waited about that long before getting their recently released Earth to The Dandy Warhols album.

The band, who formed in Portland, Oregon, in the 1990s, have always been creative, and Taylor-Taylor said he was thrilled with the latest album.

There is a clear experimental aspect to Earth to The Dandy Warhols, and he said to maintain creativeness it was important not to set too much of an agenda when making music.

"Obviously a f***ed up sound is going to be more interesting than a perfect, pristine standard or version of whatever sound it's supposed to be, so you go into the studio with the idea that you're not going to make anything sound like anything is supposed to," he told NZPA.

"It's a good way to go in, because no matter how freaky you try to get, you're not that weird. You're going to end up with a way more normal record that you planned on."

It's clear Taylor-Taylor (how he got his long name is an even longer story, not worthy of explanation) is passionate about music, and the Dandy Warhols like to push the boundaries.

Their catalogue stretches from alternative, experimental pop to catchy hit songs like Bohemian Like You, We Used to be Friends, and Mission Control.

The Dandys were one of a few big American bands who offered an alternative to the mainstream when the music market gravitated to certain genres.

But the band have played countless gigs in Europe and Britain . Taylor-Taylor said Britain in particular tended to have more open ended and varying radio programming.

The United States spent a long time going through a rap-rock and "funny boy-band punk" musical era, he said.

"That was pretty much a closed racket. You could not be played on big radio if you were not that."

He said he respected the likes of genuine punk rock outfits such as Green Day and the Offspring, but it was unfortunate the "really, horribly mediocre sons of that", carried so much weight.

"I think Green Day and the Offspring are both fantastic, but unfortunately so did a lot of people that maybe shouldn't be trusted with guitars and amps -- and producers and major labels."

Taylor-Taylor is big on collaborating with other like-minded musicians, and Earth to The Dandy Warhols has guest input from the likes of Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits).

He said Knopfler had told the band how he liked their music and was keen to contribute.

"We wanted a banjo sound on (Love Song) and thought Mark Knopfler would be like a banjo monster, but he said he's never played banjo," Taylor-Taylor said.

"Which is interesting, because he is one of the greatest guitar pickers since the pickers from the 30s, 40s and 50s."

Instead, he decided to ask him to play the specific Dobro guitar which is displayed on the cover of the famous Brothers in Arms album by Dire Straits.

The Banjo input Taylor-Taylor wanted on some of the tracks was left to Campbell after he put his own hat firmly in the ring.

"I had texted Mike Campbell and said `who's the best banjo picker in the world' and he said `I am'."

Taylor-Taylor said he was thrilled with the results.

"Both those guys are legends for a reason, they make unbelievable things happen.

"With Mark, I thought he was going to lay something tricky-dicky and he laid this soul thing down...it was just this one thing, and it's so moving, it's beautiful."

His enthusiasm for bringing artists together has led to the band setting up a studio in Portland, called the Odditorium, where musicians can come and go as they please, create music and contribute to a new initiative called Breathe Easy.

A string of bands and musicians have been through and added input to tracks which have been made into an album that will be available online this month.

Taylor-Taylor said all profits would be channelled to a trust which works to conserve and preserve land in parts of Oregon against urbanisation.

After watching the unsettling but entertaining music documentary, Dig, which focuses on the early career of The Dandy Warhols and their buddies the Brian Jonestown Massacre, led by volatile frontman Anton Newcombe, it was hard not to ask Taylor-Taylor his views on it.

The film charts the growth in popularity of the Dandys even as Newcombe alienates himself from them by dismissing them as sellouts, while almost self-destructing himself through drug use and an aggressive and dictating approach to his own band.

Dig is obviously a forgettable chapter in Taylor-Taylor's life as a musician.

He has made no secret of his contempt for the corporate side of the music industry and said he was crushed when he saw the end product of the film.

"That was a terrible experience, it was really one lie after another, it was horrible," he told NZPA.

He said during filming he not even aware of what was being documented outside his own band and felt both himself and Newcombe were manipulated.

"It was a horrible slap in the face and ruined things for years.

"Things were bad and awful for both of us. It has been so hard to live that horrible thing down -- it's not how it is and it's not who we are."

He said another galling aspect of it was that he thought it would be a documentary about music.

"Do you see me making music once? No, not even half a second. Anton is making music for about 20 seconds and is pumped up and weird because the camera is on him."

Despite his lingering annoyance, Taylor-Taylor said he had moved on and it was unfortunate that anger, hatred and conflict sometimes made for appealing viewing.

He was much more upbeat at the prospect of playing several shows in Australia and then heading to New Zealand.

He was predicting a relaxing tour and said he couldn't wait to get on stage.

* The Dandy Warhols play at Southern Amp on November 7 at Westpac Arena in Christchurch.

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