Ween interview – Eye Weekly (10.25.07)

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It’s been a long, strange trip for Ween. Since their humble beginnings as teenage musical soulmates recording songs on a lowly four-track under the mystical tutelage of the band’s inspirational demon god Boognish, Gene and Dean Ween (a.k.a. Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo) have spent 23 years perfecting their unique brand of drug-damaged, genre-jumping pop. For their latest release, La Cucaracha, the pair holed up in a dilapidated farmhouse, enduring a seemingly apocalyptic plague of ornery bats, mucus-inducing mould, leaky roofs and soot-spewing chimneys to pare an initial 50-plus songs down to a 13-track final mix. EYE WEEKLY spoke with Deaner right before the guitarist’s attention turned to more important matters: the Phillies’ first playoff game in 14 years.

You started with something like 50 songs for this record. What inspires your prolific output?
It’s the love of doing it. It’s changed a little bit — not the way we work; the way we work is exactly the same as it was when we were 14 years old. We like listening to ourselves on tape. I mean it’s the same satisfaction that we got when we started: wow, you can actually tape yourself and make music. Almost like we’re faking it, you know. Like, when are people going to catch on that we don’t know what we’re doing?

What about [La Cucaracha’s ode to dinner parties] “Your Party” — it’s such a subtle idea, but funny as well. Where did that come from?
That song evolved in a really interesting way. Aaron came to the studio one night and played it on an acoustic guitar and it sounded like something off Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat or something. And I was listening to it and fucking laughing like, “Dude, you’re fucked up.”

So I went behind the drum kit [and we recorded it] and the song sounded like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And it sucked. No offence to the Chili Peppers, but it sucked. And we could hear that it was a good song but it was like, this song needs a total fuckin’ smooth jazz approach. And some fuckin’ dude with like an egg shaker on stage — just like the most jerked-off adult-contemporary shit. We did a lot of takes of that song as a band and we got a percussionist and [legendary saxophonist] David Sanborn on it. And it was totally realized.

Today when you play your older, weirder songs live, they just sound like pop songs. Did they sound different in your head than they do on the tape?
After a record is released, I never go back and listen to it. I heard Chocolate and Cheese a few years ago [when] my parents needed to go to the airport and I drove them in their car. I put on the stereo and my mom had it in the CD player. “Take Me Away” started and I was like, “Holy fucking shit, this doesn’t sound anything like this anymore.” It was slow and had this other attitude about it and it tripped me out. The whole record tripped me out actually. I would have never listened to it if she hadn’t had it there.

You mentioned not going out and doing every drug anymore, but are you still able to take something away from that or get inspiration from the occasional drug trip?
I’ve been through a lot of periods where I’ve done a lot of everything. And I still drink, I drink quite a bit, but I don’t do any drugs other than smoke weed any more. I’m back to where I started, basically, which is the best place to be.

I don’t know what drugs we were doing when we did what. Most of the time I’m willing to bet that we weren’t doing anything — except we used to be stoned all the time so it’s fair to say that [we were] for the first four or five records. But it shouldn’t matter. I can’t think of any CD in my collection that doesn’t hold up unless you’re on drugs. Does Bob Marley sound better when you’re stoned? Absolutely. Will I listen to it any time? Yeah. I love fuckin’ Bob Marley.

Originally published in EYE WEEKLY.

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