We never had anything except a drive to avoid current trends.
BY LISA MROCK
With a decades-deep catalog ranging from the hypnotic and irresistible drone of “Nietzsche” to the snarky and sarcastic “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth,” The Dandy Warhols have soldiered on as one of the most underrated bands of the indie music era. And they still refuse to care. It’s been a year since the release of their eighth LP This Machine, a kindred spirit of 2000’s fabled Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, the groundbreaking album that their current tour is celebrating. A lot has changed in those 13 years, and frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor was able to expand on this as well as other aspects of his band’s career in a recent conversation with Chicago INNERVIEW.
Chicago Innerview: A lot of the band’s earlier music was more popular in the U.K. than the U.S. If The Dandy Warhols were a new band today, would it be the same?
Courtney Taylor-Taylor: The reason that happened back then was because of commercial radio…When Thirteen Tales came out, you had to be rap-rock. You had to be Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit or Kid Rock…So there was simply no possible way for anyone to hear our records unless you really listened to the shit out on college radio or hung out at indie record stores…In England and Europe, the radio wasn’t so rigidly formatted. Commercial radio in England was more open to good bands that weren’t rapping and didn’t have huge shorts on with tattoos up their calves…There used to be just one big powerful entity that controlled everything, and you really had to just strike them with something they liked or become friends with them. I mean, Creed was huge when we put Thirteen Tales out.
Chicago Innerview: Unfortunately.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor: Yeah, that was the other thing besides rap rock you could be. You could be ‘artfully grunge’ back then. Now it seems like everything is pretty even around the world…which is amazingly fun for bands now. All of my friends and bands we work with…if they’re big enough to do a little tour in America, they get to go to Europe. They do a little tour of Europe, then they can go to Australia.
CI: So I got friends who are in love with your band, and one thing they say is that you guys never sold out. You all did your own thing and never tried to get all the big producers or anything. Did you guys ever have a weak moment where you considered selling out like that?
CT: It was never even an option for us, and we were too weird for any of the big people that were producing Creed or Limp Bizkit records or whatever…We never had anything except a drive to avoid current trends. And it still motivates us in the studio…I think you have to remove obvious trends from your sound in order to have the emotional intention in your song be the single most powerful thing that people notice first. It’s just gotta feel powerfully emotional, like how it feels to be you. That’s how you know it’s done.
CI: It’s been 13 years since Thirteen Tales came out, but it’s also been around a year since This Machine was released. In your opinion, what song on that album stands out?
CT: It’s hard to ask a band or songwriter which, ‘cause they all kind of stand out. I mean, they all sound amazing and unique to the creator of them. They’re like your children.
CI: Looking back on Thirteen Tales, how would you say it compares or differs to the other albums of the band?
CT: Thirteen Tales, This Machine, and Dandys Rules OK — these are the three most similar records we’ve made. They have the similar amount of instrumentation. Come Down has maybe 14 or 15 tracks of guitar on every song whereas these have maybe two or three tops…For Thirteen Tales, we used mixer [Dave Sardy]…because there’s so much guitar in the record and I didn’t want it to sound spineless and sappy. I wanted it to sound…organic at heart, and this guy was the perfect choice for that record…If we had 14 tracks with guitar, he would strip them down to the two most hot ones. He knew his way around guitars more than anyone we had ever worked with before…The other records are radically different. Monkeyhouse came at a time when we were done with guitars. Everybody like The White Stripes had gotten big after Thirteen Tales got big. And [it was] the glory days where The Strokes and The White Stripes and all these great guitar bands were making amazing records, so we just didn’t really feel like the world needed another guitar record.