Dean Ween on ‘Dickey Betts,’ a Kinks Reunion and Creating ‘Original Classic Rock': Exclusive Interview
For years, Ween fans have debated exactly how to describe the band's innovative, expansive music to their friends. For guitarist Dean Ween, who's just released The Deaner Album, his first-ever solo record, it's very simple.
"Classic rock, that's my s---," he explains. "My tastes are very, very typical. My point of reference stops in, like, 1980. The last great bands to me, other than Public Enemy and s--- like that, are the Clash and Queen. I'm a Hendrix, Santana, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, P-Funk dude, that's what I like, I'll never change."
The Deaner Album marks the happy conclusion of a four-year odyssey for Ween, aka Mickey Melchiondo. In 2012 his longtime musical partner Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) announced that he was departing the beloved duo, sending Melchiondo into a depression that kept him from even picking up a guitar for about half a year.
Luckily, with encouragement from some friends, he picked himself up, began playing live again (with a band now largely composed of longtime Ween collaborators), built his own recording studio and says he's recording a new song each day. "I have a second Dean Ween record done already," he told Pop Matters. "This one’s not even out. It’s better than the first one, which I love the first one, but it sounds better, it was written quicker. So, all’s well that ends well, you know? I’ve never been happier than I am right now." (Ween, the band, also reunited for an ongoing series of live shows earlier this year.)
We talked to Dean about the classic rock influences and tributes on the diverse, guitar-heavy The Deaner Album, why the Kinks should get back together and what he'd do if a bandmate slept with his wife.
The Deaner Album kicks off with a very Allman Brothers Band-sounding instrumental, appropriately entitled "Dickey Betts." Did you set out to pay tribute to him, or is that just how the song came out?
The way that came about is really f---ed up. I was watching my parents' house, when they were away, a long time ago it seems like now. I had an acoustic guitar that had just four strings on it. I brought a four-track along, thinking I could get some work done. I recorded just the melody, with a drum machine and no bass, and it was like a minute long or something. And I just never knew what it was going to turn into what it did, it didn't really sound like the Allman Brothers at all at first. But I always loved how the old jazz guys, like Miles Davis did it a lot -- he put out a song that was inspired by the music of Prince, and he'd call it "Prince." So I took this jazz thing to it, realized everybody was going to say it sounded like the Allman Brothers, I'm going to call it "Dickey Betts." And now, that song can run 25 minutes long, or five minutes. That's real jamming, that's how it's supposed to be, it shouldn't be planned.
Is it true that Van Halen's 1982 Hide Your Sheep tour is the first concert you ever went to?
That was my first arena show, yeah, [my uncle] took me to some of the greatest s---. I have to give my father credit, in [my hometown of] New Hope, believe it or not, this is a little tourist town on the Delaware river, we had a punk club, and the Dead Kennedys came through that same year. My father took me, so I got off to a great start. My uncle took me to see Lou Reed when Sally Can't Dance came out, and the Ramones, and the B-52s and the Clash, and the Van Halen show. The Kinks, back then they put out an album every year, so I got to see the Kinks a lot, who I loved.
It seems like the Kinks are always threatening to get back together, but it never happens.
They were as brown as Ween was on the stage, drinking, smoking, fighting, [taking] long breaks between songs while they light a smoke or argue. As a guy that's in a band with a guy that's basically my brother, you know you gotta get over that s---. I mean, they made a record called Give the People What They Want. So give the f---ing people what they want, get over yourself. You look at bands like Aerosmith, or the Ramones, where one guy was f---ing the other guy's wife (Editor's note: technically, girlfriend), I can see that s---- breaking up a band. As far as I know, the Kinks never had anything like that, and Ween never had anything even close to that. But other than that, what would you have to do to a guy if you'd been together forever and ever, and that's your brother, to break up the band? S---, I hope Aaron hasn't been with my old lady, but I could probably get over it!
Why do you think the classic rock clubhouse closed? It's like they're not accepting any more members. There's great bands out there like Ween, Queens of the Stone Age, the Melvins, who are pushing the genre forward but not getting the credit.
Yeah, we're classic rock. People always want me to peg what it is we do, then they can't accept the answer. We do everything, a little bit of everything. So my answer, which I love, and it's kind of pretentious, is, "It's original classic rock. That's our sound." And then, when they're not satisfied with that, I'm like, "Listen, I'm a Beatles and Stones guy." But then they think we sound like a cross between them, and I say, "Oh, God ... don't ask me. Original classic rock, that's my answer. That's what I do."
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