by yejoon koh (yejoon) - May 01, 2003
Interview with the Boognish - A word with Dean Ween
Ween, the king of weird bands, has finished recording their soon to be released full-length album and has recently released a 3-disc live album as well. When they haven't been releasing albums, they've been busy recording jingles for Pizza Hut, all of which were rejected, unfortunately. Dean Ween, guitarist of the gonzo band, has also been recording with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, PJ Harvey, Twiggy Ramirez, and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees). Before they left for their mini-tour, I was able to squeeze in an interview with Deaner.
Yejoon Koh: What can you tell me about the new album?
Dean Ween: It's finished. It's been done for a while. We've worked on it for...ah, I don't know. Well, we weren't recording it for a year or two but the process of writing it started a couple of years ago. It's all finished now and we're talking to a couple of different record labels, trying to figure out who's going to put it out. That's pretty much it.
YK: Could you name a few songs that you might've played live that are going to be on the album?
DW: Yeah, not as many as in the past. It's going to be a surprise, actually, for a lot of Ween fans. It's a long record with 16 songs, a little over an hour I think. Uh, I'm drawing a blank. You know what? I don't want to give it away, actually. I wanna surprise people.
YK: You mentioned that you're looking for a record label to release it on. Elektra has sort of had a history of screwing over bands, like Nada Surf, Superdrag, and Vast. What was your experience with them?
DW: We were on Elektra for a really long time, and I wouldn't say they screwed us over. They gave us a career, and we made a lot of records with them. We were on the label for 10 years. You know, it's hard to be on a label of that size in a band like Ween, when people sell millions of records, especially more nowadays. It's different than when we first got on the label. Nowadays, success is measured in terms of millions of records. I don't think a label like the Time-Warner company who owns Elektra views sales of a 100,000 records as being anything at all, you know? Whereas if you were to put out your own record and sell 100,000 records you'd be a millionaire, you'd make a lot of money. Our relationship with them was so long; the beginning was great, you know, for the first couple of records. After that, a lot of times these big labels' staffs get fired, you know, every five years, the president, everybody who works there. They bring in a whole new staff, and they don't have an emotional investment in your band or project, or whatever you want to call it, because they inherited it. It's easy to badmouth them, it's almost cliché that a big corporate label is all about money and shit like that, but I think that's just reality. Labels the size of Sony and whatever are in the business of selling a lot of records, like they're selling hot dogs or something. For a band like Ween, that might not be the best situation, but certainly for Mariah Carey it works.
YK: What's Chocodog Records? Is this your own label?
DW: Yeah, that's just our own label. That's just something we started to put out things that we wanted to basically to our most hardcore fans. You know, put out a couple live Ween Records, a couple other things too – Moist Boyz records. Live records are cool but they don't take the place of our new record, or our next record. We press them in small amounts so that the people that want them on Chocodog will find out and then everybody's happy. You couldn't convince Elektra to do something like that – put out one every six months. So Chocodog's a really good outlet for that. It gives us a chance to do something creative and give something back to the fans. We try and pick/release quality CDs, and good artwork and packaging and all that. The price is cheap, you know, not to rip people off. It seems to work out. Everybody seems really psyched, all the Chocodog people have done great.
YK: What kind of bands are on the label?
DW: It's mostly just Ween and Ween-related things. There have only been four releases, two of them are Ween live records – the live record from the country tour in Toronto and the Live at Stubbs. Then there's the Moist Boyz record, which is a band I'm in. It's our third album, we have two other records on Grand Royal. And the Instant Death album, which is with Dave, our bass player, and the drummer Scott Byrne. It's a duo, a bass and drum stuff. It's kind of an all-in-the-family sort of stuff, we're not looking for other bands.
YK: So you're not out to sign a bunch of bands?
DW: Not really, no. Well, yeah maybe sometime.
YK: Do you have any plans of releasing a DVD, because a lot of bands have been doing that?
DW: Yeah, I don't know if it's going to be on Chocodog or whatever label we end up on, but yeah, that's something we want to do in time, anyways. People can't find [quality] stuff, but you could go online and find shows that fans taped. We have so much stuff to go through.
YK: What was it like working with Queens of the Stone Age?
DW: We've known those guys forever. They're like brothers to us. Before Queens of the Stone Age there was Kyuss. Josh and Nick, the main songwriters for Queens of the Stone Age used to have a band called Kyuss that was on Elektra. We toured with them back after Chocolate and Cheese came out. We became great friends, two bands that did a lot of gigs together. When Queens of the Stone Age put out their first record, we did touring together, and after the second record we did shows together. Josh asked me to play guitar on the new record so I played on three tracks on the new record, and then I did two more records with them, actually. Mark Lanegan, who's the singer for the Screaming Trees, I just played guitar on his record. Then we did something called "Desert Sessions," that Josh and QOTSA organizes every year and gets a bunch of different people together out in the desert in California at Joshua Tree to make a record, write the songs there AND make the record. It was me, Josh, PJ Harvey, Twiggy Ramirez, Alain Johannes from Eleven. So yeah, we do a lot with each other.
YK: Regarding the Pizza Hut advertisement jingles, did they approach you?
DW: Yeah, not Pizza Hut, but the ad agency that Pizza Hut hired approached us.
YK: I don't quite understand why they approached you and then rejected all the songs flat out. Maybe they didn't know what they were getting with Ween?
DW: Well, no, it's not really the way it works when you do those things. We've done a bunch of things like that in the past. First we had a conference call with a committee of people at a conference table, probably, you know with 12 people on the line. It gets really confusing because you get a bunch of people giving you contradictory instructions. They didn't really give us any direction so much as like, ‘It has to incorporate pizza, cheese on the inside of the crust' so we made a catch like "Has anybody seen the cheese?" or something like that and we settled on "Where'd the cheese go?" We did a song, and the way things are now, you can get it to them really fast and send them an mp3. So we got together and did our own sessions. They were like ‘Ah, well it's cool, but not what we wanted, we don't know what we want but we'll know it when we hear it.' It was like throwing darts. So we came back the next day and we did another song, maybe two more songs. They said ‘Yeah, well this element of it is cool, but we want you to do something more like this', and that went on for like five days.
YK: Were they all different takes of the one song, or completely different songs?
DW: No, that line "Where'd the Cheese Go?" was in all of the songs, but they were completely different, in every direction. Everything from spaghetti western to stuff that's really mysterious rock that's over the top shit to what's on the website. We got through five days of it and were like ‘Fuck this! Are we going to do this for the rest of our lives?' We got paid anyways, but it's a shame. We really wanted to do it, and I felt that what we did was great too, but oh well.
Hopefully you were able to buy a ticket to Ween's sold-out show coming up on Thursday, May 8. If not, you still might be able to catch them in Indianapolis the following day.