Bodyjar Dandy Warhols article

Bodyjar Magazine/Beat Magazine
by Christie Eliezer
August 16, 2000

The Dandy Warhols emerged from a shithole in America called Portland, Oregon. Not what you’d call the centre of any cultural buzz. The way guitarist and singer Courtney Taylor explains it, it’s the sort of place where teenagers had to make up their mind. Like shaving each others’ pubes on dates, he says, or shoplifting cigarettes and booze just for the fun of it.

Two years ago they released an album called “The Dandy Warhols Come Down” which was a prime slab of everything great about American pop since 1965. Sure, it was a strictly join-the-dots kind of record and its influences were glaring. When they toured here, it was obvious their records were more memorable than the live shows. But the album spawned two memorable singles. “Every Day Should Be A Holiday” and “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth”, and it was the kind of record that found a word-of-mouth, underground status pronto.

But for Taylor, bassist Peter Holmstrom, keyboards Zia McCabe and drummer Brett DeBore, touring the world was a way to extend their sex/drugs lifestyle to a greater degree. They whooshed up more powder than the Happy Mondays or the Stone Roses ever did, dismissed heroin as “passé” and discussed the merits of crystal meth, and tried to put drugs and prostitutes on their record company expenses. Zia who in earlier albums sleeves could be found photographed nude or taking a piss, had a penchant for playing in the nude, had a roaring affair with Damon Blur when Blur and the Warhols toured Canada together, and admitted that she’d tried to hire female prostitutes twice in their last world tour for a bit of oral sex (“I figured I wouldn’t get diseases from them that way”) but hadn’t worked out. First time “she” turned out to be a “he”, and second time Zia had her period. Interestingly, many of the people that the Warhols idolized turned out to be fans of theirs. During a visit to England, David Bowie came backstage during Glastonbury to say hello and invited them up onstage during his set, while Echo & The Bunnymen and Spaceman 3 also came to check them out. This year, the Dandy Warhols face a test. Can they break out of cult status now that they’ve signed to a major label (EMI) and released the album “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia”. While EMI executives try to create an aura about them as a mysterious psychedelic band with an intense following, Courtney is down to earth. He told “Billboard” magazine, “We made this album for the people wee play pool with – like us, they go home and listen to Neil Young and Led Zeppelin.”

The first track from the album is one sublime piece of pop called “Godless”, all buoyant acoustic guitars, dreamy vocals, and a killer trumpet riff. They way Courtney explains it, they were in the studio when an engineer came down with George Harrison’s 1970 triple-album set “All Things Must Pass”, that too had acoustic guitars (“My Sweet Lord”, “If Not For You”) and trumpets (“What Is Life”). Originally, “Godless” was a screaming riff-in-your-face thing.

The Warhols come up with great titles. But most of them seem to be about girls. Explains Holmstrom. “No, ‘Godless’ is about one of Courtney’s ex-girlfriends. With ‘Bohemia Like You’, Courtney says he was looking out his window and saw a girl with a really cute haircut driving by, and made up a fantasy scenario.

The sounds on “Mohammed” though, was inspired by a trip the bassist took to Jerusalem and Mount Sinai when he was a child. And this record has a more country bent. “Mostly in the guitar sounds but the songs are essentially the same. We still have our share of distorted guitars and analogue keyboards. That country element has always been in Dandy Warhols, it’s there in the area we grew up in and the emotions are natural and simple, but I think it’s emerged in a more pure form than before.”

Dandy Warhols should be back in Australia for Bid Gay Out. Most bands complain that on tour, life runs three times as fast. Not for the Warhols. “Touring is too slow a pace. There’s a lot of waiting around. I guess if you read some English articles about us, we’re nothing more than a pharmateucial company which gets stoned out all the time. But that’s just one element of our life on the road. Mind you, a line line ‘I can sleep forever’ comes from staying up too many nights in a row.”

Were they bigger in England (where they’ve just played Glastonbury) than in America? “Technically we’re not bigger in England than we are in the United States in terms of record sales. They seem to understand us. Funnily, they’ve gone with ‘Get Off’ as the first single from this record while most places have gone with ‘Godless’ which as far as we’re concerned is the best song we’ve written.”

Holmstrom once remarked it was important to experience something at least once. Presumably that’s why they ended up once playing in the window of a Stockholm store? “I don’t remember the exact sum but it happened. We were joking when we asked for the money because we didn’t want to do the show. Then they turned around and offered us the money, so we were more or less committed to it! That wasn’t a new experience for us. In our early days, we played in basements and house parties where we were paid in beer.

“I was thinking more about… well, recently I wanted to see if I could drive across the U.S. by myself, and did it in two days. I drove a thousand miles in my Honda, slept for eight hours, and then drove two thousand miles. I was hallucinating by the end of it. Doing that was not something I wanted to do, but it had to kindda happen as a personal challenge.” Around the time of the last record, the Dandy Warhols said that Stereolab was the band you felt most affinity to. Does that still hold? “We go in phases. I have no idea who it is now, but last summer it was definitely Death In Vegas. We like the way they got together a bunch of guitars, Hammond organs and horns and made a great dance/electronica record.

When we heard that record we were both happy that someone had done it and jealous that we hadn’t made that record.” Are Dandy Warhols the first rock band to sing about Nietzsche? “I haven’t heard of any others but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sting got there first.” What qualifications would I need to join the Dandy Warhols? “You’d need strong arms and you need to be very comfortable with yourself.”