Horn In The USA!

Melody Maker Magazine
by - "Stark Raving Bonkers": Everett True
"Shag Pile": Stephen Sweet
August 1, 1998

Bees do it, fleas do it, even indie chancers down in Camden Town do it. But nobody has sex like The Dandy Warhols. We join them on the road in America for a week of close sexual encounters.

“Dandy Warhols are the most boring band in the world,” moans their tour manager. “They read a lot, never go out, watch movies, never do anything fun like hard drige, hardly anyone runs around naked…”

He’s lying, of course.

On the bus between Portland and San Francisco, there was liquid GHB (an anti-depression comedown drug), cocaine, Ecstasy, Jack Daniel’s, dope, beer, gin, Thai food and cookies – among other things. During the journey, some of us rocked out to Black Sabbath in the back lounge and waited for the drugs to kick in, while others swapped pharmaceutical tales and dug Spiritualized up front. Singer Courtney Taylor retreated straight to his bunk with his new model girlfriend. This, after an evening which took in a video shoot, a Jesus Lizard concert, more cocaine than a man can reasonably stand and redneck karaoke (“You don’t sing, boy – and if you do sing, you better make darn sure it’s none of that hippy trash”).

Portland’s Dandy Warhols certainly try their fucking hardest. They grew up believing in the myth of rock’n’roll – and it seems no taboo is too great, no drug feast or sexual encounter is too outrageous for them to exploit. Females pissing on the street? Cool. Sex at 13? Cool. Sex with a corpse? Cool. Sex with several “beautiful people” at once? Cool. Naked parties which end up as naked scooter runs to the local K-Mart? Cool. Crystal meth, valium, marijuana, ecstasy? Cool. Walking round naked at record industry cocktail parties? Cool.

“I’ve never had a girl tell me my cock’s not big enough,” Courtney boasts to The Maker. “Their boxes maybe…”

In previous interviews, they’ve shocked and regaled journalists, trying to get Zia to have sex with female prostitutes, bragging about having great sex with world-class models… behaving elegantly wasted. Their hit single even glorifies heroin, for fucks sake, while its predecessor quite rightly noted that “Every Day Should Be A Holiday.”

“Have I ever slept with anybody who’s a fan?” Courtney muses. “I don’t know if I’ve spelt with anybody who wasn’t. I would hope that everybody’s a fan. I don’t think I’ve ever slept with an old school-style groupie. Oh, there was this scene…

“I was really wasted in Kansas City with this other guy – him and me in the women’s bathroom stall making out with these two girls (laughs), on their knees, giving us head. We were so fucked-up, it was funny rock pig shit to do. We were like, ‘I think I’m losing it, better pull your tits out too.’ We only engage in rock pig behaviour if there’s someone there to witness it.”

The Dandy Warhols are, without doubt, the kind of people your parents warned you against. It often seems like they’re single-handedly trying to reclaim rock back to its rightful place – back to it being “a sucky, kissy, slurpy, spanky, oozy, licky, touchy, totally sexual thing” (as Courtney put it). Later, Zia McCabe, the band’s delicious keyboard player, is caught nuzzling up to Courtney’s girlfriend’s breasts in the women’s toilets. No one’s shocked: this sort of thing happens every day. Apparently.

The Dandy Warhols? Live up to their reputation? Never!

“Sometimes I think we’re a force of evil,” remarks guitarist Peter Holmstrom the next day. “There are no morals in this band. Some days, it feels like everyone is just out for themselves. Courtney had a vision that he wasn’t going to let anyone get in his way and he was going to step on as many people as it took. We’ve made a lot of enemies…”

Not least among the Seattle press – who describe their music as “totally lacking in any substance” and being “all image and no content.” Once past the dodgy name and headline-grabbing antics however, The Dandy Warhols have a surprising depth to their music.

“The Sixties meet the Eighties in the Nineties”, is how Peter describes it – and it is indeed a strange, druggy mix of Duran Duran, Velvet Underground, a handful of the UK shoegazing bands from the Nineties (Ride, Spiritualized, The Verve) and psychedelic Sixties pop bands (The Byrds, Beach Boys). It’s very English-sounding, too.

Zia has an explanation for this.

“When we started in the early nineties,” she says, “what was going on in Europe was way different to what was happening in the US – grunge. We, being from the Northwest, were sick of that. We wanted music that was pretty, that was sexy, that you could dress up and have cocktails to, that you could fuck to. We wanted a new scene, so we created one ourselves.”

The Dandy Warhols’ music has a charm that lingers long after the sight of the old drummer’s horrible goatee has disappeared from view. What’s galling, perhaps, is the fact the songs are all written about Courtney’s beautiful ex-girlfriends (including leggy model Michelle Norkett, whom the Daily Star dedicated a whole page to, on accounts of them “fucking, sucking and licking”). Jealous? Us? Never.

“I like to call this album ‘Courtney’s Loves And Losses,” laughs Peter.

Peter is the quiet one. He’s been moved around all his life – including a stint in Bristol where he was bullied by miniature royalists. His classmates in high school thought him weird cos he used half a can of hairspray every day, but liked him cos he was good at soccer.

“This band is my high school fantasy,” the guitarist states. “I’m not doing it for the girls. I’m not doing it for the free beer, either. I don’t drink. I used to drink far too much and it started to screw up my personal life. I wasn’t taking care of myself or anything, my girlfriend almost left me. It was either stop or lose everything. So I stopped.

“When I first met Courtney, I thought he was an arrogant son of a bitch, but he looked better than everybody else. He had a great haircut, which I copied for a while.”

Is it a sexual thing, being in The Dandy Warhols?

“No, it’s more like meditation,” the guitarist replies. “I’ve achieved trance-like states on stage.”

What’s it like, being on the road? One long blur.

Seattle: fancy venue, strange clientele, a marquee doubles as the dressing room. The band sound like a truculent Mary Chain duffing up Spiritualized – only way, way sexier.

Home town Portland is much better, Courtney roaring up to the club entrance just before showtime on his Seventies Honda superbike. The band play an absolute blinder – white light, white heat indeed – certain songs attaining a level of intensity rarely seen outside of My Bloody Valentine. Afterwords, we all move onto the karaoke bar where (extremely) fat women sing in country voices sweeter than honey.

“Portland is a big town and a small city,” Zia tells us. “If you throw a dime in the air it will land on a musician. Everyone recycles, everyone’s a vegetarian, but everyone also smokes and everyone’s an alcoholic. It’s a lazy town with a very supportive arts scene. It’s an hour in each direction to the coast, the mountains and the desert.”

Finally, there’s San Francisco, where the venue is everything you’d expect from the birthplace of the hippy; women sell fluorescent tulips, oils-based light shows play on the ceiling, spaced-out acid casualties regale the band with tales of illegal bike runs down to Brighton in the Sixties. The Dandy Warhols manage to sound both ethereal and churlish.

Some trick.

When I tell Courtney what Peter said about sex and the Dandy Warhols, he’s not surprised. Just a little… disappointed.

“I don’t know why Pete’s repressed,” he mourns. “It’s a genetic thing. His mum and dad are really nice, repressed people. Brent (DeBore: the Warhols’ drummer) is just as much into sex as me or Zia. Definitely. He’s so fucking gung-ho titties and pussies and dicks and butts and bellies and thighs… he’s a fucking animal. He’s a totally sexually driven human. But Pete…?”

His voice trails off, struck by a tangential thought.

“I’ve had sex to our albums more than Zia has. I put them on and often me and the girl end up completely naked, fucking. They’re great records for that – and they’re great for group sex. The first one’s better for that, the new one is better for…close the door, light a couple of candles, hang out, smoke some pot and end up all gooey.”

What’s it like being a sex symbol?

“It’s pretty great,” he replies modestly. “It makes you worry a lot, when you’re bummed out in the morning and you think you don’t look great. I feel like a sex symbol. I can’t help it. It’s a set of rules I’ve played for by a long time. When I discovered not everyone was as hyper-concerned about they way they looked, it came as a big surprise to me.”

When did you lose your virginity?

“When I was 18, out of high school,” the singer reveals. “I was so arrogant – nobody was good enough. Of course when I finally did lose it, it was just with some hussy-type girl. I’m almost throwing up drunk at a party and it’s gross. I was like, ‘Hey, this is cool, another blow-job, whatever,’ and next thing, this girl pulls me on top of her… it was also the only time I’ve ever caught anything – just a Dirty Bertie, not even the big gung-ho VD thing. It was cheap, everything about it was fucking cheap.”

“Who doesn’t want to have sex?” asks Zia rhetorically. “I’ve had a boyfriend for three years, but Courtney has different girls all the time who he loves having sex with. I appreciate hotties and watching pornos… a UK magazine quoted me as saying I had sex when I was 16. Why did they do that? I actually said 13.”

“I like to be restrained,” says Courtney, “but not by anything showy. Tying someone up gets a little silly – it takes agreement and time and meticulous attention. I like having too many goddamn clothes on and you can’t get them all off, but everything that needs to be there is there. It probably comes from growing up in Oregon where it’s rainy and cold all the time. I like girls that wear big hiking boots, jeans that don’t fit right, worn-out Levi’s and ratty sweaters. Oregon girls.”

Courtney describes himself as “someone obsessed with becoming well-grounded and well-rounded”. Good-looking sex to the max… and he knows it. He freely admits his end-of-school yearbook should’ve read This Guy Is Unbelievably Beautiful And That Is His Biggest Problem.

“Why did I first want to get up on stage?” he asks. “Women. Now? Woman. It’s a validation, creating something which reflects what’s going on inside you – because you know we’re just a bunch of aliens. This planet is way too hardcore for us to’ve come from here. So anything that can validate our existence here is good. That’s what artists do, we’re emotional support for the masses, we’re the last stand of freedom from the savageness of survival, we savour the moments of life.”

Why be in a band?

“It’s the peacock theory – ruffling your feathers to find the one woman who thinks she’s that special she could handle me. On stage, song after song after song… ‘This is how sensual and restrained I am’, ‘This is how balls-out, hair-pulling, brutally horse-fucking I am’, ‘This is how clever and witty and snide and socially razor-sharp I am’… Each song is a tour de force of one aspect of glorifying a human, namely myself. That’s one theory I love to blurt out, whether I truly believe it or not.”

Cool. Where’s Zia gone?

Zia is the live-wire catalyst behind The Dandy Warhols. She was brilliantly described in The Maker as a cross between Drew Barrymore and a “Watership Down” rabbit. Fun to know, but dangerous to be around for any length of time. Her end-of-school yearbook accurately had her down as Most Memorable and Most Likely To Ruin The System.

Asked about her tattoos, she pulls up the dress she’s owned since she was 11 to reveal leopard skin knickers and… little else. Gulp.

An ex-tomboy, Zia grew up in the small town of Battleground, Washington – “your typical log cabin upbringing”.

“Why be in a band? It’s fun. I like being on stage, I like traveling around the world for free, I like being flat broke all the time and never seeing my friends. Don’t get in this business if you want money. I made $4,000 last year.”

Do you have morals or scruples?

“Do you have to pick one or the other?” she asks. “I don’t know what scruples are. I have a big thing about honesty. It’s better to regret things you have done then you haven’t. Who cares if it’s a disaster? That’s why I shaved my head in school.”

Now here’s a coincidence.

I’m just asking the band about the bands reputation for taking drugs when – bang on cue – a girl turns up with a couple grammes of coke and 10 tabs of Ecstacy.


“We-ell,” she laughs, “I do drugs…”


“…more then anyne else,” she continues. “But we all work out and I’m a vegetarian and I have a juicer, I don’t drink coffee – I do all these things so I can do drugs. Why not have fun if you can?”

“You get the best hallucinations from sleep depravation,” Peter tells me later. “one time, we were playing our drug-dealer friend’s birthday party in San Francisco and there were all manner of chemicals present and the weekend lasted six days. The whole of the last day, almost 10 of us were left lying on the floor listening to Spiritualized over and over again, watching the friendly spiders on the ceiling. How could I tell they were friendly? They were smiling.”

Brent is the Warhols newest member. He looks like a young Bob Dylan and collects old women’s bicycles from the Sixties (“I was drooling over all the bikes in Amsterdam – the baskets, the bells, the streamers”). A keen guitarist, he’s addicted to Spiritualized’s “Lazer Guided Melodies” (“I’m going to have to go to counseling, I’ll sue them”).

According to Zia, Brent used to do “real naughty stuff” with his girlfriend in the crowd at The Dandy Warhols concerts while he was still a humble fan. And he loves being on the road with his new band…

“In Mormon city, Salt Lake City, we had all of the town’s 300 atheists at our show. And in Philadelphia, we were rocking so hard, Courtney came off the ground and went airborne at the end of ‘Be-In’.

“That’s what I love about this band,” he smiles, as he wanders off into the San Francisco night, searching for the next hedonistic kick. “It feels so sexual. Rock’n’roll has always had a sexual vibe – and if it doesn’t, then it’s not rock’n’roll.”

Amen to that, brother.