"We Are The World's Premier Fun Band"

Melody Maker
by Mark Beaumont
June 7-June 13, 2000

We travel to Oregon to see how Bohemian The Dandy Warhols are – and find them shooting guns and visiting the ‘Enchanted Forest’…

Ten-four, ten-four. Hostage situation in progress in a large warehouse building two miles east of Portland, Oregon.
Caucasian male, six-two, 150 pounds, black suit and shades, armed and dangerous, has captured a woman, mid-30’s, Eighties perm, dressed like “Dynasty” extra. Target is using hostage as a human shield and she is clearly in extreme duress. Snap-shooting skills required. Proceed with extreme caution; repeat, extreme caution.
Courtney Taylor is first on the scene. He eyes the perp, backing away behind the woman 30ft away. Ina flash, he calculates range, angles, distance to target. He turns his Glock handgun in his hands, lines up that life-or-death shot and - blam! - puts a bullet right between the hostage’s eyes.
“The Glock is the cheapest gun,” he grins, placing it back amid the minor arsenal of loaded firearms arranged before him and taking a snub-nosed pistol, “a real gang-banger. But I prefer the Smith & Wesson 9mm. I think they’re the best gun makers. Their guns feel like the most perfect machinery.”
Blam-blam-blam-blam-blam-blam! Clip emptied into the woman’s chest, Courtney drops the steaming metal and selects a .45 magnum. “Hey,” he says, handing it to The Maker. “You gotta shoot this one. This can shoot through schools.”
God bless America. The only country in the world where a thoroughly pissed music journalist can enter a firing range and be handed some of the most powerful handguns in the world and told to “Go for your life”. Still, c’mon, Earl, let’s go bag us a hostage. Blam! Hahaha!
Ahem. Visit famed rock psychedelicists The Dandy Warhols in their West Coast hometown of Portland and you expect them to be slumped in a beanbag rolling blunts, not strutting through a warehouse packing heat. We came to Dandyland to see out 13 tales of urban bohemia (in honour of their magnificent new album of that name), but on a Wednesday night at the out-of-town Shoot Club they’re armed and they’re angry. See, they feel they’ve been misrepresented, landed with an image of being saucer-eyeballed drug Hoovers draped naked atop a writhing pile of supermodels. When, in reality, they’re just four hometown bohemians who like a bit of a smoke, a snort and a fiddle and all that, but are practically Cliff-esque in relation to some bands they won’t name.
“We’ve been on tour with bands,” singer Courtney recalls, “where we’ve been going, ‘Hey, aren’t you guys going to get some rest? You’ve been up all night.’ And they go ‘Fuck that! We’ve still got an ounce of coke left!”
Are you trying to tell us that you’re one of rock’s calmer bands?
“Definitely,” nods guitarist Peer Holmstrom. “We’ve toured with bands that are way out compared to us.”
So let it be with large and ne’er mentioned hence. The Dandy Warhols take drugs. The Dandy Warhols have filthy sex. The Dandy Warhols Get naked in public. Got it? Right, now we can delve further into this heart of brightness. Because The Dandy Warhols bracket their salacious sex’n’drugs’n’nudity antics under the heading “fun”, along with shooting guns, eating steak, conversing intelligently and frolicking through the Enchanted Forest. They’re addicted to nothing but The Good Times. Hop on board the Hometown Mystery Tour. It’s the ride of a lifetime.

“We have a ghost.”
Zia McCabe – crunches ice on her front porch, one leg flung over the banister, one eye on the police patrol team investigating a suspected break-in across the street. Courtney and Peter not stoned affirmation.
“He’s called Mr. Cross. He turns on the heat or the fans or turns on different lights, and all the windows would be closed. Supposedly he built this house and he was all into all kinds of mojo, like eating cockroaches and stuff. We’ve made friends, I think.”
Have you ever seen him?
“No. But one time I was trying to learn how to astral-project. And I left my body and I flew up to the ceiling and I started flying out of my bedroom, but then I thought, ‘He’ll be out there! What if he looks really dead?’ After that, I haven’t tried to leave my body because there’s another person without a body living here. I wanted to fly around by myself. I didn’t want company.”
Zia lives in the closest the Portland has to a ‘hood, the north-east quarter, amid burnt-out houses and mixed-race homesteads. In a former life, her house was an illegal drinking hole (“Some guy got shot in the front lawn once”), but now Zia owns it, rents rooms in true rock’n’roll landlady style and sunbathes naked on her bedroom balcony each morning in full view of five cats and one disembodied spirit. Her basement – with mammoth television, drapes and sofas – looks like the worlds largest pot den, and is Portland in microcosm. Could any other US city have produced the Dandy Warhols?
“Minneapolis,” considers Courtney. “There’s the Prince thing there, but there’s Husker Du and Soul Asylum too. So we’d have been a bit more indie. We wouldn’t have been as much fun.”
Is Portland a particularly bohemian place to live?
“It certainly is,” grins Courtney. “San Francisco isn’t so bohemian any more. You can’t be a poor artist there, you can only be a successful artist, but you can here. From my apartment you can see buildings from the Fifties, the Forties and the Twenties, a building that went up eight months ago and a green hill with houses on it. Portland is urban, but it’s so fucking bohemian, mountainous. Bohemia is part of eastern Europe, and a looks a lot like this.”
The Eastern Bloc on the West Coast, y’say? This we have got to see.

Courtney Taylor lives in what has become known as the Rock Dorm, a college-style building where, every time an apartment has become vacant, Courtney has reserved it for mates and drinking partners. One such neighbour is drummer Brent Deboer (artfuck surname of the century or what?), whom we discover lounging upon a red velvet chaise lounge in Courtney’s apartment, watching the nude supermodel scene from “Pret A Porter” on repeat.
It is between these two locales that the dandy Warhols have weaved a distinctly boho scene where fun is the law and if you wanna get naked, hey, Sartre would have approved. This carefree vibe was the Portland way, but when they tried to explain it to British music hacks, the words “Hellzapoppin’ Hedonists A-Go-Go” flashed in their eyes. Have they been too honest for their own good?
“We made a conscious decision that we weren’t gonna stop talking about it,” Courtney says. “We’re not gonna change who the fuck we are just because other people are gonna be a dumbass. That’s exactly the opposite to what we’re about in life.”
“Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction,” adds Zia. “Any lifestyle that you don’t need to make up stuff about, that’s rock’n’roll. There’s so much happening that’s interesting that when people revert to making up stuff they think’s gonna be interesting, it’s such a letdown.”
Trouble is, no matter how interesting your philosophy, as soon as you take your top off onstage, your point is forgotten, as the average tight-sphinctered Brit either (a) goes, “Cover your eyes, Deirdre, we’re leaving” or (b) messes his trousers.
“That’s because you guys have worked it up to such an expectation of having the newest stunt,” Zia argues. “you see something different and you expect that being different was the motive, not that you’re naturally that person. I couldn’t fucking believe it, I do what I normally do and everyone thought it must be a political angle or a schtick.”
“Right,” Courtney interjects, as if he’s only now seeing the light. “That was the misconception. We simply did it because we could. We came from a scene where you could and that’s why we chose that scene. We didn’t even play with other bands. We’d play cabarets between performance artists.”
“It’s a freelance art, basically,” declares Zia. “We went to Primal Scream in Brixton Academy and I’m having fun, it’s the best show I’ve ever seen. This guy we’ve met is all hot, so I’m like, ‘Take your shirt off!’ and we’re hugging and sweating and the cool thing is we look around and not one person gives a shit. That’s Woodstock. So it’s the press thinking they have to get people worked up about it, not people actually getting worked up.”
Courtney: “And if you’d have been some skinny supermodel with big tits, it would’ve been completely different. But you’re just some hippy.”
Zia: “I have a completely average body, you know.”
And let “completely average” be the last words on Zia’s anatomy. Hell knows, there’s m ore fun than mammaries to be had out there.

Thursday, 4pm, and we’re rolling down Enchanted Way with “Age Of Aquarius” on the radio, a mini-bong on the go and Courtney and Brent jiving in the front seats. We’re headed for the Enchanted Forest, a spooky, freak-out, flashback-inducing amusement park on the outskirts of Salem, where CS Lewis must have dropped some serious ‘Nam acid with Hans Christian Anderson in ’68.
The moment they step through the gates, The Dandy Warhols turn into a bunch of additive-fuelled toddlers with a candy-floss death-wish. There’s Courtney, emerging from underneath a teepee fire stack, having crawled half a mile through a maze of pitch-black Indian caves. There’s Peter, sprinting full-tilt through a topsy-turvy house to see if it’s make him dizzier. There’s Brent, diving into a 10ft-high witch’s mouth and sliding out through her hair. And there’s Zia, forcing the park to stay open an extra half-hour, so she can have another go in the log flume.
“It’s the happiest place on Earth,” says Peter, as we wave goodbye to the gingerbread house and head for home. “A bunch of hippies on mushrooms built themselves a little amusement park.”
“Drugs aren’t as fun as Enchanted Forest,” Courtney adds. “Nor is shooting guns. And the greatest musical thing we’ve ever had together was better than the best sex I ever had. And I’ve had some fucking perfect sex.”
You seem to be obsessed with regaining a sense of childhood.
Courtney: “That’s what we strive for all the time, anyway, y’know. I guess that’s why we’re a rock band.”
Peter: “Because we refuse to grow up?”
Courtney: “Yeah. I mean, there’s the thing – what is fun? We are the world’s premier fun band. We’re as serious as Radiohead about our music, but we can draw the line and say, ‘The music’s done, let’s have some fun and not just gripe about things to make us seem deeper.’”
Even on the Enchanted Way, however, the fun has to stop somewhere. Today it’s in the parking lot of value village, a thrift superstore. As the Dandymobile swings for a spot of after-hours perusing of dead men’s shirts, a suspected shoplifter is wrestled screaming to the ground.
“Hey!” yells the guy’s accomplice at The Maker’s photographer. “That guy shouldn’t be taking pictures!” “Free country,” Courtney shrugs.
Precisely. Time to hit the bars.

Us? The Dandy Warhols and Melody Maker? In a karaoke lounge in Portland’s northwest quarter, with after-hours beer on tap, unchaperoned ladies in the vicinity and a private booth available? Haven’t they considered the consequences?
Places like this, of course, make up the dark moods and vibrant passions of “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia”. It’s an album which rises and falls like an alcoholic bell-ringer, opening with the lazy morning horns of “Godless”, before Courtney descends into the brooding sitar’n’whisper tomb of “Mohammed” and its talk of demons and insecurity. The comedown to and all comedowns.
“I think a natural instinct, as an intellectual creature, is to be self-aware,” Courtney muses, “and it can get in the way and freeze you up so that you can’t do anything, because you’re so concerned about what’s the right action to take. ‘Mohammed’ was just wanting to talk about that circular reasoning thing, trying to make it a bit comforting, saying that in case you think you’re weird or crazy for thinking this, you’re not.”
From such ice-pack-on-temple, scratch-marks-on-wall beginnings, the Dandies’ masterpiece turns into a diary of a day in the life of a Warhol about town. Spiritual hangover conquered, Courtney goes on to rock some “hose-sized pills” (“Horse Pills”), become obsessed with getting his end away (“Get Off”) and finally slumps into a blissful reverie and gets dumped in a tax home, howling beautifully under the impression that he’s a country’n’western Thom Yorke (“Gospel”).
“That’s the delivery of a lifetime for me,” Courtney says. “I go through some really fucked-up head shit when we’re recording. My relationships end every time we record a record, no matter how strong they were. And that was the one where the dust settled and I listened to it months later and thought, ‘Fuck, where did that come from?’ But that’s in me every day. It’s a shitty dichotomy that to make it happen I will fuck myself into a corner for a long time.”
But that’s maturity for you and while it smarts inside, it shines on the outside. Until now, The Dandy Warhols have always sounded like a bunch of doped-out hippy kids clearly having a rollicking good laugh, but too razzled off their Rizlas to write more than three tunes per album. Now they sound like world beaters: more focused; more self-aware; more willing to add a chorus to their space drones, without fear of banishing the spirit of the eternal Jason Pierce from their bongos.
“Things have fallen into place,” says Peter. “We thought if we couldn’t do it this time, then we’re just not the right band.”
“Here’s another theory I’ve been thinking about recently,” Courtney concludes. “There’s a good possibility that, on any level, dumb person, smart person, people only have fun when they feel like they’re learning. That goes for sports, anger, arguments, work, job, humdrum, doldrums, drunk, drugs, sex.”
What have you learnt about yourself making this record?
Courtney grins.
“Get smarter, get wiser, but for God’s sake don’t grow up.”
And with that, he’s off to phone some of his model friends and convince them to appear naked in his next video because he can, honey. He can.

Courtney on Gun Ethics:
“The people who go to a shooting range spend money to shoot guns and feel OK with it. But guns, for me, are total American culture. It’s cowboys. Having guns not being legal is a smart thing, though. I love ‘em, I grew up shooting guns, but they should not be legal. You gotta remember that it’s far tougher to be cool than it is cool to be tough.”