By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
The bands that best uphold the traditions of sex, drugs and rock
'n' roll are those that don't holler about it. Your basic '80s
hair metal band was no doubt a staunch purveyor
of that triumvirate of debauchery, but how subversive can your fans
feel about the experience when you're waving your fist in the air
at every opportunity and giving away the game with a whooping,
"Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roooooooooll!''?
The warm, wily wash of the Dandy Warhols' trippy roar is more
comfortable — and truly subversive. The sex in the feeling of
these songs isn't employed as a domination strategy. The rock 'n'
roll has less noise, more melody and, as Tom Wolfe might write, O!
the kairos! the vibrations! The drugs are, well, definitely a
factor — though the Warhols' hot single, "Not if You Were the
Last Junkie on Earth,'' and particularly its garish, "Price Is
Right'' kind of video, presents a more poignant case against heroin
than anything the Partnership for a Drug-Free America could stick
on your television.
This is, after all, a band that takes its cues from the Velvet
Underground and T. Rex — and they may be the first band of the
'90s to claim those influences and genuinely deserve the prestige
Last week, Eric Hedford got on the phone to shed some light on
the Dandys experience. Hedford is the band's drummer and occasional
Moog noodler, and he cleared some of the haze surrounding the
band's talent for mooching, its troubled effort making the current
album ("The Dandy Warhols Come Down'' on Capitol Records) and its
chance defiance of categorization.
Thomas Conner: You're in Portland (Ore.)? How did you score this
rare moment at home?
Eric Hedford: Three weeks in sunny Portland, then we go out for
another three months ... We'll be concentrating on the South,
because it's winter. Smart, huh? Last winter we were touring the
north, and we broke down in 70-below weather outside Minneapolis.
We fired our road manager on the spot. We plan to hit Florida this
winter in bathing suits.
TC: How's the tour been going?
EH: We put 30,000 miles on our van. Someone told me that's
once or twice around the whole planet. We've played with Blur, the
Charlatans, Radiohead, Supergrass, Spiritualized ...
TC: Those are all British bands. I thought you were trying to
avoid being called Brit wanna-bes.
EH: There aren't too many American bands we're compatible
with right now. Our mission is to find an American band to tour
with. The closest we got is this Canadian band we've got with us
next. I can't remember their name. (Note: It's Treble Charger, the
opening band for the Tulsa show.)
TC: Do you enjoy life on the road?
EH: It's a trippy way to live. We've got a contest we play
called Guess What the Date Is. I never win, and I've got a watch
with the date on it.
TC: What's different about this tour and your first jaunts with
the debut album, ""Dandy's Rule OK''?
EH: Well, since we just went around the world cramped in a
van, not much. For this next leg, though, we've got a big, rock
tour bus. I'm hoping it's going to have some big, cheesy eagle
painted on the side.
TC: Courtney (Taylor, lead singer) frequently confesses to the
band's winning ability at mooching. Isn't that one of the great
fringe benefits of being a rock star?
EH: All I know is that people are always giving us stuff. I
don't know if this happens with every rock band in America. Maybe
we just attract people doing this. The people who really count are
the ones who give us things like clean socks or fresh food. Those
people become our friends. They'll get invited onto the bus. We get
plenty of beer and stuff, but it's those things we don't get from
home that win us over ... Someone actually gave us socks once after
a show. We thought that was the coolest thing. We threw away our
TC: Is there an art to mooching?
EH: Don't take advantage of the small people. Go after the
corporates, the ones with deep pockets. When we started getting
courted by the record companies, we took full advantage of the
thing. We didn't say no to a single person. Every label in
existence was flying us back and forth to L.A. and New York, buying
us these ridiculous dinners and trying to impress us. You have to
jump on that because once you get signed the label doesn't give you
anything. Then you have to sell a bunch of records before they even
send you a bottle of champagne on your birthday.
TC: Wow, a spirit of hedonism in a band — how refreshing. What
happened to that hedonism in rock 'n' roll?
EH: A lot of bands just turned into a big bunch of pansies.
I can't figure it out. But then, we think we party a lot and you
look at someone like Fleetwood Mac — and, man, we're nothing
compared to that. People back in the '70s, like Elton John, they
were crazy. They knew how to live. We work hard, too, though. We're
pretty good at rehearsing, and we play relatively sober, saving the
fun for afterward.
TC: How responsible of you. Well, if this reckless spirit is
creeping back into rock 'n' roll, does that mean grunge is dead?
EH: The mentality lives on, though, as far as that
do-it-yourself spirit goes. I mean, the grunge people were pretty
good at not being pretentious at first, and I liked how most of
them had a good sense of humor. Those are the things we stole from
it, and we grew up around it in Portland. We just never dressed
like that or tried to think we were cooler than everyone else.
TC: Did you consciously try to avoid being like the then-hot
EH: We started when grunge was still around. It was the
opposing force for us, and we just tried to distance ourselves from
it — not because we didn't like it, really, but because it just
wasn't us. Grunge died out and then we realized that the rest of
the world thinks that if you're from the Northwest, you're a grunge
band. They don't realize that there were a lot of different styles
going on here.
TC: There was some trouble in the making of the new record. What
EH: We had a false start. We got done with a big tour
(after the first record) and didn't have enough material prepared.
We thought we'd just go into the studio and do an experimental
record. It didn't work. Some of us were stoned all the time, and
some of us didn't care. Capitol heard the record and didn't think
it had any songs on it, so we basically canned it.
We still have the option of releasing it. I don't know if we will.
We went on tour again and wound up focusing on writing good
songs. We still used some of the experimental things we'd learned
and just applied them to the new songs for this record. It worked
out well. It's got new angles -- it's not just 12 pop songs. The
video helped make the single ("Not if You Were the Last Junkie on
Earth'') pretty big, but now we've got all these people coming to
shows expecting them to be all pop. We usually start a show with a
trippy, psychedelic jam, and those people stand there not knowing
what the hell is going on.
We like to take people on a trip — bring them up, bring them
down, make it move a bit. We don't have a set list. We just get a
feel for what mood the crowd is in and start picking songs.
Sometimes that (screws) us up, and sometimes it's incredible.
TC: You're a club DJ there in Portland, too, right?
EH: Yeah. I was doing that Halloween night. I'm still
hungover from that.
TC: How does DJ-ing relate to what you do in the band?
EH: When I'm a DJ, I don't have a set list, either. You
just read the crowd. Also, a lot of my drumming comes from a DJ
perspective. I like that monotonous kind of groove. I'm not a big
rock drummer who likes to do big crashes and solos; I like just
sitting in the background and grooving out. As a DJ, I got into
that monotonous thing. And everyone's saying that electronic music
and stuff is going to be this next big thing, but I don't like
seeing the bands live. They're boring. I do, however, love seeing a
TC: Does the monotonous groove come from the Velvet Underground
EH: I haven't listened to them a lot myself. Courtney and
Zia (McCabe, keyboardist) listen to them. It's that same idea,
though: the three-chord mentality and not a lot of changes in the
song. You just sink into that trippy groove.
Plus, a lot of it comes from the fact we're just not good
players. We're quite basic, and we admit that, but there's a lot
you can do with the basics and still have fun. That way, we're not
up there worrying about the big, complex chord change that's coming
TC: And the Andy Warhol allusion in your name?
EH: It's just a cool name. That whole pop art scene was
amazing, though. We're notorious for nicking things out of other
decades and throwing them together, and that's what the pop artists
were doing -- taking what people recognized and presenting it
without pretension. You can steal everything and put it together
and say it's a brand-new creation. Then sit back and watch people
run around trying to categorize you.
TC: Been there, done that.
EH: What, the categorizing?
TC: Yep. It can't be done anymore, though. I don't think there
are categories anymore, at least not on the scope for mass culture.
EH: Wow. See? You just come to our show and let all that
fall away. Fall, fall away.
With Treble Charger
When 7 p.m. Sunday
Where Cain's Ballroom, 423 N. Main St.
Tickets $5 at the door
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.