Dean Ween Talks New Solo Release ‘The Deaner Album’: Dean Ween discusses solo debut in our exclusive interview.
2016 has proven a busy year for Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo). In addition to participating in the recent Ween reunion tour, he’s also prepping for the release of his first solo effort, The Deaner Album (out October 21st via ATO Records).
Recorded at his new home studio, The Deaner Album features both his Dean Ween Group lineup (including Ween alums Claude Coleman Jr., Dave Dreiwitz, and Glenn McClelland), as well as guest performers including Parliament Funkadelic’s Michael Hampton, Meat Puppets Curt Kirkwood, and veteran drummer Chuck Treece.
I recently spoke with Dean about the creative process behind his new album and upcoming tour, his fishing charter business, what it was like reuniting with Gene Ween (Aaron Freeman) after three years, and much more. Enjoy the Q&A (edited only for content and clarity) below:
SLIS: So The Deaner Album is your solo début. How did it begin to take shape? What was the creative process like? Was it different in any way than past musical projects?
DW: A long time ago, about four or five years ago I guess. But it didn’t really catch fire until I built this new studio. Cause I had a bunch of songs that accumulated…and like any good record you go on one of those writing binges. And you don’t know how long they’re gonna last, because this one is still going on like a year later (laughs).
SLIS: Speaking of your new studio, did that influence how any of the songs took shape and was it helpful to have a spot you could record whenever you felt like it?
DW: The main difference is in the past with Ween when we would record…touring was something that I never really wanted to do because I thought we were going to be anonymous. I didn’t realize we were going to be out touring so much. Because Ween live its such a thing you know? And it’s our bread-and-butter: it’s the only way we make a living actually anymore because people don’t buy albums anymore! (laughing)
So for this one I started to visualize the shit for the stage and I use my band a lot more on everything, along with a lot of people who I always wanted to play with. Because when Ween would record we don’t even consider the live thing. Like if we need to slow the tape down to get the maximum effect or use the drum machine because it sounds better than real drums. But when it comes time to perform that shit live we just figure it out and just adapted it, but for this album it’s something I visualized very much for the road. So in that way it was very different.
SLIS: I saw in the press release that in addition to your regular lineup you had some guest musicians as well including Curt Kirkwood and Chuck Treece. Did you write certain songs with other collaborators in mind, or did it evolve from jam sessions with friends?
DW: I absolutely did with Kid Funkadelic. (laughs.) That’s one of those things that I learned: if you don’t ask you’re never going to know. Like with Ween on La Cucaracha we asked David Sanborn to play sax on it, because we always wanted him on a smooth sounding song. So then we wrote the perfect song, Your Party, and we asked and it turned out he was a big fan. Because of course he is, the guy’s got incredible taste in music! (laughs). And his discography is incredible…he played on Garland Jeffreys Wild in the Streets. I mean he played on fucking everything; Bowie, etc.
So I just started asking. With Kirk, that goes back about 10 years ago. I always wanted to do something with him because he’s my favorite living guitar player pretty much…because I always thought that The Meat Puppets were punk rock’s Allman Brothers. So we developed this great friendship and now we play together all the time. He was just here last week. We shot the video for that song Exercise Man.
And we’re touring together, so we’re going to be doing a lot of playing together…I’ll probably get him in the band at some future tour. So yeah I did visualize things like that. Kidd Funkadelic (Michael Hampton) is like the biggest one…between Doodoo Chasers and Mercedes-Benz…I mean P Funk is my favorite band of all time. It used to be the Beatles but now they’re right behind them as my favorite. So Michael was a big factor in the song selection. He gets to play a lot on this record; I mean he’s the lead guitar player in Funkadelic! What else can you say? Rock and Roll Hall of Fame you know?
SLIS: Speaking of Exercise Man, that’s one of my favorites off the new album. The lyrics cracked me up. I love how angry it comes across.
DW: Wait until you see the video! I’m so pissed it didn’t come out today. I think it’s going to come out tomorrow. Because when you see it, you’re going to want to call me back because the fucking video, it’s so funny.
SLIS: I can’t wait!
DW: It’s so funny I am the exercise man in the video. I’m the dude in pink spandex holding up traffic for miles and starting fights. It’s really fucking funny and then the band are all in spandex…It’s hilarious. Every time I play it for someone they make me play it like 3 more times! And it’s only a minute 58 seconds so that makes it even better (laughing). There’s not one wasted second in that video.
SLIS: Was that written about a particular person you observed or just a goof on that personality type?
DW: No! It’s just that guy you know? Everybody knows the exercise man! Like what are you doing? Like we’re coming home from drinking and partying all night and you’re out on your fucking bike in the snow? Fuck you dude! I take it personally! You think you’re better than me? I’m going to live longer than you asshole! You’re going to drop dead on that bike!
SLIS: Tammy has a kind of old-school Johnny Cash vibe. You’re no stranger to doing country songs, but this has a unique feel to it. How did that track come into shape?
DW: Tammy is unique among all the songs I’ve ever recorded whereas we cut that totally live…vocals and everything. I had the song which was about a roadie at first but then I changed the lyrics a little bit. It was called Lonesome Driver at first. So I wrote it and I called Ray the drummer and Lucas the bass player and I was like “I want to cut this live.” So I played it for them and we ran through it like once or twice and we had it all miked up and we just cut it with backing vocals and everything.
And I was going to take that song off the record. But then I listened to it once and I was like this is definitely going on there. I really like that song: it was a creeper because I didn’t know I was capable of cutting a song live like that; singing it and playing along really tight to the beat, and it captured that. It’s really high energy. It sounds like the last song of the night from a band that just put on a good concert. We were recording every day so our chops were up very high and we pulled it off. So thank you for mentioning that because that’s a reaffirmation that I did the right thing by not axing it!
SLIS: You mentioned in the press release that Shwartze Pete was a tribute to Les Paul, and was originally written for a television pilot. What made you decide it would be a good fit for the album?
DW: Yeah I’m really proud of that one. One of my favorite guitar players that ever lived was Les Paul. You know he gets all this credit for everything but his guitar playing. I mean he invented the electric guitar, he invented the multi-track tape recorder, he invented all this shit you know, so people think of all this other stuff and not his guitar playing so much. But he happened to be one of the best guitar player that ever lived.
But when we did it for the TV show…we brought in clarinets and all this shit but this is what I wanted it to really sound like. I always said if I put out a record I’ll put that on there. And Shwartze Pete is an amazing story. Because when we were in Europe on a Ween tour there were these people in black face all over Austria, Holland and Belgium dressed up like in a Santa Claus kind of vibe.
The story is that if you’ve been bad, Schwartze Pete comes down and he takes the kids and he puts them in a bag and he takes them to Spain.
And then he just leaves them in the middle of nowhere in Spain if they’ve been bad! So we’re seeing these black-faced dudes everywhere and then the tour manager who was from Belgium explained it to us. He was like “yeah he takes you to Spain where the Moors are from and just leaves you in the middle of Spain on Christmas morning.” And we were like holy shit that is fucking horrible!! And they celebrate this in Germany and Austria to this day. Shwartze Pete is everywhere! Just the whole idea of him sticking you in a bag, and leaving you in the middle of nowhere in Spain on Christmas crying, it’s devastating!
SLIS: I can’t believe they can still get away with that!
DW: But it’s true! Seriously look it up on Wikipedia!
SLIS: I’m gonna have to now. That is completely messed up.
SLIS: Mercedes-Benz is another standout track. It has a very funky vibe, almost like early Prince. Was that an homage? How did that song come about?
DW: Nah it’s really more of a P Funk influence, something to shake your ass to you know? It’s great man…and if you go to my Facebook page, I posted the live version from like last night…it was my birthday…and you’ll see that song live. It’s so great–it can just go on forever and just gets better the further it goes. Brought in horns and all this other stuff.
SLIS: Speaking of Prince: I know that both he and David Bowie were big musical influences for you as a musician. Did their deaths this year have any personal impact upon you?
DW: Yes, both of them were devastating. Add Lemmy into that conversation as well. That really hurt. I don’t think Prince’s passing has even settled in fully yet. He was still getting better when he passed away. It’s beyond comprehension really.
SLIS: You’re also an avid fisherman, and you even have your own fishing charter business. What inspired you to start your own business and what does fishing fulfill for you personally compared to your musical career?
DW: Fishing is a very personal and peaceful presence in my life. I am in love with the ocean, I think of the ocean as GOD actually. It’s so powerful and magical and mysterious and makes you feel mortal, small, and insignificant–it goes on forever and will go on forever. Many men have always been drawn to it, I am among them.
SLIS: The Ween reunion tour has been very well received. What has it been like reuniting with Gene and playing together after four years?
DW: Like riding a bike, the music was right there the second we played our first reunited song. It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s great to have it back and to be Deaner again truthfully. It is our life’s work, 32 years…now I’m 46.
Thanks to Dean for taking the time out for this interview. You can pre-order ‘The Deaner Album’ via the Amazon link below. And click here for Dean Ween Group October tour dates and ticket info (with openers The Meat Puppets).