Dean Wareham,
The TVD Interview

“But you/You and I/Hate to see/A flower die,” sings Dean Wareham on his first-ever solo LP, the just-released eponymous Dean Wareham. It’s a typical sentiment for the legendary indie rock fixture, who since 1987 has been making beautifully bewitching sounds, first with cult faves and dreampop pioneers Galaxie 500, then with indie-rock “supergroup” Luna, and finally with duo Dean and Britta, Britta being Luna’s former bassist and Wareham’s wife.

Wareham, who hails from New Zealand and still retains an accent, is an extraordinary guitarist, a wonderfully witty and excellent songwriter, and a visionary. And he’s still in full command of his formidable powers, as he demonstrates on his new LP, which will slay you with dreamy beauty (“The Dancer Disappears”), blow you away with ought-to-be-a-smash hit “Holding Pattern,” and break your heart with “Love Is Not a Roof Against the Rain.”

And fortunate for us he’s going on tour to play a career sampling of songs from Galaxie 500 to the present, with a few very cool covers likely thrown in as well. He’ll be at the U Street Music Hall in Washinton, D.C. on Friday, April 4, with The Vacant Lots opening.

I got the chance to speak to Wareham by telephone about the new album, the odds against a Galaxie 500 reunion, his thoughts on releasing his new album on 8-track, and speed-metal superstar Glen Campbell. He was a good sport throughout, despite my weird questions, and I humbly submit that if you’re not at The U Street Music Hall on April 4 you had better have a damn good excuse. Like you have Ebola, are at that very moment enjoying the best sex of your life, or you’re wearing jail house orange. Because this is one show where attendance is mandatory.

I write for The Vinyl District, so I’m supposed to ask artists about their feelings about vinyl but I always forget. So—are you a fan?

I have a large vinyl collection myself. When you live in New York City, you can’t be a large collector of anything. But now I live in LA, so I’ve been buying albums. CDs are disappearing. Buying music is disappearing. I feel like most people who buy vinyl rip it to their computer anyway.

Is your new album available on vinyl?

It’s out now on CD. Vinyl will be coming out next week.

I’ve been thinking about what might be best for your career, because I tend to worry, and I think you should consider releasing something on 8-track. I think it’s due to make a big comeback, and you’ll want to be at the forefront of the big 8-track revival. I love it when you’re in the middle of a song and—click!—there’s this long delay that cuts your favorite song right in half! So what do you think?

(Laughs) No. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Hey, it’s your career.

But I am going to do a live cassette from England. I guess I could do it on 8-track. The cassette is just a retro object that comes with a download code. I have 12 tracks down, 4 of which will be given away to people who buy the new album from my website. The UK label wants to do the cassette.

What was it like working with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James? [Note: James produced Wareham’s new LP.] At first glance, you two seem rather an odd coupling.

Jim’s a good producer. He should do a lot more of it. He’s a positive force to be around. He’s a good musician and has good instincts. Some of the songs would sound very different without his input. We had fun making this record. We recorded it in his house in Kentucky with some very nice equipment. He played the guitar solo on “Babe in the Woods.” He got that fuzz effect by plugging his guitar right into the recording console and cranking it up. That’s how the very first fuzz guitar solo, by Grady Martin on Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry,” was recorded. By accident in his case, more or less.

How big is your touring band?

Four pieces. Me, of course, on guitar and vocals. And my wife Britta will be playing bass. Roger Brogan, a friend of ours, plays drums. And Raymond Richards will be playing extra guitar and keyboards. He used to tour with Hope Sandoval and Mojave 3. We’re rehearsing. We recorded the new album about a year and a half ago and you have to relearn your own songs. It’s like, how did I play that part again?

I love your guitar solo on “I Can Only Give My All.” How would you describe your guitar playing?

Whenever I’m completely lost, that’s when I play a good one. Sometimes the wrong note is the right note.

I know this is an impossible question, and that’s why I’m asking it. Does Dean Wareham have a favorite Dean Wareham song?

Wow. I don’t know. I really like the first single I ever released, “Tugboat.” It’s all been downhill from there.

[We both laugh.]

Do you think you’ll ever reunite with Galaxie 500 or Luna?

A Luna reunion isn’t out of question. That could happen. A Galaxie 500 reunion isn’t going to happen. That would be too weird. It’s been so long. That would be like getting back together with a girlfriend from high school. Only in this case it would be two girlfriends.

What’s the first album you ever owned?

The first album I ever owned was a Neil Diamond record. But it wasn’t a Neil Diamond record. It was marketed as a Neil Diamond record, but it turned out to be somebody imitating Neil Diamond. Which they failed to mention on the album. I got totally ripped off. (Laughs.)

Speaking of Neil Diamond, I just saw Glenn Campbell. He was great. His guitar playing, wow. He can really play at metal-like speeds, he can really shred. He was using a teleprompter, he’s getting up there, but that guitar… Hey, time’s up. I have to go.

Wait! One last very important question! It’s a sort of Rorschach question for musicians. Which would you have rather played, Woodstock or Altamont?

(Laughs) I think I’d have rather been at Altamont. The Stones were there.

I’m glad you said that.

Dean Wareham’s brand new, self-titled LP is on store shelves right now. On vinyl.

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