Interview with Evan Dando by Marty Duda
From 13th Floor, 4th June 2017
Despite missing last night’s show in Christchurch due to “unforeseen circumstances”, Evan Dando is expected to perform tonight at Auckland’s Tuning Fork in celebration of the reissue of his only solo album, 2003’s Baby I’m Bored.
Dando has always had a somewhat “erratic” reputation which made the prospect of interviewing him all that more interesting.
The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda tracked down Mr Dando while he was taking part in one of his favourite pastimes…fishing for striped bass on Martha’s Vineyard.
ED: We were fishing. I live in Martha’s Vineyard. We’re fishing right now at Menemsha, up at the harbour. The striped bass come in.
MD: Very cool! What kind of fishing do you do up there? What are you looking for?
ED: We’re catching stripers. The striped bass are coming in now.
MD: Nice one. And are they biting?
ED: Yeah, yeah! My girlfriend just got one.
MD: Excellent! And do you cook them up? Fry ‘em up, or what do you do with them?
ED: They’re mostly like schoolies coming in right now, the big ones are starting to come in, but, it’s mostly like too small – they’re like not quite 27 inches or whatever, they’re a little smaller so we have to throw them back.
MD: Is that something you do quite often? Are you an avid fisherman?
ED: Yes! I am. I love fishing.
MD: Yeah, I kinda grew up in Western Pennsylvania and I used to just fish – that was all there was to do, stand on the stream and fish!
ED: Right? It’s really fun. Which – trout or bass, small mount? What would you catch there?
MD: We used to catch…rock bass, largemouth bass, actually – and the occasional trout, but they were pretty small.
ED: Great trout, yeah. Great. Did they stock trout, or did they…snatch. There’s a pretty big bird over there. A blue heron
MD: Ever done any fishing in New Zealand when you been here?
ED: No, but I hear it’s really good!
MD: It’s amazing.
ED: Yeah, I wanna try it. Love New Zealand, it’s just a great place. You’re from the States, yeah, you like living there?
MD: I love it, yeah, I’ve been here 22 years, it’s good.
ED: Holy shit, yeah, you remember the Gluepot, or just not quite…?
MD: The Gluepot, yeah, it was just closing down when I got here, yeah.
ED: Yeah, we played there, it was just closing down too, it was like 1991. It was awesome. It was cool, it was like CBGB’s, a classic place. We were playing in a place where all the…all the black metal bands play. I played there in – what’s it called? Burgen. Classic old places.
MD: Yeah. Yeah. Well, see, the last time you were here –
ED: There was a guy from Immortal.
MD: The last time you were here, was, what – 2014, with the Lemonheads, at the Tuning Fork, I think it was.
ED: Yeah – we did one, we were next to a stadium that was fun still…it’s always fun to come to New Zealand.
MD: I was impressed, cause I went to that show, and I noticed that you spent quite a bit of time afterwards, talking to fans and stuff, and just kind of hanging out. Is that something that you do a lot?
ED: Yeah. You know, when you feel like it, you do it, pretty much. In New Zealand I probably will feel like it. I got some friends down there and I always had a good time, there, and like I love New Zealand music, so those were easily hang out; like there’s Dave, Dave from the 3Ds, I see him and just people that I know over there and people I might meet too.
ED: Get some Street Chant too…we brought them on tour.
MD: They’re fantastic.
ED: Yeah, we brought them on tour In the States once. It was fun.
MD: You’re kind of also celebrating the reissue of your solo album, Baby I’m Bored, is that right?
ED: Yup. Yeah, fourteen years to the day. Um, I think it’s really weird the time to do a tour, they’re just putting it out, so any excuse to tour…we haven’t gone out for a while, so it’s fine.
MD: What’s it like, going back fourteen years and revisiting an album like that – does it bring back certain memories, feelings?
ED: Yeah. They’ve been pretty uneventful fourteen years, though. It’s kind of like the same as now really,its not that different, so it’s like that’s a world-weary age…you know, whatever, I’m making all kinds of weird stuff on the record, and even more so now, that’s perfect. I’m more old, and more depressed now.
MD: I don’t think you have to be old to be depressed, or vice versa. You don’t have to be depressed and be old.
ED: That’s true. But I’m both – and a certain thing of both.
MD: But it’s interesting because it’s pretty much your only solo album in your canon of work, isn’t it?
ED: Yes, ‘tis. Felt like doing it, breaking with the whole thing, and that was like…but you know, it doesn’t really matter, what you call it.
MD: I know that the reissue has a bunch of extra tracks on it, and unreleased things and B-sides and all that – did you have any hand in putting that stuff together?
ED: Yeah, they called me and said, what the hell can you find, three studios – WaveLab in Tucson, Trout Studios in Brooklyn, and Safe and Sound, with Jon Brion – one thing weird that we did, pretty easy stuff. But there was stuff that we still couldn’t find, like a version of Truck Stop Girl by Lowell George that was cool.
MD: Were you a Little Feat fan?
ED: Definitely yeah, they were great, I love Little Feat. And the Byrds’ version hit me to Truck Stop Girl, though, but then I went back and listened to the original, which is great too. Yeah, Lowell George was undeniably…
MD: What kind of – when you were doing that music, you were working with quite a few – like you mentioned Jon Brion, was it a very collaborative process? You worked with Howe Gelb and the guys from Calexico. What was that experience like for you, working with those folks?
ED: Jon Brion was the only new guy that I hadn’t worked with before. My manager hooked us up, and he said… he wanted to bring out my “folky” side, or something; that was a really fun experience. The rest of them were old friends, and I did some stuff with Royston (Langdon) from Spacehog; so, that was fun….
MD: When you started working with Jon Brion: did you have to feel each other out and see where you’re coming from, music wise? What made it work for you guys?
ED: He’s really quick, that guy. He’s ridiculously virtuosic. He’s really talented, and he can do Brian May perfectly too. When he gets bored… he can do Brian May perfectly on the guitar. He was really fun!
MD: Have you continued working with him afterwards? Do you guys still hang out?
ED: No, not really. I haven’t seen him in a while. He’s really busy, that guy. He’s quite a person on the scene… but I would love to work with him again. I haven’t seen him in a while, though.
MD: The other guy you worked with quite a bit, was Ben Lee.
ED: Yeah, that’s right. Ben Lee… does a little story inside the record. He did the best quotations about the whole thing; he really poured it on. Ben’s always like that… oops I dropped my lighter…he’s really cool. What he says is really cool, and he really added a lot to the record and to the liner notes.
MD: When you’re on this tour, is it solo, or are you playing with a band? What’s the configuration like?
ED: It’s solo. It’s just solo, and my girlfriend’s coming, and we play together too. Don’t call her my girlfriend; she doesn’t like that…. We’re going to play together, a bit, because she’s a really good musician too. We have a little band that’s modelled after Flying Nun bands, like The Clean … it’s more “New Zealandy” – with Willy Mason and her, a trio. We did a single on Fat Possum (as TSP).
MD: You haven’t really been making a lot of new music. I know the Lemonheads had one album in 2006, and then there was the covers album, and that was about it. Why is that?
ED: Yeah, don’t remind me. It’s funny, because it’s a thing Jon Brion said, “If only people would stop making records for ten years,” and I think I took him to heart, or something. I was like, “You know what? I’m going to do that,” and so, I did. Somehow, I think it does keep it fresh, if people are just interested enough, it’s good not to put anything out, unless you really fucking want to say something; so, I’ve just been laying low. The ‘Yes Men’ are telling me that there’s quite a bit of interest, still; so, I’ve got to jump on it quick. I got to do something soon, like maybe record it this summer, because I’m down to put out another record; I think it’s time….
MD: Have you got songs written?
ED: Yeah, I’ve got some tunes; so, I’m going to do that soon. Enough is enough with this coyness….
MD: Other than the fishing, what do you do with your time, if you’re not making music?
ED: I don’t know. I just realised that I’m such a country person: I just love living in the country. Hey, someone just caught one over there! I just really love living out here on Martha’s Vineyard and taking it easy and seeing the moon, and just not city stuff; it’s a good time.
MD: Did you grow up in the country?
ED: Yeah, until I was nine, and then I moved to the city. It was perfect: I was nine years old, I went to Boston, and it was still the ‘70s; so, it was still cool in Boston. The ‘80s were the way the ‘60s were in San Francisco. I was really into living in the city for a while, but I realised, at heart, I’m a country person.
MD: That ‘80s scene in Boston – that post-punk thing…
ED: Oh, the music was great, but in other ways, the whole cultural… ‘80s, glitzy was weird in Boston; it got all funny. That’s what Jonathan Richman said,and I think it’s true.
MD: Hey, if Jonathan Richman says it, it must be true!
MD: What’s the Boston scene like now? Are you there very often?
ED: No. I don’t really fucking leave here – it’s an island after all. I went up not so long ago, but we don’t really leave that much. But Boston: I think it’s a bit of a boring place. There’ll always be good bands there, because there’s nothing to do – you’ve got to make your own fun there – whereas, New York, it’s hard to have a band, because there’s actually fun things to do there. Boston’s always going to be safe that way, I think; it’s kind of boring there.
MD: Do you pay much attention to the alternative rock scene – such as it is – these days? Are there bands that you’re excited about, that you listen to?
ED: Yeah, there are! I really like Natural Child. I love that band, Natural Child; they’re freaking awesome! I just hear what I can. Of course, there’s so much stuff from the past, still, to discover: like that guy, Ted Lucas: he’s really good; from the early ‘70s. I’ve been getting into stuff, and my friend, Willy (Mason): he’s really good; I like his music a lot. He’s doing a new record sometime soon. Mostly Natural Child – I can’t remember the other ones; I should have written them down – but there are a couple of other things I like. Oh wait, hold on! I’ve got one more that’s really good! They’re called Sweat Enzo; they’re really good…
MD: What do they sound like?
ED: They sound like a lot of things. They’re a bit “Pavement-y”, or something, but they have their weird side too….They’re firmly rooted in old Velvets. It’s one guy. There’s just some good stuff out there.
MD: Since you have such an affinity for New Zealand music, have you ever considered recording down here?
ED: We tried once. We went rented the studio that The Chills recorded in once. We didn’t really get much done, I don’t think, but I would be into recording down there. I haven’t done it yet, but I don’t think we’ll have time. I’m willing to come back sometime soon, and just chill out down there and hang out, and maybe do some writing and recording.
MD: And some fishing!
ED: Yeah, definitely!