Interview with Evan Dando by Nick Hilton

From Beat Magazine, 1st April 2009


As the central member of The Lemonheads, Evan Dando has produced some of the finest indie-rock songs about love, loss and Gwyneth Paltrow’s bloody, severed head. Starting their career in Boston in 1986 and covering punk-rock, country and metal, they came to wider recognition with 1992’s more polished gem It’s A Shame About Ray. This featured both the song that made them famous, their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson, and the best song ever written about waiting to score, My Drug Buddy. In 1993 People Magazine voted him one of the year’s 50 Hottest, and the Lemonheads released arguably their career high, Come On Feel The Lemonheads. This album was notable to most Australians as the majority of material was co-written with Tom Morgan of legendary Sydney indie-pop band Smudge.

roadie/party-boy for Oasis’ tour of 1994, and on Car Button Cloth’s (the follow up to Come On Feel The Lemonheads) lead single If I Could Talk I’d Tell You, he wrote of losing his voice in front of a press conference due to a heavy crack-smoking binge.

In this country at least, he’s more recently remembered for both utterly brilliant and frustratingly shambolic shows. Performing in 2003 under the Evan Dando guise while The Lemonheads were on a break, reports circulated he’ d fallen off the wagon between the two Melbourne shows. Perhaps this was true, because, overnight, he went from genius at the top his game to a burnout with little regard for the paying customer; tossing out sloppy performances between rambling monologues. But flash forward to 2009 and with bills piling up, covers records Varshons due soon and later this year a Lemonheads release proper, it’s obvious that Evan is back, baby. 

At home in New York City, the 42 year old is now happily married and appears to have settled down. His famously rambling and occasionally incomprehensible interview technique is still there, but hope also remains that the alternahunk may be like, off the drugs.

So what have you been doing since last here?

“I bought this expensive painting right, and I was thinking ‘right; what am I gonna do, I gotta do something with this’, so I decided to do a covers record. So that’s why I did a covers record.”

So you need to pay off some debt?

“It was supposed to come out a year ago, but the label kind of flaked so it’s coming out in June. It’s coming out on Shock there.”

And this coming tour, is it just you playing acoustic, similar to your live release At The Brattle Theatre?

“Love is a battlefield of broken hearts / Whoa, whoa, whoa / Love is a battlefield of wounded hearts? Pat Benatar? No yeah, just me and the guitar.”

When you were last here you got up on stage with Ben Kweller at the Southern Roots festival in Tasmania…

“I loved that show. That was the last Pixies show of all. So I was at the 2nd ever and the last ever. Our second show was their second show too; it was like a new music night in Boston. There was nobody there, and I was like ‘What’s wrong with this picture, this band is amazing!” There was 10 people in the audience. Summer of ’86.”

Have you worked with anyone else memorable of late?

“Um…tons of people…I sang three songs with Ron Asheton and we did Stooges songs, and that was fun. It was J (Mascis of Dinosaur Jr) and Ron and (Mike) Watt. Actually J was the one that got that all together, the Stooges reunion. He saw it all working. I’ve sang with Jeff Tweedy. He had this band with Dan from Soul Asylum called Golden Smog. We did Powderfinger. It’s a long, long list. The most memorable studio one was Rick James.”

So is Rick James really crazy?

“(Ignores question) I played with Marianne Faithful. I did rhythm guitar for Sister Morphine. Lucinda Williams. I sang Snowblind by Black Sabbath. Another fun time I did three songs with Teenage Fanclub.”

Will the next release be under your name or The Lemonheads? 

“I think it’ll be Lemonheads. Just like beating a dead horse, I don’t know why we’re doing it. You know what? In America they want to call it Lemonheads but in England they’re kinda smarter so why don’t they just call it me? America just seems to be having its way. It’s really something I’m not that interested in.”

Does the new material lean towards rock or country?

“It’s psychedelia. It’s all covers, so ‘psychedelia with like, fashion icons’. There’s a techno song I do with Kate Moss. It’s called Dirty Robot, have you heard the original? (Sings in robot voice) “Dew, dew dew, dew dew dew dew dew, I’m a dirty robot.” Remember that song? There’s also some Leonard Cohen, (‘60’s band) July, Townes Van Zandt, some country in there.”

Have you heard Ben Kweller’s new country record? 

“Yeah I talk to Ben a lot. He’s like one of my favourite people in the world. I always check out his stuff. He’s definitely gone country though.”

You guys are touring Australia around the same time. Would you play together again?

“God yeah I’m hoping. I’m staying til the 11th so who knows.”

What about plans to collaborate with Tom Morgan again whilst you’re here?

“Definitely, we’re gonna try and write some tunes this time. Hey, you can’t figure out when the first Ben Kweller show is can you?”

So, if fate deems it so, expect another Ben Kweller/Evan Dando duet on stage somewhere in the country soon and if not, you can expect only the unexpected. Because whether exceedingly good or frightfully bad, an Evan Dando show is always a memorable event.