Interview with Evan Dando
From Compulsion 1993
Evan Dando, head Lemonhead, is a nice guy, though I wish I'd been forewarned that he is also a strange character. I caught up with him in Glasgow during the tour to promote their latest long player `It's a Shame about Ray'. After a gruelling tour he seemed subdued and tired and he didn't have much to say about the Lemonheads, although he did admit he wasn't too sure of how to act in interviews, so it may be fair to say the opinions expressed in this interview are not those of the Lemonheads - talk about putting words into someone elses mouth. However, on the subject of Charles Manson, he was forthcoming and willing to speak of his interest in Americas No1 bogeyman. Anyway, this is what he made of the questions I put to him on a nice sunny day on the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow.
The latest album "It's a Shame about Ray" is more laid back. Do you think the Lemonheads have mellowed out?
Well, maybe a little. This record just ended up like that. It's really just record to record. The next record could be louder or softer, I don't really know.
It's more consistent.
Yeah, I think so too...I was trying to make a consistent album.
How do you feel about the earlier LPs, "Creator", "Hate Your Friends", now?
Like it was a long time ago. I don't think much about it. It's funny y'know.(It should be noted that they still play some of these songs live)
You got called a punk band back then,
We didn't call ourselves a punk band, we just kinda played loud, fast, short songs.
The new single was self-penned. Were you worried the Lemonheads were becoming a covers band?
How do you feel when people say you release cover versions as you're not confident in your own song writing?
Uh, yeah, maybe, I dunno. It's like the label a lot of the time hears it and likes it; we're just stupid enough to record them in the first place.
How do the covers come about? Why do you do them?
Usually a song comes out and hits you on the head. It looks like a fun song to do. It's easy for me I like a lot of songs, so it's easy to pick one.
For the feeling?
Yeah, that's it.
What about the songs, does it bother you there often sung from girl to boy, say "Gonna Get Along Without You"?
Yeah, I always just do it the way it is.
"Frank Mills" is that way too.
Yeah, same thing, pretty weird!! I just like the song so I don't wanna change it around; change the gender around. I'm just a person singing a song; so it doesn't matter if I'm a boy or a girl.
For a while people have been saying the Lemonheads are just Evan Dando. How true is this?
Not really, now I have this really good band together with my friend Nick from Australia and then Dave's been drumming with me for 3 years or something.
Nic's been writing songs for the Lemonheads.
Yeah I've had some help with them.
In the music press you're portrayed as being lazy. Yet you seem in control of the Lemonheads. How do you feel about this?
I don't know. I think they're lazy probably. I'm not that lazy. In interviews I don't really know how to act. They easily get the wrong impression cos I just spout, say dumb things. (see end section)
Do you think your committed to music, then?
Yeah, I'm real serious about it, but life to me isn't too serious. It's serious but mostly I just wanna have fun and hang out! Y'know it's no big deal really.
Australia proved to be inspirational to you?
Yeah, it was really good. I met some really nice people to write with, it was cool. . .
You were working with Julianna Hatfield. How did this come about?
We've been good friends for a long time and I used to play in the Blake Babies with her and I played on her record, and she played on my record. She's doing her own band now.
What's all this about splits. You split after "Lovey", got together again toured, now there's only 2/3 of the "Lovey" line-up. Whats going on?
I dunno. (laughs) Well what happened was, we had a bad tour with "Lovey" on that album in Europe. It was really long and I brought my girlfriend along which was stupid; you can't do that. We had a weird tour manager and so that was bad, but the bass player (Jesse) means to do films now and stuff.
He's still doing the covers, still friends?
You made a video for "Mallo Cup"?
Yeah, it's just black and white, it's been played in America somewhat.
Have you made any more videos?
We just made a "Confetti" video and "It's a Shame About Ray" video recently. Jesse does the videos, I don't enjoy them really; I don't like having to lip synch.
You did Australia a solo tour in Australia. How did that go?
It was really fun. It was under my name and I was doing a bunch of Lemonheads songs and a bunch of country songs, whatever.
You enjoyed them?
It was good. I opened for Fugazi down there.
How did the Fugazi crowd take that?
It was pretty funny, it was good though. It set them up pretty well, cos there really loud and I'd play really quiet. It was cool.
You didn't go along with Nirvana mania . . . following on the back of them?
I dig Nirvana and Mudhoney, they're really cool. I don't dig Soundgarden and stuff, but I mean I like Black Sabbath but I don't like Soundgarden.
You could have hardened the sound up?
Y'know we might make a loud record next time, we have that in us too, to do that kind of music, too, but it was just time to make an album, it just made sense to make a quiet album.
Just the way you wrote the songs.
Yeah, right. That's it.
Your lyrics portray you as being something of a loner. Do you think this is true?
Yeah...(laughs) (End of that line of questioning)
How did your Charles Manson fascination come about?
When I was a kid that was one of the most interesting things in the news. So it seemed really striking. It was really funny. When I was young it was funny all this Sixties turn to evil. Evil Hippies; it's a funny concept.
How does the American public react to Charles Manson?
He's like really scary. He's Charles Manson, y'know.
Does he know you covered "Your Home Is Where Your Happy"?
I dunno, I'd like to figure that out. I should try to contact him about that.
Have you tried contacting him?
No (defiantly). People do, Henry Rollins does.
What do you think he'd make of it...it is quite similar?
It is similar. I couldn't anticipate what he'd do. He's a pretty unpredictable guy, I think.
The profits from "Lie" are now going to victims' charities,
They are. That's good. (laughs)
Do you think they'll take royalties off of you?
Hey, I dunno. (laughs)
You've got Manson messages buried in your songs, why?
It's just something to draw upon for inspiration. I don't know what it was, it just made sense to me. He was just a compelling character, just interested in him, y'know.
"Ride with Me" has got a sample on it from "Sick City", hasn't it?
Yeah, that's Manson. How did you know that?
It's on his album Lie. You've got "Oo-ee-oo" on "Alison's Starting To Happen". Who sung that?
Gunnard Nelson, he's hilarious. They're big in the States, a band called Nelson. They've got blonde hair. Two of Rickie Nelson's kids. They're big cheesey pop stars in America. It was funny he was there, so I invited him into sing, he's a good singer.
Does he know what he was singing?
I mean "Oo-ee-oo" could be anything. I kinda thought it was funny.
You pinned it down to Ed Sanders Manson study "The Family" though,
Yeah, you remembered, you read the book, it's in there.
Julianna sings Shorty Shea on "It's a Shame About Ray".
Yeah, you got that. Hey, wow.
The line before reads "...somethings need to go away"
Yeah. (laughs) It's just another example of someone mysteriously disappearing. That's what the song is about. In the studio, seriously the people who recorded that album, knew Shorty Shea. They lived next to Charles Manson. We talked about Shorty Shea and I went hey that rhymes with Ray. That'll be funny to put in there.
John Waters puts in cryptic Manson messages in his films. Pretty obscure ones,
Yeah, he does; pictures of Susan Atkins on the table, and in "Pink Flamingoes" she walks by a wall and it says "Free Tex Watson".
Does your record company bother with your Manson references?
I don't think they know or care. They are pretty subtle the references.
Geraldo Rivera is one of your most despised figures, why?
The way he was with Manson, was really lame. You gotta hate the guy. Those questions (NME 3/10/92) are really weird you don't think they'll print them. You just say the first thing that comes to mind. But Geraldo Rivera, he's just obviously a fake guy. Somehow I don't like him. The Manson (interview) thing made him look really bad, like Charlie was way more clever in arguing than he was.
Do you think Manson will get out?
No, I don't think he wants to get out.
He never did want out.
Yeah, I don't think he'll get out.
What about the reason he was convicted?
That's a tough call. I haven't thought it through that carefully. For a long time I thought no, it's not fair, as he didn't really kill anybody. I wasn't there or didn't hear all the evidence and stuff, but I do know a lot about it. He was a dangerous man, and I don't think he belongs out.
Some of the people who helped on "It's A Shame About Ray" lived nearby him and the Family in the sixties.
Yeah, the Robb Brothers they had their ranch next to the Spahn Ranch in the Sixties. The whole time they were there next to him. It was a creepy place, they knew George Spahn, Shorty Shea and some of those guys but it was a really freaky place. The girls used to come and pick oranges, I guess and they said "get off our land, don't pick our oranges", and they'd say, well Charlie said we could pick the oranges, as they're everybodys' oranges and they would go "fuck Charlie" and Tex Watson would drive up on to their porch and all this. It's pretty scary.
Who are the Robb Brothers?
The Robb Brothers are old LA cats they were in a show called "Where The Action Is" and eventually they got into buying studios. Now they own Cherokee studios, where I recorded the album.
During the Los Angeles riots,
Yeah, well before, no during. I had just come back from Australia.
Did you see any of the troubles?
Yeah, I saw fires. It was scary.
There was a story about the recording studio with you and guns on the roof.
Yeah, that's right, but I wasn't there with them. They just told me the next day. It was crazy and scary. No one knew what was happening, man.
Manson's parole hearing took place just prior to the riots. Any connection?
(laughs) I dunno, didn't have anything to do with it (laughs again).
Julian Cope said recently "The days of digging Charles Manson are long gone...it only shocks people who thought the new U2 album was weird". You've sampled Manson so how do you feel about this?
Well to each his own, whoever digs whatever they want. If he doesn't dig it that's cool, but he sounds a little full of shit telling people what they should be interested in.
Your messages are a bit too obscure to shock, though.
Yeah, that's true, but I do think the new U2 album is weird (laughs).
You don't mind answering these Manson questions?
No, I've been interested in it for a long time. I'm still just really interested in it, y'know. There's just something about it.
So what's next for the Lemonheads?
God, it's really hard to say. I have no idea. I just wanna finish these tours off and really just figure out what to do next. I wanna make a really good record next time with the band.
All this and we didn't even mention drugs. After this Evan spoke of his friendship with Johnny Depp, Australia, and his feelings about the tour. The actual gigs saw the Lemonheads in excellent form, with Evan performing various songs solo, and any thoughts of the Lemonheads mellowing out, were quickly dispelled, as even the quiet songs were hardened up live with the band. (David Ryan, and Nic Dalton)
On a more contentious issue, in Edinburgh Evan refuted the claims he made in the NME (10/10/92) that he supported the PMRC, and Tipper Gore stating:
"I don't support the PMRC by the way. That fucking thing they wrote in that thing, I just have to say like I just went off on a weird tangent. I didn't mean what came out in that fucking magazine, if anyone saw it. I was just kinda going off on a tangent".
So there you go, Evan Dando is one nice guy and a non-supporter of the PMRC.