Interview with Evan Dando by Ricardo Baco
From Denver Post, 22nd November 2006
The Lemonheads are one of the more important bands in the evolution of independent rock. And when they fizzled a decade ago, hearts sank because the band that had saved some fans' lives was losing its life - an apt metaphor given Evan Dando's deepening addiction to drugs in the early 1990s.
But now The Lemonheads are back with their first new record in a decade, and the eponymous album - recorded in Fort Collins at the famed Blasting Room studio with producer/
drummer Bill Stevenson - is a firm signal that Dando's experiments and successes in the early '90s were no accident. Dando and his current version of The Lemonheads - bassist Vess
Ruhtenberg and drummer Devon Ashley - are touring and will play the Bluebird Theater on Dec. 2.
"The Lemonheads" have plenty of contributors, but Dando is the CD's narrator, the man corralling all the creativity.
When The Lemonheads signed to Atlantic and released "It's a Shame About Ray," Dando was the indie it-boy. Fans loved his music, and the magazines loved his bad behavior and famous friends, a gaggle that included everyone from Courtney Love to Johnny Depp. But when he started talking openly about his hard-drug usage, and when the "Ray" follow-up "Come on Feel The Lemonheads" didn't perform, Dando shrank into obscurity.
Dando has always been an enigma, even though his songs are simplistically sweet and poetically forthright. When we caught up with the singer- songwriter earlier this week, he spoke hurriedly in muffled tones, never elaborating and seemingly always concealing.
Q: Why come to Colorado to record?
A: Well, because of Bill (Stevenson) and Karl (Alvarez) and the studios there. It was really practical, it turns out. And I really enjoyed it. We just worked and then we went home and read and slept.
Q: Did you crash with the guys, or did you get a hotel? And how long were you there?
A: No, I stayed in a hotel. And I was there a month and a half, stretched over a year and half.
Q: Had you worked with Bill before?
A: We'd played with (one of his bands) All and stuff a bunch of times. We'd never worked together, but it was a real joy. It kind of came up because Karl was playing in a band with John Kastner, All Systems Go, on the first Lemonheads reunion tour. We got to talking about it, and we booked time in the studio. It was so perfect to do a real record there.
Q: You were touring with Bill, but now the touring line-up has changed.
A: We just did a couple shows with Bill and Josh (Lattanzi), but after the record came out, those guys weren't available.
Q: What do you think of the state of rock 'n' roll right now?
A: There are some good bands out there, I guess. I don't follow it too carefully. But VietNam, who are opening for us on this tour, are excellent representatives of something good that is happening now.
Q: So what is it that led you to make another record?
A: The whole reason to do another Lemonheads record came about when they did this Lemonheads tribute festival in Brazil. There were all these Brazilian bands doing Lemonheads covers, and I thought, "If there's still that going on, then maybe there's some interest for this."
Q: Were you in Brazil for it?
A: No, I just heard about it, and it got me excited. We talked to some labels, but Vagrant was our first choice, and they were the first to offer us a deal.
Q: The songs on the record, are all of them new?
A: Two of Bill's songs, I think he's had them for a while. Two of the songs by Tom (Morgan) are pretty old - they might be old Smudge songs. Mine are all mostly new.
Q: Indie rock is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, with a lot of mainstream success in the last few years. How do you think the Lemonheads fit into all this?
A: I don't really know. We're just a part of it, a drop in the bucket. This tour is cool because we get people who have never gotten to see us before and it's their first time.
Q: When you're playing new material alongside the older stuff, does it make sense to you?
A: Yeah, definitely. It's a pretty cool segue. Everything works together.
Q: I also wanted to ask you about the last two times I saw you here, playing solo and fronting Wayne Kramer and the old MC5 guys. How were those experiences for you?
A: The MC5, that was an experience of a lifetime. I sang on "Looking At You," "Shakin' Street," "Let Me Try," "Miss X" and "Kick Out the Jams," with (Mudhoney frontman) Mark (Arm) on that last one. There were a couple others, but they made me want to make a Lemonheads record in the first place.
Q: And the solo shows? You seem to really enjoy those.
A: I'll always go back to doing that. It's a good way to pay the rent. And have fun.
Q: Will the Lemonheads live on after this tour with more recordings and the like?
A: We could record some more, but we're still in the middle of this tour right now, and you can't think about anything else. I'll think about it when I'm done, and hopefully I'll have some songs ready by then.