Interview with Evan Dando by Erik Fong

from perfect pitch September 2003

With a quick Internet search, you’ll find that just about every Evan Dando interview focuses heavily on the former Lemonhead’s many public dances with drinks, drugs and, even worse, Courtney Love. The current solo artist who was once proclaimed “The Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine is now out of the headlines, living inconspicuously in Manhattan, rarely giving interviews – most likely due to his distaste with the mainstream media’s obsession with the trials and tribulations of his private life rather than his music (though one could argue that his private life didn’t always stay too private).

Music publications will forever agree to disagree, but there seems to be a general consensus on Evan Dando: Unpredictable character … outstanding performer. The only songs more timeless than the tracks on Evan’s latest album, Baby I’m Bored, are nursery rhymes; and if Evan continues perfecting his craft without interruption, we may have to demand a recount.

While reading this interview, you’ll quickly note that Evan is a bit of a scatterbrain, his adventurous mind constantly racing through a myriad of ideas, thoughts and emotions without stopping for air. His brain is an itchy trigger-finger commanding a loose cannon, and it doesn’t take more than a speck of dust for Evan to change moods. Hey, all it took was one mention of another publication’s opinion of him to hang up on us. But like most artists, Evan’s art is a side effect of his roller coaster emotions, and lucky for us, it all just happens to translate to music quite beautifully. If Evan’s emotions were stabilized, things just might not be the same, and in this case, we’ll happily take the bad with the good.

So with such an unstable interview subject in the palm of our hands, ready to answer all of our stupid questions, we wasted no time in asking Evan what no publication – or psychologist – has ever been able to answer.

What’s on your mind?
Not much, not much. Nothing too dramatic happening in world politics or anything, so…

If you’re not getting your fill of politics, maybe you should come to California and experience the governor recall brouhaha with Arnold Schwarzenegger. 
Yeah, what’s that all about? I love the egg thing, that’s hilarious. I thought he handled that well though, saying, [in a stellar Arnold impersonation] “It’s a free country!” I love his thing: “Join me!” I’m all for it, man, just for the comic value. I’ve never voted, but if I did vote, I’d vote for him. All of his one-liners – come on, they’re hilarious. I think an awesome idea for a movie would be if they sent a robot down [to pose] as a politician, and when it doesn’t get elected, it just decides to kill everybody. [laughs]

Hey, that is a good idea.
Yeah, if Arnold doesn’t get elected, there’s the Terminator 4 script.

I think Danny DeVito would be perfect fourth terminator. No one would see that coming.
Definitely. Wow, that’s a good idea. So he would be like the Roger Moore? Potentially, there could be many terminators, right? Just like Bond – there were what, three, four James Bonds?

No clue. There was Connery, Moore, and then Remington Steele…
Hold on, my wife will know this one. [To his wife: Who was the Bond guy who only did one movie?] George Lazenby.

I wouldn’t know, I don’t know much about the Bond movies.
Me neither. I actually wasn’t allowed to see them when I was a kid because they were “sexist.”

Wow. What else couldn’t you see?
My mom discouraged us from watching Popeye because it had “bad principles.” Those are the two things I remember – of course, by the time we were six we were watching whatever we wanted. But I do remember honoring my mom’s opinion: “You don’t want to see that, it’s very sexist.” Until I was about 20, I really thought that, but she had ignored the fact that it’s very well executed, classy, interesting and funny.

You’ll be returning to San Francisco for a show soon. What are some of your more fond memories of San Francisco?
I just remember staying there in the ‘80s and walking around. And I think in ’89, we did a tour with Mudhoney, and I remember having to audition drummers. We took a bunch of crystal meth and our drummer had never tried it before, so he got really bummed out and said, “I’m leaving,” and just hopped on a plane. So we had to audition people all day. We auditioned like, 20 drummers. Of course, [our drummer] came back the next day and said, “Yeah, the speed did it.” That was also the year we toured right behind GWAR, so a couple of times I found those cool blood packets that they used, and I got to chuck them against the wall. But I digress.

What do you mean you toured behind GWAR?
We played the same clubs the night after them for a really long time. I definitely hucked a couple of those [blood packets], that was really fun. I actually saw them once at Vassar College, and they had a human skull with potato dip in it. Those guys are really fun to watch, I’ve seen them maybe four times. They’re from Richmond. Virginia. Where are you calling from?

San Francisco.
Oh, okay. What’s that club again? The club in ’89, where bands like the Butthole Surfers would play. You’ll remember the name – it’s like, “electronics” or something. Not the 40 Watt, because that’s in Athens, Georgia. But it had a name like that. Oh well, it doesn’t matter.

The name doesn't come to mind... sorry. Anyways – in recent interviews, you said that you think a lot of the old Lemonheads albums were crap.
Well, no…

“Not up to your potential” is what you probably meant.
Yeah, that’s what I meant.

I think that takes a lot of guts, because most musicians are so married to their work that they can’t be harshly objective over their own material.
Well, that’s just me trying to be hopeful that I’m actually working on it and getting better. I’m just trying to use my illusion parts one through eight. You know what I mean? [laughs] But yeah, yeah, totally, Lemonheads – great band. Really good fun to be in. But now it’s more, not conscious – but it’s even more into the music now. I’m older, and the music is more interesting – back then I was more into having fun. And you know what happens when you have too much fun.

Yeah, fun is stupid. To hell with fun.
[laughs] No, not at all. I’m all in favor of having fun.

So, as Jon Stewart says, “It’s about the music.”
Nah, I don’t know. Well, no, see, that’s the fun – you can create music so good that it in itself is fun.

Now that a few months have passed since Baby I’m Bored has come out, what’s as objective of an opinion on the album as you can give?
I’m still totally psyched about it. I don’t have any qualms about it, I’m just looking forward to doing another one.

Good. If you could be anywhere doing anything right now, where would you be?
Eating whaleburgers in Norway.

Wow, have you ever had one before?
No, I haven’t yet. I want to try it someday though.

It sounds fattening.
Maybe. I don’t care. I just want to taste the flesh of a whale. I’ve been to Norway a lot, and supposedly there’s a way to cook it where you marinate it in sour milk for several days. I was just kidding – that question… I don’t know, I can’t answer it. I wouldn’t mind being in Norway. I sort of owe it myself to try a whaleburger once. I’m against the killing of whales and all that, but in Norway it’s a part of the culture.

Are you kidding about the sour milk too?
No man. People think that you don’t get to see places when you tour, but you actually see places really well because you meet people who live there, and they tell you things. You know, [like] “My grandmother used to cook whale using a yogurt-type marinade for three days.” You learn a lot on the road.

What’s the catalyst that made you want to start playing music?
“Heatwave” – hearing that for the first time when I was about five years old. That and the Jackson Five.

Nice. Thriller was my first album. That and Hall and Oates’ Rock n’ Soul Part I.
Thriller’s a great record. Hall and Oates, yeah – I like “She’s Gone” and “Sara Smile.” We’ve been planning on covering “Maneater.”

Awesome. What’s your favorite rumor that you’ve heard about yourself?
The death one is good. It’s happened a couple of times, but one time, in 1995, my friends called me because they’d overheard people next to them: “Did you hear Evan Dando died last night?” So I actually got to say that rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Did you get to put out a press release too?
No, no, no, it was just New York gossip. I think it was the night that I started a food fight backstage at Madison Square Garden and got kicked out by the head of security. But I didn’t even get hurt, nothing bad happened to me. I was so psyched to get kicked out of Madison Square Garden, I just got thrown out – whoosh! [laughs] Pretty funny.

If you could go back in time 15 years and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Talk to me in 15 years.

In an unfavorable album review, Pitchforkmedia said that you're "still viewed as a privileged prep school rock star, an unserious flake that continues to cash in on good looks and teenage hooks."
Awesome. That sounds about right to me.

Really? You think that’s a fair assessment of who you are?
I hope so. I wish them well, whoever wrote that. I don’t listen to what people write about me, I make music because I like it. And those motherfuckers – I love it. The bad press is much more interesting for me than good press. So the worse you can do, the better. See you later man.