Interview with Evan Dando by John Kendle
From Uptown Magazine July 2005
“It’s a shame about Evan,” was a headline that ran over and over again in music mags through the last half of the ’90s.
It referred to Evan Dando, the alterna-pop savant who fronted The Lemonheads, a Boston-based trio that made the leap from post-punk/indie-rockhood to major-label stardom like so many other bands of the late 1980s and early ’90s.
As the band’s good-looking frontman, singer and chief songwriter, Dando was the poster boy for the bright side of alt-rock, especially in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide.
Unfortunately for him and for music fans, Dando revelled in his notoriety until he was known more for his extravagant partying, his boasts of drug use and his gossip page appearances than he was for music. Even so, The Lemonheads did manage to record two albums that have stood the test of time — 1992’s It’s a Shame About Ray and the following year’s Come On Feel the Lemonheads.
A 1996 album, Car Button Cloth, followed an attempt to get sober, but Dando essentially dropped out of music for several years before resurfacing in 2003 with a well-received solo album, Baby, I’m Bored.
Now 38, Dando is back out on the road, playing acoustic solo shows and remembering what it’s like to be a performer again.
He’s also being upfront about his past problems. He credits model Elizabeth Moses, his wife of the past five years, with helping him clean up his life to the point that he could become involved in music again.
“She got me back into a zone where I could make my last record, totally,” Dando says from his Edmonton hotel room. “There’s something grounding about that. Before, I was just really out of control and there was no one around. It was just in time that I met her, really.”
That said, Dando giddily steers conversation in another direction.
“Let’s talk about Tom Cruise. Fuck this shit…” he laughs. “The theory that I’m into is that the character that he played in Magnolia has taken over his body. You remember that guy? ‘Seduce and destroy?’”
When I tell Dando I’ve read that Cruise has stopped taking medication for attention-deficit disorder, the musician laughs again.
“Of course, that explains it,” he says. “I’ve taken Ritalin and all that stuff and it just gets me high. But I do think (Cruise) does have a point. I don’t think the shrinks and drugs help that stuff.
“It’s best to be clean,” he says. “And the only good drugs are illegal. Including alcohol for me. I quit drinking because I just I can’t hack it. That was my weakness, man.
“I love wine, it’s one of my favourite things in the world, but I’ve had no drink for three years. I was drinking 40 drinks a day, and it wasn’t even about the drink I was drinking, it was just to get to the next one.”
Being clean and being in love has obviously been a boon to Dando, who says he’s working with Descendents/All members Bill Stevenson and Karl Alvarez on a new album of rock songs.
“We’re making, like, a loud, Buzz-cocks-ish/Lemonheads record that’ll be coming out in ’06. I wanna make another loud record, and those are the guys to it with.”
His current show, which stops in Winnipeg Sunday, won’t feature any new material, Dando says.
“This is just me with an acoustic guitar. I stopped making setlists for the first time ever, but I do have a 25-song repertoire that I know that I can do onstage.”
Reviews of recent gigs describe them as both patchy and brilliant but, after all Evan Dando has put himself through, there’s no shame in being out there, trying.