Interview with Evan Dando by Johnny Cigarettes
From Vox November 1996
I have reason to believe that Evan Dando has been drinking. It's not so much his appearance - grimy T-shirt, flared polyester trousers crudely cut off too short, and bare feet with smudged felt-tip pen all over them - or his general physical demeanour - he can stand up reasonably straight and rush fairly efficiently back and forth between the stereo, the toilet and the chair in his hotel room where he's conducting our interview.
No, there are classic tell-tale signs that would lead any doctor to a similar conclusion a mini-bar so rammed with serious spirits that it has overflowed, and the top of it is covered in half-consumed liquor from several continents; the fact that Evan is apparently suffering from some kind of verbal dyslexia whereby he can't pronounce words properly, and the fact that he has just answered the phone as Michael McDonald, and then threatened to hit the hotel room service waiter with a small log if he doesn't bring us some more beer.
There is, however, an even more serious affliction that soon becomes evident in Evan's behaviour this afternoon. He is suffering from pissheadus gigglingbullshitteritis, a rare disease whose symptoms are a complete inability to give an honest or serious answer to one's interviewer about anything, punctuated by out breaks of uncontrollable childish giggling.
Nevertheless, we will persevere in the noble journalistic quest to find out who he's shagging, what drugs he's on, the odd bit of gossip about Oasis and, oh go on, if we must, some stuff about The Lemonheads' admittedly very fine new album, 'Car Button Cloth'.
So, let's start with something simple. OK, Evan, tell us where you've been and what you've been doing over the last two years...
"I've been on tour with Enya. Setting up all the gear."
Right. That's, erm, slightly hard to believe.
" I know. It's really difficult. The production costs alone - I was paid very well, by the way - the Q-tips and the tape and all the hardware involved are a nightmare. I spent two years doing it, and it nearly broke me. But I'm BACK. I'm finished with the Enya tour forever. I'll never tour with... it... again. Enya's over, it... he... is over."
Hmmm. Are the tabloid rumours true, then?
"Nah, nah, nah. Enya's cool with me. He's a reasonable guy. And we never had that fight. Have you seen the beard yet, though? Enya has a beard now That was why we fell out. I said: 'Enya, the beard's really not happening.' He was set on the idea, so we went our separate ways".
(Twenty-second pause for comic effect).
Ha ha You are a one. Anything else you want to tell us about?
"I did a couple of dates with Michael McDonald. A few duets. (Breaks briefly into song) 'Minute byyy minute!' Pfffffhurkyhurkyhurk!"
The phone rings. Saved by the... ah, not quite
"Hello? Michael! Look, man, I told you, I can't give you any more time! I can't do anything for you, man! It's over! Pfffff. what? No ice left for the drinks? Send up some beer! Belgian beer! Dutch beer! Swiss beer!"
Yes. Anyway, moving swiftly on, you've got a new band, Evan. You never seem able to hold onto your band members. Are you difficult to live with or something?
"Pfffffffff! They quit! They all quit! They're quitting reft, light and centre! [sic] Pffffffff! I never fire any of them. It's so funny. God bless them, 'cos I'd probably have to fire them anyway. I mean, the band is The Lemonheads, but the subjex... subtix... sub... text is me. It's my band, I'm the fucking general! I am cool, but I have my agenda It is true, ja? I am cool, but I have my agenda. Pffffffffhyurkhyurk!"
At this juncture, the room service turns up, and the waiter puts a large tray of beers on the table, followed by Evan brandishing a small log.
"Hey, it's good you got us some cool beers, man, or I'd have had to have hit you over the head with this log!"
The waiter strains a smile that says 'Yeah, right When you're hard enough, Yankee boy.'
A bottle of Budvar appears to calm the lad down a bit, and I decide to ease the conversation into more sedately convivial waters by asking what exactly he has drawn in felt-tip pen on his foot.
"It says 'Ozzy Osbourne'", he beams. "Ozzy's my hero!"
Did you see him at Donington in August?
"No, I was in Martha's Vineyard, getting slightly sexy on a beach with a bunch of alcohol and some young blonde girls."
Which is par for the course these days, it seems. See, over the last three years, Evan Dando's life and the rails appear to have parted company in a quite gruesome fashion. After 1992's sublimely bitter-sweet It's A Shame About Ray' album propelled him to stardom, and 1993's 'Come On Feel The Lemonheads' made a teen-mag sex symbol out of our long-haired love puppy, Evan seemed to have a problem or two.
For starters, rumours abounded that our hero was dabbling in the big 'H' with, among others, our old friend Courtney Love. And it gets worse. When NME went to interview him around the time of the last album, he'd lost his voice - a result, he admitted, of smoking too much crack. Silly boy. Still, never mind, I s'pose that's what rock stars are meant to do. But during a week-long period surrounding the 1994 Reading Festival, Evan seemed to lose it completely. The nadir was his appearance, unannounced, with Oasis at an in-store gig in central London, playing the tambourine or something, sitting under a table at stage front like a prize tit. 'What the fuck is he on?' asked a nation. Well, now the story can be told...
"I've ditched the dope now," he gurgles. "I'm through with the satanic shit. Heroin's a dead end, and it turns you into a selfish asshole. it's so sad."
Well I never. So how long were you on it?
"Well, I've been using it since I was 19 or 20. l used to do it a lot, but I never did it for more than a month at a time, because William Burroughs always said that was how long it takes to get properly addicted.
"The problem was, I grew up reading Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, hearing The Rolling Stones' music, and reading William Burroughs' books. I mean, what was I gonna do? I was ten years old and already I wanted as many drugs in my system as possible. It was a natural reaction. So I tried it all, eventually."
Nice one. But are you completely sure it takes a whole month to get addicted?
"Well, if you take it for a week you feel like shit for four days afterwards. But I heard that after a month, you can die if you stop taking it. The withdrawal can be that bad."
Were you smoking or injecting?
"Well it makes no difference except for AIDS. I only started injecting when I went to Australia because you can get clean needles there.
"The thing is, it's the best substance in the whole world, but it doesn't work. Unless you want to be a junkie your whole life, Fair enough, in that case, I'm not saying people shouldn't take heroin and get high. I certainly got high and dug it, for a long time! But it also turned me into an asshole."
And crack didn't, presumably?
"Crack is not a smart thing. It does far worse to your lungs than cigarettes could ever do. Heroin's a worse addiction, but crack's worse for your body.
"I'll tell you what's better than either of them - THE OCEAN! That's the real Internet (Your guess is as good as mine, readers). Computers are bullshit. Drugs are bullshit. By the way, d'you know where I can get any Ecstacy? Pffffffhyurkhyurk!"
No. So if the ocean is really the Internet, can you tap into it and speak to sad, socially inadequate people in their bedrooms through it?
"Sure. Every time you get into the water it changes everything. The ocean saved me from drugs. I swim in the ocean all the time. The salt water purifies you."
Must try it some time.
Meanwhile, back in 1994, a severely tired and emotional Evan Dando is going AWOL with Oasis.
"I was finishing my tour when they were starting theirs. I jumped in the van and hung out for a few days. It was really fun. I really like those guys. The only thing was, I was meant to be going home with my sister, which pissed her off, and I kinda disappeared, and er, I ended up in a mental hospital! Pfffffffhyurkhyurkhyurk!"
Really? Do go on.
"Well, I went to Australia after England, and I was doing way too much heroin - Oasis were cursing me for it. I kinda forgot I was addicted to it, and the first night in Australia I banged up a bunch of speed. Then the next night I took two hits of Ecstasy and threw up all over the sidewalk The next night we were watching Naked Gun on video - and this was during the whole OJ Simpson thing (OJ appeared in Naked Gun, for those not in the know - Ed) and I took a hit of acid. So things were starting to get pretty weird. Then the heroin withdrawal symptoms kicked in. I'd been awake for five days. So anyway, you end up calling up your mother and saying: 'Mommy, are you a machine?' That s when I started to wonder if I was going insane."
Lordy. So his friend Mandy took him back to America, and he was swiftly admitted to Silver Hills rehab centre, The place where Edie Sedgwick went, as Evan recalls
"Yeah. I was singing 'Nooobody feeeeeels any pain', from that song Bob Dylan wrote for Edie Sedgwick. Rehab doesn't work by the way. You gotta want to stop. There was this guy who used to smoke crack in the chapel! Pfffffhyurkhyurk! He hid his crack pipethere, and while he was renouncing his sins every morning, he'd smoke rocks! [sings] 'Gooooin' to the chapel, and Ah'm gooonna smoke craaaack!' Pffffhyuk!"
So rehab didn't cure you, then?
"No, it increased my appetite for drug abuse! No, you gotta wanna survive. To preserve your life. 'Maaaybe I just wanna breathe... You and I are gonna live foreeeever!'
Which brings us neatly back to the subject of The Burnage Beatles once again. You may have noticed recent news stories about Noel Gallagher vetoing the about Noel Gallagher vetoing the inclusion of a song he and Evan wrote together, 'Purple Parallelagram' (sic) on The Lemonheads' new album. Noel was sufficiently moved to comment: "I love the guy, right, he's the salt of the earth, he's a really beautiful human being, but I don't particularly like people trying to sell records on the back of my name."
"Have you heard it?" asks Evan. "It's 'Achy Breaky Heart', isn't it? It's bullshit, but I like it. But l'm so glad Noel blew the whistle on it. Because its not me, and it's not him. I wanna thank Noel for stopping our 'Achy Breaky' song. It'll be bootlegged like fuck, though it's probably already reached four corners of the globe.
"It was my phrase, we wrote it at a time when we were both a bit out of it, and it would have been a mistake to put it out. But the record company really liked it, which is why it was going on there. I wasn't trying to do anything behind his back I want my music to come through, not some non-connection of mine and Noel's. Fuck that I wouldn't wanna sell records on the back of his name. I can sell 'em on my own name. And I have."
None of this has diminished Evan's affection for Oasis, though.
"I love Noel, and I love Liam And I love Oasis. And by the way I hope the guy from Blur gets AIDS! Pffffffhyurkhyuk! No, I don't really, but that was a great touch, wasn't it? I like Oasis because they have that real strong, honest vitality, and yet they don't take themselves too seriously. I mean, it's rock n roll, and it's a joke, right? OK, it's honest and real, too, but the moment you start taking it too seriously you end up like Pearl Jam, man They fucking suck. Just rock out don't worry about it. Pearl Jam is like good time music - like Ryan Adams - with a frown on its face Fuck 'em. Fuck Eddie Vedder. He's a good singer, though!"
Deary me. It seems Evan Dando could do with some serious therapy. But perhaps we can help. Perhaps some brief, probing psychoanalytical questions will get to the root of the problem.
Now, Evan, would you say sometimes you were easily lead astray?
"Yeah, definitely I'll get cornered sometimes and I'd rather let people tell me what to do than confront them. No, that's wrong actually. I'm the stubbornest motherfucker when I wanna be. I dunno If there's a confrontation, I'll usually run away, and go look at the moon."
Were you aware of the dippy barefoot hippy wimp image you created for yourself?
"Yeah, it's actually just a screen of bullshit I put out to get rid of people Like: 'Duuuh, the universe is really sparkly!' And people think: 'Oh, OK, I'll leave this guy alone, 'cos he's obviously too stupid to talk to.' So it works! Hyurkhyurk! They'll leave you alone every time!"
Did you ever think you were making a fool of yourself?
"I don't care about that," he snaps, as if he does. "It's not anything to do with me. I'm just glad I'm not me. It would drive me crazy. All I care about is the music."
But people perceived you as being thick. Doesn't that annoy you?
"The minute I got over my own hype was in the van with Oasis, talking to Mark Coyle, their sound engineer. I was on too many drugs, and I felt like I was dying. I said: 'You don't want that on your record, that I died while trying to keep up with you guys partying.' Mark Coyle turns to me and gives me this look of sorta stoned wisdom, and he says 'You rethink that one, man. I think it would be pretty funny'."
Much of the time in '94 you looked like a lonely little boy looking for a friend.
"Oh yeah I was absolutely lonely. Looking for some guidelines, someone to lay down the law on my sorry, arrogant ass."
Still looking for a wife, then?
"No way I gave up on that shit. It's just random victims, these days. Random fucking victims. I always use a condom, though."
How aware were you of being a sex symbol?
"Yeah, I was aware of it Not wary enough though. Thank God I'm not that good-looking or it would have got me into trouble. But I kinda like screaming girls now and again I've grown my hair again a bit now so bring 'em on! Hyukhyuk!"
Don't you think you've been too accommodating to people in the past?
"I dunno. That's just the way I am. I can't close myself up from people. I can't really be dishonest about stuff. For all the people around me saying 'Don't tell them the real deal', I'm thinking theres no point in lying because next time you'll never be able to remember the story you told them before. Know what I mean? So I end up telling everyone about the dope and the crack thing, because I can t see the point of lying about it."
Let's test him out on that then to get to the bottom of a bit more idle tittle-tattle. Evan, what is, or has been, your relationship with Courtney Love?
"We have a phone relationship now, basically. Because before we had a drug relationship. We're a bad influence on each other - when we get together, we relapse like its 1989 (Apparently the peak of Evaw's hedonistic excess, as if 1994 wasn't bad enough), and its directly to the dealer. Not a good place to go.
"We're giving ourselves six months' probation. We talk on the phone, cos Courtney's such a great girl to talk on the phone with. But when we get together it's like: 'Heroin. Woah'."
Very nice. So what now for our Evan? Superstardom? Alcoholism? Buddhism?
"I sincerely hope not. God is a concept by which we measure our pain. Hyukhyukhyukhyuk! But I've measured mine, and it's pretty painful, I can tell you. My family have a history of religion and addictions. My grandfather was a Jesus freak and an alcoholic. I never met him - nor did my mother, for that matter. I come from a weird demon spawn, a couple of weird Swedes and a Welsh person or something.
"They all drank too much and took too much of whatever they had as drugs then. There's a streak in our family character (He breaks into song again) 'Miiiight as well face it, you're addicted to druuugs!'"
Evan was named after Evan Bevan from Dylan Thomas Under Milkwood. Not many people know that.
"He only had a couple of lines," he enthuses. "He rode out into the lake in his little rowing boat, looked up at the moon and said 'I don't know who's up there and I don't care!'. I drink like Dylan Thomas these days. But that means I got ten years to live still - twenty-four albums at least. Sorted!"
That's right. But his future may not be in America, if present misgivings are to be taken seriously.
"America is like the Third Reich right now," he says, fixing me with an 'I'm not bullshitting you now' look. "The Nazis had a scapegoat in the Jews, and America is choosing anyone who's not American. America is not a nice place to live now Its full of Nazis."
What, as in the KKK and the like?
"No, I mean the American government lies to its own people and does things in other countries that it doesn't fully explain. That's what happened in the Third Reich 'I'm a good American' now means 'I'm a pig and a Nazi'."
Arguably. So how does this affect you personally?
"There's just something about the place that makes me wanna leave. It's the quality of life going down to zero. Everything's wrapped up in plastic - you can't light your cigarette properly, cos of safety lighters. Uh, y'know, that kinda stuff."
Right. So where exactly are you going to go?
"I wanna move to Ireland. Get a cottage on a beach on the West Coast I went on a lames Joyce field trip for a month when I was 16, and I loved it so much there. Now I'm a rich rock n roll star, why don't I go and buy a house there?"
You hopeless old romantic, you. But that, of course, is what makes Evan Dando such an intriguing character. You never know how much of him is calculated image bullshit, how much taking the piss, how much silly old hippy and how much crazy young punk. He's damn entertaining company. though and you are warmly recommended to share a beer with him soon.
Meanwhile, we're just going out for a walk We may be some time...
Somehow you suspect that Evan Dando is a hopeless case - In the image stakes at any rate. We're walking through Holland Park in West London, a slightly offensively pleasant pocket of greenery with wildlife rammed in to help the posh media types round here pretend they don't live in a city.
A tired and emotional Evan wanders along the path with a drink still welded to his hand. That'll be the vodka Campari and grapefruit juice he splattered all over the room when he was making it, then.
He is wearing a flannel hooded top, which he insists on putting up and doing Liam Gallagher impressions for the camera. After pausing briefly to scrawl a swastika in biro on a sign saying No skateboarding, he sees a peacock on the other side of the fence. He then spends ten minutes chasing it trying to get it to pose for a photo with him. Then he pisses in the bushes and lies down on the path for no apparent reason, as mothers
anxiously pull their children away.
Funny lad. Liam Gallagher's description of him - John Boy Walton on acid - is beginning to seem strangely apposite.
Finally, despite Evan's attempt to engage in conversation with every female, of any age, who passes us, we head back to the hotel, where Evan is going to go and have a lie down - Not a bad idea, all things considered.
So there we have it Evan Dando - pop star, romantic, junkie, hedonist, fluffy lickle love puppy, punk rock nutcase, enemy of the American people, and all round silly bugger.
Or, in summary... pffffffhyurkhyurkhyurk!