The Dandy Warhols have been a rock music staple for years. Known for their psychedelic sound and a little film called ‘Dig!’ the Warhols seem stronger than ever and are looking bright into the future. On the verge of releasing ‘The Dandy Warhols Are Sound’ an alternate version of their 2003 album ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ due out July 14th on their own label, Beat the World Records, The Dandy Warhols still prove they want their music made their way. A lesson that all bands should learn. I had the opportunity of interviewing guitarist Peter Holmstrom who was an absolute pleasure to talk to. We discussed everything from the past, future and just what drives The Dandy Warhols as a band.
When you started in the height of ‘Alternative’ music, what are the differences you see between that scene and the current ‘Indie’ rock scene?
Um, there’s two big differences, right. One, there is no real set path anymore. And two, we made a demo tape, signed to an indie label and then signed to a major label. Now there is none of that. Things are so much easier now, definitely. I don’t know how bands these days do it. I’m old school!
How has the relationship within the band changed over time?
We know when to let sleeping dogs lie (laughs). You learn not to push buttons. You know how they are going to react, and not push those buttons. It’s not ideal! It’s such a strange run, its become more family than friends. At first we were just a band, in a working relationship. It’s very confusing,but it’s working somehow.
How does the songwriting process occur for the band? Is it collaborative or does everyone bring in their own songs?
There’s three ways it goes. Generally in most cases, Courtney brings in a song and we jam at it out. Or it is something we as a band jam out and come up with progressions. Or I bring in a song and Courtney adds the vocal parts.
What inspires you to write a song? Do you ever find it difficult?
It’s incredibly difficult! I put it on guitar and then I forget what I’m doing, then I come back and find something new. Working on it too much loses it’s art. I don’t write lyrics and a lot of people start with them. I write predominantly guitar.
Which do you prefer, being in the studio or being on tour?
I like being on tour, probably the most. The studio’s first half is great. Finishing, ah the last part is…you don’t know if the snare drum is up, if you should make it better or not, so we have people that do it for us (laughs). Courtney sticks it out, but it’s where I lose my mind.
Where, in terms of state or even country, is your favorite place to play a show?
Australia because they tend to be more excited about it. Followed by England because they’re incredible. Playing to an audience that reacts and gets into it makes it easier for us and we don’t feel we have to try hard to please. We can get more into what we’re doing.
How would you personally describe the band’s sound?
You want me to do it? (laughs)
Well, think of it as if you had to describe it to someone who has never heard the Dandy Warhols before.
I just say Rock and Roll! Talking about music without mentioning other bands is hard. We’re on the psychedelic version side of rock, but we’re every style. To quote Courtney ‘Talking about music is like dancing to architecture’. Its beyond me!
Every Dandy Warhol album seems to go in a different direction. Does that happen naturally or is it more of a planned decision?
It tends to happen pretty naturally. There’s a collection of songs and songs can be produced anyway possibly. We go in with our limited set of skills and do the best we can with what you’re inspired by. Whatever we tend to get too much of we go the other direction. We’ve been playing a certain set on tour, like a lot of jamming songs, then we’ll make the opposite. Like ‘That’s really cool, let’s do that!’
Russell Elavedo’s versions of ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ was shelved by Capitol Records. What was their initial arguments for not letting you put it out?
It wasn’t necessarily an argument. It was a decision but not a fair one. We made the record and everyone wanted ‘Bohemian Take 2’ so when we turned in the record a year later they were disappointed it was a keyboard record, not ‘Bohemian Take 2’. They asked if we could remix the songs for radio. They even got another guitar player to come and play over some of my parts. They put more stuff they could remix, they thought it was okay. I think ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ was great but the situation was sticky especially since they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
Wow, that’s messed up.
Its the way of the business world. They don’t keep their promises.
What made you decide to finally release the different version as ‘The Dandy Warhols Are Sound’?
We always intended to. I think we were going to release, or leak it out, but it never happened beyond a few of our friends. When our relationship with Capitol ended, we gained control of our catalog and it allowed us to release it officially. It was just the right time.
Why didn’t you keep the original name of the record?
It (‘The Dandy Warhols Are Sound’) was going to be the original title, we changed it to ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’. It seemed to fit because it wasn’t the sound we wanted.
The band has started Beat the World records. Why did the band start it’s own label and is there a meaning behind the title?
Just another clever title I guess! (laughs). We had to put out our own records, we had to try our own label. See if we did have the right resources and skills. We’re doing okay. We rush to get things done too fast like with this record. Next time we’ll get it right (laughs)
How would you describe the musical difference between ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ and ‘The Dandy Warhols Are Sound’?
Its a little more organic and everything got really pumped in and in some cases sped up. It’s a different approach we went in like we always do with long trail outs into the next song. To us, the little gap between songs are saying something. It’s a big decision…silence or sound, which is better? We like it to blend together as a record. The ‘Monkey House’ remixes, there is a bunch of stuff that didn’t get to the mixer so its just a series of songs. We tried to do something about it but we couldn’t pull it off.
Your music has been in a lot of television shows and movies. How does the band pick and choose what they want to do?
We just say ‘Yes!’ pretty much (laughs). Its a financial thing, its how we survive. We don’t make any money from record sales. No one does really. Licensing songs to movies and TV is a way to get by without working in the coffee shop again. We say ‘Yes’ to everything. If its a non profit or student film we also say ‘Yes’ and at no price. We let them go for it.
For a lot of bands it is the only way to make a living these days.
When we started doing that it was very taboo, we’re ‘selling out’. Now its what bands are aiming for because we used to get a lot more licensing than we do now! (laughs). I kind of wish it went back to being uncool! (laughs)
Of course ‘Dig!’ was a pretty big deal. What’s the Dandy Warhol’s relationship with the Brian Jonestown Massacre today?
Oh yea, absolutely! The biggest misconception is we don’t like each other. The film-maker’s story was not really true. It was a good story, but if I wasn’t involved in it I would like more. Anton came to my wedding and sang but of course they didn’t put that in there. In one of my side projectsI play with John and Matt Hollywood from Brian Jonestown Massacre. When Anton comes to town we hang out. If we’re both in the same part of the world, we hang out.
Your last studio record, ‘Earth to the Dandy Warhols’ also gave fans the privelage to your exclusive subscription service for the rest of the year. Starting in the mid 90’s and looking at it now, how has the internet in terms of making music more accessible, and with blog promotion, etc, helped the band?
Not really sure! Huh (laughs). Just being able to reach out to people that quickly is great. In some cases…I don’t know! (laughs). I don’t have an answer, I have no idea! When we started it was the beginning and it has changed and grown up with us. It created good but I always feel like I haven’t caught up. I still don’t care about Twitter. I personally like to be more private, I like doing interviews though. But as the internet gets constantly obsessive, I feel myself getting more old school! (laughs) Thats what I wish I could take back from ‘Dig!’. The mystery was lost, there seemed to be a backlash of it, of who we were, not what we do. It doesn’t matter what we wear or our personality, its the kind of music we make. Constant internet takes the mystery out of it and I try to avoid it.
Where do you see the Dandy Warhols in ten years?
I don’t know. Probably the same place. I can’t imagine leaving Oregon. We’ll be making records and touring as much as we can. I don’t see us stopping. None of us want to. We’ve been lucky to continue and hopefully we still can.
If you weren’t in the Dandy Warhols, what would you be doing?
Thats a very good question. I went to art school and intended to be an artist of some important art movement. I had went to school in New York City and moved back to Oregon to ‘take over the art world.’ Funny I was doing a lot of stencils and spray paint, graffiti. Art on different mediums. If I stuck with it I could have been part of an art movement!
What do you think the Dandy Warhol’s ‘key to success’ is?
Um, when it comes down to it, the thing that makes our band different from others is that it’s pretty much Courtney’s drive. He intended on being successful since he knew what it was. This was the first band he got to be singer and play guitar and he found a bunch of people to back him up on the strange trip. I attribute it all, well mostly all of it to that. Making things that people can relate to. A lot of people have the songwriting skills to make a song but they don’t have the drive behind it. Courtney definitely has the drive especially in the beginning, where it counts the most.
I’ve been listening to ‘The Dandy Warhols Are Sound’ and it’s incredible.
Thanks a lot! Pretty much when we’re done with records, I don’t listen to it for years. There was a lot of time before it was recorded and now so its like ‘hey we were on to something!’ I kind of like it myself!
Check out The Dandy Warhols online HERE