Rock2: Dean Ween Group's New Album Due Out March 16
You know that saying, "Don't take life too seriously, you won't get out alive?" That perfectly sums up the headspace of this conversation with Mickey Melchiondo, aka Dean Ween, aka Deaner.
With Rock2 coming out soon on March 16, the light-hearted Rock God has gathered the members of Dean Ween Group in what only can be compared to the traveling rock n' roll version of the Justice League. Not just because of their musical superpowers, but as a badass bunch of friends assembling to make things right all over the world. And if you're lucky, they're coming to your town.
Kicking off in Indianapolis March 21, the Dean Ween Group (DWG) will play a series of shows in March and April. First, four dates in the midwest, then five on the East coast, then capping off with five shows in Australia as the opening band for Primus. Ween currently has two dates announced at Red Rocks on June 5-6. Hear what Deaner had to say about his new studio, the fertile crescent of musical riches that is New Jersey, and why he remade The Caeser Demos Ween B-side, "Don't Let the Moon Catch ya Cryin."
Kelley Lauginiger: Thanks so much for chatting today.
Dean Ween: Hey, no problem. This is actually my very first piece of press for the whole album.
Kelley: No way! Thanks for the honor. So, what are you more excited for on your upcoming tour: Indianapolis, or Northbridge, Australia?
Deaner: (Laughing) Oh my God, well... it's impossible to separate Australia from the time it takes to get there. The flight...oh man. It's so long. How do I put this? Okay, so it's like, when you get married. You get all caught up on the wedding day, more than you get caught up in, "Oh God, I'm committing to spend the rest of my life with this person."
If that's any kind of metaphor, it's like that. When you think about touring Australia, all you can think about is the fuc*!ng 30 hours of flights that you are gonna have to endure. ESPECIALLY if you're a cigarette smoker."
Kelley: Oh, yea! I didn't even consider that. What do you do?!
Deaner: You don't do anything (laughing). You suffer. Even if you didn't smoke cigarettes, even if you're a perfectly fit, normal, healthy person, that flight has a way of just sucking all of the dignity out of you. You see grown ass men fighting over, like, "how come he got more peanuts than I did!?" It's a flight where you really see what people are made of (laughing).
So, yea. If you could teleport me to Australia, I guess you could say I'd be more excited for that. But since you can't, I guess right now I'd say I'm more excited for Indy (laughing). It's definitely more exotic...
Kelley: (laughing) Gotta say, that is not the answer I expected. That's a great segue into your stateside tour that kicks off in Indy March 21. Can you confirm what lineup will be playing on that leg of the tour at this time?
Deaner: I'm not 150% sure yet. But, it's definitely me, Dave Dreiwitz (bass), Bill Fowler (guitar), and Sim Cane on drums. Sim is another one of our Trenton (NJ) badasses. He plays with Rollins Band, J Geils Band, Gone; you name it. He plays with everybody. He's a monster.
Kelley: Is that him playing on your studio album for Rock2, or was that Claude? (Coleman Jr., Ween drummer)
Deaner: You know, Claude pretty much plays on the whole record. I might have played some drums on it. I can't even remember. You know, it's kind of hard for me because I don't have a copy of the record yet to look at.
The thing is, Sim is here recording with me (at the studio) all the time. We do so much; we make so much damn music. It's hard to remember what's on this particular record (laughing). The record (Rock2), for the most part, was like this: I demo'd the songs here with a whole bunch of people. Sim might have played then. But then, I got the band in. You know, the main Ween guys, and a couple of the Dean Ween Group regulars.
It was Glenn (McLelland, Ween keys), Dave (Dreiwitz, Ween bass), and Claude. So you know, Ween. We cut it together. I think Claude played drums on every track except for maybe one, where Rich Scannella plays drums. My other friend, from Jersey. Then, you know, Dean Ween Group can have up to three guitar players in it. So, the other guys came and played some on it.
But, you know, it's pretty much the same lineup the whole record. It's the Ween live band, without Aaron obviously, plus guests.
Kelley: So that's a fair way to explain Dean Ween Group?
Deaner: Yea, the whole concept of Dean Ween Group is that the personnel is always changing. From one tour to the next. Sometimes drastically, and sometimes in a minor way. When we go to Australia, it's me, Dave, Claude; like the Ween band, with Joe Kramer on guitar. When we do America, it's Sim, Billy, Dave, me, maybe Mike Dillon, who's also in the mix.
Kelley: No way!
Deaner: Yea, and you know I cater the setlist to the strengths of the band that's with us that night. It's cool. That was the concept I started out with when I started this band, and I've stuck with it. It's very fun.
Kelley: That's cool. I'm sure after touring for so long, it's nice to mix it up like that.
Deaner: Yea. It's neat having your own band. Plus, this area is just so fertile with badasses. I've spent a lifetime playing with these guys. Anyone that's in the Dean Ween Group, I've played with forever. It's all great friends. Great, great, great, musicians that I really trust. There's never been a weak link in any version of the band, throughout fifty different people in the last few years of the Dean Ween Group!
Kelley: That's so true, and brings up a question I was wondering about. When you put out the last album, The Deaner Album, you said you wanted to focus on your guitar work-
Deaner: Ok, first of all, I just wanna say, I should stop writing my press releases. I just go around totally confusing people. It's not just about guitar work. I swear I've put out more false information by accident... (laughing)
Kelley: Since you say that, do you have anything at all you feel like you want to clarify or correct that's out there?
Deaner: Not off the top of my head. But, here's the thing, to me, it's always about the songs. And about guitar playing. I've been really embracing playing my guitar with the Dean Ween Group.
By the end of the cycle for the first record, and for the Ween reunion gigs, my guitar playing was at a place I was hoping it would get to my whole life. But, I'm not saying I'm anywhere near satisfied. I'm constantly trying to get better, trying to learn more. Being a sponge, taking in anything I can to add to my musical vocabulary.
Kelley: You've said before that you originally learned guitar from a friend of yours back in the day. Are you still looking to learn from people today?
Deaner: Absolutely. I'm absolutely sponging. I'm totally not afraid. If I see someone playing at a bar, just somebody that only two people come to see, and they might stink, I don't care. Cuz' even if they do one interesting thing, I'll stick around 'til afterwards to ask, like, "Hey, what were you doing there?" I'm not shy (laughing) I'm not shy at all.
Kelley: I don't think anyone thinks you're shy (laughing). Have you learned anything new recently?
Deaner: Yes. I'm doing a ton of playing with Kidd Funkadelic, Michael Hampton.
Photo by Jenny Lee Baniszewski
Kelley: At The Invitational right?
Deaner: Yes, and personally. He and I are really, really tight. We play a lot of guitar together here at the studio. We jam a lot on Wednesday's too, at The Invitational. He does gigs with me and the Dean Ween Group sometimes. They're the greatest guitar band in the world, and he's the lead guitar. He played on all of my favorite records ever made. PFunk and The Beatles are number one and two for me, in no particular order (laughing), and he's my friend! He lives right here, and we're really, really tight.
Michael has definitely, really influenced my guitar playing. I've never seen anyone like him. First of all, he's a master. He's a master musician. Even people like me who spend a lifetime in music, you don't encounter them. We're mortals, the rest of us, you know. Then you come across someone like that. The way he approaches things, and the way that he plays. He's definitely turned my head around. You know, just standing next to him. It's amazing.
Kelley: How unbelievably cool to be able to work with someone you have admired so much in your life. That's really special. Would you say that the same way your first album was a homage to guitar playing, that this Rock2 album is a homage to the "Group" in Dean Ween Group? And playing music with your friends?
Deaner: Yes. Yes to all of that. But, you know, the biggest thing is truly this studio (in Lambertville, NJ). This studio is the biggest thing that has happened to me in the last ten years.
After all those years of Aaron and I renting alllll those places. Dozens of places in thirty years of Ween. I bet we rented two dozen apartments, beach houses, and everything. Meanwhile, I got stuff at home in storage bins...in my garage, closets, here, there...
When the first Deaner album came out, I had just gotten in here. I had like half of that record done in these other places that I had rented on my own. We were just getting going here with the operations of this place. My comfort level was just getting going. Whereas this record, Rock2, was entirely constructed here in the studio. Everything was written, recorded, demo'd, conceived, produced, here. Everything was done here.
I totally became a studio rat, which is what I love, you know? And now I have this great place, that I can have forever. I'm really starting to make higher quality recordings and better music. And I have way more to choose from because it's always available to me 24/7, 12 months a year. We're working here every day, every night, all day, and all night.
This new album is just a portion of time. It's a snapshot of a few months of writing here, from last year. So, I'm already way, way ahead of this album (laughing).
Kelley: Congrats, that's really cool. I know you mentioned that you shouldn't write your press releases, so maybe this isn't even accurate, but you stated that this Rock2 album would represent the first time that you could take what you do on stage, and put it on a record. Is that true?
Deaner: White Pepper was that.
But, there's so many facets where you need a crowd.
See, there's just another example of why I shouldn't write my own press release. (laughing)
But, yea, you need a crowd. You need the energy to really get the most out of something. So, that part of it, without making a live record, is kind of hard. But, it does represent something, where there is no studio gimmickery or trickery on this record, that can't be fully pulled off right now if you walked in and we started rehearsing. We could play it down for you exactly as it sounds on the record. I think that's more what I was going for.
Ween was not ensemble music. It was very much a studio band that transposed those recordings for the stage. And the songs took a whole new meaning on stage, without the tapes, and the sped up effects, and all of that. Dean Ween Group, this is a straight up- BAND. You know? That's kind of what I was saying. It's music made to be played on the stage with a band.
Kelley: That reminds me, I have to ask... what's up with the change of "Don't Let the Moon Catch You Cryin'?" It's one of my favorite Ween B-sides and I was excited to see it on the track listing. But then the lyrics were totally different!
Deaner: (laughing) Oh man.. I never liked the words. I loved the chorus, but didn't think the verses were that good. (laughing) That's it! It's that simple. I always thought had it explored deeper, it could have been a single, you know?
Kelley: I do. I love it. Always have. It seems like it went from an introspective type of tune, to a "screw what you guys think, we're stayin' together" type song. Which is very different.
Deaner: Yea, there's a lot of meaning up in there. It's referencing a few things in my life.
Kelley: So it is based on something real?
Deaner: All lyrics are like that. It's always based on something real. But it's not just necessarily one thing. Anyone who writes songs could give you that answer, because it's always true. It's like, you draw from everything. There's a little bit of everybody up in there; everything, everybody.
And I should mention, my friend Adam, from the band Low Cut Connie, helped me with the lyrics on that.
Kelley: No way, I love that band.
Deaner: Yea, they're great. A really great live band. We did a song on the first record, too. My favorite track from that one, "Bundle of Joy."
Kelley: Nice. Did you just want to keep the same melody and find other lyrics that sounded right? Was there a process to it?
Deaner: Honestly? (laughing) It was just one of those things, where I wanted to get around having to be the one to rewrite it. I just didn't want to. There's so much less to it than people think sometimes (laughing).
You asked earlier if there's anything I want to clarify, and, well, I was thinking about this the other day. There's a book out there called "Chocolate and Cheese 33 1/3" ... it's part of the 33 1/3 series. And the guy, this guy Hank, he wrote this book about Chocolate and Cheese (Ween album, 1997).
I never had really read it, even though I did *at least* a million hours of interviews for it. There were all these people who were upset about it when it came out; about what we said, you know, me and Aaron, and the other guy who produced it (Andrew Weiss). It's so funny, because the reality of it is, when you make something, and it leaves your hands, and it goes out to the world. And then you do interviews talking about it, then you go tour behind it, and you play the songs. And it sounds so serious! I'm reading all this stuff and I'm thinking...
The truth of the matter is: we weren't thinking about anything! (laughing) Concepts took like, seconds, you know what I mean? (laughing) There's no thought that went into it. Reading how we were gonna make the jump to the studio, and it was gonna be our next big thing, and this and that, and the other. Things were a lot more natural in reality. Things happen a lot faster and with a lot less thought. I almost feel pompous reading the stuff from back then, like, "Well this is the way it was..."
I don't know exactly the way it was, but I know it wasn't all that thought and planning and sh*t! You know?! (laughing)
And the best things happen real fast. They happen in like an hour's time and they're done. Written, recorded, mixed, out, done. We always say: quantity, not quality (laughing).
I'd rather write ten songs and have five of them be good, and have five stink, than slave over one for two weeks!
Kelley: That brings to mind the debate amongst fans as to whether Ween is a jam-band or not. What are your thoughts on that?
Deaner: Oh my God, how stupid is that! Ew. What even is that? What is Ween? What is my thing? It's a little bit of everything. If we ever got pegged down into one of those things... I dunno
I'm just as passionate about Sinatra as I am about Motörhead. Or Fela (Kuti). You know? I want all that shit up in my stuff. I wanna be like those guys (laughing). There's room for all of it.
Kelley: Hell yea, well said.
Deaner: Gimme another question, so we can move on. I don't want to say anything bad. Over the years, I've tried to say less and less bad stuff. Because you always run into the people that you diss.
Kelley: Has that happened?
Deaner: To Ween? Only fuck*ng every time we do a festival..yea (laughing) for like, over twenty years...
Kelley: (laughing) What about Big Head Todd?
Deaner: (laughing) NO NAMES! Just guess. Take a guess on what I think, and you'll probably be pretty damn close. With anything.
Kelley: Fair enough! Ok, so I gotta ask. How is this DWG album different for you, knowing that Ween is back together, playing live shows? Does it feel different this time around?
Deaner: No, not at all to be honest. It doesn't seem different.
There's so much more I wanna do. I don't know if the industry allows it, but I want to start putting out lots of records per year. That's what I'm getting towards. I'm gonna be doing this for a long time. I have so much music down here in the studio. I'm so backlogged with hard drives full of great stuff, and there's all sorts of projects in there.
I'm recording with Kurt Vile which is so cool. We're writing and recording together for the first time which is super fun. He lives pretty close and we met at a festival recently.
If you're hyperactive like me, you make time for all of it. I'm also a dad, first and foremost. A husband. A full-time charter-boat fisherman. If I don't work at this pace, I go completely insane. I have to have eighteen different balls in the air. (laughing)
Catch Deaner and Ween, minus Aaron, plus guests on tour as Dean Ween Group in March & April. Full tour dates and tickets on sale here.
Rock2 Track Listing
- Showstopper (feat Ray Kubian on vocals, Electric Six on backing vocals)
- Don't Let the Moon Catch You Crying
- Waste Station 9
- Love Theme From "Skinheads Kicking Your Ass"
- Someone Greased the Fatman
- The Ritz Carlton
- This Heart of Palm
- Yellow Pontiac
- Pussy on My Pillow
- Sunset Over Belmar
All songs written by Mickey Melchiondo (Pencil Poppin’ Music-BMI) Copyright 2017.
Except “Showstopper” (J. Warren-Fiore Publishing Co.) and “Don’t Let The Moon” (Ween-Browndog Music BMI) and Adam Weiner (BMI)
Rock2 by the Dean Ween Group credits:
Claude Coleman Jr.