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Interview with Evan Dando by Don Mercuri

From thedwarf, 31st March 2009

Some people are hard work. Others just seem to make you really push things for an interview. Then there’s Evan Dando.

Our first phone call seemed to catch him a little off-centre, lasting a full two minutes before he hung up in a fluster. The next time I tried to call him he hung up on me before I got past ‘hello’. I know this guy has fair reason to be wary of any interview. Over the past two decades he’s been hung, drawn and quartered in the pages of numerous music rags on multiple occasions. He’s been arrested in Sydney airport out of his mind on acid, photographed in bed with the wives of dead superstars and rehabilitated more than once over. The thing that strikes me however, is not the long list of drug related debacles (everyone’s done it and everyone will continue to do it) but the fact that he just keeps on releasing new material. It’s over twenty years since he formed The Lemonheads and he has long since become the only original member playing under the moniker. Yet still he writes songs, plays gigs and I couldn’t help but get the feeling, enjoys the fact that the only people really listening nowadays are the ones that actually care.

Dando’s next release will be an album of covers featuring tracks from Leonard Cohen, July and also features guest performances from the likes of Liv Tyler, Working together with Gibby Haynes (frontman of the Butthole Surfers) Dando has put together an album which he says has been “the most frustrating experience of my career”, he says, but is still something that he is very proud to be putting his name to.

Some may look at a covers album, at this stage of Dando’s long career, as a cop out. In a way it is, as you’ll see later in the interview his reason for putting it together is an interestingly different one (yet refreshingly honest). This is no way a sleight on Dando or a commentary on his song writing ability. His work is as fresh as ever, his solo performances are gentle, deft and as enjoyable as any Lemonheads show. Yet still, no one seems able to let go off the fact that this is a guy who had the world at his feet and let it spin on by. It seems that watching the rise and demise of people in the limelight is just as addictive (and media friendly) as the art they create. So, with all of these musings on the nature of fame, the beauty of crashing and burning and the joy in the longevity of the artist I finally got Evan Dando on the phone. Turns out he’s a really nice guy... So there’s a new record on the way, and a tour (Dando will be in town doing a run of solo shows)…

“Yeah we had it all done ages ago in like, May…we rushed it (then) the label decided they couldn’t really do this record. So we pushed the release date back a couple of times then they decided we’re not going to put it out at all.”

Lo and behold Dando found another label to release the finished long player and it will drop later this year. Why a covers album though?

“I’m looking at the reasoning for this record right now. It’s a painting that I bought. I bought this expensive painting at an art exhibit and that was the whole reason for the record…I wanted somewhere to put it, some budget…so I bought this painting I couldn’t afford and I don’t have enough songs right now for a new record and my friend Gibby Haynes, he produced the record…I thought well, how much fun would that be and just to buy a little time and have some fun and be ready to put a new album out when this one’s done.”

So will this be a Lemonheads release or….

“Good question, good question, good question. It depends on what the label wants to put it out as (laughing), it doesn’t really matter to me at this point ‘cos I am the Lemonheads and the Lemonheads are me you know, so it doesn’t really matter. I think it’s going to be a Lemonheads record though…”

As far as the Lemonheads go, is it basically just you doing the whole lot and putting together a touring lineup?

“Well it’s basically been that way since 1990. I mean, if you don’t know the bigger picture it could look like I’m just trying to milk something that happened over a period of time since 1990, but it’s been so much more than that. I tend to hold on to it, I don’t know why.”

The bigger picture, when it comes to a guy who has had his picture painted with some vicious strokes in the past, must be a tricky thing to keep your eye on. This is something that I’ve always been interested in. Just how much of what is said filters through and how much do you pay attention to?

“I’ve had everything said about me, I really don’t care…I’m beyond all that stuff now…I just want to make records and go on tour, you know. I know what I’ve done and I’m proud of what I’ve done…It’s been a long time since I paid attention to all that stuff.”

How does one get to that place though? Did it take a while to become comfortable and secure enough in what you’re doing and who you are to pay no credence to what’s said about you?

“Yeah well I go back to the guy who put out the ‘Die Evan Dando, die’ fanzine….I like it, you know, basically. This is fun. Everyone’s got to have a hobby and this guy wants to put out a ‘Die, Evan Dando, Die’ fanzine…It doesn’t matter after that. It toughened me up quite a bit…It just doesn’t matter after that…”

I can’t help but take my hat off to someone who can wear something like that and have the self-awareness to shrug it off and get past it. And so, with absolutely all things said and done, Dando’s new album Varshons comes out in Australia in the coming months. After the rollercoaster ride that has been Evan Dando’s career, I for one hope there are a few more up’s to ride.

 

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