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Interview with Evan Dando by Simon Williams

from The Daily Mirror 2nd May 2003

 

Evan Griffith Dando's eventful and star-studded career is the stuff of rock 'n' roll legend. When his buddy Kurt Cobain took US alternative rock into the mainstream with Nirvana in 1992, Evan was the blond-haired, blue-eyed frontman of The Lemonheads.

A former mild-mannered Boston college kid, Dando was an instant pin-up for the grunge generation. However, he soon became famous more for his connections and relentless partying than cult albums such as It's A Shame About Ray, or the smash hit cover of Mrs Robinson, Simon And Garfunkel's theme from The Graduate.

He filmed a movie with Liv Tyler, sung a song inspired by his friend, the then-rising star Gwyneth Paltrow, and became godfather to Keith Richards' granddaughter.When Cobain died in April 1994, Evan was pictured cavorting in a hotel room with Kurt's widow Courtney Love and the dead rock star's ashes. He also missed a crucial 1995 Glastonbury performance because he was indisposed enjoying a threesome with famous lesbians Rachel Williams and Alice Temple, plus a large bag of heroin. He then hopped on the Oasis bandwagon during the Be Here Now cocaine blizzard and recorded an album of unreleased songs with Noel Gallagher before disappearing from public view. During his lost years, he drank enough booze to sink a battleship and consumed enough drugs to turn a less luckier soul into a cabbage.

The drink and drugs are in the past and Dando, now 36, is preparing to tour his debut solo album, Baby I'm Bored. Relaxing in a hotel with his wife and the CD's cover star (inset), Geordie model Elizabeth Moses, Evan insists that although the excesses are over, he's lost none of his passion.

"Adventure means more to me than anything," he declares. "I'm not interested in a career and I'm not a breadhead. I just want to travel, play music and give 100 percent every time I hit the stage."

When he began playing in bands, wasn't he more interested in furthering his love and social life than his musical talent?

"Attracting women had nothing to do with it," says Evan. "That's Gene Simmons' thing, y'know, the guy from Kiss. In his book, he said anybody who picks up a guitar does it for one reason - to get pussy. That's outrageous and kind of funny, but all we ever wanted to do was make noise like The Velvets, The R,amones and Minor Threat. I discovered rock 'n' roll and marijuana when I was 14. I wanted to cleanse my soul by making as much noise as possible."

Two things finally lead Dando to kick the booze and drugs - witnessing the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center from the roof of his New York apartment on September 11, 2001 and meeting Elizabeth.

"She made me want to get more out of life and I'm more in love with my wife every day," he says. "I've never felt anything like this before. That's why I don't need drugs and alcohol. Also they were making me feel old."

Elizabeth met Dando in a New York bar in 1998. "I recognised him, but I wasn't a huge Lemonheads fan," she explains. "He was very engaging and we just hit it off immediately. Then, for some reason, we kept running into each other every day in New York. We'd come round corners and smack into one another.

"We fell in love and he decided to clean himself up. I didn't tell him to do anything. But the drink and drugs were going to get in the way of us having a good time together and, on top of that, he really wanted to get back into music. Drugs had ruined it for him the last time around."

But Dando hasn't lost touch with his old friends. He recently bumped into Gwyneth Paltrow and asked how she felt about him still singing the song she inspired, Gwyneth Paltrow's Head.

"The song was just about how weird it was for Kevin Spacey to bring her head in a box in that movie Se7en. I wanted to clear the air with her about doing the song now because it is a bit offensive. But she loves it."

"I knew Gwyneth back in 1994 when she went out with my friend Donovan. When I first moved to New York she was part of the whole scene with Sofia Coppola and my mate Marlon. It seemed like everyone lived in New York and it was a really fun time."

Dando is godfather to Marlon's daughter Ella Rose, which gives him a link to another slice of rock history. Marlon's father and Ella Rose's grandfather is Keith Richards.

"I'm afraid it leaked out," admits Evan. "The press shouldn't know things like this, it's a private thing, and I should have kept my bloody mouth shut, but I can't. I love Ella and Marlon. The relationship really has nothing to do with grandpa Keith."

But Dando has made music with The Rolling Stone.

"Just once and it was one of the joys of my life," he says. "It was at Redlands, his house in Sussex, and I started playing 1,000 Dollar Wedding by Gram Parsons at the piano. Keith came in and began singing along, picking his guitar perfectly. At the end he said, `That's the piano Gram actually finished writing the song on'. I thought, `I might as well kill myself now. What else is there?'

"The good thing about Keith is that he doesn't really like me. I'm just a pain in the ass to him. I like that because it makes my relationship with Marlon more pure. In the old days when I used to see Keith I was always like, `Hey, you owe me cocaine'. He just finds me a bore and not a real musician either. He's right, I guess."

Evan was recently reunited with another old friend when Liv Tyler duetted on a track on his new single, Shots Is Fired. The pair first met in 1994 when they appeared in the movie Heavy. "That was a very surreal experience," he recalls. "Liv was only 16 and we both didn't really know what was going on. They strapped us to a bridge over the Delaware
River and said, `OK you guys have got to make out for five hours'."

Dando admits to most of his past love affairs - and Elizabeth says she is unconcerned about this side of his history - but he is keen to set the record straight about Courtney Love

"I've got nothing against Courtney, but her father told lies about me he said we were having a relationship," he says defiantly. "That never happened. We took one picture where we had Kurt's ashes and his teddy bear. We were crying about Kurt's death. We also pretended we were kissing in one picture. I left the film in the room by mistake and
somebody made many thousands of dollars off those pictures. The least they could do is send me the development fee back."

Despite it all, he has few regrets. Fatherhood is a distinct possibility and he reckons that Baby I'm Bored, already described as a career highlight, is just the start of a new improved Dando.

"I have now reached a really nice place in my life," he says. "For me, it's been a mythological trip out of darkness into light. I hope no one thinks I'm being self-important because that sounds horrible.

"Let's just say it's been fun and I don't regret a single microgram of any drug I ever ingested. But it's great to be alive and healthy, and to have a record out. I'm really back into music and I'm thinking about it all the time. From now on that's what I really want to do."

 

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