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Interview with Evan Dando by Bob Gordon

From Time Off Magazine October 2001

Evan Dando was standing on the roof of his apartment, a mere five blocks down from what would come to be known as Ground Zero, when he saw the first United Airlines jet fly into the World Trade Centre’s north tower on September 11.

A few weeks later, when Time Off calls, Dando and his wife Elizabeth have just that day moved back into their home, after having fled like so many New Yorkers from the “like, clouds of horribleness coming down the street”. The chance to be home again leaves him feeling cheery, but the pandemonium is all too easy to recall.

“It was nuts, man,” he drawls. “We thought that it might have been some crazy accident. Like some sort of King Kong shit, you know, where the plane hit the Empire State Building by accident? That’s what was going through my mind until I saw this plane come right over my shoulders and go directly into the south tower. It was so scary. It looked way more real on television than it did in real life.”

Perhaps reeling in disbelief, the couple’s next move was to finish their morning coffee. Their caffeine respite, however, was shattered by the next step in the catastrophe.

“Then one of the towers collapsed and our building shook and we just ran. With nothing, no keys or wallets or anything. We ran uptown to my friend’s house – the parents of my goddaughter – up on The Bowery. By the time we got to Chinatown the air was clean, they gave us paper masks. It was a scary time. It was black, dark outside. We didn’t know whether or not we were gonna live.”

A little eerily, Dando has a strange knack for being where disaster calls.

“I do, I was in LA during the riots too. I always seem to be, unfortunately, in the middle of things. I was in Martha’s Vineyard when JFK Jr crashed. And I was in Paris when Lady Di died [stifles an uncomfortable laugh].”

Brisbane citizens are therefore put on notice that since Dando will be here for the Livid Festival, personal safety cannot necessarily be assured. Lucky, then, that his acoustic delivery is one of pop life’s more soothing scenarios. The Lemonheads ended as a band in mid-97 and following a performance-free period the singer/songwriter/slacker icon has been enjoying himself playing acoustic gigs, in both solo and duet mode, across the US and Europe since mid-2000.

Here with good friend Chris Brokaw (Pullman, Come) the pair will present a fan-friendly set (“we’re not afraid of playing the favourites”) of Lemonheads tunes and newer songs, such as ‘The Same Thing You Thought Hard About Is The Same Thing I Can’t Live Without’, co-written with Tom Morgan and Ben Lee.

The tour coincides with the release of Live At The Brattle Theatre, recorded a year ago at an intimate show in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Featuring the aforementioned Morgan/Lee co-write, the album is also accompanied by a five-track EP called Griffith Sunset, a selection of songs that were to appear on Dando’s mooted ‘country covers’ LP of the same name.

“I was not like completely into it,” Dando recalls of the covers project, which was partially recorded in Sydney in 1999. “I was a bit depressed and I just didn’t really think it was a good enough thing to release on its own. I thought that me just singing and playing was a better thing to put out. So we did that, then we added the ones we thought were the best from the country LP. We turned that into an EP and got this really weird record that’s coming out only in Australia.”

With four John Bryan (Magnolia soundtrack) co-penned songs already recorded for a solo ‘debut’ intended for release in 2002, Dando agrees that Live At The Brattle Theatre may, to a degree, represent the closing of a chapter. Even so, he doesn’t seem to be overly sentimental about The Lemonheads.

“No, we went out perfectly. We did a great big festival gig at Reading in ’97 and that was it. I announced onstage ‘This is our last gig’ and sure enough it was. There’s definitely not going to be a reunion, ’cause we’d have like 50 people on stage [laughs]. That’s how many have been in The Lemonheads.”

Dando says that life has settled down since he married two years ago (he and Elizabeth hope to have a second honeymoon whilst in Australia). Other than happily stating that he “just met the right girl”, Dando obviously isn’t interested in declaring his innermost or of-the-cuff thoughts into someone else’s tape recorder anymore. Still, having been burnt constantly by journalists in his time, there seems little trace of bitterness.

“I’m just kind of reacquainting myself with them right now,” he says. “I haven’t done interviews for years. I’m a little older. I’m a little smarter. I’m not gonna like, talk about my personal life. I talk about my address, considering current events I have to talk about that. But I’m here to play music, you know? I’m just really excited to come back to Australia.”

Evan Dando plays the Livid Festival at the RNA Showgrounds Saturday Oct 13. Live At The Brattle Theatre is released Oct 15 through Modular Records.

This interview originally transcribed by Robert Crosbie

 

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