interview: peter holmstrom, the dandy warhols
The Dandy Warhols (L-R): Zia McCabe, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Brent DeBoer and Peter Holmstrom.
Upon hearing of one of my misguided drunken exploits (hard to say which one exactly), a friend asked me how it is that I tally up all the stupid things I do when I’ve been drinking and still manage to justify not giving it up altogether. And the answer is, it occasionally pays off.
At Clean Air Clear Stars, a festival which takes place in California in September, I asked Peter Holmstrom (of the Dandy Warhols and Pete International Airport) if I could interview him while the Dandys were touring Australia for Parklife. Even though such actions are never supposed to actually yield results, this somehow came to fruition.
This is how I find myself seated across from Holmstrom one Saturday morning, conducting an interview at St Ali Coffee Roasters in South Melbourne, while the rest of the table, including Holmstrom’s lovely wife, Michele, drink champagne and chat away.
I guess one of the dangers when you meet someone you admire is that you run the risk of being disappointed by them. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen with Holmstrom. And although I ask myself in the taxi on the way there why I would seek out an opportunity to interview someone famous whose music I dearly love (as though this hasn’t already been well documented), Holmstrom’s pleasant and casual demeanour quickly reminds me that’s he’s a normal human being.
Times have been a-changin’ for the Dandy Warhols: front man Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s wife gave birth to their first child, Ajax, earlier this year; drummer, Brent DeBoer, now lives in Australia, and he, along with keyboardist, Zia McCabe, as well as Holmstrom, have all been working on various side projects. And accordingly, these changes are seeing the Dandy Warhols take on a new direction.
‘I really think the last record kind of summed up everything we’d done in the past. The songs we’re working on at the moment all started with Zia and me, or Brent, which is a completely new place. Brent just wrote the song on The Capitol Years and we’re going to see where we go from now,’ says Holmstrom. ‘Courtney is taking a step back from the song writing side so the rest of us have to step it up. Since we haven’t done that before, it’s going to be interesting.’
Another thing that the Dandys haven’t done before is release Russell Elevado’s mix of Welcome to the Monkey House, aptly titled The Dandy Warhols Are Sound.
‘(Releasing Elevado’s mix) was always the intention. Initially, it was going to come out on Capitol – we were going to do their version and our version one after another and it just didn’t pan out. In 2009, it became okay for us to release it and they get their cut and we get to finally put out the album that we wanted to put out. I don’t know the general response to it but other musicians and some engineers and producers that have heard it have been blown away by it,’ says Holmstrom, though he also admits, ‘I don’t think it would’ve been nearly as successful as Monkey House.
‘When we were on Capitol, there was a lot to bitch about and when we were off Capitol, we realised just how much they actually did do. They really were able to get our records out to people and we gained our audience through that. Just having the amount of money that they were able to pump into anything is incredibly useful. It’s so much more difficult to do it without money. But essentially we gained most of our audience from a Vodafone ad so you got to reach people somehow.’
Though some of the Dandys’ hardships with Capitol Records were documented in Ondi Timoner’s documentary, DiG!, the main focus was on the seemingly strained relationship between the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
‘The thing about DiG! is that there was just a moment when the jealousy or dysfunction took over, but we’ve essentially always been friends. Stuff was said when people were drunk or under the influence of something and you get past it. Our relationship with Anton is as good as it possibly could be with him living in Berlin and us seeing each other once or twice a year at the most. Because there wasn’t a beginning and end to what was being filmed, a story had to be manufactured out of it. But I’m happy that the movie brought them to the attention of the world and that they survived it.’
For the more widely known Dandy Warhols, however, the misconstruction of events wasn’t necessarily worth the added exposure.
‘We’ve been battling a lot of the negative fallout from that pretty much since it came out. It portrayed us as just being out there for a good time and not artistic in any way. It made it seem like we sold out and then took the easy road. Maybe compared to what the Jonestown did, it was easier but it’s hard work and we don’t do it for anything other than the artistic aspects. It’s a shame that wasn’t portrayed.
‘It’s a weird thing to realise that somebody spent seven years following you around and maybe or maybe not pretending to be your friend. She definitely didn’t take our interests to heart when she made the film but that’s not her job so I feel both ways: I understand but I don’t need to have her around anymore.
‘At the end of the day, we have a film that’s going to be there forever and it’s just one more way for people to find us. Hopefully they take the time to listen to the music because it is, ultimately, what bands are about. It’s not about the relationships between various band members.’
Unfortunately for those of us clamouring for our next Dandys fix, Holmstrom predicts that the new record won’t be out until 2012. But one thing we do know is that this isn’t a band that’s going to regurgitate their last album.
‘I have no idea what it’s going to sound like,’ states Holmstrom.
And with bated breath, we wait.