Courtney Taylor-Taylor (The Dandy Warhols): “It was a small act of defiance and absolute self-indulgence”

We live in the period of the 21st Century when almost on a daily basis we are reminded that some of the music (master)pieces that we endlessly play on our music player of choice have, so to say, grown old. The first half of this year went by with the endless buzz about the 20th anniversary of what’s maybe the best album on this side of “The Dark Side of The Moon”, Radiohead’s “OK Computer”. That year, truth be told, held many albums deserving of the legendary spot on the shelf. Most of them come from the (British) Islands, since brit pop was the late 90’s best-selling drug, but somewhere in the sea of cocaine stained Oasis, cynical Blur boys, sweet-n-hit The Verve, almost completely missed U2, on the west coast of the greatest British colony, a four-piece band from Portland was writing alternative history. Bullseye precise in the middle of July of 1997, a young neo-psychedelic band The Dandy Warhols releases their second album, the very one that changes the game and gives them a well needed kickstart so they could finally say what they had to say loud enough.

„…The Dandy Warhols Come Down“ was brought to daylight on the 15th of July in a very busy year of 1997. Even though the band was present on the scene with their excellent debut album “Dandy Rules, OK”, the hit singles and glory weren’t the first thing that came to your mind when you thought of The Dandy Warhols. In one of the luckiest moments in music history, the Portland band made the first step in the journey of becoming legendary, a status they proudly sustain today. In addition to the majestic epic „Be-In“ and one of the most recognizable hits of the 90s „Not if you were the last junkie on Earth“, this album gave us pearls such as sweet/cynical „Good Morning“, mesmerizing „still-water-runs-deep“ journey of „Whipping Tree“, but also some of the rocking stuff like „Boys Better“. With the sound and style which was basically a middle finger to an already stagnating US scene, „…The Dandy Warhols Come Down“ came „like a long awaited sunshine“ and launched the Portland boys (and a girl!) directly to Space. Heroin has become passé a long time ago, but the roar of the American indie scene became only louder since that. This album was the real underdog, the album that proved that The Dandy Warhols were the crownless kings of the American psychedelic indie rock. Twenty years later, we spoke the frontman and the principal songwriter of The Dandy Warhols, Courtney Taylor-Taylor:

Balkanrock: Back in ’97, world had a plethora of these big alternative bands releasing milestone albums, and yet, there comes a relatively young band from Portland  with a breakthrough record that helps them reach the stratosphere. Did you guys shoot for the stars? Did you expected it? Was it break it or make it, like was it “OK, guys, we gotta make a hit record, hit single, conquer the stations” or did it all came naturally?

Courtney: I had been kicked out of the grunge band I was playing drums in.  Pete who was my roommate suggested we make a band so we could meet people who were into cool music like T-Rex or the Velvet Underground.  That was the beginning of The Dandy Warhols.  I had never sang and played guitar, but I had done a lot of recording at home so it seemed casual enough and sort of like “someone needs to do it so why not me” and thus our first record happened.

By the time we got signed to capitol records and began werking on Come Down, the shoegazer stoner rock scene had died and we weren’t really sure why.  I guess in our minds we needed to make the last of the shoegazer records so that kinda how it came about.  it was a small act of defiance and absolute self-indulgence.   The songs themselves were just whatever was going on in my personal life, and of course still are.

BR: How would you describe the jump in the style that happened between the Dandy Rules OK and Come Down? I mean, while still being a psych record, it brought some hit factor to the pool.

Courtney: I think it got texturally a lot more dense.  Getting a legendary mixer, Tchad Blake made a difference in the sonic quality, but most of all it was the massive power of EMI Capitol records that made the songs hits.

BR: The record label people from Capitol didn’t want to publish the first effort, which was later released as The Black Album/Come on Feel The Dandy Warhols. When you look back at it, would you rather go with what ended up being the Black Album or would you leave things how they are?

Courtney: I would leave it.  The first attempt produced some cool stuff, but it was more of a drugs and noise experiment than a musical one.  Tony Lash is a real focused dude, so getting back in the studio with him was a real good idea at that point.  Our label must have been pretty worried about their quarter million dollars

BR: Pitchfork included the “Come down” on their “Best britpop album that are not British” list. How big was the UK influence with you guys? “Thirteen tales”, for example, is what I’d call an all American sounding psych record and later throughout your career, the band developed this psychedelic American style that you can’t find anywhere else, let alone in brit pop.

Courtney: American music was in a sad state and had been for quite a while, so the British scene was basically all there was.  Peter had a massive record collection and almost all of it from England. We were just  gonna sound English. once we got to the UK, though, we realized just how English we weren’t.

BR: Many of the songs from the album are found in almost every set you guys play live, you start with the Be-In, end with Boys Better and PIA. Did you consider it back then, that in 20 years time, the songs will still be the staple of The Dandy Warhols?

Courtney: I guess we never thought about it.  “Be-In” is such a perfect opening track for us that it’s certainly not surprising to me and I may have even composed it for that purpose but no, we had no idea we’d still be playing so many of them 20 years later.  All of our songs are so easy to play that I can get stoned and feel more like a listener than a player. Thus, I never get tired of playing them.

BR: The vibe that the album set is something that has stayed with The Dandy Warhols to this day. Could you describe the writing/recording processes and session of the album?

Courtney: We’ve always been a home-recording band.  This record was done in my house for quite a bit of it, but it remains as the most time we have ever spent grinding it out day after day in some tiny fugging studio.  Brutal.  And it’s also why we built our own temporary studios for every subsequent record until I finally bought a building and built the Odditorium.  Lots of time and absolute seclusion still seem to be the keystones of making psychedelic records.

„…The Dandy Warhols Come Down“ launched the band on the charts, and world-wide recognition and achievements such as playing with David Bowie came with unique styles on every subsequent record. The psychedelia carefully mixed with guitar pop aesthetics is a trademark that The Dandy Warhols easily embed on every piece of art they create, whether its goal was to take you on a tripped out lonely camping inside the head of Courtney Taylor-Taylor or be the soundtrack of a drunk/stoned night on the town that has you wait for the morning like a fucking master of the Universe. Twenty years ago, The Dandy Warhols came down, but each and every next time, the band raised us higher.

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