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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Q&A: Courtney Taylor-Taylor of The Dandy Warhols

The Dandy Warhols play at the Varsity Theater on Friday, June 28
Image by Ray Gordon
The Dandy Warhols’ latest album shows the band taking their sound in a hard rock direction.

Frontman and songwriter Courtney Taylor-Taylor has taken The Dandy Warhols’ audience on an exciting journey over the years by consistently putting out great albums while staying artistically inventive.

Known for their ingenious and uninhibited brand of neo-psychedelia, Portland rock band The Dandy Warhols are about to head back on tour in support of their twelfth studio album “Rockmaker,” which includes a stop at the Varsity Theater on June 28.

While they are most famous for their ‘90s and 2000s hits like “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth,” “Bohemian Like You” and “We Used To Be Friends,” the band still sounds incredible decades later.

The group’s latest LP is not just unique because of its metal and hard rock influences, but the track list has a star-studded feature list that includes Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Frank Black of the Pixies and Blondie’s Debbie Harry.

The Minnesota Daily spoke with Taylor-Taylor on Zoom ahead of The Dandy Warhols’ Minneapolis performance.

The Minnesota Daily: Out of your guys’ 12 albums, it’s pretty rare for a featured artist to be on a Dandy Warhols track, but on “Rockmaker” there are three big names featured on the tracklist. What opened the door or inspired collaboration this time around?

Courtney Taylor-Taylor: “Slash was the first one, for that song we wanted that Vietnam vet, ‘wah-wah guitar’, you know, stoner rock thing. And nobody in my band has the chops to really do that, and our manager at the time said, ‘If you could get anyone to do it, who would you get?’

And we were talking about it and one of my guitar player buddies said ‘Slash is the last of that purist, funk, soul, metal, all of that stuff.’ So we said that and he reached out. But you know Slash is somebody we’ve known for decades, I like to say I bummed probably 300 cigarettes off that man during my career. So that one, he came right back, you know, like quickly, less than an hour. When you’re at that level of celebrity and legend really, your people get a hold of their people and you keep it as appropriate as possible.

And Frank Black, I am very good friends with his touring guitar player, and I ended up seated next to him years ago at dinner and we’ve been friends ever since. So for him, I just reached out to him personally. He happened to be in Zurich with four teenage sons on tour with the Pixies, and I said ‘Hey do you want to see the Giger museum?’ A friend of mine handles the Giger estate, so I hooked him up with them and they did the tour of the Giger world.

And he said, ‘If there’s anything we can do, just let me know,’ and I said, ‘You want to play on this song that kind of sounds like Pixies meets Danzig?’ and he said ‘Sure, send it over.’

And then Debbie was the same kind of thing, where I was singing the falsetto part and my manager again was like, ‘Well, if you could get anyone, who would you get?’

I said, ‘Well, Debbie Harry.’ And that one took longer, that one took months, but she did it and it’s absolutely beautiful, so cool, sounds like silver.”

Daily: When you guys go into an album, do you do it like some artists where they write 100 songs but only 10 songs end up making the album? What is it like for you?

Taylor-Taylor: “Well, that’s like real songwriters that do that. I can’t really do that. I finally in my life practiced doing that during COVID, we released a 30-second-long song every week, fast writing. During COVID I made a lot of work for myself, that’s for sure. I went to the studio every day like a job and was there, nine-to-five kind of thing. But really it was fantastic, got a lot done, I learned a lot. I learned how to do that trick, if you have to do it, do it. You know, that was Frédéric Chopin’s take on music, waiting around for inspiration is for losers. You’re a great artist or not, but if you’re an artist at all, you make something on command, you should be able to, that’s what you are right? So I never agreed with that, I never believed it, but I did it and it’s totally doable. And some are, of course, better than others. You know, your output will be pretty much right in the middle of how good you actually are.”

Daily: On most of the early Dandy Warhols songs you were the sole songwriter, but in recent years the other band members have played a larger role in the songwriting. What has that been like and how does that affect the creative process?

Taylor-Taylor: “Well, I think the reason that we have been able to stay together and really dig doing this is because we never really know what any other person is going to bring to the table. We all have a lot of whack job ideas, and some of them are amazing. On this record, it was the law, every song has to start with a metal riff, so Pete went, you know, crazy and he came up with way too many riffs. So in that respect, like those songwriter guys that have 100 songs and narrow it down to 12, Pete became that guy of guitar riffs. So most of the songs are Pete’s guitar riff and then, the classic, he’s a guitar player, I’m the singer, I’ll sing over your guitars. So that was fun, and it was just about right. We kind of had that many songs, I came up with different sets of lyric ideas and thoughts and feelings and whatever. We also all take them home to our own little studios a lot and add those midnight, three in the morning tweaky things that you might not come up with when you’ve got an engineer there and you’re at the studio.”

Daily: Whenever you guys play in Minnesota, do you guys have a conversation while making the setlist where you’re like “We have to play ‘Minnesoter?’”

Taylor-Taylor: “Yes. Generally during the day in Minneapolis or even on stage. That and ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,’ these are things we should be playing there, why not every time?”

Daily: Do you have any thoughts on what musical direction The Dandy Warhols will go in next?

Taylor-Taylor: “We want to do a big, pillowy, soft, dub-y thing, and with a lot of trippy swirly things out in front. That’s kind of what I want to do is get back into what sounds are and have a vision of that and you just interpret the songs through those kinds of sounds. It’ll be a lot of turning the high end all the way off and then bringing one tiny bit of the micro frequency of the sound back, so it’s all pillowy big or small puffy things that are different colors and shapes. Less traditional, this record is blatantly traditional.”

The Dandy Warhols play at Varsity Theater on June 28.

This interview has been edited for clarity, grammar and length.

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