Dean Ween on fundamental changes to the recording industry and pot-smoking hippies
For nearly thirty years, Mickey Melchiondo's been making music under a moniker. As Dean Ween, one of the eponymous creative forces behind Ween, Melchiondo's carved out an ambitious musical niche since founding the band with Aaron Freeman - aka Gene Ween - in the 1980s. In advance of Ween's Halloween show at 1STBANK this weekend, we caught up with Melchiando to talk about the band's recent touring schedule, fundamental changes to the recording industry and the pot-smoking hippies in Colorado who make Denver and Boulder a constant stop for Ween.
The last time Colorado fans saw the band was at the Red Rocks show last September. Can you give us a quick rundown of what the band has been up to during the past year?
Mickey Melchiondo: It's been all touring. This year was pretty much just a touring year for us. Right now we're moving out of our one studio into a new studio so we can record another record. This year was just about doing shows. We've written some songs, but really haven't started on a record yet. That's kind of our goal for the winter.
Was that a definite goal you guys have had in mind since last year?
I guess. It's something that we've never done before. Ween is really good about not overplaying. As a matter of fact, we just played in New York for the first time [this year]. We live, like, sixty miles from New York, and we play there like every four or five years. It's the same with Philadelphia. It's like forty minutes away.
We're very conscious not to overplay anywhere. Denver and Boulder are the places I think that we've played more than any other place. We're almost there once a year, which really isn't that much. This year was the first time that we ever did this, touring without a record. It was OK for me -- once. It was okay for me this year, but I don't think I'll do it again.
I'm just not comfortable with it. I like touring in support of a new record. It's funny because the industry has been changing in such a way. I always thought it should be the focus; the whole point is that you're out there touring to promote and try and sell copies of your new record. It's kind of almost turned itself around now, where the record is this vehicle so you can go out and tour, and make money that way.
People really aren't buying records, whether they're downloading it or just not buying CDs, you know. It's just really dropped off. It's something that I think we're adjusting to. I'm not very comfortable with it, personally.
I always enjoyed the record making side of being in a band. I've always thought that Ween on vinyl or on CD and Ween live were two completely different entities, two different experiences that sort of supplemented and complemented one another. And I have to remember that [laughs]. I have to keep telling myself that.
For me -- not to sound like an old man or something, but I just turned forty last weekend. Looking back, I figured at this point in our career we'd probably not be touring very much, that we would just be making records. Well, the rules have all changed in the past five years. Nobody really knows where things are going. Radiohead tried to give away their record and pay whatever you think it's worth. There's this and that. Prince tried another way. A lot of bands just do the same old thing.
How has the changing nature of industry impacted Ween specifically?
The days of Elektra Records giving us $200,000 for a video are fucking over. We can make eight records with that money now. It's something that I think we're just trying to get our heads around right now. I didn't realize it when our last record came out.
To go further into it, I'm always afraid that Ween -- well, not afraid of it because I would never let it happen -- but I don't want Ween to become an oldies [act]. I don't want to go out and play, like the Violent Femmes, who I love, but they're just out there basically touring on the merit of what you've already done. There's probably a word for that.
We did it once this year. We toured without a record, but I'm not very comfortable with it, so we'll be making a record.
What is it about Denver and Boulder that draws you guys more frequently than other cities?
They're two of the biggest touring towns in the world.
Is it just a Ween fanbase?
It's pot-smoking hippies. [Laughs] Honestly, it's a very liberal, progressive, artsy community that's rich in marijuana smokers. We're big in Chicago, too.