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Things I Have Learned

The Dandy Warhols: Taking An Independent Route When Your Label Fucks You Over
Julian Marszalek , February 3rd, 2009 08:32

Since leaving Capitol Records, The Dandy Warhols have launched their own record label and a new art project that looks set to encompass music, art, science and literature. Courtney Taylor-Taylor reveals all

Things started well at Capitol

The first half of our career at Capitol Records was perfect; we were this weirdo little band, artsty and we're not going to have any big hits; "Everyone seems to love you so we're not gonna drop you. We're gonna let you do what the hell you want, we're not going to dump much money into you and whatever money we do dup on you, you ca spend on whatever the hell you want. You want half a million dollars for a video? Go on."

Having a hit record isn't always for the best

With the success of 'Bohemian Like You' and 'Get Off' what happened was a new president came in and he assigned us a new A&R person who was an ego maniac, a pathological liar... so he would take things and remix them without us knowing because he thought he was a great producer, he was the man! They would take our photos and re-touch us and make us look tanned. They thought they were dealing it a boy band. They [the president and the A&R] were really, really old school, sleazy pair of douche bags. Impresario types? Yeah, and not good at it. At all. Just wrong, dead wrong.

So what happened was that after '...Thirteen Tales' we had nothing but confusion; confusion and depression for four years. We wouldn't let them get into a studio with us but that didn't matter because once something was recorded they could just take it and remix stuff without us and so then it became like, "We gotta get off this fucking label." I took all of the money that I had and I dumped it into the studio [Odditorium] in Portland which also includes web design, film production, full music production, basketball indoors, billiards, a full restaurant with a full sized industrial kitchen, a dining room for about twenty people; it's gorgeous and I just started having my people just hassle Capitol Records to get us off the label. I ran into label president at a birthday party in Hollywood - y'know, he gave me all this New York kinda attitude: "Let me tell you two things, Taylor: One - you're never getting off my fucking label and two - don't ever have your attorney ever call me again." And so we come to a year and half ago and he got fired and the new people came in and you know, we kept bad mouthing them in the press and we had a full blown fight. So the new guy comes in and says, "Go! Bye! You're done! Get outta here!" y'know? So we said, "Cool!"

Use your freedom constructively

Being fired was incredibly scary once it really happened for about a day and a half and then you start to realise that you're free again and can do whatever you want so we started the Breathe Easy Project.

Check this out: we've had the coolest bands that have come through Portland to drop by the Odditorium and they record over each others' tracks and jam. Y'know, J Mascis comes by a lays some shit down, four months later The Kooks come by and add some stuff to his track and then The Raveonettes come by and some tracks over that stuff and then maybe some brave soul comes in and sings and it just goes on and on and on.

We've got a trailer running for it and two instalments and we put the track on Topspin and all the profits go to preserving and maintaining forests and protecting them from urbanisation and establishing a perimeter around it so they can't be bought. We don't need the money and we can't sell the forest because we don't actually even own it outright because it belongs to the Land Trust that the mayor of Portland sits on. But now we've got managers who are now working on a giant communal website where we're friends with Nobel-prize winning stem cell research scientists and some of the most famous science fiction writers on planet Earth; we're friends with [cricketer] Simon Jones. So we made this website where if you get in deep you could end up reading about what we know about astrophysics or what we know about stem cell research or replacing whole bones in your leg.

Like-minded individuals should stick together

It's the 14-year-old artist's dream when you realise that you're different and you don't fit and that you don't want to fit in and you want to create a massive bubble around yourself with people who understand each other. You don't say something that you think is quite bright and quite intuitive and have someone say, "You're always so depressing!" and you're left standing there going, "Is that mean? What are you? Fucking crazy? Are you a person who's always hoping to be offended?" There are just different kinds of people in this world and people need to stick together. Like scared people should stick together. Braggarts should stick together. Hard workers should stick together and whatever we are, we don't really know what to call it, but we can feel it and we want more people like us from around the world and nobody else.

Never trust a Hollywood director

Dig! director Ondi Timoner talked us into things that we'd never do. In the movie, there was a very small but bizarre fuck up. We had a big spread coming out for CMJ Magazine so we wanted to go to Disneyland before it opened in the morning but Ondi talked us into - we'd just been sighed to Capitol and we wanted BJM to get signed too so we could be all buddies together, you know - but she somehow talked us into going instead of Disneyland to the Massacre's fucking filthy, dirty, heroin-addicted party house and they're all supposed to be there and there no one there, just Matt Hollywood who's just woken up, hungover and trying to wrap guitar cables because somehow Ondi had told him he had to clean up. There was nothing there! Just garbage and empty studio boxes and a bunch of guitars and shit. I mean, that was just absurd. And then she somehow incited some angry thing about that and she ends make making a film about that! Somehow we got talked into believing that this would be really great. And it wasn't.

We were sold out by our own naivety by believing that a Hollywood filmmaker could actually be our friend or have a noble drive; it was simply Jerry Springeresque.

Pursue your muse and commerce will follow

Yeah, that's all we can do because we don't know how to navigate the business side. All we figure out what to do is just re-establish exactly what we want to do and concern ourselves with other artists who also do what they wanna do. We like each other as people and we're into each others' art whether it's films or paintings or science fiction. Hopefully we'll figure out the business side of things.

Contrary to popular belief, the Democrats don't make for great art

It's taken along time to get rid of these creepy Bush people but I think that the honeymoon period with the Democrats will be over very quickly and we'll be back in another situation where we were with the Clinton Administration where the Leader of the Free World is a charismatic intellectual and everyone is happy and positive about the future but by spending money instead of making money. We'll be back to that fucked up boyband-girlband bullshit. That's how it was in the Clinton era.

C'mon, we've just had like great bands this whole horrible George Bush era that saw Thirteen Tales... followed by The White Stripes and The Strokes and moving on into The Killers and just really great music that I like. And driving it with their hearts and their souls and making it way bigger than us. That's fucking awesome! But when everyone's happy, the bourgeois middle class is swollen and happily wearing Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts in the Bahamas and music gets really polarized. You get the candiest cheesiest pop like the boyband-girlband thing or just the dumbest, angriest 13, 14-year-old kids who really hate their parents like Limp Bizkit and that's what is was in the 90s: very polarized.

I'm guessing that the happy Barack Obama regime will lead to some pretty embarrassing art. Y'know, like the Backstreet Boys being on the cover of Rolling Stone and being proclaimed the "greatest band in the world". What?! They're not even a band!

The man looks great in the 21st Century: Don't be fooled

The new millennium brought in the new scourge of college drop outs, college grads and self-proclaimed intellectuals with their haircuts but they're simply mediocre and opinionated; they think they're really political and artsy and they're supported by this new regime of a middle class that looks to me better than the middle class did since any time since the 60s. They look great; they've got tattoos, great haircuts, Buddy Holly glasses but they're just as fucking conservative as their parents are. It's so homogenised but they never quite get quite get it right; maybe they have the haircut but the shoes aren't right or maybe they have amazing shoes but didn't get the haircut right.

Have the right motive

Make some people happy. Make some people's lives a little better. Make a lot of people's live a lot better. I would like for my entire crew to put down money on homes, have cars and to have medical and dental insurance. I would just like to have my one big happy family together until our dying days and have a big extended family all over the Earth. The best thing you can do in this world is make people happy.