The Reverb Interview: WeenBy John Wenzel | December 28th, 2011 | No Comments »
The genre-shredding duo of Gene and Dean Ween has never been a general audience rock act.
Outside of Colorado, anyway.
Despite the reams of press the band gets, and a brief dalliance with the mainstream after the left-field MTV joke-rock hit “Push Th’ Little Daisies” in 1993, the kind of love that Colorado shows Ween remains unique.
“Ween has a really, really well-distributed set of fans,” said guitarist and songwriter Dean, a.k.a. 41-year-old New Jersey native Mickey Melchiondo.
“But there’s some places where it really has just taken on its own life, something just twice as big as everywhere else. Two of those places are obvious, and that’s New York and Chicago. And then there’s Denver and Boulder, which are above and beyond the norm.”
Indeed, the band best known for its crude, surreal sense of humor and genre-straddling songs attracts a particularly ardent group anytime it plays here. From headlining multiple times at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to playing three back-to-back shows at the 3,500-person capacity Fillmore Auditorium — as the band will do starting Thursday — Ween inspires a loyalty typically reserved for party-ready jam bands and globetrotting DJs.
“I don’t have an answer for you why that is,” Melchiondo said. “Maybe some places are more music towns than others? It’s become a standout place for us on Halloween and New Year’s — the biggest shows of the year. We’ve had too many memorable shows for me to even list them. Like, landmark shows. Milestone stuff.”
Colorado’s well-documented love of live music may account for some of that. Ween isn’t known for its Phish-style improvisation or lengthy, psych-tinged instrumental passages. But its shows are proper cultural events, spiritual cousins to the jam band scene with their own language, costumes, and, yes, copious amounts of mood-enhancing chemicals.
That puts pressure on the band to deliver unique set lists each night, since some fans will attend all three Fillmore shows.
“You probably won’t hear the same songs over three nights,” Melchiondo said. “I’ve got an aggressive goal over the next few days of figuring out a 100 songs so we can pull it off. We’ve done it before, but it takes time to come up with three unique set lists.”
That shouldn’t be a problem. The band has released nine studio albums over the past 21 years, each the result of frenzied writing sessions that produced dozens of unreleased demos and castaways.
“A lot of our fans want us to release more outtakes (like 2005′s ‘Shinola, Vol. 1′) because we have a lot of them — way more than we have released,” Melchiondo said. “But I know from doing that record that it puts you in a really weird head space. You go back and listen to something, but it’s kind of like looking through baby pictures. There’s a time for nostalgia and revisiting that stuff, and I still hope to make more music, so I don’t really want to do that yet.”
Melchiondo estimated that he and co-founder Gene Ween, a.k.a. buddy Aaron Freeman, spend about $400 per month renting a storage locker filled with tapes of thousands of unreleased Ween songs.
And since Ween isn’t finished touring and recording, it could be another couple decades before those archives see the light of day. Longtime Ween fans know that the core of the band’s longevity is the enduring musical and emotional relationship between its founders.
“He and I have had parallel life experiences for the years that counted,” Melchiondo said of Freeman, also 41. “Ween really got happening right after high school, so we’ve been at this a very long time. We’ve been together for 27 years, on the road for 21 or 22 years, and we got to go all over the world and play music.
“He and I know more about each other than anybody, even if we bicker like brothers. I have a psychic connection with him that’ll never go away. We still text and e-mail each other little jokes all the time.
“And our musical concepts extend to that. I could never have a working musical relationship with anybody that holds a candle to what Aaron and I have. I still think he’s the funniest guy I’ve ever met in my entire life.”
Click on Page 2 below to read our full, uncensored Q&A with Mickey Melchiondo
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