The Reverb Interview: Ween

Hi Mickey, thanks for speaking with me today. So you’re at home right now in New Jersey. How’s the weather there?

We live in Pennsylvania but for all intents and purposes it’s in New Jersey, since we live on the Delaware (River). So Jersey’s a 7-iron away. I was born on the Jersey side of the river. I’ve lived in both states. It’s finally starting to get pretty cold here — I pulled my boat Friday, but it’s cold here.

You guys are playing three shows at the Fillmore Thursday through Saturday (Dec. 29-31) and I’ve gotta wonder: What’s the attraction with Colorado? You’ve done Halloween at the 1stBank Center, multiple shows at the Boulder Theater, and you’ve headlined some Red Rocks shows in recent years. But three nights at the Fillmore is the stuff of jam bands.

Man, you know, I don’t know. Ween has a really, really well distributed set of fans. When we got to Europe and we go to Australia and New Zealand, we’re never playing in bars anymore. Always bigger venues. 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. I don’t know who would know, maybe Aaron since he’s the best statistician, but how many times we’ve actually played there. It’s been a shitload if you consider Boulder and Denver and Fort Collins and all the surrounding stuff.

But I don’t have an answer for you why that is. 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. Like selling out Red Rocks or whatever. We’ve probably played there five or six times.

My friend Sam, who’s a super fan of the band, said you were a fishing guide, so I had a few questions along those lines about Mickey’s Guide Service. Who’s your favorite fishing partner?

I have a whole network of friends that I fish with, but at this point most of the fishing I do is part of working as a captain, so I fish mostly with my mate Randy. But I have a whole network of people that I fish with all the time.

Do fans ever use your fishing service just to meet or hang out with you? Or do people ever get into Ween from going fishing with you?

They do, but it’s a combo of both actually. I have a lot of Ween fans that have some prior fishing experience and a lot of Ween fans that are novice fisherman. But, you know, the people that generally hire a charter boat or a guide are there because they don’t have a boat or the skills or whatever. In addition to the Ween angle of it, I fish every single day and know my home waters as well as any captain out there. I’ve been doing it my entire life.

So you being in Ween is mostly irrelevant to your fishing clients?

It really is a distraction. Like, I get up at 3:30 a.m. after getting bait and ice the night before. Then it’s 5 a.m. and pitch black outside when I meet people for the first time, and Ween doesn’t usually come into play because the motor’s cranking for the first 20 minutes we’re heading out. I’m there first and foremost to put them toward fish and not regale them with tour stories (laughs). But if someone wants to have me sign something or ask me questions I’m happy to do it. I guess I do get a lot of Ween fans on the boat.

How often are you on the water?

I do over 150 trips a year, and I just finished the third year of doing it full time. The business has started to expand. I’d get a lot of people before that started as Ween fans, then they’d bring someone who’s a huge fisherman in their family, like grandpa. I don’t care who they are, my job is to put them on fish. I don’t care who they are. And it’s kind of the way I look at Ween’s audience. Our job, first and foremost, is to be the best we can.

Is it a challenge balancing the band and your business?

I love it. I’ve never been happier.

OK, another question from my friend Sam: What’s your favorite guitar solo — your own and also someone else’s?

Yeah, that’s easy one. I don’t know about my own, but “Machine Gun Blues” by Jimi Hendrix, off the “Band of Gypsies” album. That’s a no-brainer. My own? I don’t know… It’s funny, because we don’t have the same relationship with our records that our fans do. I’m sure Aaron would tell you this, but I have trouble all the time remembering what songs are on what albums. I know for a fact that I haven’t heard the studio versions or any of the albums in their entirety maybe ever (after they’re released). We’re so involved in them that you don’t hear anything else for a year and then we’re rehearsing them and then playing them live for the rest of our lives, so there’s no reason to go back to them. And then the live experience is totally different than the recorded experience. I don’t have our (live) tapes and I never got back and listen to a Ween concert. So when we’re done with a show I generally just leave it right there on the stage and move on. If I ever played something great I forgot it 10 minutes after.

I know you guys have hundreds, if not thousands, of unreleased songs sitting around that your fans would love to see the light of day at some point.

If you’re moving forward still and trying to make new music, that’s not a very healthy thing to do. 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. But I know from doing that record that it puts you in 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. It would really time-consuming, first of all.

How many unreleased songs do you think you have?

Oh, we’ve got storage lockers filled with tapes, I know that much. We pay maybe $400 dollars a month to store them.

Is your sense of humor overrated? What I mean is, do you wish critics noticed your sweet guitar skills and songwriting mastery as much the goofiness?

I don’t care about that stuff. I had to learn that the hard way when our first album came out. People would give us a good review, and I would read it and somehow be just totally offended by it. And I’d wonder, “How is that possible?” How can someone give you a five-star review and you walk away pissed off by it? I’ve been answering that question forever and ever. I got over that so long ago. All you need to know about Ween is that Ween’s been making records for over 27 years, and you don’t get to do that by being a comedy fart-joke band, and that’s what people that don’t know about Ween accuse us of. But I don’t care. I don’t give a shit what anybody thinks about Ween. Say you’re at the local bar tonight where I see you every night, and I call you and say, “What’s going on down there?” And you say, “There’s a country-rock band down here.” I’m just as guilty of it as anybody. It’s the way writers write about music and with us and our humor paying a big role in it, that’s the first thing they mention. And we’re Americans. We don’t have the fucking time or patience to deal with something more!

You’ve often said that Aaron is like a brother to you, for better and worse. Can you go into that a little more?

We’re pretty close in age, and he and I have had parallel life experiences for the years that counted. Now our lives are different because we’re adults and we have families and all that, but through all the important stuff, like smoking your first joint, getting your driver’s license, getting laid the first time, doing your first acid trip, getting your first money, your first breakup with a chick you’re in love with… We pretty much lived parallel lives I’d say until we were at least 30 years old.

I’m 41 now and he’s 41, so nah, I wouldn’t say either of us has lived any more life than the other. Our travels have taken us everywhere together for the first time. I’ve been in the same career, though I don’t think of it as one, since high school. Ween really got happening right after high school. And when you’re young, when you’re 18, what does every kid wanna do the most? That’s travel. That’s what you wanna do when you get outta high school. At least with us, and we got to do that immediately, all over the world to play music. And there’s no better way to see the world than by doing that, because you’re privy to all the illest shit — the best bars and chicks, the best drugs — 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.

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 fucking guy I’ve ever met in my entire life.

How will you keep the three Fillmore shows varied from night to night?

We’ll play three different sets over the three different nights. You probably won’t hear the same songs over three nights. I’ve got an aggressive goal over the next few days of figuring out 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, so I’m going to do that and that’s pretty much about it. Also, we have a really good opening band called Kid is Qual, as in “quality.” It’s two bass players and a drummer and they play talkboxes like Roger Troutman and Zapp talkboxes, so we have a really killer opening band. We usually don’t opening bands with us on tour, but these guys are special.

Follow our news and updates on Twitter, our whereabouts on Foursquare and our relationship status on Facebook. Or send us a telegram. Whatever. We’re easy.

John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of random song titles and band names @beardsandgum.