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Interview: Dean Wareham

2011 is a big year for the number 20. Pearl Jam recently blew out their 20th birthday candles. Nirvana's Nevermind just celebrated it's 20th anniversary of "changing the world". And yet, unlike the grunge kings whose current popularity is nowhere near like what it was at the height of their career in the early '90s, Galaxie 500, who mark the 20th anniversary of their break up this year, seem to be experiencing a level of popularity unlike anytime they were actually playing together.

Galaxie 500 only had a lifespan of three albums and five years, never achieving much commercial success. However, what they lacked in album sales they made up for in critical acclaim and influence, including having their album On Fire score a perfect 10 review from Pitchfork and place at number 16 on the website's Top 100 Albums Of The 1980s list

Dean Wareham, Galaxie 500's frontman and author of the memoir Black Postcards, which detailed his time in both Galaxie 500 and his next band Luna, will soon head to Australian shores for a special tour playing Galaxie 500 music.

Our very own jet-setting reporter Rav recently emailed a few questions to Dean asking him about why he thinks his former band's music is generating so much interest now, if he thinks the band will ever reform for a tour and what kind of emotions he's experiencing playing this music 20 years on.

What made you decide you wanted to tour Galaxie 500 music again?

I performed a set of Galaxie 500 songs at the request of a festival promoter in Spain and really enjoyed the experience. And then I agreed to do it in Atlanta and from there more requests started coming in and it just seemed like I might as well take it on tour; it is 20 years since those records were released and that is a nice, round number.

How have the shows been received so far?

Well, the people who come to the shows seem to really enjoy them and it's fun to look out and see people singing along to every song and talk to people who say they never ever thought they would hear these songs live.

How are you feeling personally being out there and playing Galaxie 500 songs? What kind of emotions are you experiencing?

I am enjoying it — knowing that it will end soon. As a performer you probably reflect the emotions given you by your audience and those have been very positive.

There's been a lot of interest generated in the band, particularly over the last couple of years with blog interest and sites like Pitchfork giving the band a lot of coverage. And yet, it has been around 20 years since you broke up. What do you think has regenerated this interest in Galaxie 500?

I suppose things go in and out of musical fashion. There has always been interest in the band, but it does seem like Galaxie 500 is bigger than ever; also Domino Records did a really good job with the reissues.

There was an article on the band published on Pitchfork last year where you and the other members were interviewed and it felt like, especially with Damon, there was still a lot of blame placed on you for the break-up of the band. Is that why you guys still haven't reformed — you haven't resolved your issues?

I don't think there is any need to assign blame, it was time to end it. Galaxie 500 broke up, just like all bands do (even R.E.M.!) because we weren't enjoying each other and yes did not resolve our issues but I intuited in 1991 that this was not really possible. Instead of resolving our issues we went our separate ways and that's the way life is sometimes and it's nobody's fault.

Your book, Black Postcards (great fucking book by the way) came out a few years ago now and addressed a lot of the issues you had within the group and answered a lot of questions over why you left the band — did that serve any purpose in repairing your relationship with Damon and Naomi?

Honestly, I doubt it repaired anything but you don't write a book to repair past relationships. Really my only aim was making the book as good as I possibly could.

Do you think there's ever a chance of the band reforming for a tour?

No, I don't think any of us would want to do that. I like David Byrne's comment when asked about Talking Heads re-forming, he asks would you want to get back together with your girlfriend from high school? I suppose that could be fun but more likely it would be strange and would end badly.

Will you be playing Galaxie 500 music exclusively for the tour? Or are you planning on throwing in some Luna or Dean & Britta material in there?

We play a song from the most recent Dean & Britta album, 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests. But mostly we are sticking to the concept.

You've been a working/touring musician in a time when the music industry has completely changed. You articulated a lot of your frustrations with record labels and the way the music industry was run in Black Postcards, have you welcomed the change in the industry and do you think the advent of online music sharing/piracy has partially resulted in the resurgence of Galaxie 500?

I may have complained about this or that incident, but I don't have any major complaints with the record labels I was on, indie and major both. I liked the people that we worked with closely, the A&R people who signed us, the managers who worked on our behalf; they were all doing it for the love of the music. As for the changes in the industry, there are good and bad things. Obviously there has been a huge transfer of wealth from record companies over to computer companies and internet service providers and the like. It's not been good for actually selling your music (because it's so easy to steal it) but sure it makes it easier for people all around the world to discover music that previously was very hard to track down.

Have you ever been approached by anyone with interest in making a Galaxie 500 documentary? It seems there would be plenty of people willing to be interviewed.

No. I think the documents are out there — many hours of live shows that comprised Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste but I don't think it would be a very interesting film, it all happened so quickly and nobody committed suicide or anything.

You released Thirteen Most Beautiful Songs For Andy Warhol's Screen Tests earlier this year, how did that project come about and what was the experience of recording those songs like?

We were commissioned by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to compose songs and score for these short silent portrait films that Warhol made between 1964 and 1966. It was unlike anything else we have done, almost as if we were making a music video, but making it backwards, starting with the film and then writing a song to make sense of it. They are beautiful films, so that made it exciting, and we're very happy with the album that came out of it.

What's your next project post the Galaxie 500 tour?

Recording a Christmas single. And then a solo album.

And finally, a little off topic, I know you're a Lou Reed fan, what do you think of the Lou Reed and Metallica pairing?

We will all have to wait and see. It's an odd idea, you have to admire Lou for taking the risk and maybe Metal Machine Music and Metallica belong together.

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Dean Wareham Australian Tour
Tuesday, October 11: Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Wednesday, October 12: Annandale Hotel, Sydney

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Dean Wareham
Galaxie 500

 

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Comments

readylove

Awesome interview

8 years ago

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