This year marks the 13th anniversary of The Dandy Warhols' classic neo-psychedelic album Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia. To celebrate, the band will play the album, which also will be reissued as a box set with a slew of bonus material, in its entirety on the current tour. Keyboardist Zia McCabe recently phoned in from a stop in Pittsburgh to talk about what it's been like to revisit the seminal release that front man Courtney Taylor-Taylor once bragged was the last great classic rock album.Talk a bit about what it's been like going back and playing Thirteen Tales in its entirety.
It's super exciting for a few reasons. We have two extra musicians on stage and that has infused us with that energy that a new person can bring to a group. There has been this two-part experience. One is learning all these songs that we haven't been performing over the last decade. That has been pretty easy. We listen to the record and then play them. Relearning the songs we have been playing is more difficult because the way we played them was di fferent. We had to undo them and it's been hard to break that habit. We created the live versions for a reason. "Mohammed" is an epic live version and on the record, it's kind of puny and sad. Now after all the rehearsing, we've pulled it together and found the personality of an album version we can do.
You want to stay truer to the way the songs sound on the album?
Yeah. Since we never have taken that approach. Some bands, that's just what they do. They sound like what the record sounds like. We never attempted that but we're better as musicians now and we have the extra musicians to pick up those parts. That's enabled us to approach it that way. Of course, it won't be exactly the same but it's been a neat challenge for us.
I love the opening track, "Godless." Do you open the show with that song?
Yes. This album is sequenced so perfectly that there are no issues with doing it live. It's a great journey.
At the time, Courtney Taylor-Taylor said it was "the last classic rock album." Looking back on it, is that an accurate assessment?
You know, you just have to face stuff sometimes, whether it happens to be true or not. It felt like guitar music was on a steep decline when we made it. Nothing ever seems to die but at the time and for several years that did hold true.
Were any drugs consumed in the making of the album?
Oh sure. Come Down was the real drug album. We were just signed and we were just learning how to take advantage of certain things in the studio. There were some recreational moments. I wouldn't say the recordings were drug-fueled. We've always taken the performances and recordings very seriously. It's more like when we're wrapping it up for the day. Drinks come out and whatever else comes out, too. Weed really opens up a mix and you can get your head inside the layers and the instruments. Hard drugs tend to inhibit more than help.
I love that there's a song called "Nietzsche." Is he your favorite philosopher?
No. I mean, I haven't studied a lot of philosophy. He said some pretty cool stuff, though. Courtney actually read, "I want a god who stays dead, not plays dead" on the bathroom wall at Reed College. He thought that was a funny thing to graffiti as a student. The lyrics really bothered me. But that's become one of those epic ones live. Now, it's killing it and we can't believe we haven't been playing it all these years. It's so much damn fun to play.
What will be on the reissue?
Oh, I don't remember. One of the key things was re-mastering it because you could only turn it up so loud before these low-end rumbles emerged. The rest of it, we didn't want it fucked with. We just went and tried to only identify the problems.
How difficult was the 2004 tour with Brian Jonestown Massacre?
We never toured with them but we played a bunch of shows with them. We never really toured with those guys. Of course, it's not as difficult as it's made out to be in [the documentary] Dig. The film condenses all the bumpy moments into one thing. She leaves out a lot of the love. They are people we care deeply for. We go to their shows and we're their biggest fans. They're family to us.
Given that you all have side projects now, what is the key to keeping the band going?
Side projects. For me, I hadn't played in any other bands. I realized how sheltered I was by just being in this one band. You get such a new perspective by being in charge and having the mistakes be your fault if there are any. It gave us a brand new level of appreciation for each other. We have a new level of gratitude and realize how fucking fun it has been to be in the Dandy Warhols. Life is relative and you forget that shit if you're out there by yourself. It also showed how fuckin' hard it is to have a band and how unlikely it is to ever make it with anything. Our goal has never been to be in another band as big as the Dandies. We just want other outlets. The gratitude was unexpected and crucial to continuing on together.
Anything planned for the band's 20th anniversary?
Well, you know, one bridge at a time. I'm excited we have these two years back-to-back of fun and retrospective stuff. We can leisurely chip away at the next record. We can look forward and back at the same time. That's nice. We feel like we have a future. It's a good spot to be in.
Any great memories of playing in Cleveland?
Oh man, the last show at the Grog Shop was so fucking fun. It's our most punk rock show on the tour. Everyone is sweaty. The stage is short. Everyone can't see you and it's loud. The owner is a huge fan so she gets everyone shit-faced on tequila. We stumbled onto that bus at the end of the night. Those small clubs are hard but we were determined to make it happen because it's such a phenomenal, unique place to play.