Progenitors of the Portland indie sound The Dandy Warhols undoubtedly have a bigger legacy than many people are willing to admit. While some fondly remember the band from the theme song to Veronica Mars, it’s easy to attribute the ’00s alt-rock revival of bands like The Killers, The Strokes and Jet to the musical experimentation of sonic outliers like The Dandy Warhols.
More than 20 years since the release of their first record, Dandys Rule Ok, old and new fans including the bands own frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor are still enraptured with the Dandy’s every release. When we approached the groups biggest fan, Taylor-Taylor, to reflect on the bands back catalogue we found ourselves abruptly corrected.
“I listen to our records every day man…It’s not even like a retrospective for me, I’ve heard all of our records within the last week” explained the frontman. “We’re my favourite band, we’re my favourite kind of music”.
To his credit the Warhol’s have never tried to make music for other people, despite the divisive and highly lucrative stint on Capitol Records that has allowed them to continue pursuing their art. The music of The Dandy Warhols is there for those like-minded individuals who need it and the options of other Dandy haters are irrelevant.
And so sitting in his hotel room watching the sun go down in New York City, Courtney Taylor-Taylor launched into lengthy reflections on nine studio albums still fresh in his memory, ranking them from fucking great, to perfect and even outright genius.
Dandys Rule Ok
1995 – Tim/Kerr Records
“The first record was recorded one day in the studio, or no two days to record all of the songs and then we put that onto two tracks of an 8 track…and then I took that to my bedroom…borrowed a $5000 microphone, and just started having the old dude…come over and play flute, big chicks singing harmonies, dude coming over to play congos, you know, whatever. We had 6 tracks to lay other weird stuff down, borrow old weird keyboards and stuff like that.
Then back in the studio where Pete and I just moved our hands around on the guitar necks, with every pedal turned on just getting feedback, and then blending that in through the whole record.
I just love it, I think its incredible. Guitar tones are sick, you know everything. It’s just a fucking great record.”
…The Dandy Warhols Come Down
1997 – Capitol Records
“The next record was our Capitol Records record… a friend of ours built a studio down the street from our house so down we went and we did that one in there, just camped out in there for a year.
It’s mushier, it’s warmer. We had Chad Blake, who you know who is a legend. He’s a great artist and a real trippy mixer. He understands the soul of music and he’s a real gritty mixer and everything.
I really pushed him into mushy, swirly land. You know just another record, very different to the first one in my mind… it’s also a fucking amazing record.”
Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia
2000 – Capitol Records
“We rented out what had been like a mens gym in the, what they called Vaseline Alley, the gay part of Portland back in the day.
It had amazing sonic environments…the big room where the weights would have been and that was all concrete and just a hellacious big echo in there. Then maybe a 12 by 12 cedar lined sauna and that was generally a drum room ‘cause just had an amazing warm tight rowdy sound.
When we finished that we took it out to New York to work with Anthrax’s mixer. We had so much acoustic guitar on it and I didn’t want to sound you know sissy, or whimpy. Of all the metal mixers, the only one who I thought was a truly great mixer was whoever was doing those Anthrax records.
It’s heavy acoustic guitar but it has a very muscular, you know it’s wood and steel you know. It’s not willow weeping willows you know its an oak tree and an exhaust manifold, its got some real shit.”
Welcome to the Monkey House & Dandy Warhols Are Sound
2003 – Capitol Records & 2009 – Beat the World Records
“In the wake of the success of [Thirteen Tales] came The Strokes and The White Stripes and The Vines and Jet…my favourite era of music that I’ve lived through is that era. But it also made me not want to make another guitar record.
So sitting after a gig in Chicago, listening to the juke box, and Gary Numan came on and Sade came on and then like Duran Duran’s ‘Planet Earth’ came on and I just went like sorry you guys, I now know what our next record’s going to sound like.
We made two versions of that. We took [it] to New York City and worked with a guy who doesn’t work with white people, called Russell ‘The Dragon’ Elevado. He’s Blackalicious and D’Angelo’s Voodoo is where we found him. So we did a version with him.
The new president of Capitol in his wisdom came in and said “Yea you’re the coolest band in the world, I hear all your reference points. Yep. You’re amazing no one like you, but it’s not black it’s not white, what is it? Who’s gunna play this on radio?”
He then had his people go and mix it without us.
He also did tell me a little fib when he said he’d release both versions. He never released the urban version, the Russell version. I mean talk about a shot heard round the world. That would have been fucking astounding. Had that come out in the wake of all of that guitar rock the super urban version of that would have been jaw dropping.
The Monkey House coming out was a different kind of jaw dropping, like you know we got panned. We got called fags again.”
Odditorium or Warlords of Mars
2005 – Capitol Records
“After the Monkey House/Dandy Warhols are Sound debacle…we had that same president taking photos of us and having them retouched and making us look tan…and clean! it was very very shiny and sparkly, they wanted to market us like a boy band, it was embarrassing really.
[Capitol’s President] told me point blank ‘Two things Courtney: A. You’re not ever getting off my fucking label, and B. Don’t ever have your attorney call me ever again…’ and so the next record was the let’s get off Capitol record.
With all the slick eighties-ness that was going on then it was natural for us to do the next record and have it be very very very awkward and lo-fi and try and find the beauty in clumsiness. At what point does awkwardness become not beautiful and bring it back in and make it a little more organised and there it is, it’s right there, and thats what I find beautiful.”
Earth to the Dandy Warhols
2008 – Beat the World Records
“We got a guy who had mixed like Run DMC and some other stuff, but he was just a very by the book mixer, we had never really had one before.
I hadn’t heard this LP for a while except for ‘Mission Control’ which is some weeks arguably my favourite song we’ve ever made.
Actually my two favourite videos are on that record. The two greatest works we’ve ever done are ‘Mission Control’, if you cut off that whole intro, there is like a minute of just nonsense… then there’s Webster Colcord who is a very famous animator – the made Welcome to the Third World’. Those are the two greatest videos we’ve ever made, ‘Mission Control’ and ‘Welcome to the Third World’.
Yea and that record is just loaded to the gills with just masterpieces. There is just so many fucking amazing pieces of music on that record…that’s the single most overlooked genius record probably in the history of rock. I mean people say other records you know from the ’70s are super overlooked and then you look up and they sold 380,000 copies, you know, that one sold like 20.”
2012 – The End Records
“[2012 was] you know soft, pretty everyone sounds like Coldplay. There is children’s choir or something going on everywhere and in everything. There is 20 members in every band now.
This Machine is a reactionary record to that sort of you know big glossy reverbs and you know splashy prettiness and Lion King you know. Sounding like the Lion King soundtrack is indie now.
So we made a record that just sounds like four people playing together. That happened to have you know a lot of fucked up guitar pedals or whatever, but still we really wanted a very stripped down and and a very rock album. Nirvana Unplugged you know.
Don’t think I don’t appreciate a good song writer even if you’re ripping off a rip off of Coldplay. You know like I still appreciate it but I’m certainly going to avoid the fuck out of sounding like it.
[This Machine is] extreme you know. It came out at the most unfashionable time it could possibly come out, it would probably be loved if it came out now, but we’ve done this record instead.”
2016 – Dine Alone Records
“There is so much shoe gazer and dreamy and all that stuff lately, a lot of ’90s shoe gazer. We lived through that and we were at the prime age of that thing of the baggy beats and the brit-pop. Even up through like you know Rob Zombie, Powerman 5000, Dre 2000. All of that there just seemed to me to be something that hasn’t been done.
I just feel like this record [Distortland] is definitely just a record I kept wishing somebody would make but nobody did.
I would say this is our most perfect record. Its the closest I’ve ever come to making a perfect record.
I also went straight from making it to listening to it, I usually take months and months off so I can stop hearing what the record isn’t. This one I knew exactly what it is, the minute it was done I knew what it was… I love it and I need it, it makes me feel better.
I’m definitely in a place where I need it and there it is for me.”