Though it’s been three years since their last album, The Dandy Warhols are back in style with their latest release Earth To The Dandy Warhols. In stores August 19, 2008, Earth… marks the band’s first release under their new label, Beat The World Records. Though the group is widely known for their big radio friendly hits of the past (song such as “Bohemian Like You”), The Dandys have created a far more intricate and interesting album in Earth…, a highly creative effort that is sure to rejuvenate the band’s steadfast fans as well as develop interest in newer listeners.
Guitarist Peter Holmstrom
recently spoke with Chris McDonald
to discuss the new album and the band’s future.
UG: First of all congratulations on completing the album, Earth to the Dandy Warhols. It’s been a long three years wait.
Peter Holmstrom: (Laughs) Thank you very much. It’s always a big task…
Now this is your first album since leaving Capitol Records. How was it writing and recording under your own newly created label, Beat the World Records?
Well, when we started… actually writing was done, and we had pretty much finished recording before we got dropped from Capitol. So, our own label came after we were, you know, pretty much done with the record. So, I don’t really have an answer for that one yet - that’ll be the next record.
If you had all of this written that long ago, when did you actually begin recording the album?
Let’s see… We started probably about two years ago and, you know, we always take forever to do this. We had one two or three-day session with our engineer where we recorded two songs. It was just sort of a trial thing, to try this guy out, and it worked really, really well, so we set up time for him to come back. Starting in January I think he came up a couple times and then in February and March we really kicked into full gear and pretty much did all of the mixed tracks there. And then for the rest of that year our engineer came up a few times and we just kept working it and doing the things here and there. It wasn’t until January of this year that we started mixing. And it was like, two months that we spent mixing in our studio.
It seems that fans can pretty much expect a new album every two to three years. Do you intentionally try to adhere to that kind of schedule or timeline?
Well, the schedule kind of works that we make a record, then we normally tour on it for about a year. It depends though; a lot of times, well at least in the past, records came out in different territories at different times, and now its kind of simultaneous all over the place, so it takes about a year to go everywhere at least once. Then we start making another record, and it takes us about two years to make a record. So, it’s about three years.
And you just completed the European leg of the tour…
Yea, well, we did, [but] it was mainly just festivals [and] the record’s not out there yet, so it kind of doesn’t count as the European tour. Summer is always festival season there in Europe. You always hope you get as many of those as possible - (laughing) they’re fun and they pay well!
Your newest release, Earth to the Dandy Warhols, follows up 2005’s Odditorium or Warlords of Mars. After receiving such mixed reviews across the board, did you feel much pressure heading into the studio or even writing for this subsequent record?
Well, of course, you always feel pressures in one way or another. But, when we approached this record… well, our process is always kind of [to] do the exact opposite of what you did on the last record. So Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia is very guitar oriented and kind of acoustic and warm 70’s kind of feel [compared] to the 80’s synth-driven, next to no guitar Welcome to the Monkey House. Monkey House was very, very tight production wise and very polished, so then Odditorium was this very loose, you know, free-form experiment. And after that comes this very tight record, or at least focused. I don’t know, that’s just the way we see it. That was really the only thing in our minds, I suppose, for doing this record - it was going to be different from Odditorium (laughs).
Is there any form or style that you actually prefer to write in?
No. You know, the writing process tends to be relatively the same; it just depends on what instrument you’re using.
You were just talking about a very loose, experimental form versus a very controlled, very polished format; or very guitar oriented versus 80’s synth driven records. Do you prefer any particular sound?
I generally like to keep it all around, all the time. I tend to not like to have that one thing that really takes over. I don’t know, (laughing) I like to do everything all of the time. But when it comes down to it, I prefer guitar-oriented, being the guitar player… It’s what I like to do. I’m also really into making weird sounds with synths and stuff… or drum machines for that matter. You can do some really cool shit with drum machines that doesn’t even sound like a drum machine. You put some effect pedals on it, it can sound like anything!
Earth… is clearly an ambition album complete with effect laden, space-age songs, returns to a classic power-pop sound, and even tunes with a disco feel. When it came to determining what gear to use in the studio, what did you ultimately rely upon to capture your sound? Any particular guitars you amps, or effects you picked out?
|"Our process is always kind of [to] do the exact opposite of what you did on the last record."|
We kind of use our touring rig for recording a lot. Both Courtney (singer/guitarist) and I are Vox guys, so for amps that was pretty consistent. As for guitars, [there were some] new ones for me. I had a Gretsch Astro Jet for this record - just a super cool sounding guitar. And then [for] one of the new sounds on this record… I have a Gibson EB-6, the baritone guitar or six string bass, short tail six string bass, that I used a lot.
How about any secret weapons in your rig? Do you have any standby piece of equipment that you routinely bring into the studio or onstage to createone consistent sound?
That would probably be my RAT pedal… I mean, I don’t know… it was the first distortion pedal I bought, and I find that I can get it to do pretty much anything. It’s kind of my favorite sound… my SG into that and my AC30. It’s just, kind of… perfect.
I love messing around though with pedals and stuff. I’m pretty much down with anything. I can make something happen
How extensive is your pedal board on tour?
Well, I use a ground-control midi switching system at the moment, because I don’t know, there’s probably like 35 pedals or something in there.
(Laughs) Yea, I know… it’s an awful lot. I got carried away right at the beginning. There are just so many combinations and it depends on which way you put them. If you put the flanger before the distortion that something different than if it came after the distortion, so that means you need two flangers and two distortions. And the same goes with phaser pedals, and delays, and wahs…
You already mentioned that the writing process begins long before entering the studio, but how do you and Courtney go about coordinating and working with one another or choosing and creating parts for a song? Are there any set roles or methods?
I think the song kind of dictates that. There are times where Courtney brings stuff in and I just play the chords, and it’s just about what effects I use and what textures. It’s not really coming up with a part. And there are other songs where I come up with a complete lead line… I don’t know. It just depends on what happens. I really don’t know - (laughing) there is really no set way anything happens with us.
And that spontaneity and variety, in turn, is reflected in the diversity of your catalogue as well.
Yea. I mean, it’s if the song being recorded has a certain feel… If it has a Byrdsy kind of feel, then, you know, I’ll grab a twelve-string. If it’s much more of a soupy kind of song, then that affects which direction it goes. It’s really dramatic, and we try to be as varied as possible like that.
Contributing to this diversity of sounds, you worked with Mike Campbell (of The Heartbreakers) and Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits) on the track “Love Song.” How was that?
You know, with technology these days, no one shows up in the studio any more. It’s all just sent off, and it comes back and hopefully you like it. We got very lucky that not only did we like both the parts that those guys came back with, but they both worked together. Otherwise, we would have had to just pick which one to use, and that would have been really difficult (more laughter).
How did you choose to approach those two individuals for this track, as opposed to other musicians you’d like to collaborate with?
|"We kind of use our touring rig for recording a lot."|
Well, it started out because we wanted a banjo part, and Courtney wanted Steve Martin to play it. And Steve Martin’s people never passed on the information or Steve didn’t want to, we don’t know, but we never heard back. So, Courtney called or emailed Mike Campbell saying, 'Who is the best banjo player in the world?’ And Mike said, 'Me!’ So we’re like, alright (laughing), let’s give him a shot. And he is a very good banjo player. At the same time, Courtney also thought he’d ask Mark Knopfler, because Mark is known as a, or he’s finger-picking guy, and we thought he’d play banjo too. But he doesn’t play banjo and he ended up playing the Dobro that is on the cover of “Brothers in Arms.”
It’s one of those things, where you ask, and sometimes, people say 'yes.’ And it’s always random who says 'yes,’ and who doesn’t. I mean, so many times [we’ve worked with unexpected guys] and we’re like, 'Wow, that’s cool! Okay!’ And you know, it’s not the obvious ones, and that’s what I like. Everybody is like, 'Mark Knopfler… What? Huh?’ [But we figured] well, why not? You know, he’s a great guitar player! He does stuff that I can’t do, that Courtney can’t do. Great! Bring it on!’
The new album is hitting stores August 19th, but it has already been released in two alternative ways - through a digital subscription service and more interestingly through its placement in over 10,000 AMI Jukeboxes. How did this idea develop?
Well, [they’re] just ideas… things come up in this brainstorming session, and it’s just a way to get our music out faster than it’s possible with retail just because the manufacturing of CD’s takes forever. In the case with the subscription service, that was a way for our fans to get the record and make up their minds about the album and if they like it or not before anybody else reviews it or makes up their minds for them. And it worked! It went great! Everybody who got the record seems really happy. I actually haven’t read a review yet… I think that’s all coming. I will be very interested to see how the whole system works.
[As for] the jukeboxes: that’s kind of like radio, I suppose, except that people get to pick and choose what they want to hear. And it was great. Getting music out is much different than just hearing it on your computer. But that was another option - people could just stream it from their computer and listen to the songs off our website as well.
You noted that you just finished up the festival circuit in Europe and now you’re about to kick off a North American tour. What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
Just touring the US again! It’s been a while so I want to get out there and see all my friends that live around the country that I haven’t seen in what, three years, or however long it’s been. We’re touring with Darker My Love, a band that I recently discovered in the last couple of years, who I think is pretty cool, and The Upsidedown, who are friends of ours from Portland and whose record we’re putting out on our label. I believe you can get it on iTunes already, and they’ll have copies on sale on the road and they’ll get records in stores soon I hope. Touring with a couple of bands will be fun.
We’ve already talked about your overall diversity, but we can’t neglect all of the hits you’ve already had, which begs the question: Do you ever get tired of playing or even hearing requests for songs like “Bohemian Like You,” “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth,” or “We Used to Be Friends?”
Some songs you get bored with or they just stop working. I mean, we’ve got so many songs that we can’t play all of them, anyway. Luckily the only one like we feel we really have to play, - “Bohemian” - doesn’t get boring and it seems to consistently work. It might just be that as soon as you start playing it you get a huge cheer and it’s this rush, so you know, you kind of feel for that. I haven’t heard a request for “Not If You Were the Last Junkie…” though probably since it came out.
Well we haven’t been playing the song, and nobody seems to care (Laughing).
Well, I’ll be at your Nashville show on September 24, so when you hear some random guy in the audience yell out for “Junkie,” it’ll be me…
(Laughing) Cool! I’m really looking forward to playing Nashville - it’s been like, ten years since we last played there.
Well, thanks again for your time Peter, we really appreciate it. Good luck with the new album and upcoming tour.
Interview by Chris McDonald
Ultimate-Guitar.Com © 2008
Dandy Warhols Music