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Q&A: DEAN WAREHAM

SS: You mention that they didn’t talk to you for years. Are you on speaking terms now?

DW: We still don’t talk, but we have a cordial email relationship. I’m sure that Damon and Naomi aren’t going to like things in this book, but you know, they can write their own book. There are things they did that I don’t like either. I felt I had to defend myself against claims that I’m an egomaniac. I don’t think I am. I think if you talk to anyone in Luna, they wouldn’t say that about me. But I’m sure they’d certainly have a list of annoying things I did.

SS
: You talk about getting into a band with friends, which is seemingly a good idea but then the experience sours as things turn more toward business. What were some important lessons you took from Galaxie 500 going into Luna?

DW: I think to iron out certain things at the beginning. It would have been useful in Galaxie to have someone explain this to us in the beginning, but no one ever does. In a band, it’s a business as well as an artistic venture, and you have to iron that out in beginning. I feel like Luna functioned well at that level.

SS: You’ve had the experience of releasing music on indie labels, then on a major like Elektra. Given today’s climate, would you have approached who you signed with differently?

DW: When Luna started being described as “indie rock,” it became this thing then, but like Modest Mouse is considered indie rock now? I don’t know quite what it means anymore. I mention this in the book. Back then, it’s like all the bands I looked up to, all in the late Eighties, all of them were on indie labels. There was no option — major labels did not sign groups like that in late Eighties. They had been burned by punk rock, none of which sold, and that all changed with the Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins explosion. Then they had priority meetings, and they had a list of priority albums at alt-radio this week, and you were competing against bands on your own label. Elektra can get play on one or two [outlets], but not everywhere.

Our experience at Elektra wasn’t bad. There were people there who cared about Luna, who worked on it, and we were there for eight or nine years making a bunch of albums for them. We all made a living in music, but we were also digging ourselves a hole of record-company debt, so obviously there’s a downside. But you can also sign to indie labels, and they can go bankrupt and they can own you masters, but you do what makes sense at that time. If someone’s offering you a bunch of money and giving you enough to live on, it’s not so bad.

SS: You wrote, “Now there were too many bands and too many records — but it would soon get much worse.” Are you mostly talking about file-sharing?

DW: I don’t think we quite realized until quite afterward. I mean, you’d read Madonna and Metallica suing people — they were being hit in a big way — but it kind of snuck up on us. I think two important events were the appearance of the iPod and also the tech-stock collapse, and it had a direct impact on us. You can see it statistically. I think the year the iPod came out, you saw sales plummet, you’d see people carrying CDs onto planes, and they’re all burned. The recording industry got huge in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties based on the affluent spending power of Western teenagers. Well, the teenagers are still there and have money, but they’re not spending it on music anymore.

SS: You disclose a lot of uncomfortable details, especially later on in the book, about drugs, infidelities. How did it feel seeing those accounts written down on paper?

DW
: Again, sometimes it was painful. It was painful writing about my separation and divorce, and, I’d write about leaving them again, and it’d make me cry to write about leaving them again. But in the end, it was a good exercise. There’d be days I’d be like, “Why am I doing this?” But I’m glad I did it. If I didn’t go into that stuff, the book would be dull. I could pick out the things that made me look good and not the things that made me look bad. Most rock bios I’ve read don’t go into this stuff. Most are ghostwritten anyway. I hope this is different than other books out there. Some of it that makes the touring come to life, detailing what was going on, revealing what’s it really like to be out there in a van driving around, the dangers of the lifestyle, the ways in which it’s difficult, how it leads you into a double life. On our final tour, someone came up to us in Seattle and asked, “Why are you quitting?” They don’t realize that the show is one part of the day, but that’s not the whole part of the story.

SS: After Luna disbanded, what made you want to get out and do it again?

DW: I’m touring again, but not as much, and I’m not under pressure from the band to go out constantly. The pressure from Luna started grating on me. They’d go, “No, we need to tour again,” and I was like, “Arrr….” Now, I’ll go out for three weeks and then wait longer in-between, but it’s less touring and organizing when I want to do it.

SS: How is it different this time with Dean and Britta?

DW: Certainly, when I made the first album with Britta [while still in Luna] it was fun and easy. The longer a band has been together, it gets more and more difficult to make records without getting bogged down and nitpicky. That first record with Britta made me realize it didn’t have to be that. In a way, it’s easier to make records as a duo, and touring is easier with Britta. When we went out on our first tour after Luna ended in February 2007, I had this existential moment, loading things into the van and getting back in the van. I thought, “I can’t believe I’m doing this again.” But I’m glad to have had that two-year break.

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