When I got ahold of Zia McCabe – AKA DJ Rescue, realtor extraordinaire, country musician with Brush Prairie, and, probably most notably, keyboardist, bass player, and percussionists who sometimes sings – of the Dandy Warhols, she was struggling with a bluetooth headset and limping to CVS. Limping is the word she used.
We traded stories about accidents (mine from skateboarding in the early 2000’s, hers from one of those super cool, dangerous, scooter-for-hires we find tossed on street corners just a few days ago). She’s one of the most affable and forthcoming musicians I’ve ever interviewed and we talked about, well, everything. The KKK, mushrooms, the war on drugs, the great battle of drug stores, marriage, Denver weather, the tribe bubble, and more.
McCabe is still not 100% after the crash on the first day of the Dandy Warhols’ 25th Anniversary Tour, April 3rd in Atlanta at the aptly named Shaky Knees festival. The crash involved CVS and Whole Foods bags and a pothole, courtesy of Atlanta’s Department of “we’ll fix these streets when we damn well get to it.
McCabe says she “went flying through the air and landed in the middle of the intersection with just a yardsale of all of my stuff”, then got back on the scooter while bleeding and continued to the hotel after accidentally imperiling the whole tour. I’m being dramatic of course. She’s fine. Thankfully the injuries were just scrapes and bruises on her knees, according to the images posted to her instagram page.
Should we blame Atlanta? I’m thinking yes. Let us know in the comments.
Anyway, we’re glad the injuries were superficial. Anything worse and Colorado wouldn’t be headed to the Gothic Theater on May 14th for the Denver stop of the Dandy Warhols 25th Anniversary Tour: The Dandy Warhols Live; “a massive concussion of rock and rol”. Tickets availabe here. The new album is called Why You So Crazy and you can stream it here. It’s fu*king good and weird as all hell.
Anyway, it was an interview so I asked some questions. It’s a long weird convo. Enjoy. *Conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Zia McCabe: Sorry, my bluetooth disconnected. I can hear you now. Where are you calling from?
Yellow Scene: I’m calling from Denver.
ZM: How’s it going?
YS: It’s good. Life is good. It’s raining in Denver, I don’t know why. It’s springtime.
ZM: It doesn’t rain in Denver in the springtime?
YS: Nah, not a lot. We actually have 300 days a year of sunshine, which is weird. When it snows, it snows pretty good, so it fills up the snow packs and such.
YS: Lots of snow, which is why we go snowboarding and such. Well, people go snowboarding. I don’t, because I’m from Cali and I prefer snowboarding and going to rock concerts in dirty venues.
ZM: *laughs* Not into snowboarding? I did a little snowboarding and hurt my shoulder and decided it wasn’t worth it.
ZM: Like, I am over it
YS: Ever since we lost Sonny Bono, I’ve been like, ‘look guys, it’s just not worth it. Flying dying mountains on a piece of wood doesn’t seem smart.’
ZM: *laughs* You’ll skateboard, though.
ZM: So, you know those scooters everyone rides nowadays? So I was in Atlanta for the first day of tour and walked for like an hour to a Whole Foods. I was like, that was a long walk and there’s these scooters everywhere. So I rented one and I got a Whole Foods bag on one shoulder and a CVS bag on the other shoulder…
[Long story short, crash. See the intro for a recap]
YS: So you imperiled the whole tour? It’s the 25th anniversary tour and you’re about to end up in the hospital.
ZM: Yes *laughs* what an idiot. There’s pictures on istagram. I’m limping down to CVS now for wound things.
YS: So you’re on your way to CVS. Do you like CVS? Is that a thing? I like drugstores. I actually like drugs more than drugstores.
ZM: I think I like drugs better than drugstores, but yeah. We don’t have CVS in Portland. We have Walgreens.
YS: Which one do you like better?
ZM: I don’t know. I think they’re probably the same. I’ll check it out and let you know. We’ll make an announcement.
YS: We’ll need an announcement from the stage at the Gothic on May 14th. Make it happen. Now, let’s get into this stuff.
ZM: Ok, rock-n-roll
YS: So, the Dandy Warhols are from Portland, Oregon. You’ve been doing this since 1994. They are Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Peter Holmström, Brent DeBoer, and yourself. You’ve been kicking ass for 25 years. Joe Strummer called you guys the coolest band in the world
YS: You’re on a 25th anniversary tour now. Talk to me about the build up to this, how the tour’s going, and how y’all even decided to do a 25th anniversary tour. Some bands hit a level and say, “hey, man, we’ve already done it. We don’t have to do it…” you know?
ZM: Yeah, we’ve been talking about it for a few years. And of course, didn’t really do any of the things that we had planned to celebrate it. Like, a vinyl box set didn’t happen. It’s hard to get all the pieces together to make stuff happen. We did at least want to do a tour. Andy Warhold, his factory, all the silver, all the foil everywhere. We’re kind of inspired by that. The 25th anniversary is the silver anniversary, if you’re married right, so that opportunity to be kind of a nod to the factory with the mylar balloons and the silver backdrop and the disco balls. That’s all very factory. It’s cool to at least have a little bit of a stage vibe that’s different from any other year. Some folks do an anniversary show but it’s just like any other show, except they change the name of the tour. I wanted a little more going on than that.
YS: Who are you married to? Who’s the band married to, silver anniversary?
ZM: We’re married to each other; it feels like it. For 25 years, none of us has had a partner for 25 years. We’ve had each other. You don’t live with your parents for that long, they’re still in your life, but we’ve been up in each other’s grills for 25 years. Nobody knows us like our band mates. And there’s something about that that’s just so rare. Humans don’t be in community of four people for that long very often. Just that is special. That shows up on stage. The way people interact that know each other that intimately is different than people who’ve only known each other a few years.
YS: That’s real. Sapiens: a brief history of humankind talks about how we’ve only been in cities, in civilizations for like 5,000 years. Really brief. Before that we were in very small groups. Even where early humans, homosapeins, overlapped, it was small groups, like a few dozen people. You maybe had 4 or 5 people you were really close with. That’s the origin of society, that’s how we bond. And you all maintain that, which is cool.
ZM: Exactly. We’re traveling these dense populations in this tiny little tribe bubble of the Dandy Warhol band and crew, so yes, that’s what’s happening. When the audience comes to see the rock show they’re also coming to witness the old way that humans knew each other. There’s a community vibe in our audience, a little more grey hair.
YS: You’ll be at the Gothic Theater in Denver on May 14th (about a week from now). Have you ever played the Gothic? What can Denver fans expect?
ZM: We’ve been to the Gothic a few times. Denver’s great. Of course we love Denver. It’s another cannabis town which is great for all the stoners that we are, yeah…
YS: You are a stoner. You were quoted in…
ZM: I’m stoned right now. *laughs*
YS: I read an article with you in Big Smoke Australia talking about Highlife
ZM: Yeah, I think cannabis is a wonderful way to alter our perception, especially when compared to alcohol.
YS: You know, Colorado’s a weird place because we’re so progressive in some areas, like we were the first to legalize marijuana, which is dope. At the same time, the grandson of a KKK member ran for governor this year, right?
ZM: It’s the same thing in Portland, having this progressive city that’s inside of a rural state.
YS: Right, a lot of people don’t know, but the NorthWest Front is one of the biggest white power separatist organizations in the country, trying to start their own nation from like Portland North.
ZM: That’s because rural Oregon is…that’s what it’s like. I grew up in a log cabin. I grew up in these communities, these racist towns. There were no minorities hardly in the town I grew up in. And I just didn’t understand any of that. Portland still barely has a multi-ethnic vibe. It’s pretty white. So it’s weird. We’re pretty progressive in some areas and still pretty fu*king backwards.
YS: You’re also just dropped your 10th studio album. It’s called Why You So Crazy. It’s badass. It’s super cool, super weird, the way it bounces around. Highlife, specifically, has a very co9untry vibe.
ZM: That’s because I’m in a country band.
YS: You’re in a country band. And also we’re talking about country areas, so good time to ask that question. What’s the inspiration behind the album, other than just wanting to make another cool record. You’ve been making cool records for a quarter century. How do you keep the mojo going for that long?
ZM: We just are very dedicated to tripping ourselves out, tripping each other out. And I think we all have pretty heightened aesthetics and needs for pleasure. So when we need to hear certain things and nobody else is doing that for us, we’re compelled to make those sounds on our own. There’s music out there. It’s tripping you out and you’re loving it. But if something’s missing that we’re not hearing, that itch that isn’t’ being scratched by other artists, then we have to create that, right? And so that’s why we’re usually not on trend. We’re doing what isn’t being done, because that’s what we need. Someone else is doing the other stuff. When I heard this record, though, when I heard the direction and how, how fu*king weird… *sirens blare in background* …I was so excited. I was like, “oh my god, this is a weird fu*king record. Good for us.” ‘Cause you can’t go, ‘lets be weird’ because that’s super contrived and dumb. You just are weird and you’re being true to yourself, and you hear it on wax and you go, ‘oh my god, we are so weird, and experimental and self indulgent’ and all those things that make this kind of an album happen. It’s something to be proud of, I think.
YS: No doubt. You’re talking about being authentically weird and not manufactured weird.
ZM: Exactly. This is authentically us. And that’s the most you can do as an artist, I think. That’s when you’re doing your best work.
YS: You used the word self indulgent a bit ago. PopMatters called the record defiant. You called it indulgent. And you said exactly what you just said, “turning each other on, tripping each other out.”
ZM: Yeah, we weren’t doing it to fu*k with anybody. Just our own minds, just our own personalities
YS: What’s the process for making new music? Who’s doing what? Has it changed over time?
ZM: It’s definitely changed over time. Courtney was the primary writer for years and that has shifted to where we’re all bringing things in and get to fu*k with what each other brings in, in a more equal way, and that – I think that that’s pretty interesting. I don’t know if we’ll ever have the cohesiveness of when you have one primary songwriter, so that will always be a little different. I see our more recent records as a little more disoriented than our earlier albums, and I think it’s the more divided up songwriting. In that respect, the process has changed. But otherwise no. You bring in an idea, we all put shit on it and take shit off and put shit on…until we run out of time. Or money. I think David Bowie said, “you’re never done with an album. You just run out of time or money.”
YS: Could I just ask…
ZM: I’m reading right now, How to change your mind, Michael Pollan (Full name: How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence).
YS: There you go. So you support. You’re into decriminalization.
ZM: I think that all drugs should all be legal and they should completely defund the War on Drugs and turn around and use that money for community support and health care and … all the other things money should go to instead of fighting a “War on Drugs”, gimme a fu*king break. That’s what I think.
YS: I agree. Hey, Joe Strummer called you guys the coolest band in the world. Do you think you guys lived up to that?
ZM: I think it’s like any attitude you have toward yourself; some days you look in the mirror and think you’re fine as fu*k and other days you think you’re an ugly troll. So yes, I think that we’ve had shining bands where we were the coolest band in the world and it just felt perfect. And then other times you’re just kinda doing your thing and feel like no one really cares.
YS: The 25 year mark is a huge benchmark. A lot of people would consider calling it a day. I’m hoping that’s not the case. What’s the future for the Dandy’s? More records, more touring, more cool?
ZM: We’re not calling it a day. We have been and ever shall be the Dandy Warhols. I think that we have been working more toward a balanced life rather than being consumed with being the Dandy Warhols. Now we have our families and our other projects and our other careers. Now we get to have a little bit of all of it. And that’s how we’re rolling for now.
YS: Keep rolling… Zia, Thank you for the call. We can’t wait to see the Dandy Warhols in Denver on the 14th.
Ticketing info is available here. And check out the video for Be Alright. It was shot all in one take and it’s fantastic and weird.