This feature appeared in Amplifier Magazine, October 2009
"There are no second acts in American lives…" opined the great F. Scott Fitzgerald. Apparently he never met the Dandy Warhols.
In 2003 Amplifier Magazine readers may recall the fervor surrounding the Dandy's highly anticipated fourth album Welcome To The Monkey House. It was slated for release on a big label (Capitol) with big expectations (Radiohead was currently #1 on the same imprint), and co-produced by a big rock star (Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran). Then, something went terribly awry…in a big way.
According to industry rumors, on the eve of release the band demanded that Capitol stop the presses and put out a different version of the album - mixed by Grammy Award winning engineer Russell Elavedo - known for his soulful work on D'Angelo's Brown Sugar, The Roots' The Roots Come Alive, Common's Like Water For Chocolate, and Alicia Key's Songs in A Minor.
Rhodes' mixes were "too clubby" for Courtney Taylor-Taylor and the Dandys. Their last-minute request received an angry thumbs down from the Capitol brain-trust. Record company president Andy Slater retorted "who's gonna play this on the radio? It's not black...it's not white. What the **** is it?"
Taylor-Taylor recalls his equally frenetic state of mind. "As a young man there is nothing worse than being disregarded and disrespected by old men who are years past being relevant - but they somehow have bumbled into having power over you."
Fortunately Taylor-Taylor did not exercise his other options. "I thought of walking in there with a gun! I thought of planting a bomb! I thought of pounding those fuckers in the face! I had to get up out of bed and go for late, dark walks around the block. It was, without a doubt, the worst time of my life." He continues…"it would have been fairly possible to have them disposed of…I'm very glad I didn't…although I did make one phone call to a friend who knows those kinds of people just to test the waters and gut check whether or not I really wanted to get that ball rolling..."
Fast forward to a kinder, gentler 2009 - the Dandy Warhols are in business for themselves with their own label (Beat The World Records) and can do as they damn well please. Hence the release of The Dandy Warhols ARE Sound : the version of Monkey House that should have come out back in the day. Disposing with the original high-tech production, the organic ARE Sound is far more stripped down and emotional. "Brent (drummer Brent DeBoer) and I had obsessed on D'Angelo's Voodoo album,” Taylor-Taylor recalls. “We started noticing this same mixer's name was on a lot of the stuff that was blowing our minds. We had to work with him."
Fate intervened. "One night, in a cab, we drove past Electric Ladyland Studios. I had remembered that Voodoo was mixed there so I 411'd the place and asked about this dude. They gave me his manager's digits, so I immediately left him a message and got that thing in motion."
Taylor-Taylor emphasizes that ARE Sound has a "sneakier profile." "It seems very lo-fi and earthy, but the fact is, it's extremely precise." Fans will take note that six years later cuts such as "I Am Sound" and "Scientist" emerge as introspective and thought-provoking as opposed to the original renditions. The cinematic slow build on "Plan A" is far different than the original, thumping version, which had virtually no change in dynamics.
Sadly Elavedo is out of the Warhol's orbit nowadays. "I don't know how he feels because we are not on speaking terms" laments Taylor-Taylor. "With how horribly our art was being fucked with, I was reluctant to include him in the mess of the next record. I think he took this wrong, and we haven't spoken since. He is one of the greatest mixers in history, I don't blame him."
For the record, Taylor-Taylor and the Dandy Warhols have no plans to alter any other previous releases. "Of course not! They're perfectly what they are. What else could they possibly be?
The Dandy Warhols ARE Sound is out now on Beat The World Records.