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Dean Wareham

Dean Wareham

Monday 10th October, 2011 8:54AM

We catch up with kiwi born musician Dean Wareham who returns to NZ for two shows playing material from his years as Galaxie 500....

Last time we spoke, you were about to come to Wellington for the 13 Most Beautiful Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests tour. I remember you saying it was your first NZ show and you felt quite nervous about playing your birthplace. How did you feel afterwards?

Um, triumphant. I felt good. It was a lot of fun. You know, I remember seeing The Chicks there (town hall) when I was five years old. I was nervous but it went really well. (Pause) I don't often use the word triumphant.

In your memoir Black Postcards you effectively distil the essence of the vicissitudes of being in a rock & roll band. You play a lot of dates, so you must like it? Some bands hate touring.

Well, we stop a lot. It's the long tours like five or six weeks that make you go mad. This trip is just three weeks. The Warhol show took a life that we didn't really expect. We've still got some shows booked into next year.

The Galaxie 500 records have been re-issued. Is that what inspired this re-visitation of the material?

Well actually I did it. A promoter in Spain asked me to do a set of that. And when I got home, the records had been released. I thought, “now's the time to do it.”

What is it like for you revisiting and playing these songs again?

Well it's quite difficult even though they're only three chord songs. Making them work live is difficult. To sing and play guitar at the same time is difficult if you're the only guitarist in the band. You have to be on it all the time. I prefer it with a four piece band. I had to learn how to sing again, too! I had to learn how to sing that high, again. And I'm pleased I can do that.

Oh right, because I remember you once said that when Galaxie 500 first started out, you were so scared of the microphone that you stood really far away from it and shouted into it?

(Laughs) That's right! I stood so far away from the mic and sang at it loudly. It's not a falsetto or anything. I'm sure it's not a proper technique. But yeah, it's fun to play songs you haven't played in five, ten, twenty years. And to see people responding to them.

Are you approaching the songs differently or are you playing them pretty straight?

We're playing them pretty straight. Though there are places where we've analysed it and changed a bass part.

Have you heard what Damon and Naomi think about 'Dean Wareham Plays Galaxie 500'?

I don't think they're thrilled. (Laughs). They haven't really said anything about it. That's just what happens in bands. People wrote to Damon and Naomi and asked them why I don't do it with them... The number three is very difficult, it's never equal. People ask why I don't do it with them, but that would be weird.

You've got five days off between your Wellington and Auckland shows. You must have family and friends here you'd like to catch up with. What will you get up to?

We're going to stay in Wellington and we might rent a car and drive up to Auckland. Obviously I've done that drive many times but Anthony our drummer hasn't. And there are people in Auckland to catch up with. Of course, Justin (Harwood, bassist in Wareham's former group Luna and ex member of The Chills) and my brother live there.

Galaxie 500 only recorded three albums, but much of that material is strong. How did you go about selecting which songs would make it to the setlist?

Mostly it's just the songs we always played live back then. About 16 songs. It's always some of the slower, dreamier ones that don't work. We're doing a handful of songs from each album.

Are you going to play 'Don't Let Our Youth go to Waste'? (Galaxie 500's superb cover of the Jonathan Richman's A Capella song. G500's version is musical). I know it's a cover but you added all that music and made it a Galaxie 500 song.

Oh, absolutely. It's one of my favourite songs. It's technically a cover but I feel like we should get some of the songwriting royalties from it...

Kiran Dass

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