Razgovor: Steve Wynn

Četvrtak, 18.02.2016. 08:42 Objavljeno u tiskanom izdanju: broj 97 Godina: 2015

Tijekom osamdesetih godina prošlog stoljeća američki glazbenik Steve Wynn bio je jedan od istaknutijih aktera prikrivene renesanse gitarističkog zvuka koja se u to vrijeme odvijala uzduž SAD-a. Wynn je najpoznatiji kao frontmen utjecajnog losanđeleskog benda The Dream Syndicate, vjerojatno najboljeg i najpoznatijeg izdanka mikro-žanra koji se danas podvodi pod odrednicu "paisley underground".

Dani vina i ruža jednog veterana

Piše: Matko Brusač

(English translation at the bottom of the page)

Nadahnuti prije svega ostavštinom The Velvet Undergrounda, kao i albumima koje je Neil Young snimio u pratnji benda Crazy Horse, The Dream Syndicate već su u prvoj polovini osamdesetih položili temelje za neke od kasnijih razvojnih trendova u žanrovskom polju  alternativne rock glazbe. U prvom redu,  to se odnosi na njihov najcjenjeniji album "The Days of Wine and Roses" iz 1982. godine koji se, u retrospektivi, jasno nameće kao jedna od povodnih točaka za razumijevanje geneze alt-country polja početkom devedesetih. Nakon što je raspustio The Dream Syndicate 1989. godine, Wynn je započeo samostalnu karijeru koja se odlikuje rijetko visokim stupnjem konzistentnosti i koja, kada je posrijedi nešto tradicionalniji dio suvremene alternativne američke rock produkcije, nema previše pandana. Također, Wynn je u međuvremenu oformio i raspustio nekoliko ad hoc bendova, poput grupa Gutterball i Smack Dab. Posljednji – The Baseball Project – pokrenuo je zajedno sa svojom ženom, bubnjarkom Lindom Pitmon, Scottom McCaugheyjem i Peterom Buckom.

U Zagrebu se ovoga puta zaustavio u sklopu Solo! Electric! turneje, gdje se 30.10. 2015. godine na koncertu u klubu Močvara, u organizaciji Žednog uha, publici predstavio sintezom svog cjelokupnog kantautorskog rada. Prije koncerta sjeli smo s Wynnom i popričali, između ostaloga, o ponovnom okupljanju The Dream Syndicatea, planovima za budućnost, Bobu Dylanu, bejzbolu i visini najamnina stanova u New Yorku.


HIFIMEDIA: Posljednji komplet autorskih stvari objavili ste 2011. godine – radi se o albumu "Northern Aggression" koji je snimljen u pratnji benda Miracle 3. Za nekoga tko je gotovo cijeli dio samostalne karijere u prosjeku izbacivao jedan album godišnje, ovo izgleda kao prilično dugačka pauza. Što se događa, je li sve u redu? Imate li nešto u planu u skorije vrijeme?

STEVE WYNN: Točno, to je dobro pitanje. U neku ruku, to je zanimljivo, jer sam u proteklom desetljeću objavio, čini mi se, dvanaest ili trinaest albuma u deset godina. Nisam siguran što se točno dogodilo. U nekoliko posljednjih godina više sam se fokusirao na rad u bendu The Baseball Project – u Americi, u stvari, sviramo cijelo vrijeme. Također, ponovno sam okupio i The Dream Syndicate, a i dosta vremena provodim svirajući ove samostalne koncerte. Međutim, prošle godine konačno mi  je palo na pamet koliko je puno vremena prošlo od posljednjeg albuma. Zato u idućih pola godine objavljujem čak tri ploče.  

Zbilja?

Da. Riječ je o novoj, četvrtoj ploči The Baseball Projecta. Objavljujem, napokon, i novu samostalnu ploču. Radio sam soundtrack za jednu norvešku televizijsku seriju ("Dag"). Snimio sam šest pjesama i toliko sam uživao tijekom tih sessiona da sam odlučio vratiti se u studio i nastaviti snimati pjesme – to će biti moja nova ploča. Riječ je o ploči relativno psihodeličnog, kasnonoćnog country ambijenta. Također, počinjem snimati i prvu ploču sa svojim matičnim bendom The Dream Sydincate, nakon punih dvadeset i sedam godina.

The dream syndicate web
The Dream Sydincate

Bend ste ponovno okupili 2012. godine i odsvirali kraću seriju koncerata po SAD-u i Europi.

Tako je. Uglavnom, želim dovesti The Dream Syndicate u isti taj studio u Vriginiji u kojem sam već snimao u nekoliko navrata. Naši koncerti bili su prilično dobri, mislim da smo svirali izvrsno. Stoga želim dovesti bend tamo i vidjeti što će od svega toga na kraju ispasti. Dosad, sve oko ponovnog okupljanja The Dream Syndicatea funkcioniralo je po principu – ako nam se sviđa, nastavit ćemo, ako ne, ništa od toga. Mislim da će tako biti i s ovim albumom. Ako nam se svidi to što budemo snimili, objavit ćemo ga. Također, nadam se i da ću bend prvi puta dovesti u Hrvatsku.

Ove godine diskografska kuća Omnivore ponovno je objavila album "The Days of Wine and Roses". Duže razdoblje album nije bio prodaji. Kako danas, s distancom od tri desetljeća, gledate na tu ploču?

Još uvijek osjećam neku vrstu povezanosti s tim pjesmama. Kada ih izvodim, osjećam povezanost s njima, još uvijek mi se osjećaji i problemi koji su na njima zabilježeni čine autentičnima. U tom smislu, mislim da je ta ploča još uvijek "živa". S druge strane, kada je slušam danas, ona uopće ne zvuči kao da je nastala u osamdesetim. Zvuči kao da je mogla biti snimljena i prije godinu dana ili pet godina. Zbog toga mi se također sviđa.

Pretposljednja samostalna ploča koju ste objavili bila je zapis jednog koncerta u Italiji na kojem ste izvodili isključivo obrade Boba Dylana. Ploča je naslovljena "Wynn Plays Dylan" i objavljena je 2009. godine.  U vašim formativnim glazbenim godinama – kraj sedamdesetih, prva polovina osamdesetih – Dylan nije bio osobito na cijeni. Nikad ne bih rekao da ste veliki Dylanov obožavatelj.

O, da. Veliki sam fan. Istina je ovo što kažete, ali ja volim čak i njegove "loše" albume. Kada se vratite albumima za koje se, u vrijeme njihova objavljivanja, govorilo da su loši, vidite da stvari baš i nisu tako jednoznačne. Mislim da Dylanovi "kršćanski" albumi uopće nisu loši. Uglavnom, jedan od koncertnih organizatora u Italiji,  s kojim sam surađivao nekoliko puta, došao je na tu ideju. Na jednom festivalu okupio je bend i odlučili smo odraditi koncert s Dylanovim pjesmama. Njemu se to toliko svidjelo da je odlučio i službeno objaviti snimku tog  koncerta. I to je zaista bio odličan koncert. Međutim, ne bih mogao podnijeti da tako nešto radim na relativno redovitoj bazi.

Ok, recite mi nešto o jednom od vaših najhvaljenijih albuma, ploči "Crossing the Dragon Bridge" koju ste snimali u Ljubljani zajedno s Chrisom Ekcmanom (The Walkabouts) 2008. godine.

Volim tu ploču. Chrisa poznajem dugi niz godinu i uvijek sam volio njegovu produkciju. Točnije, sviđa mi se na način na koji kombinira gudačke elementa s rock and rollom, način na koji postiže sinematičan ambijent istovremeno ostajući vjeran tradicionalnim rock and roll formama. Prije te ploče, dugo smo razgovarali o suradnji, nekih desetak godina. Međutim, nismo nikako mogli uskladiti obaveze. Uglavnom, kada se to napokon dogodilo, prije nego što sam otišao u Ljubljanu, u svojoj glavi napisao sam album o tome kako zamišljam da bi bilo provesti mjesec dana u tom gradu. Došao sam tamo, upijao gradsku atmosferu, puno hodao, i album je bio gotov za tri tjedna. Volim raditi na taj način.

"Želio sam raditi inteligentne ploće i plutati ispod radara. Još uvijek sam tu, i nastavljam to raditi i danas"

Steve Wynn albumi 2



Meni je vaša najdraža ploča "Here Comes the Miracle" iz 2001. godine. Nju ste, pak, snimili u Arizoni, na preporuku Howeja Gelba, frontmena dugogodišnje alt-country institucije Giant Sand.

Danas mi se čini kako je to bio prijelomni trenutak u mojoj samostalnoj karijeri. Imao sam četrdeset godina i nisam bio posve siguran kojim putem želim nastaviti dalje. Štoviše, nisam bio siguran hoću li ubuduće biti u stanju pronaći dovoljno inspiracije da se nastavim baviti ovim poslom. Bio je to čudan period, razdoblje u kojem, u svakom slučaju, više niste mladi, ali nemate niti status veterana. Gelb me pozvao u taj studio u Tucsonu. Sviđa mi se raznovrsnost te ploče i njezina sirovost. Valjda svatko jednom u životu želi napraviti dupli album. I na koncu su stvari ispale jako dobre, dobio sam mnogo pozitivnih reakcija. Vjerojatno se radi o ploči koju i ja najviše volim, također. Nakon nje, bilo mi je jasno kako ću se ovim poslom nastaviti baviti još dugi niz godina.

Moram priznati kako mi je ideja kojom je vođen nastanak benda The Baseball Project sjajna. Čini mi se da u praksi stvar funkcionira podjednako dobro. Iz nekog idiotskog razloga, barem iz mog iskustva, određeni dio posvećenih obožavatelja rock glazbe prezire sport. Riječ je o rokerskoj reafirmaciji bejzbola?

Na neki način, svakako. Mislim, koja je razlika između raspravljanja o vašim najdražim igračima bejzbola i, na primjer, o vašim najdražim albumima Rolling Stonesa? Mislim da je tu riječ o istoj vrsti posvećenosti i fanatizma. Kada smo snimili prvi album, imali smo na umu ovo o čemu ste upravo govorili. Dakle, imate obožavatelje rock glazbe i obožavatelje bejzbola. Činilo se da kao da su to dvije potpuno odvojene kategorije. Međutim, ubrzo se ispostavilo da to baš i nije tako. Ista je stvar i s glazbenicima. Primjerice, imamo vlastitu bejzbol fantasy ligu – tu su smo Steve, Mike i ja, naravno. Ali i Stephen Malkmus (Pavement), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Will Johsnon (Centro-matic), Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Jason Isbell ... Svi ti ljudi su potpuni fanatici.

Ipak, čini se da je u albumima The Baseball Project moguće uživati čak i ako ne pokazujete nikakav interes prema tom sportu.

Da, jer na kraju dana, to su ipak pjesme o ljudima. Primjerice, u Oslu smo koncert rasprodali u jednom danu. Mislili smo kako nema nikakvog smisla svirati pjesme o bejzbolu u Europi. Međutim, ljudi nas žele čuti i mislim da bi ste nas uskoro mogli vidjeti i na prvoj europskoj turneji.

"Čini se da nekad jednostavno završite s životom koji vam je u neku ruku i bio namijenjen"

The Baseball Project web
The Baseball Project

Nažalost, moram primijetit kako ste posljednjih nekoliko europskih turneja odradili u samostalnom aranžmanu. Kada ćemo vas opet moći vidjeti s bendom? Je li vođenje pratećeg benda na turneju jednostavno postalo preskupo?

Pa, svakako, ekonomski aspekt u posljednje vrijeme tu počinje igrati sve važniju ulogu. Jeftinije je. S druge strane, odrađivati turneje u ovakvom aranžmanu također ima svojih prednosti. Možete odsvirati više koncerata i možete se lakše kretati. Primjerice, sinoć sam svirao u Novom Sadu. Da na ovoj turneji imam prateći bend, to vjerojatno ne bi bilo moguće. Također, puno je izazovnije kada se morate sami suočiti s publikom. Nemate se iza čega sakriti.

Rođeni ste u Los Angelesu, ali posljednjih dvadeset godina života proveli ste u New Yorku. Nedavno ste se, kako sami kažete, preselili s Manhattana u Queens. Nedavno sam pročitao memoare Roberta Christgaua "Going Into the City", u kojima on piše kako je negdje početkom sedamdesetih kupio svoj četverosobni stan na Drugoj aveniji u East Villageu, u kojemu i danas živi, a mjesečna rata iznosila je oko tristo  dolara. Danas ta cifra izgleda nezamislivo. Život u gradu nikad nije bio skuplji.

O čovječe, te priče ... To je, iz današnje perspektive, potpuno nevjerojatno. Ja sam oduvijek bio zaljubljen u New Yorku i želio sam ondje živjeti. Međutim, život na Manhttanu je doista postao nepodnošljivo skup. Linda i ja morali smo preseliti u Queens. Mislim da je naša stanodavka napravila ogromnu zabavu nakon što smo otišli. Čini mi se da je Queens nešto poput posljednje njujorške oaze – ondje još uvijek postoji određena doza etničke i klasne heterogenosti. To je nekad bio slučaj i s Manhattanom, ali kada sam ja došao u New York, taj je svijet već počeo nestajati. Queens je sasvim u redu. Ondje se ne vrti sve oko novca. A i navijam za Metse.

Za kraj, malo veteranskog rezimiranja. Početkom osamdesetih uj Los Angelesu postojala je grupa sjajnih bendova - The Dream Syndicate bio je samo jedan od njih. Velika većina tih bendova nije uspjela preživjeti devedesete, a njihovi članovi, koji su se nastavili baviti glazbom, bili su osuđeni, čini se, da nastave raditi na mjestima koja su prilično udaljena od granice srednjestrujaškog glazbenog polja. Mislite li, u tom smislu, da su stvari mogli ispasti i drugačije?

Ne znam. Mislim da smo svi mi imali zapravo dosta sreće.  Za mnoge od nas stvari su na kraju ispale sasvim u redu. Čini se da nekad jednostavno završite s životom koji vam je u neku ruku i bio namijenjen. Kada sam se počeo baviti s ovim poslom, odnosno kada sam pokrenuo The Dream Syndicate, nisam imao nekakvih posebnih ambicija. U svakom slučaju, nisam planirao i želio svirati na stadionima. Želio sam raditi inteligentne ploče i plutati ispod radara. Još uvijek sam tu, i nastavljam to raditi i danas.

INFO: www.stevewynn.net

 

An Interview with Steve Wynn
(hifimedia, issue #97, 2015)

By: Matko Brusac

Back in the eighties, LA-born songwriter Steve Wynn was one of the most prominent figures of the below the radar renaissance movement of guitar music that at the time was happening across the United States. Wynn is best known as the leader of the influential L.A. band The Dream Syndicate, probably the best and most renowned act that sprung out of the boundaries of the micro-genre that today is usually referred to as "paisley underground". Primarily inspired by the legacy of the Velvet Underground and by the albums Neil Young recorded with his back-up band Crazy Horse, The Dream Syndicate - already in the first part of the eighties - had laid foundations for most of the later important musical tendencies that were about to occur within the field of American alternative rock music in the next ten years or so. Most of all, this holds true for their most appreciated album "The Days of Wine and Roses" released in 1982 which, in retrospective, stands out as the main starting point for understanding the emergence of alt-country aesthetics at the beginning of the nineties.

After disbanding The Dream Syndicate in 1989, Wynn went solo, pursuing the songwriting career marked by quite rare degree of consistency in terms of output quality and which, when it comes to the relatively more traditionally oriented part of contemporary American rock production, bears only few comparisons. Also, in the meantime, Wynn has formed and disbanded couple of ad hoc bands such as Gutterball or Smack Dab. The last one - The Baseball Project - Wynn started together with his wife, drummer Linda Pitmon, Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck.

 

"I wanted to do intelligent records and swim under the radar. I'm still here, and I continue to do it today"

 

This time around, Wynn stopped in Zagreb on his current "Solo! Electric!" tour, where, on October 30th (2015), at the beautiful show in live rock venue “Mocvara”, he presented himself to the audience with the set list that seemed like the synthesis of his whole career. Before the show, we sat down with Wynn and discussed, among other things, future plans, the reformation of the Dream Syndicate, baseball, Bob Dylan and New York City rents.

HIFIMEDIA: The last piece of your solo work was released almost five years ago, back in 2011 -- what I have in mind is, of course, the album "Northern Aggression", which you recorded together with the back-up band Miracle 3. For someone who, for the better part of his career, has been basically releasing an album per year, this looks like a pretty long stretch. What is going on is everything ok? What are your future plans?

STEVE WYNN: Right, that's a good question. In a certain way, it is really interesting because during the previous decade I had put out twelve or thirteen albums. I'm not sure what has exactly happened. Over the last few years, I have spent more time working with the Baseball Project - in the States we basically play gigs all the time. Also, I reformed The Dream Syndicate and I spend a lot of time playing these solo shows as well. And then last year it occurred to me how long it has been since my last solo record. That's why, in the next 6 months, I'm making three new records!

Really?

Yes. I have a new Baseball Project record coming out. The fourth one. Finally, I'm releasing a new solo album as well. I did a soundtrack score for one Norwegian TV show ("Dag"). I wrote and recorded six new songs for the show but enjoyed the sessions so much that I simply wanted to go back to the studio and continue recording songs. The record will have this psychedelic, late-night, country sort of feel. And then I'm also recording the new album with my former band, the Dream Syndicate, the first one in twenty seven years.

I didn't know about the new Dream Syndicate record coming up. I mean, I know you reformed the band in 2012 and that you played series of shows with the band in Europe and the US.

That's right. Anyway, I want to bring The Dream Syndicate in this studio in Virginia, where I already recorded on few occasions. Our live shows were really good, the band played pretty well. I'm enjoying it. That's why I want to bring The Dream Syndicate out there and see what we'll do. You know, everything with the reunited Dream Syndicate until now has been - if we like it, we keep going, and we don't, we stop. And I think this record will be the same way. If we like it, we'll put it out, and if we don't, we won't. Also, I'm planning to bring the band to Croatia for the first time.

Earlier this year Omnivore reissued "The Days of Wine and Roses".  For a pretty long period of time the album has been out of print. How do you look at that record from today's perspective?

I still feel the connection to all the songs. When I hear those songs I want to sing them, they still feel like real feelings, real subjects and issues. So the records seems pretty live to me and when I hear it seems like it could be now, it doesn't feel dated. You know how the eighties records sound, right? In that way, it still feels alive. I like it.  

Your penultimate solo album was the recording of the one show you played in Italy at which you only played Bob Dylan songs. The record is titled "Wynn Plays Dylan" and it was released in 2009. During your formative years -- the end of the seventies, the first part of the eighties -- things didn't seem too good for Dylan. I would never say that you are a big Dylan fan.

Oh yes, I'm a big fan. And what you're saying is true, but I'll say this -- when you go back to the records that people thought were bad at the time, they actually turn out to be pretty good. Christian records are good records, "Infidels" is a good record, so I even like his "bad" records. But that was just like a one-off thing. It was a guy in Italy who has a festival there and I played there about five times. And he just said "hey, how about we put together a band and do few Bob Dylan songs"? I said "Why not?”. Then he recorded it, and he liked it so much he put it out -- these things happen, you know.  That record was brutally limited. It was about 500 copies, I think.

Alright, tell me a little about "Crossing the Dragon Bridge", one of your most critically acclaimed records, which you recorded together with Chris Eckman in Ljubljana in 2008.

I love that record. I've known Chris for a long time and I loved his production. I've always loved the way Chris uses strings with rock and roll, the way he kind of mixes the two so well and makes this beautiful wide-screen, cinematic vibe, while at the same time remaining faithful to traditional rock and roll forms. We talked about working together for a long time, for about ten years, but both of us very pretty busy and we didn't have time. Anyway, when it finally happened, before I went to Ljubljana, I wrote an album in my head about what I imagined it would be like living in Ljubljana for a month. I went there and then just lived there for three weeks, working with Chris every day, living in the city, soaking up the atmosphere and walking a lot. I like working that way.

My favorite record of yours is "Here Comes the Miracle" from 2001. You made that record, on the other hand, in Arizona, after being advised to do so by Howe Gelb, the main man of the long-lived alt-country institution Giant Sand.

Yeah, I mean that was to me the real turning point in my life. I was almost forty, and after I made my midnight, I was at the point where I didn't know what I want to do, whether I want to keep doing this or not. It was a sort of weird middle-period and I thought about what kind of music I want to make. So I talked to Howe and he said I might like this studio in Tucson, called WaveLab, where he usually works. I went there and it worked really well. It is still my favorite record. It is very raw. I think once I made that record and once the reactions were so good, I felt like -- alright, fine, I can keep doing this.  

I must admit that I find the idea behind The Baseball Project brilliant. And judging from your albums, the whole thing works great in practice as well. For some stupid reason, based at least on my own experiences, it seems like many of really dedicated rock fans happen not to like sports too much. So is The Baseball Project, among many other things, some sort of attempt to reaffirm baseball culture by means of rock and roll?

Yes, in a way, absolutely. We always say that it really the same kind of instinct that makes you want to debate your favorite Rolling Stones record or your favorite guitar solo on a Television record. It's the same thing with baseball. You know, when we were making our first record, I think we felt in our minds the same thing you were saying -- rock fans are here and sports people are there, and they're like two different camps. And then all of a sudden, after we made that record, we're meeting dozens and dozens of musicians and fans who feel the same way. For instance, we have our own baseball fantasy league -- Steve, Mike and me are in it, of course. But also Stephen Malkmus (Pavement), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Will Johnson (Centro-matic), Craig Finn, Jason Isbell . . .  All of these people are not just casual fans. They're fanatics.

 

"It seems that you have, at some point, finished the life that was intended to you in some way"

 

Still, it seems like it is possible to enjoy and appreciate The Baseball Project even if you don't care about the game at all.

Yes, because, you know, these songs are just songs about people. For instance, our show in Oslo was sold-out in one day. We were a little afraid in the beginning that these songs might be not connecting in some way (for European audience). But people over here want to hear us and I think we might do our first European tour soon.

Unfortunately, I have to notice that on the last couple of European tours you have played solo. When we will see you together with the band again? Did it become too expensive to take the band together with you on these tours?

Well, sure, there is definitely an economic side to it recently. It is cheaper. On the other hand, doing tours this way has its own advantages as well. You can play more shows and you can move a lot easier. For instance, last night I played in Novi Sad (in Serbia). If I had a band on this tour, it would probably be impossible. Also, it is more challenging when you have to face the audience all by yourself. You can't hide behind anybody.

You were born in LA. However, for the past twenty years, you have been living in New York. And recently you have moved from Manhattan to Queens. I have just finished reading Robert Christgau memoir "Going into the City" in which he writes about how, at the beginning of the seventies, he moved into his apartment on Second Avenue in East Village -- he got 7 mid-sized room apartment for about 300 dollars per month. From today's perspective that is unthinkable. To live in the city has never been more expensive.

Yeah, those stories, man... It's amazing. I don't know how anybody does it today. Still, I always wanted to live in New York. The music I like, the movies -- it's New York. Linda and I moved to Queens three years ago. Queens is like the last holdout of what Manhattan was. It is racially and ethnically mixed, I think 165 languages are spoken in Queens, something like that. It has exciting street-life and is very lively. It's cheaper and also ... it's not build around money and trendiness. Queens more resembles about what I loved about New York.

Ok, let's do some veteran reminiscing at the end. At the beginning of the eighties, there was a bunch of great bands in LA - The Dream Syndicate being only one of them. However, many of these bands didn't make it through the nineties and its members, who continued and still continue to make music, do that pretty far away from the boundaries of the mainstream field of American popular music. Looking back at all these years now, do you think things could have worked out differently?

I don't know. I think all of us were pretty lucky, in a way. You know, it's funny how sometimes people end up with the life and the career they were meant to have. I think you kind of telegraph your future when you’re starting out – even if you don’t know it. When I was starting out, when The Dream Syndicate was starting out, I certainly wasn't looking to being arena band. All of my heroes were underground figures who made cool records below the radar. And you know, today, that's me.