by Rock ‘n Roll Ghost
When I spoke to The Dandy Warhols‘ Zia McCabe (keyboards/vocals) recently she was just back from chaperoning for her daughter’s kindergarten trip to a local firehouse turned into a museum. She was excited about the trip and talked about the changes her and her husband will have to make in the coming years. “My husband’s back in school, so they can both stay home and be students and I’ll do the next two US tours without them. After that we’ll have to decide where the priorities are,” McCabe says.
McCabe has been with The Dandy Warhols, who just started a US tour, for fifteen years and her role in the band is starting to grow. Singer/guitarist Courtney Taylor has been the prominent writing force in the band, but now that he’s a parent himself, he’s loosened things up a bit, asking the others, particularly McCabe, to help out for the band’s next album. “He’s like, ‘You’re really coming along as a producer. Why don’t you write the next record? I’m sick of it.’,” McCabe says. Look for new music from the band as early as next year.
For now, McCabe and The Dandy Warhols are out touring behind their “best of” album (see dates below), The Capitol Years 1995-2007. The set is a collection of the band’s singles while on Capitol, including a new track entitled “This Is the Tide” (a video for which, can be found below). The band’s history with the label has been, to put it kindly, “rocky” and this experience wasn’t any different for the band. Apparently, expectations were had based on promises that were never kept and the experience reminded the band of why they were unhappy at the label for so long. McCabe, who talks more in depth about the band’s relationship with Capitol in the interview, says, “It changed regimes every time we put out a record. Everybody just goes away and if the next group isn’t into you, you might as well have not been signed there.”
Below is an edited transcription of the Ghost’s interview with McCabe. Be sure to check out the tour dates and go see the band live if you’re able to – McCabe promises that time has proven them to be better than ever.
Rock ‘n Roll Ghost: How has going on tour changed since having a child?
Zia McCabe: I see a lot more daylight hours. There’s no sleeping until soundcheck. I see a lot more of the sights, the museums and stuff ’cause I need to find things for her to do. Other than that it’s pretty much the same. I like it. I like that sort of constant change in my routine.
How do you work it out when you go on tour? Do you bring her along?
Zia McCabe: Yeah, yeah. She’s been on every tour since she was born. Only just now because she’s in school…I took her out of school to go to Australia because I felt like c’mon kindergarten or Australia, give me a break. My husband’s back in school, so they can both stay home and be students and I’ll do the next two US tours without them. After that we’ll have to decide where the priorities are.
How is being in the band these days? I spoke to Courtney back in 2003 and talked to Peter a couple of years ago…things were a lot different a couple of years ago with you leaving the label. How are things now on your own?
Zia McCabe: I think we’re finally getting to the point where you’ve got to realize at some point in your life that, when there’s things that haven’t gone your way, you’re the common denominator. As a business you can only blame everyone around you for so long before you really have to start taking some responsibility for your life being how you want or not being how you want. Whatever changes we want to make I think we’re starting to realize we have to make internally. Having our own label honestly seems to be a bit of a joke. We’re busy. Asking artists to be businessmen and artists at the same time, yeah some people have managed to pull it off, but I don’t think that we’re those people necessarily.
I think it was important for us to be on our own in order to get some perspective on how much of the work we’re not willing to do. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to go find a label that will do all of that work, because forging a relationship like that is touch and go no matter how well placed the intentions are. I think that we are willing to try another relationship like that right now. I think that we would have failed at it had we gone straight from a major to an indie because we just would have had someone else to place blame on. So once we had a few years where we could technically only blame ourselves, I think it’s going to set us up for a more mature relationship now if we do find someone that we do want to release stuff with in the future.
What sort of things do you look at now that you feel you are doing differently and wish you would have realized sooner?
Zia McCabe: The real mistake in having our own label is that should have charged us with building a team around us to do the publicity and the licensing and that didn’t happen. So basically the album that came out went largely unnoticed. This record sounded like the record where we had been heading the whole time. It doesn’t seem like a record that nobody should have noticed came out. It’s not like we went in a way different direction creatively or anything like that.
It seemed to always take at least two years for any record we ever released for anyone to notice that we’d put (one) out. Now if we work with someone and got the perfect team together, there’s no proof that that’s going to make sure we’re going to release another great record. The two are mutually exclusive. You just try to make your improvements where you see you can and keep on working and stay enthusiastic about the music first and foremost and see where it goes.
With the best of out on Capitol, do you see that as the end of a chapter? I know that the band’s relationship with the label was fairly contentious.
Zia McCabe: It changed regimes every time we put out a record. It was more just fighting to be noticed. We had forged all these relationships at the beginning and then everyone was gone by the time we did a record again. When you sign with a label you figure you’re making relationships with a big team and you’re not. Everybody just goes away and if the next group isn’t into you, you might as well have not been signed there. I think that’s the root of the issues. The best of came out because that’s what’s in the contract with Capitol. That’s why we just stuck to the singles. We didn’t think long and hard on what would be a body of our best work. That’s why we also kept the first record off of it, because we own that record and didn’t want to get it tangled back up with releasing something on Capitol. It leaves us to, at some other point, release another collection of what we think would have made some great singles. Sort of the greatest misses of our career.
Since we are still part of EMI for international stuff, our relationship has never gone completely mute. It was really interesting to be back on a major label for about a minute after we had been flailing around trying to run things on our own and it was about as disappointing as it always was.
You were talking a little bit about the album you were working on – can you tell me a little bit about that?
Zia McCabe: Courtney had a baby and he’s feeling a bit tapped on the writing so he sent us in there to take a crack at writing. He just wants to come in and lay tracks down, hone lyrics and help mix and wants to do the fun stuff. Which is a huge scary challenge and I’m totally up for it. It could end up so completely different from a Dandy Warhols album that we can’t call it a Dandy Warhols album. Which is fine, too. Or just by it still being us four musicians it will still have enough of that thread in it that we can call it a Dandy Warhols album. We’re just trying to is stay busy and record and keep writing and keep being creative and not worry about what direction it’s going in and what the end result is going to sound like because you can end up just sort of stuck if you do that. I don’t want to have the pressure of ‘ does this sound like the Dandies?’ on every track I’m laying down.
This is a first that he’s been this open, right? Was it a surprise?
Zia McCabe: It was a surprise. I snuck in and wrote a track with one of the engineers and it’s very electronic. I’d call it dark disco if you were to call it anything and Courtney really liked it. He’s like, ‘You’re really coming along as a producer. Why don’t you write the next record? I’m sick of it.’ So I got Pete in there and Brent just came in and did a bunch of drums on stuff. We’ll see how far I get.
The Dandy Warhols US Dates
10/30 – Chicago, IL – Vic Theatre
11/01 – Toronto, ON – Phoenix Concert Theatre
11/02 – Montreal, QB – Le National
11/03 – Boston, MA – Royale Nightclub
11/05 – Brooklyn, NY – Bell House
11/06 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
11/09 – Baltimore, MD – Rams Head Live
11/10 – Asheville, NC – Orange Peel
11/11 – Atlanta, GA – Center Stage
11/13 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater
11/14 – Austin, TX – La Zona Rosa
12/01 – Victoria, BC – Sugar
12/02 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
12/03 – Seattle, WA – Showbox Market
12/07 – Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up
12/08 – Las Vegas, NV – Hard Rock Cafe
12/10 – Los Angeles, CA – CLub Nokia
12/11 – San Francisco, CA – Regency Ballroom
12/12 – Portand, OR – Crsytal Ballroom