The Endless Creativity of Dean Ween

Northern Transmissions interview with Dean Ween
Dean Ween

Across the last few decades, Dean Ween has made amazing and totally unexpected music time and time again. But when Ween hit a break, he needed to keep creating and ended up building his own studio and hosting jam sessions to keep making music. After hitting a stride on his first record, Ween completed a totally separate album that truly hit where he wanted to be in Rock2. We caught up with Dean to talk about his new album, his powerhouse studio and why his phone is always open.

Northern Transmissions: You’ve talked about being in the same place you started, recording in all your free time, so what’s changed for you the most, if not just the equipment, and how has the better equipment changed things?

Dean Ween: It comes a lot easier to me now, and I would’ve never known this without finding this studio and holding on to it for the past few years. The first year we were building it, but now any time I get any idea I have a system to take everything down. I can apply every lesson I’ve learned over my life down here every day. It comes easier because I have all that experience now. I like being here, so I’ll just come to the studio and watch a movie, and then I’ll record a song after that. I’ve got my shit together more now than when I was last able to record at home.

NT: Considering you sometimes manage two songs a day, how do you narrow all this content down, even if you’re expressly writing it for an album?

DW: Ween did the same thing for 20 years of the band, so it’s really the same thing. I’m asking myself the same question these days though. The answer is that I don’t know what to do exactly, since I’ve barely accepted CDs as a format, let alone MP3’s. Putting stuff online seems trashy, because why would you spend all that time mixing and mastering to just put it on YouTube. I’m not comfortable with all of that. It kind of came to me when Prince started putting out so many albums within a couple months that it had started to cheapen itself to me, when I had waited for a year after Sign ‘O’ The Times for Lovesexy. Ween has all these live records now, which is also weird to me, so I don’t know what to do. I have a lot more I want to put out, I’m probably picking all the worst songs. That was always the thing with Ween, write 60 songs and pick the 12 most mediocre ones for the record. You need people around you who you really trust to tell you when things suck.

NT: Considering you wrote this during the same creative stream as your last solo record, what made this collection feel distinct from that for you?

DW: On the last record, I had been moving around places for half of the record, and then we got into this studio and finished it. After that, I was in studio mode and kept going right into this record. Then I brought in the band and cut it as a band. This record was all of that momentum since I was still getting my sea-legs on the last record.

NT: Why do you think you weren’t able to capture what you do on stage before this album, and what helped you do it this time?

DW: It’s a different social landscape now. Last time Ween made a record was ten years ago, I don’t even think social media was a thing really by then. The way you reach people has totally change and the only way you make money as a musician is on the road. I’m touring more than I ever did, and I’m starting to think about things in terms of a live band. Where Ween was a studio band that was completely different on stage. I’m really writing and thinking in terms of a live band now as opposed to doing things piece-meal with Aaron.

NT: How did you get involved in the weekly “Invitational Jam” in New Hope, and what keeps you going back?

DW: Until Ween broke up for four years, I’d never really done a lot of playing with other people ever. Like I said, as much touring as we did, it was still totally different in the studio. I jammed with the same people a lot but not in general. When Ween broke up I lost my outlet to create music. There was an identity loss when that happened because you get pride from your work. They were playing music at this bar I was already drinking at, so my friend suggested we start this weekly jam thing. It’s been almost ten years now, and it’s made me a better player who takes more chances and can think on their feet.

NT: Are you still keeping the phone lines open from your fishing website and if so, have any cool results come of that?

DW: It’s still open, you can call me and leave a message. It ebbs and flows based on how busy we are. I get a lot of “Fuck You” calls, and a lot of kids calling and asking if it’s me. The artists and gigs have come, but that’s always happened because I’ve always been accessible. You know where to find me, I’m in a bar every Wednesday night. I only have one email. If you’re like that I figure you have nothing to fear. You wouldn’t believe how many gigs, soundtracks and parties have come through being that accessible. I’ve made lasting friendships and band mates through that number.

Words by Owen Maxwell