The Dandy Warhols on ROCKMAKER and Bordeaux Reds

Portland’s alternative rock band The Dandy Warhols return with a new studio album ROCKMAKER out on March 15th; their first in four years. According to lead singer and wine bar owner Courtney Taylor-Taylor, every song began with a metal riff.

“We wanted to make a record that had a peel your face off sound, one reeling with guitar tones,” says Courtney Taylor-Taylor over Zoom.

“We didn’t want to make hairy man rock, nor did we want to sound like a 30-year-old boy selling rock. It’s all about guitars and arguably our greatest achievement ever,” he says.

The band asked some of the best to lend a hand on ROCKMAKER; from Blondie’s Deborah Harry on I Will Never Stop Loving You, to Slash who channels a post-Vietnam War sludgy acid brain freeze on I’d Like To Help You With Your Problem. There’s  The Pixies’ Black Francis on Danzig with Myself – a tightly wound avant-garde posturing with loaded riffs that begin as a Danzig original would, but lean into a heavy raw punk energy when it’s done.

Working with Slash was a no brainer for Taylor-Taylor who knew he wanted the guitar hero to deliver his sonic dream.

“Slash is the ultimate and last greatest guitar players – nothing modern or hipster about what he does,” says Taylor-Taylor.

“He was perfect for the LSD 1970s rock sound we wanted to achieve on I’d Like To Help You With Your Problem,” he says.

“What came back was so much deeper and more exotic than I had even imagined. It’s an elegant and sophisticated song, trippy textures and long notes that build to a frantic speed which he does as Slash – it’s next level,” adds Taylor-Taylor.

While Debbie Harry didn’t make it to the studio to work with the band, she did send vocals to join the studio party.

Taylor-Taylor recalls hanging with the Blondie front woman some years back in New York.

“The place we were at was loud, a lot of talking and smiling between us and we hung out with Ice T for an hour,” he smiles.

“I don’t know her personally, but she seemed like a sweet angelic person, and even though she’s a legend of New York City and part of the blood and bones of that city, she still seemed like a fish out of water on the night we hung out. She was every bit delightful to me,” he recalls.

ROCKMAKER was produced and recorded at the band’s studio and funhouse The Odditorium in Portland, Oregon. Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since the band wrote hits like Bohemian Like You and Godless – anthems of the 90s still finding their place on airwaves and dance floors in 2024.

When he’s not touring with his band, Courtney Taylor-Taylor runs a wine bar called The Old Portland [inside the studio where they make music].  It’s where he channels a love of Bordeaux reds – and doesn’t sell anything that isn’t red or pink with bubbles. It’s wine and punk rock’s happiest hour.

“We’re mostly a Bordeaux wine bar – a wine that’s neither light nor dark. It’s fucking great,” he quips.

“I have to taste a lot of wines for the bar, so I have all the musicians I know who live nearby come over to try 18 bottles with me on a Wednesday night. Everyone from James Mercer from The Shins, Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse, John McCrea from Cake – they all live here. It’s kind of what we do midweek and I organise the food we eat while we drink,” says Taylor-Taylor.

The bar has been operating for seven years; and wines sell for the same price regardless if one should be more expensive than the other. Taylor-Taylor explains his theory behind the approach.

“I always wanted a bar that’s sold wine that’s all the same price – sometimes I lose money on expensive ones and make it on others. When it comes to wine, it shouldn’t matter about the price, just choose one and enjoy,” he says. “At my bar they’re all one price.”

He says a love of wine began early in life – as a kid reading 19th century literature – obsessing over how romantic, wistful and wired characters were on wine. But it was while being hungover on tour in France that he discovered Bordeaux reds and didn’t look back.

“I got off the tour bus one day and went in search for something to eat. I found an old guy who sat me down at his bar in Bordeaux and gave me bread, no butter. He brings out a wine in a water glass and it was fucking incredible. I devoured it. It was like this is exactly what wine was meant to do – and that was Bordeaux and it changed my life,” he adds.

“I then went and built a cellar door at home and stock it full of Bordeaux reds,” he says.

When in Australia, it’s all about Penfolds Bin 707; and if the opportunity permits, a Penfolds Grange – “It’s a beautiful thing,” says Taylor-Taylor.

LAST SPOTTED IN MELBOURNE

 At Naked for Satan on Brunswick Street Fitzroy before boarding a flight back to the States.

The Dandy Warhols tour Australia in April.

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