Prozac Enemas: A Rare Chat with Ween
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly
Despite last year’s joyous release of an incredible live show from 1992, all those early years when Ween consisted of Dean and Gene (two young, talented and hilarious Pennsylvania kids) and a drum machine seem like ancient history. Seeing a Ween show without drummer-extraordinare Claude Coleman behind the kit has been impossible for the past 15 years or so, but that could change soon: rumors have been spreading all over the internet for the past year about Coleman, a multi-instrumentalist who also leads the band Amandla and teaches at the Paul Green School of Rock in NYC, taking a break from Ween to make sense of a life that has been perhaps too fast and fun since his near-fatal auto accident.
However, when asked recently about Coleman’s departure (which was confirmed online by a heartfelt statement from the drummer), Dean Ween (born Mickey Melchiondo) told me “Claude is still in the band the last time I checked.” In a follow-up email, Ween’s manager Greg Frey told me “Mickey’s answer regarding Claude is spot on. Anything else is hearsay.”
Similarly, seeing a Ween show without watching singer/guitarist Gene Ween (born Aaron Freeman) drinking out of a bottle of Jack Daniels seemed impossible until just recently, but the band is being somewhat facetious about life as Ween without their notoriously hard partying. It’s common knowledge that Ween’s 2007 release La Cucaracha was recorded after Freeman made a much-needed trip to rehab, although that didn’t stop fans attending Freeman’s sold-out solo shows in Boulder this past spring from throwing bags of weed at Freeman’s feet onstage. Nor did Freeman’s admirable recovery from addiction squelch Melchiondo’s trademark sadistic humor, as evidenced by our recent conversation.
Adam Perry: I remember you blogging years ago about not enjoying festival gigs. It seemed like you guys literally helicoptered in and out of your first Bonnaroo performance for fear of exposure to hippies, but now you seem to be playing tons of festivals every year and really enjoying them.
Dean Ween: I have actually had a really good time the three times we’ve played Bonnaroo. I don’t think that the “hippie jam festival” thing is as prevalent anymore. More and more festivals offer variety — Bonnaroo now has headliners like the Police or Bruce Springsteen [and] I just saw a festival where Public Enemy headlined. Regardless of how we feel about it a large part of our audience also enjoys [jamband music] and it has brought more people to our gigs.
Some festival highlights for me were getting to hang out with Art Neville and watching the original Meters from 5 feet away on the side of the stage at Vegoose and chatting with Bob Weir at Bonnaroo; lowlights are always the poorly organized festivals and rain, crappy catering, no backstage areas, and porta-potties when you have to take a crap with no dignity left intact.
AP: It seems like your shows get even longer and “browner” with each year you’re a band. How do you map out every night and keep every show different?
DW: We actually only plan the first two hours of every gig; our three and four hour shows occur when everything is firing on all cylinders and the crowd is with us. I have always written the set-lists, but it has gotten to be too much so now Aaron and I have started doing them together this year. We try and not play the same songs every night and we work songs in and out of the set-list when we get tired of them. Some songs I like to play every night and others come in and out.
AP: Red Rocks is hailed by many acclaimed artists as the best venue in the United States. What was it like the first time you played there, and why do you keep coming back?
DW: It’s definitely the best venue we’ve ever played, in the U.S. and abroad. The first time we played there was opening for Big Head Todd 15 years ago. It has become a destination spot for Ween fans around the country; they fly in from everywhere just to be a part of that scene and I don’t blame them. We’ve also done gigs there with Tenacious D opening up and the Flaming Lips as well. Having the Meat Puppets this time should be the best though, because they’re one of my favorite bands of all time and friends of ours.
AP: I wrote a piece on Aaron in May, applauding his sobriety and talking about his remarkable solo tour. How has touring, writing and recording as Ween changed since the partying mellowed?
DW: Oh man, it’s awesome. Every night the five of us have a nice dinner with Angel Hair pasta and apple juice and a nice strong black cup of coffee after dessert. We then do our sound-check and have a group prayer session followed by band therapy with our touring psychologist. Then we give each other blow jobs and prozac enemas and write the set-list. It’s so much better now than before.