How Prince Taught Dean Ween What NOT To Do
Just like Prince, Dean Ween has spent most of his career recording new music at a much faster rate than he's been releasing records. But unlike the Purple One - whom Ween referred to as "my John Lennon" in a loving eulogy two years ago - Ween says he's not getting frustrated by his own ever-expanding "vault."
"Although he’s one of my biggest influences, Prince is also kind of the guy I used as an example of what not to do," Ween explains. "After he got out of his label deal he’d put out these three-CD sets - and I always thought that there was maybe one good album in each of them. I couldn’t keep pace with him. I’d have to check out his records six months later. He’s my role model but also as a super-fan, as a mega-fan, he even lost me. With that amount of material, I think quality control started to diminish a little bit."
Since his "main" band Ween reunited after a four-year split in 2015, Dean has been balancing that group's tour schedule with a burgeoning solo career. He recently released the Dean Ween Group's guitar-heavy second album Rock 2, a highly enjoyable effort that reaches out into a dazzlingly wide and impressive range of styles and influences while somehow also remaining concise and unified.
During the Ween group's hiatus, Dean built himself a pro-quality home studio, and to say the least, he's been taking full advantage, recording new material every single day when he's not on tour. "I have this massive massive backlog of material - going back to Ween there’s thousands and thousands of songs."
Despite this huge audio inventory, Dean's two solo efforts have favored focus over length. 2016's The Deaner Album clocked in at 52 minutes, and Rock 2 is an even more economical 39. "I don’t believe that there’s a proper album length," he said when asked if he thinks records are getting too long nowadays. "I think you know when it’s done, and I think what's more important is that it’s a complete statement."
While he'll occasionally share a new song with fans on the internet, for the most part Ween prefers the time-tested album-based approach. "There's always the web and it’s like this fickle balance. I think just putting stuff out on the web, it’s kind of like cheapening it. I love the old school way of making a record, and having a label promote it - even though that’s not the world we live in anymore."
There's a particularly heavy Funkadelic influence on much of Rock 2, something Ween attributes to his recent live and studio collaborations with Michael Hampton, who played with Funkadelic from 1974-2015. "Them and the Beatles are my favorite two bands of all time. I guess being around Michael so damn much is probably influencing me, I know I’ve gleaned some knowledge on playing guitar. I don’t want to say it reconnected me with P-Funk, because I never fell of out touch with them, but it’s at an all-time high right about now."
If you're worried about those thousands of unreleased songs being forgotten and lost, Ween says sometimes it's just a matter of waiting for the right time or the proper finishing touch. That's what happened with Rock 2's first single "Don't Let the Moon Catch You Crying," which dates back to the sessions for Ween's 2003 album Quebec. "The words were bad, the verses were awful. The chorus was good, but the verses were not," Ween said to Dangerous Minds about the original version. "And I never revisited it, and it always bummed me out. Because I always thought it was probably the best song that we wrote for that album, it was a gorgeous song. So we went back, and my friend and I [Adam Weiner from Low Cut Connie] rewrote the lyrics to it."
The album's hysterically titled "Love Theme From Skinheads Kicking Your Ass," which Ween describes as a "driving rebel hillbilly thing," took a similarly long and convoluted path to the album. "That's from way back. I know Mike Judge, from Beavis and Butthead and all that. He sent me this pilot for King of the Hill and I thought it was super, I loved the character Mr. Anderson." Ween wrote the song as a potential theme for the show, but the time apparently wasn't right yet. "Somehow, I just sort of like didn’t submit it, and the thing he ended up using as the theme was very similar to what I’d done. So now I revisited it and brought it back. I never forget ideas."