‘When I put a spike into my vein, I’ll tell ya things aren’t quite the same.’
Lou Reed sang that line, and I’m certain Courtney Taylor-Taylor relates to it.
I’m not saying The Dandy Warhols’ frontman is a junkie; in fact, it’s the one thing he says he’s not. But to say that he’s teetering on the edge would be a vast understatement for a man trapped between the blurred boundaries of music and self-medication.
As Courtney talks you find yourself on the edge of your seat, ears pricked, a perplexed expression on your face, hanging on to every word that falls out of his mouth like it could be the last thing you ever hear.
It’s not that anything he says is particularly deep (although he has his moments), it’s because at times you literally have no idea what the man is saying. What were once conceived as words emerge from Courtney as a distant, semiconscious preamble for a book no one is writing.
Being diplomatic and all, I blamed it on the time difference. The truth, though, is that I had ‘heroin’ stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
“Music is a survival skill. It’s what keeps me from just being another heroin junkie. If you don’t have a creative outlet you’ll die, you’ll OD.”
Courtney painted me a picture of his alternate reality but I decided to take the polite route, asking him instead about Dandy Warhols heartland: Portland, Oregon.
“The rain. That’s what it is about Portland. It rains for about ten months of the year. Soothes my depression; it’s ‘Portland’, not ‘Portlandia’.”
I point out that it has been known to rain in cities other than Portland. Surely there’s more than just weather-patterns keeping Courtney there.
“Look, this city’s a part of our identities now. To leave here would be to give up a part of ourselves. We have a lot of history here. Family, friends. My family’s been here for more than 150 years. But I’ve had to watch a lot of my friends disappear… when they get to their late 20s, early 30s, it’s suicide, or ODing. Junkies, you know?”
Of course I didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue. But Courtney was dropping some heavy shit, so I let him continue.
“I was on stage in Sydney about five years ago and my phone started ringing. I reached down to turn it off, but I realised it was a call from this guy who never calls me. So I answer it, and he says he was just calling to say one of my friends had ODd. ‘He’s gone, man. Gone.’ It was the worst set, I couldn’t feel a single song.”
Courtney spent the better part of the interview reminiscing about friends that had slipped away, his voice tinged with a quiet frustration as if it had all gone on too long for any sadness to linger.
I had to wonder if he saw me more as therapist or journalist, or if he was aware of the vast differences in confidentiality between the two.
Thankfully the conversation steered towards ‘This Machine’. You have to wonder, it being the Dandy’s eighth album and all, whether…
“No man, it’s our seventh album. We’ve released seven.”
“Are you sure?”
Like I’m going to correct Courtney Taylor-Taylor on the discography of The Dandy Warhols. He twice recounts a list of albums to me; both times the list is different. I assure him that I was mistaken, and ask him about his critics. You may have noticed the 5.1 rating ‘This Machine’ has on Pitchfork. You may have noticed that Pitchfork are not Dandys fans.
“We’ve never cared about critics. They either hate you because they don’t understand, or love you for all the wrong reasons. Who needs them?”
He may have said ‘reads them’, which strangely is also applicable.
“Besides, when you’ve got people like David Bowie and Joe Strummer saying that they like your band, it doesn’t matter.
“Having David Bowie say he likes your band is like having God come down from heaven and say ‘Hey, I’m sorry about all the elbows in the chest you got in school and all the times you got called a fag. It’s all ok, now. You’re fine.’
"And when Joe Strummer told us we were his favourite band, you know what he said next? ‘Do you want to hang out?’”
Now that, children, is hard to argue with.
The Dandy Warhols play Harvest Festival at Riverstage on Sunday November 18. ‘This Machine’ is out now.