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coverpic flag US - New York - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 9 - 07/20/97

23 Minutes In Cologne

A conversation with Dean Wareham and Sean Eden of Luna in Cologne, Germany 17th June 1997.

CARSTEN: So what is it like being Luna in 1997?
DEAN: Well, it's better than being Luna in 199...4
SEAN: Yeah it's better in Europe...we have a new record label in europe. We're not on WEA anymore in europe. Which is a really good thing, because now we're working with people who like, care about us and are working for us so we're excited...

CARSTEN: Do you think this will help you with selling records or is it just working with nicer people?
DEAN: It's just that one person who cares about you is worth ten people who don't. It's not a personal thing, it's just that Rough Trade is better at dealing with American rock bands at our level than a huge company like WEA. In America we're better on a major.

CARSTEN: I think it's been quite a while since your last album and you only played a short tour with Edwyn what have you been up to in the meantime?
DEAN: Yeah, Edwyn Collins, we went home, we toured Florida and Texas, then we toured with Lou Reed...
SEAN: We took a little time off and then we started working on stuff for this record, and we started recording this record in November of last year.

CARSTEN: And you lost a band member?
DEAN: Fired him...he hated touring, he really hated it. Especially hated coming to Europe...not a traveller. Someone who is much more comfortable in New Jersey than anywhere else. If it had been up to him...he would like to make records and stay home and just play in the clubs and you just cannot do that. He wasn't happy.

CARSTEN: How did you find a replacement?
SEAN: Our replacement was a friend of mine. We auditioned a few people, and I'd thought about us auditioning him 'cause I'd played with him in like, little side projects and sort of for fun sometimes, and I thought, you know... his name is Lee, Lee Walls and so we brought him in to audition and he was really good and just as importantly you know, he had similar tastes and we knew we could get along with him, which is a very important thing. It is just as great a consideration as their ability. You've really got to be able to relate to somebody and have fun with them.
DEAN: Some musicians are weird, especially drummers.
SEAN: Yeah, especially drummers.
DEAN: You gotta look out for them.

CARSTEN: Speaking of side projects, you all have been involved with some...
DEAN: More or less...Justin's in a band called Tuatara with Peter Buck from R.E.M. and Barrett Martin from the Screaming Trees. It's Justin (Harwood, Luna's bass player - editor's note) and Barrett's band but Peter Buck is more famous so he gets all the attention and they say it's Peter Buck's band. I've got a side project we recorded at home, Cagnee and Lacey. It was for fun but we got to put out a record too.

VANESSA: How did you pick that name?
DEAN: From that TV show which I've actually never watched in my life... that's not gonna come out in Europe I don't think.

VANESSA: Is it more fun working with your wife rather than with a band?
DEAN: No, I'm a bit kranky. She sings, I'm not very patient with her. I'm not good at...I couldn't teach her to drive either.

CARSTEN: Are you a perfectionist then?
DEAN: No, I'm not a perfectionist, I'm just impatient.

CARSTEN: And also the last couple of months there have been a lot of Galaxie 500 reissues...
DEAN: There have! Everything plus a live record...

CARSTEN: And how much were you involved with that? I know Naomi...
DEAN: She did all the artwork. I was involved in...well, we all had to vote about which songs would go on and all. As per usual I would get OUTvoted. One song that should have been on there...we did a great version of Moonshot by Buffy St. Marie that's very nice. I don't know why that wasn't in the box set. It's not complete...there's LOADS more stuff. That's just the tip of the iceberg!

CARSTEN: Are there going to be any more Galaxie500 outtake releases?
DEAN: No, not outtake releases. The only thing that might be left would be Peel Sessions I think, but there's not really any progress to report in that have to buy them from the BBC to start with...

VANESSA: I've heard that Damon said that he wouldn't want them to be released right now, cause he doesn't think they're very good or something, but that's third hand information from the internet...
DEAN: Well, one really good thing on there is a version of Submission by the Sex Pistols, which is really funny.

CARSTEN: So are you still in touch with Damon and Naomi?
DEAN: Only via fax...pieces of thermal paper sent to each other's apartments.

CARSTEN: Do you think these reissues will help your future career and help the sales of Luna albums?
DEAN: Well, the only thing that is gonna help the sale of Luna records is radio play...maybe it will help a little bit. You know, those records are not going to sell a massive amount.


CARSTEN: So what do you think is the biggest difference between the new record and older stuff?
DEAN: This time we had a producer from day 1 til day 120--many days. Bewitched and Penthouse we pretty much produced ourselves with some assistance. So everything was scrutinized, all the songs were sort of pulled apart and put back together.
SEAN: It was a rather tedious and laborious process sometimes, but it was a different sort of approach for us that we wanted to take.
DEAN: The result is that the sound is sonically a lot more varied than Penthouse is...there's all sorts of strange instrumentation.

CARSTEN: Well, for example the first song sounds to me a little My Bloody Valentine-ish, whereas the second song is a little more easy-listening.
SEAN: Yeah, the second song is more "Luna-esque" and the first song has those stranger flavors lurking around.
DEAN: Sean makes all those strange noises on that song. (to Sean) My Bloody Valentine, eh?
SEAN: I'm not so sure about that...what the hell happened to them, man?!

VANESSA: I heard they got a huge advance and spent it all on building a studio in their house so then they didn't have any money left to make the album...

CARSTEN: There's no high-profile guest on this album like Sterling Morrison or Tom Verlaine...
DEAN: No, we thought that would be too predictable.

CARSTEN: You said this record is a lot more varied. Is there any musical line you wouldn't cross?
DEAN: Things that we wouldn't do? Well, I don't like the banjo.

CARSTEN: So you're not going country rock?
DEAN: No. Well, sometimes there might be a little country flavor.
SEAN: Well, there were times during the record where there were potential musical ideas that were introduced that maybe weren't exactly as appealing to some people as there were to others.
DEAN: Yeah, I wouldn't want to do anything world musicy. We don't really want to do techno. But we would probably keep an open ear to some things.
SEAN: Yeah, we used a sampler on this record a few times. The first song is an actual drum loop.

CARSTEN: So is it like you have a more or less set Luna sound and if you want to do something completely different you just do a side project?
DEAN: Yeah, we do have a Luna sound. Now Justin has gone and done something completely different, jazz rock. I wouldn't want to do that with Luna.
SEAN: But obviously, I think on the new record our horizons have broadened a little bit. There are certainly elements on the new record that are a little bit surprising, a little bit different from what we've done in the past.

CARSTEN: So does this reflect your current musical tastes?
DEAN: There are some sounds in there that might reflect current tastes...
SEAN: ...and there are some sounds that are quite the producer's.

CARSTEN: So what have you been listening to lately?
DEAN: It's hard to think of that when you aren't sitting in front of your CDs.
SEAN: I'm not listening to that much new stuff. There are bands around that are sort of new that are putting out records now that i listen to and there are certain things that i'll go out and get. I like Guided by Voices, I like what they do. I've heard some of that new Radiohead record, I think that's great. But I'm listening to a lot of soundtrack music lately, exploring that kind of stuff.
DEAN: Which soundtracks?
SEAN: Some John Berry music.
DEAN: Did you buy those early John Berry things? Those are kinda weak. They're okay. I think he studied, like Lee Hazelwood production techniques.
SEAN: Yeah, there's a lot of that in there.
DEAN: But he got better. I like Angelo Badlamenti
SEAN: Yeah I got the Lost Highway soundtrack
DEAN: You liked the Beck record, but everyone likes the Beck record.

(we talk about what a crossover artist Beck has become and how people shouldn't ignore stuff cause it's on a major label)

DEAN: I like that Yo La Tengo record, but that's not new...

CARSTEN: You also have covered lots of do you pick those songs?
DEAN: Well, whatever works...

CARSTEN: Is it just a song, or more of a band you think you should cover?
DEAN: Well, I don't think we've ever covered something by someone we don't like. We were just discussing that before. That's the sure way to, um, take a song like "the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon" and do that, and top the charts...

CARSTEN: This song 23 Minutes To it a reference to the Suicide album?
DEAN: Yes it is!
SEAN: You're the first one who's got that.
DEAN: It's a Suicide record, it was a bootleg originally, that came out on one of the reissues on CD. A gig they played in Brussels where they got booed offstage. It's a very funny record actually.

CARSTEN: Do you care about who your audience is?
DEAN: We don't really know who our audience is. We just get up on stage...

VANESSA: Have you noticed any changes over the years?
DEAN: In America if we play all ages shows we get high school kids. But generally it's 21 and up or 18 and up so you don't even know...
SEAN: Well, it is pretty much a mixed crowd at our shows, age-wise and apparent leaning-wise.
DEAN: The ones we end up talking to are the ones who come up to us after the show, so it isn't necessarily a accurate cross-section.

VANESSA: Do you don't think you get any people who say "hey I wanna go see that band who was in the Calvin Klein commercial!"?
DEAN: No, I don't think that really raised our profile any...

CARSTEN: So did they actually approach you for the commercial?
DEAN: A friend of mine edited the commerical, and he stuck it in there, and Calvin Klein liked it. We tried to re-record it so we could make some money off of it...
SEAN: ...but that didn't happen so they ended up spending a lot but we made nothing from it. The record company got some money and our publishing company got some money, so they were kinda happy about it. And we weren't unhappy about it either, cause it's only in there for a little bit...
DEAN: It's not like putting your actual faces out there.

CARSTEN: How do you go about picking songs for an album? I mean, some people sit down and say they're going to write with an album in mind...
DEAN: We all bring things in and we jam, and we have this producer who basically...

CARSTEN: So are there a lot of outtakes, or do you use everything?
DEAN: There are no outtakes from this one.
SEAN: Not really. There's definitely some stuff on those 2-inch tapes
DEAN: We're gonna erase it all. It's expensive tape, we could reuse it. There are demos, there are demos for all of our albums.
SEAN: There are like 4 or 5 songs on the demos that aren't on the records.
DEAN: There are B-sides, like on the IHOP single. There's IHOP and Fuzzy Wuzzy then a third song Words Without Wrinkles, which didn't make it to the record. Our manager really wanted us to record it.
SEAN: Some of them might be reworked.

CARSTEN: I've also noticed that sometimes there are some very cute phrases in the songs, even though the lyrics on the whole aren't too happy. Do you do that on purpose so that the lyrics don't sound too desparate, in a way?
DEAN: Yeah, so they don't sound too earnest. Sometimes you gotta break up the mood a little bit. I know that annoys some people. I remember one journalist asking me about Moon Palace who was really upset that we did that break of "nya nya nya nya".

CARSTEN: But you don't have a message?
DEAN: Yeah, I don't have a message. It's hard enough to organize my own life without having a message. You know, you could talk to me about politics. I have strong opinions, but I'm not gonna...well, sometimes there are some political messages in some of our songs if you want to dealve deep enough into it. We're not as open about it as say, Bono is.

CARSTEN: Do you care what gets written about you at all?
DEAN: Well, it's nice to have people like you I guess, but ultimately...I guess yes and no. On one level you care and on the other you don't. It doesn't really matter to me what, you know, Melody Maker thinks of Luna.
SEAN: It's always nice to get positive press...

CARSTEN: But isn't that a little upsetting if you get great reviews for a record all the time but still don't sell it really?
SEAN: Yeah, it is a little annoying sometimes, but that happens a lot.
DEAN: Reviews don't sell records, you know. Maybe a bit, if you get plastered on the front of magazines, but they only do that if they already know you're gonna sell magazines and records anyway.
SEAN: Press actually has a little bit more influence over here in terms of getting people out there, but in the US you GOTTA be on the radio.

VANESSA: What's the story behind why you had to have the 2 in your name at first? Was it a stripper or someone who had the name Luna?
SEAN: Pretty much. She called herself a performance artist.
DEAN: Her name was Erica Wexler, I think her uncle was Jerry Wexler, who's like a big music executive. She was just a singer, she didn't have any records out but she had been doing shows around New York under the name Luna
SEAN: We paid her not to bring any legal action.
DEAN: We said we could both have the name. But she hasn't been heard from since.
SEAN: Yeah, we hardly gave her any money anyway.
DEAN: She wanted $40,000. We said she got $5.

VANESSA: So Dean you were born in New Zealand. How long did you live there?
DEAN: I left there when I was 7 and moved to Australia, and I left there when I was 14.

VANESSA: If you had stayed in New Zealand, do you think you would have found your way into that exclusive New Zealand pop scene? Did you have a drive in music?
DEAN: I think I would have become a professional rugby player. My grandfather was a very good rugby player, a very good cricketer.
SEAN: Somehow I find that hard to believe. I mean, it's not impossible...
DEAN: I wasn't super driven to become a musician and start a band. I think luck has a lot to do with it. Luck and talent. But getting the right group of people together that somehow does something interesting, you never know how that's going to happen. If I'd stayed there, it's unlikely that I would have been a musician, but you never know.
SEAN: Yeah, you never know. I think about that too sometimes. Life is strange that way
DEAN: The Lord works in mysterious ways.
SEAN: Yes, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Actually that's Satan. (laugh)

CARSTEN: So the last question I have is, what are your plans for the future?
DEAN: We're scoring a movie, next week when we get home. It's called Mr. Jealousy and it starrs Eric Stoltz and Annabella Sciorra. and we're gonna tour. SEAN: Touring, the movie...maybe we'll get around to recording some more stuff at some point, but we're going to get pretty busy with touring for the next few months.

(Thanks!! to Vanessa and Carsten who so kindly let Luna Kafé publish this interview. This is an edited version of their conversation with the Luna guys.)

Copyright © 1997 Carsten Wohlfeld e-mail address and Vanessa Hays

© 2011 Luna Kafé