BOHEMIAN UNLIKE YOU "I am not an entertainer," says Courtney Taylor-Taylor. "I would be a failure, an absolute useless fuck as an entertainer.
I really, really like the Dandy Warhols. I've been a fan since the release of the Portland, Oregon, band's 1995 debut Dandys Rule OK, an exciting mix of shoegazey textures and retro mod-pop that may well have changed the course of my musical life. I considered myself #TEAMDANDYS in the aftermath of the outstanding 2004 documentary Dig!, about their frenemy rivalry with the overrated Brian Jonestown Massacre, and I have a longstanding man crush on the wry, whip-smart, and heavenly cheek-boned frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor. I only say all of that by way of tempering the following: Taylor may be the most pretentious band douche I've ever interviewed. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
The Dandy's eighth studio record, This Machine (The End Records), is an alternatingly captivating and confounding grab-bag of stripped-down guitar-centric numbers, introspective atmospheric trip-outs, and downright grungy throwback indie-pop. In Dig!, Taylor and his band were famously depicted as careerist fame-chasers, striving for crossover appeal that came, for the most part, with the glorious, skewed pop-rock of hit singles from the near-perfect The Dandy Warhols Come Down (1997) and Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia (2000). So it's surprising to hear from Taylor that he doesn't even consider himself in the entertainment biz. And he never reads what someone like me — or even his fans — have to say about him.
"I don't care," he says. "I hear back from friends who are like, 'Have you checked out your video comments? People love you. You change people's lives. . . .' Great. I'm still not going to read 'em, dude. It would affect my head, I know it would, my relationship with my work, and I can't think like that. The minute you take into consideration your audience, you cease to exist. You become a fucking entertainer."
Wait. Isn't that what he is? People do come to his shows to be entertained after all, right? "Is it entertaining, really?" he asks me. "[Fans come] with their eyes shut, palms up in the air facing toward us. They're not sitting down having a fucking lobster. They're there for an emotional, semi-religious experience. They're hoping for absolute transcendence. We're not like other bands — other bands you probably want to go be entertained. Our fans don't show up for that reason at all. We've changed their lives, and we validate them every time they put a record on. I don't think of myself as entertainer whatsoever. I am not an entertainer. I would be a failure, an absolute useless fuck as an entertainer."
Instead, he says, the band is more of a means to mold his internal emotions into something manageable, something more tangible and real. "Everything I do is therapy for myself, from the moment I wake to the moment I go to sleep. . . . Everything I do is about where do I fit in in this world, and do I, and I am worth anything? That's the only thing that drives me to create. That's what art is. It's not like Van Gogh was trying to make nice paintings; he just had something in his head, he needed to create equilibrium inside his cell wall and outside his cell wall. Look at Starry Night. It's violent turmoil, the paint is like a half an inch thick. He's just going mental. He needs something outside his body to reflect the chaos inside."