"Every song had to start with a metal riff, accompanied by shit-tonnes of noise": The Dandy Warhols might prefer claret to ecstasy these days, but they're still experimenting

The Dandy Warhols seated on a sofa set against an ornate wall
(Image credit: Ray Gordon)

The day after a “rager” playback party in NYC for their heavy, darkly twisty new album Rockmaker, Classic Rock caught up with Dandy Warhols frontman/guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor in Montreal at the start of a Canadian tour. 

“We’ve immersed ourselves in confit duck and profiteroles here,” he says, noting his gourmand proclivities before discussing the Portland alt.rockers’ twelfth album in a 30-year career. 


Rockmaker sounds cheery from the start with Doomsday Bells. 

We had a rough couple of years in the US with this cult leader of a president, a caustic and nasty-mouthed man, whipping up hate. Then we end up with Putin as an insane dictator. The last album [Tafelmuzik Means More When You’re Alone] had no songs on it, it was a lockdown soundtrack to a nine-course dinner party. This one is songs, asking: “Why are the stupid people winning, dictating what everybody does?” Except for I Will Never Stop Loving You, a true dark and honest love song, a duet with Debbie Harry.

Your other guests include Frank Black, and, somewhat more surprisingly, Slash. How did he come to be involved? 

I was friends with Duff McKagan’s wife before they met. They started dating and we’d run into [GN’R] over the decades. When the track I’d Like To Help You With Your Problem was nearly finished, Peter [Holmström, guitars, keys] and I realised we didn’t have the chops for what we needed. Slash’s style is probably the last of that Vietnam War-era, LSD, wah-wah sound. He heard the song and thought it was fucking awesome. When his part came back it was even better than we expected, really deep and cool.

What was the MO for the rest of Rockmaker’s sound? 

Every song had to start with a metal riff, accompanied by shit-tonnes of noise – we’re all people who like random noise elements, a lot of white and pink noise. Guitar riffs are a great place for us to start, and then they all wander off – one goes James Bond, one goes Sabbath, whatever. I did a lot of extemporaneous playing, see what it unlocked in me. Then we applied some craft and artistry later. 

Always experimenting, taking risks… 

We experiment and try new things all the time. That’s why we don’t get any better [laughs]. But that’s the nature of experimentation. I got to spend a lot of time in my studio, and his studio, with David Bowie, and that was his thing, always looking over the fence, going: “That sounds amazing. How can I do that.” That means real artists don’t have a lot of consistency with hit songs; but you’re an inventor, and you don’t go from inventing Velcro to inventing the French press. It’s not success after success. 

The track Alcohol And Cocainemarijuananicotine is very Queens Of The Stone Age. 

You mean like their track Feel Good Hit Of The Summer? That wasn’t big in the US so we never heard it. We thought: “Why not make a track about our favourite drugs?” I’m not comfortable with harder stuff any more, so we went for ‘natural high’. But then the first time I had a twenty-year-old bottle of claret I thought: “This is incredible. Why did I waste all that money on ecstasy?”’ 

Rockmaker is out now via Sunset Boulevard Records.

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.