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Dean Wareham Discusses New Solo Record, Fassbinder + ‘Potentially Embarrassing’ Memoir

Luz Gallardo

“I’ve made a lot of records at this point. I don’t need to play guitar solos on every song,” laughs Dean Wareham. The former Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman Dean Wareham is on the line with Diffuser.fm discussing ‘Emancipated Hearts,’ his recently released debut solo EP.

Wareham brings up guitar solos in reference to Jason Quever, the EP’s producer, who has also worked with the likes of Cass McCombs and Beach House. Wareham says he wasn’t precious with his material this time out, letting Quever (who also fronts the band Papercuts) also contribute guitars and keyboards on the record. “There were moments when we would say, ‘Let’s change that around a bit. It sounds too Rock.’ Things like that [laughs]. But yes, I loved working with him and trust his opinion.”

For ‘Emancipated Hearts,’ Wareham looked to, among other things, movie titles for inspiration. One of the tracks, ‘Love Is Colder Than Death,’ was partly inspired by a 1969 film of the same name by late German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. A favorite among cinefiles, Fassbinder’s vast catalog is studied by film students the same way aspiring songwriters dissect Bob Dylan or Cole Porter. “I think a lot of people find many of Fassbinder’s films difficult. I guess the American equivalents to him would be Andy Warhol and John Cassavetes where you see actors in strange situations and strange sexual politics.

“The Fassbinder films I really like are his later ones, like ‘Veronika Voss’ and ‘The Marriage of Maria Braun,’ but ‘Love Is Colder Than Death’ is actually his first movie, and I just watched it for the first time recently. I had written a song inspired by its title, so I figured I should watch it [laughs]. But you know what? It’s not very good. It’s a gangster film with actors who don’t really pull it off. It all felt kind of amateurish to me.”

For the ‘Emancipated Hearts’ recording sessions, the Los Angeles-based Wareham headed north to San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone, a studio owned by singer-songwriter John Vanderslice. “They have so much great vintage equipment there, but the coolest thing they have is an echo chamber which is really just a room dedicated to nothing but getting an echo sound for music recordings. They have this old speaker in the middle of the room with two microphones and you listen to it and it’s just amazing. It reminds you of those old records from the ‘50s and ‘60s. It’s glorious. Digital guitar effects and delay pedals just don’t compare to it.”

Besides the new EP and his work with his wife and former Luna bandmate Britta Phillips as Dean & Britta, Wareham penned ‘Black Postcards,’ a memoir looking back at his days fronting Galaxie 500 and Luna that landed on Diffuser.fm’s ’10 Best Rock Autobiographies’ list recently. The book features some truly uncomfortable recollections, and Wareham never holds back, naming names and not painting himself in a good light throughout a lot of it.

“There was definitely some anxiety about certain things I said in the book and there was a point where I thought to myself that I should probably go back and remove things so I don’t offend certain people, but I felt like it just wouldn’t be an interesting book without those parts. But maybe, I just didn’t spend enough time thinking about the parts of the book that could have been potentially embarrassing [laughs].

“I guess the central point I wanted to get across was that some of the aspects of touring life are humiliating. There are those moments on those crappy tours where you just ask yourself, ‘Jesus fucking Christ, what am I doing here?’ I know people that have been on tour could relate to that. I think that came across in the book.”

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