Q&A: Dean Wareham On The Last Galaxie 500 Set In New York, Leaving the East Village For Brooklyn, His Forthcoming Solo Album, And John Lydon Walking Out On A Luna Show
Thurston Moore himself called Galaxie 500's pioneering debut record, Today, "the guitar record of 1988." Considering 1988 marked the release of Sonic Youth's landmark Daydream Nation and Dinosaur Jr's pedal-stomping sludgefest Bug, that bold proclamation by Moore was indeed a revelation. But it was right on the proverbial mark.
Dean Wareham, bassist Naomi Yang and drummer Damon Krukowski formed Galxie 500 at Harvard in 1986, and immeasurably defined the college rock aesthetic with their gorgeously morose yet epic dreamgaze. The debonair Wareham matched his ascending, gyrating guitar solo-age with a shrieky, delicate croon of girl-swooning proportions and, after three records, departed Galaxie 500 in 1991. He then formed the exquisite and hilariously snarky Luna, whose run ended in 2005. After that, Wareham teamed with bassist (and wife) Britta Phillips for a string of records and penned a candid memoir, Black Postcards. For the last year or so, Wareham has revisited his Galaxie 500 catalog, with sets devoted exclusively to his old band's classic material. But Wareham is retiring that nostalgia act after his current tour, instead focusing on his first solo album under his own name.
Sound of the City spoke to Wareham on the phone while on tour to talk about his solo album, ending the Galaxie 500 sets, and moving to Brooklyn.
Tonight is the last time you're doing the "Dean sings Galaxie 500 songs" sets in New York?
Oh, yeah, it's the last [one]. We're doing it somewhere else. We're doing it in Los Angeles in September.
Why did you decide to retire it?
Well, I've just been doing this for a little over a year now... it was an idea for [a festival] and I think it was a good idea, but I just don't want to keep doing it.
Yeah, you've been doing the Galaxie 500 sets for a while now.
Yeah, I didn't want to do it forever but and they just asked me "Oh, will Dean do this?" and I was like "Oh, okay." But it's not like I'm going to stop playing these songs completely. I will continue to play the songs but I'm just not going to do the particular set where it's only Galaxie 500.
Have you gauged more excitement from your audience doing the Galaxie 500 sets as opposed to a Dean and Britta set?
There was excitement because mostly I hadn't played these songs for about twenty years. Just for myself, seeing for myself as a fan of certain other music, when you go see them play and never, ever expected to hear the songs performed live by them, it's exciting. I went and saw Glen Campbell recently, and to me, that was thrilling, and I think some people get that same thrill out of these [Galaxie 500 songs]. And so, to a certain extent, do I. It was fun.
But you're still going to perform Galaxie 500 songs after this; just not the whole set.
Will you be doing a "Dean sings Luna" set now after the success of doing the Galaxie 500 set?
No, I don't think so. With Galaxie 500, we were a trio but I was the voice and the guitar and I could pull that off. But I feel like with Luna, I'd really want to have Sean [Eden] there.
What are the chances of you playing again with Sean happening?
Well, you know what, we're actuallywe're not talking about a Luna reunion or anythingbut we're playing this benefit on Long Island [tomorrow night] and Sean is going to play like four or five songs with us. So, we see him; we're still on good terms. I wouldn't rule out that we'd play shows together or something.
So you and Britta will be playing a benefit at Mulcahy's in Long Island this Saturday. Have you played there before?
Maybe not... maybe not an actual show on Long Island. I can't remember. I could be wrong. [The benefit came out] when I actually kinda met these guys because I was selling a guitar on Craigslist and this guy who came over to pick up my guitar and he was like "Hey, You're Dean Wareham" and I said "Yes, I am" and he then got in touch and he asked [me] just to play this foundation for his brother, who had died in an accident very young. He was a huge Luna fan and so they try to have a benefit with music that he liked or would have liked and the proceeds from this will go to the camp where he worked.
And Sean will be playing with you at the benefit?
When he said his brother was a huge Luna fan, I was like "Maybe Sean can play with us."