Steve Wynn's seen and done a lot. He's played with members of REM, both in a support role when The Dream Syndicate opened a tour back in the 80s, and as a starting lineup roster position with The Baseball Project. He's put out a generous handful of solo records, and helped shape the sound of American guitar-oriented bands along the way. The Dream Syndicate played their first reunion show in the US at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival, and I had the chance to chat with him about the reunion and further plans.
How were you approached to play this festival?
Well, a few things happened. First, I played the first Solid Sound with the Baseball Project, so I was aware of the festival and how cool it was already, and had a great time at that one, just loved it. When The Dream Syndicate started playing shows, we tried to figure out how to play a US show. We played Spain last September for a couple of weeks; we did a European tour in May for a couple of weeks so we’ve been playing out. Do we want to start out with an LA show, a New York show? And actually it was Jason [Victor, guitarist in Steve’s band The Miracle 3 as well as the reunited Dream Syndicate] who had the idea of trying to play Solid Sound.
My manager is Wilco’s manager, Tony Margherita, and he also manages the Baseball Project so I know him well. I’d also seen Wilco play last summer at Summerstage in NYC last year and Jeff came up to me and talked to me how much he liked The Dream Syndicate and how much it influenced him. Really, very touching and very nice. So I knew that Jeff likes our stuff, and management too so why not? Give it a shot.
I remember waking up one morning around 9 in the morning and emailing him “Do you think this this could work?” and by noon he said “You’re on.” Great! Life should always be that easy.
They said that they’d love to have us, but it would be really cool this was your first US show, an exclusive show. I said absolutely,. I knew it would be a great way to start off whatever we end up doing in the US since it’s a smart audience, receptive, knows us and listens well. And our hunch was correct.
Yeah it was a great show, really well received.
It couldn’t have been better.
How did you go about setting the lineup for the reunion? Did you talk with Karl Precoda or Kendra Smith?
Over the years I’ve been thinking about it. I never ruled it out; I never said I won’t do it again. But the reality was, over last twenty or so years when I went solo, I’ve been really busy doing solo records, the Baseball Project, Gutterball. Doing different things and being out on the road all the time. So I never really pursued it that intensely. At a certain point I started getting in touch with old members. Karl and I aren’t friendly, I have no idea why but I haven’t talked with him in a very long time. Kendra’s kind of a recluse at this point, so the original lineup wasn’t gonna happen.
Paul Cutler, who played guitar for most of the time in the band, we’re still good friends but he doesn’t want to do this kind of thing. He’s not really out there doing the rock thing anymore. Because there wasn’t an obvious band to reunite, I didn’t think about it that much. We got approached to do a festival last year in Bilbao (the Wop festival). It’s a festival I’ve played before and it’s a really cool festival to benefit pediatric diseases and research and treatment of diseases. I liked the guy who put it together and he asked if the Baseball Project or The Miracle Three could play. I told him that neither band was available to play, but how about The Dream Syndicate? I just tossed it out there. He said yeah, that would be great!
Once he said that, I said “now what?” (laughs)
Now I gotta get a plan together!
I knew Dennis (Duck, original drummer) had been into the idea, I knew Mark (Walton, bass player) had been into the idea, and Jason Victor, who’s been playing with me in The Miracle Three for the last fifteen years, he’s played all these songs. He plays them great; he embodies the spirit of what we do. Let’s just do this. Let’s go over to Spain and play the show. If it doesn’t feel right, if the music isn’t right, if the audience doesn’t like it we’ll say it was a fun adventure and that’s the end of that and we’ll book nothing beyond that. So we went and played the show and it was great. We played five shows in Spain and they were all great. The people loved it, the music was good and we had a good time. It felt like a continuation of what we were doing in the ‘80s.
I think our thing now is, keep doing little things and see how long we’re having fun. So, the European tour, that was a blast. We did this, this was a blast. Now we’re taking things as they come along.
It’s cool to see bands like yourselves recharge. Kind of like Come, who are playing again with the reissue of their debut record and who also played with you on Melting In the Dark…it’s cool to see something like that. Cynical people could say it’s just a nostalgia trip, but the music still has a lot of power and meaning. It’s great to see back on stage when it’s executed well and not just going through the motions.
And you can tell the difference. And a lot of bands are reuniting now. Some bands you see, it feels like they’re getting a paycheck and they can’t wait to get out of there. I wouldn’t do The Dream Syndicate at this point, unless it was something interesting to me. There’s no reason to. I have two great bands right now I don’t need any reason. But it’s cool and what I like about it is that it’s the sound of The Dream Syndicate, the style and the aesthetic of The Dream Syndicate. It’s a whole type of different thing than I do with my other bands and right now I’m enjoying it.
Are there any other US dates mapped out now, or in the future?
We’re doing a show in Chicago, which we couldn’t announce until after this, but now we can (laughs). After that we’ll probably do New York and Boston, LA, Atlanta, places where we did really well. Just take it as it comes along. One thing I like about being in the Dream Syndicate now is that we don’t have to do anything. It’s not a career, a go out there and tour type of thing. As things come up that sound like fun, we’ll do it. We’re playing a festival in Norway in the Arctic Circle, in July because it sounds like fun. We’ll fly up to Tromsø, where the sun will never set the whole time we’re there, play a really great festival with a bunch of other cool bands and that’ll be great. Go there, hang out together for a few days, eat herring and go home! If stuff comes up and it we like the idea we’ll do it.
What bands have you caught so far this weekend that have impressed you?
The Wilco cover set was great, that was fantastic. I’ve been looking to cover “Get Lucky” for the last couple of weeks but they did it so well I’m not gonna bother now (laughs). Their cover of “Marquee Moon” was a revelation. That was insane.
You could tell that Nels Cline had a really good time playing that song
Nels and I used to work in the Rhino Records store in LA, back in 1982 when the Dream Syndicate started. Worked together for about a year, and manned the day shift. I remember we played a lot of Television; Marquee Moon and Adventure were two things we played all the time. So hearing him play it took me back full circle (laughs). Lucius were great and Yo La Tengo was fantastic. I’ve seen Yo La Tengo and Wilco a bunch of times but I never get tired of it, they are always fantastic. I’m excited to see The Autumn Defense today as well, and one of the bands I’m most looking forward to seeing is Os Mutantes, because I’ve never seen them. It will be a blast.
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