A couple of questions with Warren Zanes
ALSO: Warren Zanes was featured in our The Best Albums You've (Probably) Never Heard feature.
Bullz-Eye: For those just learning about Memory Girls now, can you give a nutshell summary of your career prior to its release?
Warren Zanes: From 1983-1988, I was a member of the Del Fuegos. I played guitar, better on some nights than others. But it really didn't matter what my playing was like because I was the only halfway good-looking guy in the band. They really needed me. After being in the Del Fuegos, I went to school for 12 years, getting my bachelor's degree, two master's degrees, and a Ph.D. I wouldn't have stayed in school for so long but there was a lot of work that needed to be done on my mind. It had suffered a few blows out there in the nightclubs.
BE: Do you recall any anecdotes from the recording of the album?
WZ: It was a great time in my life. There's nothing like a period in which you are focused exclusively on songwriting and recording. The Dust Brothers had given me some money, so I didn't need to be working at CVS or any such thing while I was making Memory Girls. It allowed total dedication. The process taught me to enjoy such periods because they are rare. One highpoint in the recording process came when Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin came in to sing on a few songs. I kind of lurked in the background while they did their magic. I was a bit shy. Only when Emmylou asked if the "weird guy on the sofa had to be in the room while I sing" did anyone let her know that I was the artist on whose song she was doing a harmony.
BE: Did you expect the record to have a better commercial reception than it did?
WZ: I'm told that it's just about to go gold. But I've heard that my label, Dualtone, tells that to all of their artists. As a recording, I still like it a lot. And when other people hear, they seem to share that with me. The trick is getting people to listen. There are too many CDs in the world. We're slowly being buried in product. Don't you find it hard to breathe in here?
BE: Are you pleased to find that it still maintains enough of a following to make its way into this piece?
WZ: Very. I put a lot of myself into my songs, so it means a lot when anyone thinks of Memory Girls or People That I'm Wrong For as being worthy of a nod.
BE: What are you doing now?
WZ: I just stepped down as Vice President of Education and Public Programs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, a job I found enormously engaging. In that position, I did live-in-front-of-an-audience interviews with everyone from Dan Penn to Nile Rodgers to Robbie Robertson to Johnny Rivers to Mick Jones from the Clash. These conversations will always remain with me as a high point. For the next year I'm under contract to continue this work as I commute from the New York City area, my new home. The only reason I left was because my kids missed their cousins, the grandmother, their uncles and aunts, and so forth. Happily, with my association with my Museum continuing, more fun will be had. That said, being in the New York area will allow me to teach at a great university and begin a book project that has been on my mind for sometime. And if Dualtone will have me, I'd love to see them lose a little more money on Warren Zanes.
Check out Warren Zanes' official site for more info.