Both Mickey Melchiando (aka Dean Ween) and Aaron Freeman (aka Gene Ween), form the songwriting force of the band Ween. They continue to amuse and excite their fans in a manner that can only be described as a “brown” experience. Whether your a fan of the song “Poopship Destroyer” or into the more elegant songs like “The Mollusk,” Ween offers just about every emotion needed in a musical experience. In this SSS interview, Mickey takes us closer to his style, his gear, and his experience as co-founder of Ween.
Listen to Ween’s “Buckingham Green”
SSS: You have an extensive guitar collection. Can you talk a bit about some of your favorite axes, and what specific traits you look for in guitars (high/low action, pickups, style, etc.).
Mickey: I have always played Fender guitars pretty much. I own a lot of guitars but they’re mostly Stratocasters and telecasters. I have 2 main guitars that I have used for everything over the years. I play a Dakota red “Frankenstein” 1962 Stratocaster which is a slab board 1962 neck bolted onto some other pre-CBS fender body. It has 2 lace sensor pickups in the neck and middle positions and a Seymour Duncan hot rail in the lead position. This is pretty much the same setup I have in all my Strats. The other guitar is a 1961 Fender Musicmaster that was converted into a duo-sonic by adding the 2nd pickup. This also has a hot rail in the lead position. I have about 17 electric guitars but I have used these 2 for all our gigs and most of our sessions since the beginning of Ween.
SSS: What is your live amp/pedal setup? Does it vary by tour? Does your live setup differ from what you use in the studio? And, does that vary by album?
Mickey: I use either one or two mesa boogie dual rectifier tremor-verb heads into two 4×12 cabinets. In the studio though I use my old mesa mark IV head with a 2×10 cabinet. My pedal board has a crybaby wah, Electro-Harmonix micro synthesizer, mu-tron III envelope filter, mxr phase 90 pedal, digitech whammy pedal, mxr blue box, and a boss digital delay stomp box. I also use a talkbox from time to time. In the studio I will play any guitar, through any amp or any pedal, to find the right sound for a song.
SSS: What are some of your favorite venues/cities that Ween has toured through?
Mickey: I always enjoy playing in New Orleans, Minneapolis and Austin. Maybe San Francisco too.
SSS: Which did you learn how to play first: guitar or drums? How does one affect another in your style of playing? Which musicians have been big influences on you for each instrument?
Mickey: I started playing drums first. I’m not that great at playing drums but I can play “passably” well enough to record in the studio. My drumming only sounds good when I’m playing the other instruments because I can usually anticipate my mistakes enough to camouflage them. My favorite players are Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eddie Hazel, Santana and Prince on guitar. My favorite drummers are Ringo Starr, Claude Coleman and Stevie Wonder. And John Bonham too.
SSS: Who is your guitar tech? Describe your relationship w/him (how long have you worked together? how well do you work together? do you both influence each other?, etc.).
Mickey: My guitar tech is Mick Preston, or “the douche,” as we refer to him. He’s a lousy guitar tech but we are good friends so I let him keep his job.
SSS: What’s in your CD player right now?
Mickey: The new Moistboyz record. I haven’t really heard any music other than this record because we’ve been working on it every day and night for the past few months. I don’t like to hear other music while writing a record.
SSS: As you’ve gotten older, how do you still manage to keep it so brown?
Mickey: I am faking it. I don’t know any more licks now than I did 15 years ago. Actually I was probably a better player 15 years ago to be honest. Or at least more obnoxious, which counts for quite a bit.
SSS: How much of your playing do you attribute to technique as opposed to feel? Do you think having formal training is important for having a career in music?
Mickey: I guess I’m probably a 100 percent feel player. I’m supposed to be playing guitar for a living yet I can’t really play any songs other than Ween or Moistboyz tunes. I think that musicians should have formal training unless they’re playing rock and roll. 3 lessons when you’re 13 years old should be enough for any credible rock guitarist. The guy who taught me was my friend Bill Tucker, he played a strat through a mesa-boogie so that’s what I bought. I still sorta play like a bad imitation of him, he was a massive influence on me.
SSS: Aaron (aka Gene Ween) has become quite the guitarist over the years. How much have you taught each other? And what’s his general set up?
Mickey: We sort of learned how to make music together so I’m not sure if we’ve taught each other too much. His setup is pretty similar to mine except he plays a lot more acoustic guitar and he favors Les Pauls.
SSS: Was there a moment when you realized that this was what you were going to be doing for the rest of your life? If so, what was that moment like?
Mickey: Not really, I still feel like we’re getting away with murder. I keep waiting for people to figure out that we don’t know what we’re doing.
SSS: How do you view your fan base?
Mickey: From as far away as possible actually. I think the music means one thing to me and Aaron and another thing entirely to our fans. We love our fans and depend on them, but at the end of the day neither of us likes to hang out or be bothered too much.
SSS: What are some of the things you took away after recording and touring with the Shit Creek Boys (12 Golden Country Greats)?
Mickey: Their total lack of ego was really amazing. I know a million great musicians but those guys were the best I’ve ever played with and I was very comfortable in the studio and on the road with these guys. I think that Aaron and Claude would say the same thing. They could play so furiously yet so tastefully. When it was time to play trashy they could dumb down their skills for the better of the song. That was impressive.
SSS: Favorite Ween record?
Mickey: I like the Mollusk and White Pepper.
SSS: Favorite non-Ween record?
Mickey: “There’s a Riot Goin’ On” by Sly and the Family Stone.
SSS: Can you talk about your upcoming album for your side project, Moistboyz?
Mickey: We’re close to being finished. Ask me in about 6 years and I’ll tell you if it was any good.
SSS: Alright Mickey, around this time in the interview, SSS likes to ask an absurd question. In the brownest way, please describe the funniest experience you’ve had on stage!
Mickey: I always enjoy it when some drunken dumb ass gets onstage and does a stage dive to impress their friends, only to see the audience part and end up doing a face plant on the floor from about 12 feet up. I always get a real kick out of that.
For more on Ween, visit their website.