IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE THAT WEEN HAS BEEN gigging for a quarter century. By lampooning lameness and creating off-color send-ups of any style that strikes their fancy, alternative rock’s weirdest duo has evolved into a versatile musical entity. Lead guitarist Mickey Melchiondo, aka Dean Ween, sounds valid playing everything from speed metal to country. In order to hang around so long making music some perceive as, well, just plain wrong—he must be doing something right.
How do you feel about being a gigging guitar player right now?
I’m more relaxed with the guitar now than I’ve ever been. When Aaron (Freeman, aka Gene Ween) and I started Ween, there were no roles. We didn’t have a live band. It was just the two of us, so I played drums, bass, whatever. We both played guitar, and we both sang. As we made more records and began to tour, our roles evolved. For the most part, he became the singer, and I became the guitar player. It took me a really long time to accept that. I never had a lot of confidence as a guitar player. I finally sort of embraced it. I’m still influenced by the same stuff I listened to as a teenager—Carlos Santana, Prince, and Jeff Beck, plus Eddie Hazel, Michael Hampton, and “Blackbyrd” McKnight from Parliament/ Funkadelic. I’ve never considered myself to be “real” musician, but I’ve been doing it for 25 years, so I guess I am. I’m more comfortable performing now, that’s for sure.
How do you prepare to take the stage?
I have a routine. I do some general stretching backstage before the gig, and I shake my arms and hands around to get them loosened up. I drink three or four beers to help me relax, and I drink a couple of Red Bulls to help me get focused. I don’t talk to anybody. I can’t even hang out with my friends or my family because it’s too distracting. That sucks. You’d think by now I should be able to enjoy myself before the gig, but I just can’t until I’m done playing, and then I have a great time.
How do you deal with various types of gigs, from clubs to festivals?
When we play clubs, we don’t open for anybody, and we don’t have anybody open for us. We play one three-hour set—it’s our own thing. Festivals are strange. I still feel like we’re at the market showing our wares—like we’re on the scale. Maybe that’s a competitive thing. I don’t know how to represent Ween in a short time. What songs are going to go over with people who have never seen us before? That’s not a healthy way of thinking about things. It’s best to take a “screw it” attitude. We abandon our set list and feel our way through.
Why do you always perform barefoot?
I’m superstitious. I started out performing barefoot and it worked out all right then, so I continued doing it!