Interview Series: Zia McCabe

For those of you who’ve never been in Montreal in November, there are two things you should know: 1) summer’s over and 2) sun ain’t coming back til after Easter (if we’re lucky). But as I was walking towards Le National for my interview with none other than Zia McCabe, the charming keyboard player for The Dandy Warhols, I couldn’t help but feel warmer than a thirteen year old at a strip club. After all, I’ve been in love with the band since their breakout album, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, which came out way back in 2000 when people could still get on planes without being strip-searched and yet bring their favorite shampoo on vacation. Now, those were good times. But enough of that, we’ve got more important things to discuss. I must admit, I felt a little nervous.

When Zia greeted me, all smiles, with her cute artsy glasses and winter tuque (it’s November, remember?), every symptom of stress in my body disappeared. First thing she said to me was: “Hi, I’m Zia, wanna go do this on the tour bus? We’d be more comfortable.” The tour bus? Nice. And sure enough, a couple seconds later, there we were, sitting in front of each other in the vehicle that takes my favorite band all the way across America. BTW, go check out tour dates now!


LF: Zia, first thing that comes to mind when I’m thinking of The Dandy Warhols is: what a great name that is for a band (damn it, I’m already sucking up…) How did it come about?

ZM: Well, I actually joined six months after the band started, but I do know that one of the working titles was Andy Warhol’s Wet Dream. Pete (guitar player Peter Holmstrom) was in art school in New York and he was saying “dandy” all the time, kind of his catchphrase. And so Courtney (singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor) thought: “oh my god, that’s it: The Dandy Warhols, that’s a great band name!” They were really into the Factory, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, the whole scene…

LF: Speaking of the Velvet, would you say you’re kind of The Dandy Warhol’s Nico?

ZM: God, I hope I sing better than her! (laughs)

LF: She wasn’t that bad, was she?

ZM: Well, you know, she sings cool… But then again, everybody kind of was at that time. But, you know, I never really thought of that… She wasn’t really a full-on member, now was she? I’d be more of a Mo Tucker, I guess. Except that I play keyboards instead of drums.

LF: Did you ever meet the guys from the Velvet Underground, like Lou Reed…?

ZM: Well, Lou’s not really… meet-able, you know ? We’ve been next to him and we just stood around but he’s such… he’s just grumpy. But I did meet Mo Tucker when she did her solo project.

LF: And was she nice?

ZM: Yes, she was nice… but kind of grumpy too.

LF: (laughs) So, old rock stars are grumpy, that’s what you’re saying…

ZM: They were touring in a car, borrowing everyone else’s equipment in each city. It’s never as glamorous as everyone thinks.

LF: You have your own label now, Beat The World Records. How is that different from working with a bigger label like Capitol (whom they left after 13 years and five studio albums) ?

ZM: Well, there’s nobody telling us what to do, but also nobody giving us money for anything. We’ve got to make our own money and we’ve got to be more responsible for our actions… there’s nobody to blame anymore. It (Capitol) was taking away from us just being musicians. It didn’t really work, but it gave us perspective to appreciate what a major label does have to offer versus what it was that we were sort of just off about and disappointed with. «…» But it’s hard… the business side of art is always just bullshit, you know? They’re just two things that don’t work together that well. But we don’t wanna work other jobs, we want this to be our business and… it’s a crap-chute. Every decision you make, there’s no a lot of proof that anything will work so we’re still trying to figure it out.

LF: Now let’s say you were not part of The Dandy Warhols anymore, for whatever reason you can imagine, which other band, past or present, would you see yourself joining?

ZM: (She actually thought about this one for quite some time) Hmm, well… when I make my own music, there’s country, like vintage country and also electronic dark disco. You know what, I’d probably have a really good time playing in Groove Armada. You get to sing songs, you get to dance around on stage, play keyboards… Of course it would be my dream to be in Willie Nelson’s band. Sing duets with Willie, some tambourine… figure out some mandolin or something. That would be really fun.

LF: What is your favorite song to play live with the band right now?

ZM: It always changes… songs have their cycles, they’re not fun for a while and then they get fun again… Rave Up has become fun again. Be-In is a good opener, like Mohammed, They’re good sound check songs, there’s a lot of time for the sound to get dialed-in before the song picks up and it just sort of brings everyone into focus of “alright, The Dandy Warhols are on stage now, we’re getting ready to entertain you for a couple of hours, here’s the song.” Also, Horse Pills, Holding Me Up… actually anything that I get to do vocal/percussion on.

LF: On «Come on Feel the Dandy Warhols», which came as a B-Side to «The Black Album», you had a couple of cover songs like Hell’s Bells from AC/DC, which I thought was great work on your part.

ZM: You don’t just re-do the song, you interpret it. It’s different than a tribute. In a tribute, you’re trying to re-create something that you can’t see anymore. A cover is The Dandy Warhols playing Hell’s Bells with a trumpet (laughs). I, for awhile, was convinced that our version was better but I’ve come around, you can’t tell people that (laughs). Let’s keep it a secret…

LF: Can we expect more covers from you guys in the future?

ZM: Last year, I really wanted to cover Biz Markie – You got what I need. Of course I wanna cover songs where I get to sing (laughs). Oh!… (it looks like she just remembered something important)… The next song that we are covering is actually Cherry Bomb from The Runaways for an album for them. That’s as soon as we get home, so it should be done in a few weeks. Also, if you haven’t heard, we did a pretty cool cover for the Love and Rockets Tribute (the song is called Inside the Outside).

LF: And what are you listening to on your iPod these days?

ZM: Well, I deejay a lot, so I’m constantly doing different playlists for different bars… but let’s see… Well, the Kinks. I looove the Kinks, not enough people know how amazing these guys are. Just go get the box-set. Get everything. It’s great. What else… I bought some Junior Marvin recently, which is dub. I love love love old dub. Some Nancy Sinatra and I’m really into Harry Nilsson right now. You need to listen to «Jump into the fire», it’s a f***ing killer song.


And then, we took a song from each of their six studio albums and turned it into a question. If you are a Dandy Warhols nerd, you will dig this.

1. Dandy’s Rule, OK? : What do you do when you got Nothing to do?
ZM: Make music playlists!

2. Come Down: When is the last time you said I Love You?
ZM: Last night, when I spoke to my husband on the phone.

3. Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia: Do you think we’d be better off in a Godless world?
ZM: In a Godless world? No… I don’t. I think we would be better off in a world where people weren’t trying to make their God somebody else’s God.

4. Welcome to the Monkey House: The Dandy Warhols Love Almost Everyone… So, who don’t they love ?
ZM:  You know we got asked that a lot when George Bush was president because everybody was pretty sure that that was the answer but, actually, I’d say mean people. We just don’t like mean people.

5. Odditorium or Warlords of Mars: All the Money or the Simple Life, Honey?
ZM: I’m not sure… I’ll just get all the money and then decide. (laughs)

6. Earth to the Dandy Warhols: What is your favorite Love Song?
ZM: Hmmm… I’ve got a million. I’ll give you three: The Paris Sisters – I Love how you Love me, Bob Dylan –Lady Lay and  Etta James – At Last.


LF: What’s your style? Favorite designer or trend?
ZM: I’m definitely not a designer type person. I think my style is mixing sort of silly mall fashion, like Ann Taylor, sort of like secretary fashion with vintage rocker stuff. Also, I’ve been obsessed with legwarmers for the last three years.

LF: What inspires you? Favorite artist or piece of art.
ZM: Maxfield Parrish, I love what he does. Beautiful stuff. There was one in my house when I was growing up. It’s sort of ‘’dreamscapy’’ with bubbles and weird castles…

LF: What turns you on? Literally or figuratively.
ZM: Well, good looking musicians, come on…

LF: Favorite destination?
ZM: For vacation? Greece. Definitely the islands of Greece, we went back there as a band vacation for years. We can’t afford it now. It was so cheap before they switched to Euro and now we can’t even afford to go back (laughs) but it blew us away when we went. I love Paris, we love Australia. I’m really fascinated by Mexico, the culture… Playing there isn’t amazing but I love going anyway.

LF: Thanks for everything Zia. I had a very good time. Now, would it be lame if I asked you to sign my shirt?
ZM: Of course not!

I know it is a little lame of me, Zia, but you know what? I don’t even care. This is already the greatest November night I’ve ever had, and the show hasn’t even started yet…

L’Agent Goodies…