BLURTING WITH… Steve Wynn

On Letterman, Ljubljana and Ted Fucking Williams: Wynn didn’t
invent rock ‘n’ roll. He just makes it work.

BY FRED MILLS

 

Whether scorching the Amerindie underground during his Dream
Syndicate heyday, steering the mighty Miracle 3 in more recent years or pulling
a solo move on the new Crossing Dragon
Bridge
album, Steve Wynn never puts forth less than 120 percent. Hell, the
songwriter even found time in his busier-than-busy schedule to go moonlighting
with Scott McCaughey and Pete Buck (on loan from the Minus Five and some band
called R.E.M.) and Miracle 3 drummer Linda Pitmon as The Baseball Project,
whose Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying
Quails
is winning the hearts and minds of rock fans and baseball freaks
alike — not to mention David Letterman, who invited the ad hoc combo on to his
show recently.

 

The Baseball Project, as we pointed out in our recent review of the Yep Roc-released album, is a collection of b-ball themed songs with
insider-type song titles like “Satchel Paige Said,” “The Yankee Flipper” and
“Ted Fucking Williams” (the latter the best Gary Glitter-styled glam slam
you’ll hear all year). “In a perfect world,” uttered BLURT, “this unassuming
treasure of an album would bring back the fans the way McGwire’s little homerun
derby did – both to the ballpark and the record store.”

 

Then there’s Crossing
Dragon Bridge
(issued earlier this year in Europe by Blue Rose and due in
the U.S.
on September 9 on Rock Ridge Music), a lush-with-strings affair,
recorded in Llubljana, Slovenia last year with Pitmon and Chris Eckman of the
Walkabouts. It’s a striking departure from most of his previous work, Wynn and
Eckman providing the bulk of the instrumentation and a handful of guests —
Chris Cacavas, Tim Adams, Ziga Golob, Kirk Swan — pitching in here and there as
needed. Wynn’s signature electric guitar style is, for the most part, trading
in for more contemplative, strummy acoustic textures, while upright bass,
mellotron, vibes and programmed percussion lend a contemplative and, yes, European
vibe to the proceedings. With a Czech string section and even a backing choir
on a number of tracks, the material comes alive in the richest, most filmic
sense.

 

Meanwhile, the Miracle 3 has been dormant for most of the
year (they did a show in Hoboken
in July) but will be getting a new album underway, most likely before the year
is out. With any luck, Wynn and the M3 will be back in Austin next March trying to reclaim Wynn’s
“most appearances at a single SXSW” crown.

 

Long a fan of Wynn and his myriad projects — card carrying
vet of ‘80s Dream Syndicate concerts, too — I caught up with him at his New York City home and
asked him if he’d be willing to get on the couch for the initial installment of
“Blurting With…”. It’s a Blurt-online.com exclusive in which the faster you can
answer our silly questions the sooner you can get back to what you’re doing.
“Fire away,” Wynn replied blithely. So away we went…

 

***

 


BLURT: It’s been close to a year
since you recorded Crossing Dragon Bridge.
Revisiting that now, what are some of the memories coming back to you from the
sessions that really stand out?

STEVE WYNN:  I really
enjoyed my three weeks in Ljubljana. 
It’s just so rare to be able to spend that long in one place and just soak up
the environment and feel like a resident rather than Some Guy On Tour.  It
still feels like I was just there last week.  You spend that long in one
place and the memories stay fresh with you for a long time.  When I
hear the record it feels like I’m there again, much like you’d get with a slide
show from your vacation.  But hopefully my slide show won’t bore my guests
and have them running for the front door.

You’ve primarily done solo shows this
year, but what’s the update on the Miracle 3? Is that rumored Zuzu’s Petals World
Tour going to have the M3 as opening act? [Note:
Zuzu’s Petals was Linda Pitmon’s early band; a Z.P. anthology has just been
released along with the paperback edition of guitarist Laurie Lindeen’s memoir,
Petal Pusher.]

Ah, Zuzu’s Petals: “You’ve Read The Book, Now See The Band!” I did, in fact,
“open” for them at a book release event in Minneapolis last year — Laurie Lindeen’s
husband Paul Westerberg was part of the show as well. I’m sure that once the
dusts settle from Crossing Dragon
Bridge
and The
Baseball Project (said dust being kicked onto an umpire’s shoes), I’ll be
finding some backwoods studio where I can hole up with Linda, Jason and Dave
and we’ll make a new Miracle 3 record.  I miss making our kind of noise.

You’ve also scheduled some European
Steve Wynn & the Dragon
Bridge Orchestra shows
for an Italian fest and then later in the fall. An actual orchestra, or just a
reconfigured Wynn band?

I’d love to take the entire Prague
string section on the road but I have yet to find a van that will hold 8 Czech
violinists and leave enough room for my suitcase.  The band will include
me, Linda, Erik Van Loo (Euro-M3 bass player) and also Chris Eckman and an
Italian violinist names Rodrigo D’Erasmo.  It will be somewhere between a
folk band, a rock band and some kind of gypsy experience and we’ll mostly be
playing Crossing Dragon Bridge along
with some older material reworked in the sound of the new album.  I’m
really excited to see how it all comes together.

 

 

The Baseball Project:
let’s talk marketing. Is there a censored/Wal-Mart approved version of the CD?
I could get behind that grand ol’ family singalong at the backyard barbecue,
“Ted freakin’ Williams.” Although somehow that just doesn’t have the same gravitas…

Ha-hah, yeah — Ted Friggin’ Williams?  Hmmm…..kinda loses its punch, and
doesn’t stay true to the original story in Ball
Four
, a book that was a big influence on that song if not the whole album.  On the other hand, Yep Roc has been really
excited about how the record has done so far and has thought about doing, one,
an edition of the record without “TFW” so that it could sell to bigger chains,
MLB sanctioned outlets, etcetera; and, two, a special EP of all the
“Nasty” songs — gotta write that A-Rod/Madonna song — called
something like “Baseball After Dark.” Ooh, I like that! I’ll have to see
where that stands. 

 

So with the Baseball Project having only
two official gigs under its belt so far, your appearance on David Letterman and
at a wedding, what else looms, performance wise? And what do we need to know
about Volume 2?

After the European tour — and maybe a few US shows — to support Crossing Dragon Bridge I’m hoping that
Linda, Peter, Scott and I can find ourselves off the road at the same time so
that we can do a few shows for The Baseball Project.  We’re definitely
going to do a Volume 2 and see this
whole ballgame as something that will go on for a while.  I kind of like
the idea of a Miracle 3, Minus 5, The Baseball Project caravan tour — 3 minus 5
plus starting 9 equals what?  And I think the others are up for it as
well.  Maybe a tour of Florida and Arizona for Spring
Training. You think I’m kidding?

 

Speaking of the
Letterman show appearance, complete the sentences in this dialogue:

 

Steve: “Dave, we want
to play ‘Ted Fucking Williams’ but propose to substitute ______ for national
TV.”

Dave: “Steve, you
are  _______ and will be ____________.”

Paul Schaffer: “But
Dave, what if they _______or ______?”

Steve: “Dave, we want to play ‘Ted Fucking Williams’ but propose to substitute ‘Alex
Fornicating Rodriguez’
for national TV.”

Dave: “Steve, you are meddling with the forces of nature and will
be on the cover of the New York Post.”

Paul Schaffer: “But Dave, what if they insist on inviting Madonna or Lenny
Kravitz
?”


In recent years, when Googling the name
“Steve Wynn” you’d have to scroll 3⁄4 of the way down the page to get past all
the Steve Wynn – The Las Vegas Developer Dude listings before hitting Steve
Wynn – The Rock Dude. Now, however, as of this writing, you are hovering at the
top, behind only a lone SWTLVDD listing. What does this signify? Have you been
gaming the Google rankings
?

It signifies that I have my own people in Vegas and we paid a visit to my
namesake and made him an offer he
couldn’t refuse
.

 

Time magazine wrote about the Vegas Wynn in a piece called “He
Didn’t Invent Las Vegas.
He Just Makes It Work.” Maybe I should title this piece “He Didn’t Invent Rock
‘n’ Roll. He Just Makes It Work”…

I dig it.  And I’ve got more tricks up my sleeve.


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