Guitarist Dean Ween has a lot going on these days
Dean Ween is in the middle of a creative renaissance, and it doesn’t show any signs of letting up.
“I just did two more songs in the last 48 hours, maybe three,” the guitarist, born Mickey Melchiondo, says. “I’m definitely burning it at both ends right now, but it’s time for that. There was a long break there where I wasn’t out on the road, I wasn’t in the studio. So now it just feels like, ‘Strike while the iron is hot. Get it all in.’ ”
Melchiondo’s ’90s cult band Ween reunited earlier this year after disbanding in 2012, but he remained productive during the hiatus. Between hosting a weekly “Invitational Jam” at the John & Peter’s Place in New Hope, Pennsylvania, operating a fishing charter company, and performing in various side projects like Moistboyz and Chris Harford’s Band of Changes, Melchiondo also has been prepping his first proper solo album with his new Dean Ween Group. “The Deaner Album” is due out Friday on ATO Records.
Melchiondo says he was initially reluctant to take center stage after Ween flamed out, but he was eager to develop enough of his own songs so he didn’t have to rely on playing Ween standards live.
“That was the hardest in the beginning, being out front,” he says of going solo. “I was playing a lot of Ween tunes originally, and now I don’t have to do that anymore. I have a vision for it where it was going to be. Sort of, not instrumental music, but sort of half-and-half.”
Melchiondo cut “The Deaner Album” in his new studio — converted from an old chicken coop — in the woods across the river from his home in New Hope. Ween veterans Claude Coleman Jr., Dave Dreiwitz and Glenn McClelland, as well as guest performers like Parliament-Funkadelic’s Michael Hampton and Meat Puppets’ Curt Kirkwood, flesh out the record’s eclectic arrangements.
The album owes more to classic rock than Melchiondo’s work with Ween. The opening instrumental “Dickie Betts,” as the title suggests, is a tribute to the legendary Allman Brothers Band guitarist. Later, the band eulogizes P-Funk guitarist Garry Shider, who died in 2010, with the epic “Garry.” Elsewhere the LP offers twisted takes on old school country (“Tammy”) and cowpunk (“Exercise Man”), as well as another P-Funk homage (“Mercedes Benz”).
Melchiondo says the Dean Ween Group’s current tour, which stops Friday at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, showcases his newfound confidence as a guitarist.
Melchiondo has enjoyed dipping his toes back into Ween, who have only played a handful of festivals since reforming in May. He says he and Freeman needed a break after 32 years together, but he thinks the time was right to take up the reins again.
“Before the first reunion gig, if you want to call it that, at the first rehearsal, the music was right there as if we never had a break at all,” he says. “It sounded identical to where we left it off.”
He adds that it’s rewarding to reconnect with Ween’s notoriously dedicated fans.
“You forget that the music has reached all these people out there,” he says. “We’re a lot of people’s favorite band. That’s the coolest part of going on tour, getting to meet people. Ween fans are a special breed, too. They’re extra passionate.”
Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
Dean Ween Group
with Meat Puppets
7 p.m. Fri.
Royal Oak Music Theatre
318 W. 4th, Royal Oak