How the West Was Ween

Gene and Dean Ween take on country music and live to tell the tale.

Even Gene doesn't know how many of these compositions were written in a narcotic-fueled frenzy, but there's no question that he and Dean spent a lot of time during their formative years experimenting with mind-altering substances. As a result, Gene sees the Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole's declaration of a drug "crisis" with a jaundiced eye. In fact, he believes Dole might benefit from trying an illegal compound or two himself. "Cocaine, probably," he decides. "I think he should go on a binge."

Despite this cavalier attitude, Gene insists that "none of my friends seem to be having any big drug problems these days. Like, I don't know anyone who's addicted to smack or anything--although the media makes you think that every musician in the world is on that shit. If I saw one of my musician friends who was addicted to it right now, I would just start cracking up, because it's such a cliche. I'd be like, 'Stop sucking the media dick.' I mean, that's pretty uncool. Six years ago, when nobody was doing it, it might have been cool. But at this point, it's like, 'What do you want me to do--call Entertainment Tonight for you and ask them if they want to do an interview?'"

Actually, the story of Ween's discovery might be just as intriguing to tabloid-TV types: The twosome's rise to fame and fortune--or at least a contract with a notable indie--has a Lana Turner ring to it. Shortly after graduating from high school, Gene and Dean played a party in Maplewood, New Jersey, that was attended by a staffer at Twin Tone, the Minneapolis label best known for launching the Replacements. A contract soon followed, and in 1990 the company issued Ween's debut, God, Ween, Satan: The Oneness. This epic has a homemade feel about it, as does The Pod, put out by Shimmy Disc the following year. Dedicated to "the loving memory of Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo," Pod is as eclectic as it can be: On numbers such as "Strap On That Jammypac," "Can U Taste the Waste?" and "Sketches of Winkle," the stars of the show hopscotch from style to style like a cosmic CD player set on the random-select mode.

Overall, The Pod was great fun but seemingly uncommercial--the kind of thing that practically demanded cult status. But the folks at Elektra Records disagreed: They offered Gene and Dean a hefty deal. The Ween siblings responded to this vote of confidence with Pure Guava, a nineteen-song collection that's every bit as weird as its predecessors. "Flies on My Dick" and "Hey Fat Boy (Asshole)" didn't get much airplay, but "Push th' Little Daisies" did, winning for Ween a growing college-age crowd whose size expanded dramatically following the appearance of Chocolate and Cheese, which is far and away Ween's best release. Dispensing with low-fi, Gene and Dean cut the album with professional studio gear and discovered in the process their production acumen. "Baby Bitch" and "Don't Shit Where You Eat" are crammed with the usual rude rhymes, and "Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)" is actually rather disturbing, but the music and performances are so unrestrained and ebullient that they lifted the group to a new level. Suddenly, the sky was the limit.

In a sense, then, Country Greats represents a holding action--a pause before the next Ween manifesto. Gene reassures anyone worried that he and Dean have entered the "Weird" Al Yankovic zone that the new record is a one-shot. "We're not going to do anything else like this again, if only because so many people have asked us if we were going to," he notes. "Like, 'What are you going to do next, a heavy-metal record?' No way. The next record is going to sound a lot more like Ween.

"The country thing was easy for us to do because we've always written country-like songs. Like 'Drifter in the Dark,' on the last record. But to write a metal record or a reggae record would involve a lot of work. And I don't even know if I could sit down and write that many songs in the same genre. Besides, country is just more fun."

Which is why Ween is on the road with Nashville session men Bobby Ogdin, Danny Parks, Stu Basore and Hank Singer--not to promote Country Greats, but to have a good time. Gene is confident that most Ween devotees will enjoy themselves, too.

"Our fans are pretty open to things," he says. "Not to talk shit, but it's not like Fugazi fans, who would freak out if Fugazi did something that didn't sound exactly like everything else they'd ever done. I guess we might get yelled at by some people, but I'm ready for that. I'll single them out--I'll reduce them to shreds from the stage. And then we'll play another country song."

Ween, with Doo Rag. 9 p.m. Thursday, October 17, Fox Theatre, 1135 13th Street, Boulder, $15, all ages, 820-2525 or 1-800-444-

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