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Brothers Keeper

The demonic duo of Dean and Gene Ween returns with a new studio album -- and a refined take on a twisted past.

Some developments on the Internet are less desirable than others, though. While Dean and Gene encourage tape-trading of live shows and even post otherwise-unavailable material on the Web site, they're less than thrilled with sites like Napster, which is currently fighting the record industry because it allows the free download of copyrighted material without generating any royalties for artists.

"In the weeks before our record came out, I would get like eighty e-mails a day from people downloading the album from Napster," Dean says. "I don't care what they do with our outtakes and our live stuff, but our records are what count to us. We put a lot of time and anxiety and love into our records, and they are thought of by me as a different thing altogether.

"I don't think stuff like that is gonna affect our record sales that much, but with cable modems and CD-burners, they can just suck down our record in minutes and burn the stuff to disc. Meanwhile, all the shit that we put into the artwork and everything else gets lost."

Gene and Dean Ween seem to know exactly where they're at.
Gene and Dean Ween seem to know exactly where they're at.

Generally, he says, Ween fans protect the band against anyone hoping to profit from the band's open taping policy. "Occasionally [a bootleg] will pop up on eBay, and the Ween kids will bid it up to like $10,000, with no intention of paying it, just to stop it. Go check eBay today. It'll be like Ween Live in Athens, 3 CDs, and the bid will be like $648. The guy who's bidding will have zero feedback and no user ratings. It's an account that was created to run the price up."

Whether they hear it by way of morally odious download or store-bought CD, Ween fans may be surprised by the contents of White Pepper. There's a decidedly psychedelic pop feel to the opening trio of songs, "Exactly Where I'm At," "Flutes of Chi" and "Even If You Don't." Think XTC with an even ditzier lyrical sense. "Back to Basom," meanwhile, takes the duo into trippy Pink Floyd territory, and the woozy instrumental "Ice Castles" sounds like it was pulled off of a Moody Blues disc left in the sun too long.

"There's definitely a heavy British rock happening on the record," Dean allows. But then there are things like the aforementioned "Bananas and Blow," "Stroker Ace," a speed-metal tune, and "Stay Forever," an honest-to-goodness love song.

"That's always a problem for us," Dean says. "We'll write something, and it's like, 'What do we do with this? Well, let's just put it on the record.'" There may be no method to Ween's madness, either musically or businesswise, but Dean does say they have something of a goal in mind for the future.

"My model for what I'd like to see Ween get to be is the Grateful Dead -- to get to the point where we don't have to make videos, we don't have to get played on the radio, we just keep doing what we're doing and it gradually expands itself -- you know, kind of like a disease."

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