I recently had the opportunity to pick the right brain of Peter Holmstrom, guitarist for The Dandy Warhols, about his creative process, collaborations, and what it felt like to participate in the documentary “Dig!” We had some laughs in the process, as well. Be sure to check out Peter Holmstrom’s solo project Pete International Airport on Custom Made Music. It is pure sonic indulgence with a lush, trippy and cinematic feel. The Dandy Warhols are currently touring in the U.S.
THIRSTY: Your music has been used for television, movies, and commercials - especially “We Used to Be Friends”. I know that Courtney has done film reviews, as well. I’m wondering if the band would be interested in ever scoring a film or making your own movie?
Pete Holmstrom: We would love to score a film. We’ve been kind of saying that for a long time. Um, just hoping that somebody would let us! (laughs) It’s just, it’s something that we noticed early on is that our music seemed to be really cinematic, and it just fit really well with, you know, moving images. So it seemed obvious that one day we would, you know, score a film. I’ve done a couple soundtracks for my sister’s theater group, so I have a bit of experience doing something similar I guess. I know Courtney’s done, he made a little film, a short film and I think he kinda…I can’t remember what he scored, (what) he used for the music but, yeah, it’s definitely something we’re all interested in.
THIRSTY: I think that your style would really lend itself well to a pretty dynamic film score.
Pete Holmstrom: Yeah, we would and we used to…we used to always want to project old silent films behind us, and just sort of try and adapt whatever it was that we were doing to whatever it was on the screen. Never got around to that idea though.
THIRSTY: When you’re doing a music video how do you choose which directors you want to work with? What’s your process in developing the video with those directors?
Pete Holmstrom: God, you know, I don’t even…no idea what the answer to that is. I’ve never been involved in picking the director that we’ve worked with. It always seems to be either a friend of a friend or somebody that kind of…I guess Courtney and the record label were involved in picking. Dave LaChapelle is the one, you know, he was kind of the only really big budget guy that we ever used. So, yeah and lately it’s kind of, it tends to be, you know, a friend of a friend doing it essentially for free, you know, or per cost just cause, cause that seems to be the way it works these days. Or at least at our level.
The Capitol Years 1995-2007 (2010)
THIRSTY: Gone are the days of the million dollar budget for the MTV music videos!
Pete Holmstrom: Yeah, which is…well it’s completely understandable that it’s gone cause it seems completely ridiculous. But damn were they fun! (laughs) Complete and utter waste of money, but yeah.
THIRSTY: Through your career what was the most difficult music video that you were involved in?
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Pete Holmstrom: We did one for the last record called “Dreamt of Yes”, I’m forgetting the name of the director but he had us standing in about four inches of water and had like rubber tubes running up the back of our clothes and so we got water pouring down our faces and out of our instruments. So we spent a day pretty much soaking wet, and that was definitely the most difficult thing I’ve ever done for a video.
THIRSTY: So he tortured you but it looked really cool, right?
Pete Holmstrom: Yeah. Oh, it looked great. It was…yeah, it was super cool but yeah (laughs). But at least we did it in L.A so it wasn’t cold.
THIRSTY: I’m also curious about “Dig!”. What are your current feelings on doing the movie? Do you regret participating in it? Tell me a little bit about what happened after the film.
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Pete Holmstrom: I don’t know about that. The one thing, I mean I don’t think…I think Courtney regrets being a part of it. I don’t necessarily regret being a part of the film, I regret that we were not involved in the editing process, because the story that was manufactured out of the footage isn’t one that was necessarily true. And I don’t think it’s all that flattering to us, which I mean fair enough, we all were, you know, being ourselves in front of the camera and so it’s kind of our own damn faults that that footage is, you know, there. But still it’s like when we were apart or when we were approached about this, we really, both us and The Jonestown Massacre thought that it was gonna be about music. About making music. Not about some like, you know, exaggerated rivalry between the two bands. So it was a bit disappointing in that end, and I think there was…we received a lot of negative fallback, or fall out, from that…from the film because we were portrayed as the band that, you know, sold out and played the game and went after the money, and was just a party band essentially, which was not the whole truth. And Jonestown, at least I mean that to me…the best thing about the film is that it brought Jonestown to, you know, people’s…or it brought, it brought them you know out of the underground and into the open. So they actually have careers and sell records and tour and people show up. It’s good.
THIRSTY: It must be sort of bizarre for you to look back at that time of your life and where you were as artists. It’s kind of amazing in a way because you do have documentation. I can totally understand how you feel about the editing process because there’s so many different ways the editing process can go.
Pete Holmstrom: Of course. I mean it’s very strange to have your home movies, you know, edited in a way that you don’t remember, you know, them happening.
THIRSTY: How does it feel for you as a group to be touring behind a greatest hits record?
Pete Holmstrom: To me it’s like I’ll take any excuse to tour. I like playing shows and it doesn’t really matter to me why we’re out there. The last few tours we’ve done kinda haven’t really felt like we’ve been touring a new record anyway. So it doesn’t really feel any different touring a collection, you know. But, yep, I don’t know that anybody else in the band has any problems with it either.
THIRSTY: Well we’re really looking forward to you coming to New York.
Pete Holmstrom: Yeah, it’ll be fun. I get to play Webster Hall again.
THIRSTY: You should head down to Stumptown Coffee at The Ace Hotel.
Pete Holmstrom: Oh I will! (laughs) Yeah, I look forward to that aspect because it’s really, really hard to find good coffee. And we’re really truly spoiled in Portland. (Coffee) is everywhere.
THIRSTY: It’s true. I miss that about living there. Tell me about what you want to do when you come to New York. Where’s your stomping ground? What will you be doing during your spare time?
Pete Holmstrom: You know, I’m not sure this time. I used to live in New York years ago and so there was always places that I used to go, friends that I used to visit but pretty much everybody’s not in Manhattan anymore. So I don’t know where I’ll be going. They have a lot of friends that I’ll probably hang out wherever the hell they hang out (laughs). I will be going to Stumptown cause one of my friends actually works there.
THIRSTY: I’ve heard that the next record is going to have a little more of an electronic feel. I’m curious about the influences on the direction of the new record.
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Pete Holmstrom: I think it might be a little too soon to say exactly what it’s gonna sound like, but last January, February, Zia and I just started going into the studio and every day trying to just put down something completely unlike anything Dandy’s. So there was a lot of electronic kinda sounding things. At that point I think I had Massive Attacks’s new record and was really into that kind of vibe and I’m not sure where Zia was coming from, but I was definitely kinda trying to do a Massive Attack sort of thing on a bunch of tracks. The latest Phoenix record was kind of a little influential too maybe. I don’t think the tracks sound anything like either one of those bands, but there was definitely some influence.
THIRSTY: What’s your collaboration process like when you’re in the studio or when you’re writing before you get to the studio?
Pete Holmstrom: Well, in general, like in the past the way it’s worked is there’s songs that Courtney brings in that are like a rough skeleton and we all add our parts to that. Or there are chord changes that I bring in that Courtney then writes vocal parts to and we all add our parts to that. Or there’s the little jam sessions that turn into actual songs. So there’s, I don’t know, there’s not really one specific way of working. The sort of collaboration aspect is very one-at-a-time kind of thing. When you have your own studio it…I don’t know it’s easy to spend lots of time by yourself.
THIRSTY: With your experience playing a lot of the big music festivals, would you ever want to put together your own festival? And if so, who would you consider including on the bill?
Pete Holmstrom: I’d just want all of my favorite bands on the bill (laughs). Essentially all our friends, and that would probably mean that the festival wouldn’t sell very well, so we’d have to get somebody big to headline. Um, I don’t know I’d love to have like The Cure, something like that. And I don’t know, Spiritualized, Primal Scream and Jonestown, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Raveonettes and Black Angels. I don’t know. Dead Meadow. Who am I missing?
THIRSTY: Are you all still based in Portland?
Pete Holmstrom: I used to be able to say that. No, actually our drummer’s in Australia now.
THIRSTY: So does he just come in when you’re touring and recording?
Pete Holmstrom: Well it’s pretty recent that he’s moved there so, yeah, he comes in for touring. Hopefully he’ll come in for recording, too! (laughs)
THIRSTY: Yeah, that would helpful right!
Pete Holmstrom: Yeah, that would be nice!
THIRSTY: I’m curious what your influences are when you do sit down to write? Do you do research? Are you listening to a lot of music? Are you looking at visual art? Are you very much influenced by the outside world or is it a little more private? Do you have to kind of shut out the outside world and work?
Pete Holmstrom: I don’t know. I constantly listen to music and essentially just either llike, I’m like looking for a certain thing until I know what I want to listen to or I just put an iPod on random and just let it go - just to sort of hopefully stumble across something that you know I haven’t heard in awhile. But as far as the writing part, I find that I have to get out of my normal headspace I guess to come up with anything new and interesting. My sort of solution to that is to play guitar or bass or whatever while watching TV. So I don’t pay too much attention to what my hands are doing and stumble across things. Sometimes I play along to commercials (laughs) but I don’t know, just like, just anything to get myself out of the headspace to try and come up with new stuff. It drives my wife crazy.
THIRSTY: You have the dull roar of the TV on while you’re working?
Pete Holmstrom: While I’m playing, yeah.
THIRSTY: It’s kind of like those people that sometimes like to use the television to meditate a little bit and watch crap TV shows before they go to bed.
Pete Holmstrom: Oh, yeah. I find that when I’m in the studio it’s like, I’m so like caught up with certain songs that I won’t be able to fall asleep because little riffs and stuff will be going through my head just on repeat. The only way to really clear my head is to watch bad TV. The worst being like “Entertainment Tonight” that kind of just sort of gossipy entertainment shows…terrible but they clear your head. I think they make you dumb.
THIRSTY: This is really the cross creative people have to bear. It’s funny. Especially if you’re an insomniac. (laughs)
Pete Holmstrom: God, I’m glad I rarely have that problem. That would be the worst.
THIRSTY: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Pete Holmstrom: Well, I guess the one thing I should add, cause I should be plugging it, is that I have a solo record, too. It’s called Pete International Airport, and it’s just a bunch of songs that I’ve been kind of…that haven’t found a home in The Dandy’s or in any other projects that I’ve been, that I’ve had over the past few years. I got help from my friend Jsun Adams, who is the singer of The Upside Down, and a number of drummers from around town and recorded a record. I’m pretty happy with it. It came out on Custom Made Music about a month ago.