The Paisley Underground Revisited: A Chat With Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate

thedreamsyndicate2013_375xHey 1982 Anyone?  It’s been now 30 years since The Paisley Underground was here in Los Angeles. A few local bands at that time were getting together and making that interesting guitar sound. The three bands that stuck it out the longest till 1992 were The Three O’clock who recently got back together after breaking up after four albums, The Dream Syndicate with their various albums and the only sill playing together but with a slight name change The Bangles also known at that time as The Bangs. At least The Bangles are still together with one less original member and still performing shows all across the nation. So to be able to relieve a moment in time like it was in 1982 will be a blast. Read on and find out more with lead vocalist Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate.

In your definition what was the Paisley Movement about here in Los Angeles?
SW: It was just one of those weird moments where a bunch of people thinking very similar things at the same time find each other. We were a handful of bands and musicians that loved 60’s music and guitars and wanted to mix that with the spirit of DIY punk rock and new wave that was in the air at the time. Most of us didn’t know each other but we were all sowing the seeds of what was to come in LA in the very same weeks and months. So, it’s not surprising that we all found each other. I had a bit of a vantage point and also ability to pull things together since I was working at the Rhino Record store, pretty much the coolest store in LA at the time, as the independent music buyer so I was getting the Salvation Army and Bangs and Rain Parade singles into the store.

What was the current music scene like at that time – who were the headliners of that time period of the Paisley movement?
The scene was pretty stagnant, just the ashes of the punk movement and pretty fragmented. There were hardcore bands and art rock bands and what was called new romantic bands but it just felt like there was no enthusiasm or excitement. And I guess that void led the way to some very enthusiastic and focused movements that came along almost immediately–our Paisley scene and also the hair metal and rap scenes that were all bubbling under around that time.

Had you seen The Rain Parade before or ever performed with them?
My first exposure to the Rain Parade was when I brought their single into the Rhino store. I flipped out and immediately tracked them down though I can’t remember how that happened. Things were happening very quickly and seemingly easily at that point.

When was the last time you played with The Three O’Clock and how did you first find their music and what song of theirs turned you on during that time to consider them part of this Paisley Movement?
Wow, I can’t remember the last time we played together. Maybe in Pomona, maybe in Sacramento. We played some weird places around that time. I just loved–and still do love–that “Mind Gardens” single by Salvation Army. Just an absolute classic.

the-bangles-tickets_12-07-13_23_52607e9aa04c6When was the last time The Dream Syndicate played with the Bangles or The Bangs as they were also know? What song of the Bangles did you find that put them into The Paisley Movement that you like?
Again, it’s been a long time. Hard to say. It might even be that same lineup that’s playing on this reunion show when we all played together at the Music Machine in the summer of 1982. But I did see them do many shows after that. Again, the first song I heard by them was on their first single when I brought it into the store–“Getting Out of Hand” was the song. It’s a really great song and recording.

When did the original band line up of The Dream Syndicate do there last performance here in Los Angeles? At what club did this take place at and who was the opening bands that were on that particular show with you?
Well, that’s pretty funny. The party line is that we broke up at the end of 1988 and that would technically be true. But we remained good friends and got together at Raji’s in 1992 at a show by the Continental Drifters (with Vicki Peterson from the Bangles) and surprised Dennis Duck on his birthday by handing him a pair of drumsticks and taking the stage. It was a fun, unexpected night, well for Dennis, anyway

The Dream Syndicate had a more edgier sound to them so how did you end up to ever play with these two bands (The Three O’Clock and The Bangles)?
You know what? The Salvation Army and the Bangs were VERY edgy. They were both almost like punk bands. In fact, I would say that the Salvation Army were almost like Husker Du at the time. But our take on things was to play long songs with a lot of feedback and drone and improvisation. I think that’s what made us stand out from the pack.

Some say that The Paisley movement is based upon what The Byrds played is that true or is there more to that claim and other bands that should get credit for that besides The Byrds?
Well, we loved the Byrds. I guess we were mostly compared to the Velvet Underground although bands like CCR, the Fall, Moby Grape also got referenced. Every band had their own angle. You could hear Pink Floyd in one group, the Beatles in another, all of Nuggets in another. But those things had more in common with each other than they did with all the other things that were happening at the time.

At what year and what was going on at that time in the music scene that changed The Paisley scene to disappear?
Success broke up our gang. Not a bad thing. But we all started touring and traveling and making new records and learning more about what we do and how we do it. We all discovered other scenes and other bands and more about our own groups. All of those things are great and all of those things usually bring a local scene to an end.

Besides these two show in California on December 5th in San Francisco and on December 6th here in Los Angeles do you think that since music makes its comeback with The Paisley Movement ever have it’s day and survive in the music scene as it is today?
Well, you hear a lot more of the kind of music we were all making these days. I’m listening right now to the new album by Ty Segall and, hey, he could have been part of the Paisley Underground if it was 1982 right now.

What song of The Dream Syndicate do you think put you as a part of the Paisley movement music scene and why that song?
Jeez, anything on The Days of Wine and Roses. Any of them. I always favor “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” because it most typifies what made us special and set us apart from the others. We loved long, freaky jams often to our own detriment.

What is happening in the near future for The Dream Syndicate in 2014 is their perhaps more touring and possibly a headlining tour?
What I love now is that we exist. Plain and simple, we exist. We won’t play a whole lot–just when we feel like it. But it is clearly established that we could show up anywhere at any time. I like that.

What is coming up for you solo wise and when will you personally be touring here in the United States for your own massive amount of songs of your own? Or a new CD on the horizon for 2014?
I have a new Baseball Project record coming out in March. And then I’ll start working on a new solo album. And that means lots of touring ahead for the next few years. Just the way I like it.

This amazing time capsule of songs will take you back to Los Angeles in 1982 with The Rain Parade, The Three O’clock, The Dream Syndicate and The Bangles in Hollywood at The Ford Theatre on December 6th. It’s a benefit show as well too. On December 5th it will also be done at the Filmore in San Francisco.  See ya there.

(Interview by Jonathan D. Wright)

Steve Wynn on Facebook

1 Comment
  1. Swopa 5 years ago

    FWIW, that Music Machine show in 1982 (I was there!) was the first performance by the Bangles under their new name (ditto for Salvation Army as the 3 O’Clock, IIRC). As a fan of both bands, I’m pretty sure the Bangles and Dream Syndicate were never on the same bill again (until next week),

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