LOS ANGELES (AP) - When Steve Wynn and his Dream
Syndicate set out to reclaim rock & roll in 1982, the airwaves were packed with icy, synth-pop bands like A Flock of Seagulls and the Human League. But by year's end, Dream
Syndicate and a crop of American post-punk groups -- from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Athens, Georgia -- were waging an underground guitar�rock revolution. With the band's critical success The Days of Wine and Roses -- an old-wave barrage of guitar, feedback and poetic verse -- Los Angeles' Paisley Underground scene was born, and Wynn was declared its de facto leader.
Now, in celebration of Rhino Records' newly remastered and expanded reissue of The Days of Wine and Roses, Wynn is back on tour with his new band, the Miracle 3, playing the songs that made him quasi-famous, in their original running order.
"I see some similarities between 1982 and now," says Wynn from the New York apartment he's called home for the last seven years. "I like a lot of electronica, techno stuff and things done with computers, but I don't think it's the only way music can be made. In 1982, people thought guitars were out, that anyone who used them were old-fashioned," he says. "What's new is all that mattered."
In the nineteen years since, Wynn has built himself an extraordinary cult following. In fact, his online handle is "cult artist" -- based almost wholly on the pre-alternative rock impact of The Days of Wine and Roses. Back then, R.E.M. were fans, and artists as disparate as Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson have since noted the album's influence on their musical youth.
Formed in 1981, the Dream Syndicate were a merry band of hipsters: Wynn; bassist Kendra Smith, his college chum from UC Davis; her pal, drummer Dennis Duck; and guitarist Karl Precoda, who, then as now, remains an enigma. They debuted with a noisy home-recorded EP released on Wynn's own Down There label ("Down There" was his dad's basement) and then followed with The Days of Wine and Roses and the bigger-budget roots-rock effort, Medicine Show. After the departure of Smith and Precoda, the Dream Syndicate released two more albums before Wynn packed it up and went solo in 1990 with the song-oriented Kerosene Man. His latest effort is the double-disc psychedelic opus, Here Come the Miracles (Blue Rose/Innerstate).
"I honestly think my band plays these songs better than a reunited Dream Syndicate would right now," says Wynn. "We've been playing shows together all year. If Dream Syndicate played those songs for the first time in twenty years, it doesn't mean we'd be able to replicate the spirit of Wine and Roses, which would be a horrible and sloppy mess . . . in a good way."
But it's not that the idea didn't come to Wynn to rehire his old hands. "I thought about it," Wynn says, "and I talked to Dennis and Kendra a bit, but it just doesn't seem it was meant to happen."
For Wynn, a strange metamorphosis takes place when he strikes the opening chords of "Tell Me When It's Over," the album's leadoff track. "It's funny but with the shows I've done so far, there's this really weird method-acting transformation," he says. "The second we start playing those songs, in that order, with that kind of feel, I start saying things I would've said back then. It's really weird! The first night we did it, I thought, I don't say stuff like that anymore," referring to the wise-ass stage patter for which he became known.
Hard-core Dream Syndicate fans were well pleased with Wynn and the 3's renditions of the songs at a recent New York City warm-up gig. "Afterward everyone asked me, 'Are you gonna do the Medicine Show next?'" Wynn says, laughing.
Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3's The Days of Wine and Roses West Coast tour:
9/19: Tempe, Arizona, Nita's Hideaway
9/20: San Diego, Casbah
9/21: Los Angeles, CA, Knitting Factory
9/23: San Francisco, Make Out Room
9/24: Eugene, OR, John Henry's
9/25: Portland, OR, Blackbird
9/26: Seattle, Crocodile Cafe