Brent “Fathead” DeBoer, the drummer and backup vocalist for The Dandy Warhols, has had a pretty impressive career. The Dandys have toured with such greats as The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty, and are soon releasing an album of their greatest hits. DeBoer recently stepped out on his own to record a solo album, The Farmer, a melodic collection of acoustic songs, a portion of the proceeds from which are being donated to charity.
DeBoer was kind enough to sit down and have a chat with The Deli Portland regarding David Bowie, the hillbilly folk scene, and tonight’s show at the newest hit venue in Portland, The Woods.
What inspired you for this album The Farmer?
Well, Brian Coates (of The Great Northwest) for sure, and anyone on the committee, dead or alive, that I could imagine listening to it. At the time, I was living in the rock dorm and Brian Coates lived downstairs. He writes melodic, acoustic, trippy, sad songs, and I was tying to do a bunch of songs like his in that way. Then eight years later, when he was recording Zia MaCabe’s (Dandy Warhols’ keyboardist) album, he was recording her. She’d get done at 10:00 p.m, they’d work until then and then I came in, broke out all the old cassettes, and Brian and I would work until six in the morning. But yeah, I’d say the biggest influence would be Brian Coates.
A portion of the proceeds from The Farmer are going to the MS Foundation. Why is that a cause that’s important to you?
My dad has MS, and when I’d recorded this with Coatsie, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. We put it on and it sounded pretty cool, and we wanted to do something with it that would be different. Most albums, especially something like this, they just come and go and they wouldn’t really matter that much. But I wanted to think of a way for a different audience to hear it, and I started thinking of charity things, and MS was an obvious one, considering my Dad, and the fact that I’d done the MS walk a few times, so we called up the people at the Oregon chapter at the MS Society, so we’re contributing some of the proceeds to fight MS.
What are the highlights of your career so far?
There’s a handful. There’s been a few massive concerts, big shows around the world, but I think the main thing would be just having musical peers show appreciation by coming to your concerts, or mentioning in the press how much they like a certain song or album. Having David Bowie and his band come to see us play a few times made us feel really good. Generally when you start a band, you’re not thinking about fame or money or chicks, you’re just trying to be accepted by your peers in the music world. Even if it’s just some fantasy figure you imagine, that’s what you’re really thinking of. So to have Joe Strummer walk up to me at a festival and ask when we were going on, and tell me he loved the music, or having Bowie come to the show, it makes it easier to sleep at night. It makes it easier to ignore it when you hear some snotty reviewer rag on you – you rest assured that they’re wrong. I care more about Joe Strummer’s opinion than some guy writing for some rag out of Denver who gives us a shitty review.
What’s next for you?
We have the Dandy Warhols greatest hits collection coming out, which we’re calling The Capitol Years, considering the fact that we never really had a collection, or more than one semi-hit. It’s just a collection of songs that had videos, or were sent to radio stations by Capitol Records. There are two bonus tracks, and those are just about done. I’m also recording an album of songs of mine and my friends Bob Harrow and Gamma, who are both from Australia. We’re calling it Immigrant Union. We’re recording it with Greg Williams who produced the album Thirteen Tales for the Dandys. The ultimate dream for Immigrant Union is to tour country music fairs, going overseas, playing the Grand Ole Opry, the Austin City Limits Festival…just that other world of country world of hillbilly folk. It’s a world I don’t know, but I’d really like to. That’s the band that’ll play with me on April 30th, at The Woods. It’s $15, but it’s worth it because the money goes to a good cause.
Brent De Boer’s solo record The Farmer is raising money to fight MS, and is available now on CD Baby.
– Arielle Mullen