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"In the weeks before our record came out, I would get, like, 80 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."
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 storebought 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 "Bananas and Blow," a song that sounds like a Jimmy Buffett song taken to the next level; "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, neither musically nor 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."
Ween performs on Monday, May 15, at Mississippi Nights.