Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo’s Facebook presence is pretty typical working cult musician stuff, tour dates, concert photos, personal snapshots, yadda yadda. (I’m fond of his fishing pics.) But a couple of days ago, Melchiondo posted a confession long kept secret, about boosting an iconic guitarist hero’s equipment for a recording. So the name drops don’t lose anyone, Josh Freese is known for his drumming in Devo and A Perfect Circle, and Sim Cain and Andrew Weiss were in Rollins Band.
I think enough time has passed where I can finally tell my favorite Ween story of all-time.
The businesses and the people involved have long since closed their doors and moved on for good and hopefully the people involved (and Carlos himself, if it comes to that) will have a good sense of humor about this story.
In 2003 Ween released our album “quebec” on Sanctuary Records. We worked on the album for 2 years in our beach house in Holgate,NJ, a rented house in the Pocono Mountains of PA, the garage behind Aaron’s house in Pt. Pleasant, PA, my upstairs guest room, and finally Andrew Weiss’s living room in NJ. We also worked at Water Music in Hoboken, NJ and Graphic Sound Studios in Ringoes, NJ. It was not a great period in our personal lives, Aaron was going thru a divorce and I was partying way too hard myself—it was some dark shit. The record is one of my favorites, but it is a depressing album lyrically. It was not an easy record to make either, as evidenced by the amount of places we worked, trying to find the right environment. There are demos available online that I posted where you can hear the process at work, we racked up our normal batch of like 6 dozen songs or more before whittling it down to what was finally released, 15 tunes.
I am a huge fan of Carlos Santana. He is one of my favorite guitarists of all-time. He is playing better these days than ever before in my opinion. His music is more radio friendly, for sure, but as a guitarist he has aged like a fine wine. Only Neil Young, Prince, and a small handful of others can make that claim as they become members of the AARP.
We were working in Andrew’s living room on the song “Transdermal Celebration”, our drummer Claude Coleman had just gotten into a horrific car crash and left us w/o a drummer for the recording and ensuing tour. Eventually it worked itself out where the record took so long to complete that Claude made enough of a recovery to do the world tour with us supporting “quebec.” In the meantime though, even though Claude had played on some of the demos, drumming on the album was left up to me, Josh Freese, and Sim Cain. “Transdermal Celebration” had been recorded 3 times by this point, with a drum machine, with Claude playing drums, and the final take on the album which features Josh Freese. It was the eventual single from the album. So, we’re in the middle of this session and I get a phone call from my roadie (nameless) who also worked for a backline company (nameless) that supplied amps, drums, lights, etc. to bands touring in the Northeast. My roadie told me that Carlos Santana’s equipment (including his guitars) had arrived via a trucking company that night at their depot. Carlos was recording an appearance on “Good Morning America” the next morning and his equipment was to be delivered to the set in NYC in a few hours.
What needed to be done was immediately clear to me, I had an opportunity to play the solo on “Transdermal Celebration” through Carlos Santana’s amplifier and guitar. I had one shot at it, it meant taking a hard disk recorder to a storage space where all of Carlos’ stuff was sitting in transit. I arrived at 2am. We (very carefully) unpacked his equipment and set up his stage gear and in one take I recorded the guitar solo for “Transdermal Celebration” (the one that appears on the album, playing thru Carlos Santana’s guitar, pedalboard, and amplifier. The whole thing took 10 minutes and we were terrified we were going to get caught. A lot of people would have lost their jobs. We got the fuck outta there really fast after that. So the solo on “Transdermal Celebration” was played thru all of Santana’s shit in what resembled an early morning bank heist or something……….
Of course a story like this requires visual proof, so here it is. Don’t tell anyone about these please.
-Dean Ween 6/14
Gotta love the cheeky “Don’t tell anyone about these please,” on a public post to a fan page with thousands of followers. I’m guessing the solo in question is the one that starts at about 1:53.
And here are some photos as evidence of the caper:
Lest anyone assume Mr. Santana’s gear was treated disrespectfully (you know, apart from being handled without his knowledge), Melchiondo adds this postscript:
an afterthought: regarding the Carlos post, i’d like to add that we handled his equipment as if it were the Mona Lisa. We photographed the way his roadie had his cables wrapped and positioned and put everything back exactly as it was found. The whole process was over as quickly as it happened. Also, the respect that I have for Carlos and the depth, spirituality and stamina of his playing is held by me in the highest regard. I am not just a fan of Carlos, I am a believer and follower of everything he has done, and yes that includes the pop singles. I felt it was important to have this be known, there is no one I hold in a higher regard. Also, I have a lifetime of experience of handling equipment, as did the other person involved, it wasn’t two drunk buffoons manhandling a legend’s gear, the furthest thing from it. I think it’s important to clarify that. -DW
Melchiondo’s new band, The Dean Ween Group, debuted in Baltimore in March, and they will be touring this summer. Dates are listed at his web site.