STEVE WYNN & THE MIRACLE THree with POPPYSEED & THE LOVE EXPLOSION at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, October 11). $10. 416-598-4753.
an interview with cult rocker Steve Wynn is more like catching up with an old buddy than the usual question-and-answer session. Not that we're really close friends, it's just that he's a music fan -- the serious kind. Wynn has always pursued music with a passion that verges on obsession. He knows what it's like to work for chump change alongside assholes in a used record store and blow a paycheque on a shitty-sounding Velvet Underground bootleg.
I don't condone Wynn's decision to hunt down and re-purchase the Human Switchboard's Who's Landing In Your Hanger? LP three times (he thought he'd missed something the first two times he'd owned it), but I know the feeling. It's important to see that side of Wynn, because his whole aesthetic -- his distorted vocals on his fabulous new Here Come The Miracles (Innerstate) double disc, his entire career path, actually -- has been shaped by the fact that he's a music fan first.
Many artists with Wynn's 20-year hitless streak would've hung up their rock and roll shoes long ago, but Wynn sees that lack of chart action as a kind of blessing. Hey, if your heroes were Alex Chilton, Mark E. Smith, Jonathan Richman and Peter Perrett, maybe you would, too.
"If I were calculating enough to design a career for myself that would be exciting to me as a music fan," chuckles Wynn, talking into a cellphone outside a West Hollywood fashion boutique, "it would be exactly like the one I've had.
"I'm one of those guys who make music that people have to look a little harder to find. But when they do, it's like becoming a member of a secret club. It sounds a bit snobby, I know, but I still remember how great it felt to search for and finally find a rare single by the Only Ones, and then be blown away by the amazing song on the B-side.
"I don't know if having a hit disqualifies you from all of that. I haven't bothered to find out."
The fact that he doesn't care that his first album with the Dream Syndicate, The Days Of Wine And Roses (Slash), only made it into the hands of a few thousand people doesn't make it any less an enduring classic of L.A.'s Paisley Underground scene.
Listening to the recent Rhino reissue of the recording, which includes rehearsal takes and songs from the group's Down There EP and Wynn's 15 Minutes single, forgotten mantras like Tell Me When It's Over and That's What You Always Say don't just hold up well -- they sound strikingly contemporary.
Remember, this stuff came out in 82, at a time when Human League and A Flock of Seagulls ruled the airwaves. While Phil Oakey and Mike Score ponder their next hairstyle, Wynn will be in a club someplace having the time of his life playing the best music of his career.
"For the past couple of weeks, we've been doing two sets a night. The first is mostly songs from Here Come The Miracles, and the second is The Days Of Wine And Roses album straight through. It's amazing to think those songs are 20 years old now, because it doesn't seem at all like I'm dusting off a museum piece. It all feels very fresh to me.
"The really interesting thing has been seeing how many younger people are coming to the shows.
"At first I was, like, "Wow, this is kinda weird,' but then I realized they're just like me when I was their age."