CULTURE

Not an inkling of fatigue in seasoned artist’s long album-and-tour routine

A little over two decades have elapsed since Steve Wynn emerged as a recording artist, as frontman of the now-celebrated post-punk LA band the Dream Syndicate. That spell of guitar-drenched, ’60s-inspired rock-‘n’-roll activity, which was more welcome in Europe than at home, ended in 1989 and was closely followed by a solo career that seems to be gaining momentum by the year. Wynn’s consistency in the studio – producing about an album a year, and, more importantly, material worthy of release – as well as the singer-songwriter’s unfailing commitment to tour each time, have generated widespread respect among peers and a dedicated following. Wynn, who may well hold the record in Greece for the greatest number of performances by a foreign artist, will be returning for two shows this week with his backing band of recent years, the Miracle 3. Despite the onstage mileage, punters should expect this horse to fly. Wynn, ahead of his visit, offered some of his thoughts in an e-mail interview. Early on, as a budding 20-year-old with the Dream Syndicate, let’s say, had you ever suspected, or anticipated, that you’d still be the dedicated songwriter and stage performer you remain today? Man, if I could have looked forward when I was a kid and seen that I would have made so many records for so many years and played so many shows in so many countries to so many people, I would have been stunned and delighted. I remember being absolutely blown away to actually hold and look at my first record in 1982 and each record and session and gig has managed to retain that wonder and surprise. I’ve always favored the «career» artists who put out records on a regular basis and whose contribution wasn’t defined by specific moments or individual trends or events or hits but rather by the overall impact and long-term statement of their work – people like Bob Dylan or Neil Young or Iggy Pop or Warren Zevon were always more interesting to me than the trendiest names that would come and go with each year. Any thoughts or predictions about the next 20 years?! I’m enjoying the process of writing and recording and touring more than ever, so I have a feeling I’ll be doing this for the next 20 years. I honestly feel that the last two albums («Here Come the Miracles» and «Static Transmission») are the two best albums I’ve ever made, so I welcome the challenge to take my music to new directions and levels with each record. There is a certain thrill in hitting a new mark with each year and that thrill becomes an addiction that most certainly keeps me in this game. You’ve managed to maintain an admirable standard on your albums despite an apparent lack of interest in major stylistic change. Have you ever felt trapped for new ideas in your seemingly consistent musical world, and what would you say to critics who favor drastic change in the course of an artistic career? It’s funny that you say that. Sometimes I think that my tendency to want to embrace new sounds and styles and to reinvent myself has actually caused me a little bit of trouble, at least in the short run. Records like «Medicine Show,» «Dazzling Display» and «Sweetness and Light,» for example, were radically different than their predecessors, which in each case were pretty popular records for me. And change will often alienate people who want to hear carbon copies of the music that came before. But I’ve never worried about that and pretty much just try to make the music that I want to hear and let everything else work itself out in whatever way makes sense. Certain songs on your latest album seem to convey a sadness about the general state of the world today. As an ebullient resident of New York City for several years now – you described the place as a «great walking city» in a mid-1990s interview of ours – and as an American who has been a keen and regular traveler for shows abroad, how much impact has September 11 had on your life and, by extension, songwriting? Look, September 11 had a pretty profound effect on people all around the world but there was absolutely an added shock and sadness and lingering dread that was felt by the people who live in New York. I was on tour most of 2001 but happened to be home that week and I’m sure – or at least I hope – I’ll never experience another day or week or anything like what happened that week. And anything with that kind of impact is absolutely going to find itself in creative work that you do – and that’s why there is such a strong sense of melancholy and search for calm and transcendence and meaning that ultimately is all over the place on «Static Transmission.» It is a moody, contradictory, claustrophobic record and one that may not have been made two years ago. Does the current US administration’s stern foreign policy concern you, or even scare you, for the heightening global tension and aftermath many political analysts fear it could be generating? You know, I spend a good portion of my year touring outside of the US and feel just as much at home in Greece or Germany or Belgium or Norway or many other countries as I do in New York City – which, let’s face it, isn’t really a typical US city but rather a weird, idiosyncratic island somewhere to the east of mainland America. And I’ve learned to see people and cities and countries as individuals and as my friends and as musical soulmates, and have come to identify people by the similarities rather than the differences, which is why I hate to see the current US administration proposing such a confrontational and alienating agenda. To be honest, I don’t know why Bush and his team want to work against the world when there is so much to be gained by seeing our problems on global terms. But, hey, I didn’t vote for the guy and I can only hope that the US will wise up and add him to our rising unemployment totals when 2004 comes around. Back to your field, music: You’ve been a cult musical hero for years now with a fan base that’s gradually expanded as newer listeners join the old. But there has been no commercial explosion – big or small, like those of certain friends and peer acts, obvious examples being REM, or the Bangles. Do you ever wonder why, and does such a prospect concern you? It’s funny, I don’t see my career in terms of being anything less than wildly successful. If you would have told me when I was 20 that I would end up making music for a living – touring and recording at any time and in any way that I liked – and that people around the world would enthusiastically embrace my music and songs, well, I would have thought you were insane. That would have seemed like success beyond my wildest dreams back then and it still feels the same way today… Saturday, Athens: Gagarin Club, 205 Liosion (close to Attiki train station), tel 210.854.7600; support act, the Nomads; 9.30 p.m. Sunday, Thessaloniki: Mylos Club, 56 Andreou Georgiou, tel 2310.551.838; 9.30 p.m.