Friends of Dennis Wilson | Interview | New Album, ‘The Number 9’
Since 2002, Friends Of Dennis Wilson’s founder and frontman Anthony E. Moran and company have been touring and performing their very own unique brand of heavy dreamy/psychedelic music they call “Detroit Sonic Street Rock”.
The band has released countless 12-inch full length albums, EP’s, 45s and film scores! In the following interview we discuss “Detroit Sonic Street Rock” and their latest album, ‘The Number 9’.
“This entire time I’ve been doing it DIY”
How did you get first interested in music and what was the first instrument you picked?
Anthony E. Moran: I was interested in music as far as I can remember. Around the time I was four years old my dad’s sister owned a punk rock/vintage clothing/skateboard shop in Ann Arbor Michigan in the early 1980s. Ann Arbor is home of the legendary bands like The Stooges and MC5, SRC, The Rationals et cetera. Right across the street was Discount records where Iggy Pop used to work. There were a bunch of great record stores in Ann Arbor back then. Places like Wazoos Records and Schoolkids records. I used to go there a day or two during the week after school and then every single weekend all through the 1980s and 90s. My aunt would give me money and I would just go buy tapes and records. Plus my aunt’s store had hundreds and hundreds of records in the back room because music was always playing in her store. So I would go through her records at the store and play Bauhaus records, Public Image Limited, The Stooges and T. Rex records. I remember once walking into Schoolkids records when I was like six years old and asking for the T. Rex section and the guy just looked at me like I was from Mars, haha! Plus, my aunt’s store was a hangout place for people like Dee Ramone, John Sinclair, The Necros, even The Smashing Pumpkins would come to the store in their early years. Plus we had cool people working there that were in bands like Matt from “Big Chief”(a Sub Pop band)… This guy Rob from a band called “Gangster Fun” also worked there. These guys would get off touring with bands like The Beastie Boys, Mudhoney, Tool, and they would tell me all about touring. I would ask question after question about other bands and these guys would tell me about all kinds of stuff. They also turned me on to new bands all the time. Let’s just say it was like ground zero for music and culture. Needless to say, it was a lot for a little kid to digest.
I do have one funny musical memory that was kinda like my first psychedelic experience…I think it was before my aunt opened the store. I think I have just turned 5 years old. I remember going upstairs to my bedroom where my father had laid out the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album in front of my little brown Fisher price record player (which still works and I still have it today). I remember walking up to it and looking at the cover and trying to figure out what it meant? Then I noticed my father had the record already on the player, so I played the record and went back to studying the album cover when all of the sudden George Harrison’s ‘Within You Without You’ came on! My little five year old mind was blown and my life was changed from that moment on. Even at that early age the sitar was like candy to my ears. Ever since that day, I was always fascinated with the more psychedelic Beatles stuff. It could have gone both ways that day because my father accidently put “Side B” on the player which has ‘Within You Without You’ first instead of the A side which has the ’Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ song first and then ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. So hearing those strange arrangements on side B first with all those crazy sounds instead of the John Lennon tongue in cheek “That the singer’s gonna sing a song” really made me go the other way with music.
Was your musical journey going straight to psychedelic rock or are you influenced by other genres?
As far as my first instrument goes I always wanted to sing and play guitar, but people always told me you have to practice a lifetime to get good at guitar or to sing. So when I was young I never had a guitar. Instead I went inside myself and I wrote poems and songs. I did this for many years, basically my whole life. Then when I got up to college I had all these dudes in dorms who had parents that paid for their guitars and lessons et cetera. They would ask me for my lyrics? My lyrics???? And they would say, “Yeah, your words are amazing but there’s no way you can sing or play an instrument in a band because it takes your whole life to learn that stuff.”. I would always think to myself, “Really a lifetime?” Did Iggy Pop take singing lessons? And these dudes would be like “Iggy who?”. So I knew these assholes were full of shit and in my heart I knew that I would play music somehow, some way, one day, and then that day came. I was back home in Detroit and hanging at my aunt’s store and this girl Carry who worked there said she was quitting because she joined a band called The Von Bondies and she was going to tour the world with this band called The White Stripes! I was like whaaaaat? I was like, “Carry you don’t even play an instrument?”. She told me she started playing bass a month before and that her friend was teaching her. My mind was blown! I went back to school in Milwaukee after winter break and I couldn’t get it out of my mind that here was this girl I’ve known for years and she’s never played an instrument? Now she’s touring the world? I was happy for her, but I was also bummed at the same time because I was stuck in a classroom when all I really wanted to be doing was what she was doing. When school was back in session I walked into the hallway and I picked up the paper and who do I see on the cover, but my friend Carry The Von Bondies. I couldn’t believe it. Four weeks ago she was telling me she was going on tour and now she’s on the cover of the paper in my college town? I was like fuck that. I took a small school grant I had that was $4,000, 2,000 for each semester and I rented a studio next to the old Pabst Beer Brewery off water street in Milwaukee. Then I bought drums, a fender guitar amp, a bass amp, and a little 4 track. And then I just came up with the name Friends Of Dennis Wilson. It was the first band name I thought of too. It was like it was meant to be. From that point on all I did was study, work, and play music from dusk till dawn in my studio. FODW was born. But it wasn’t as easy as I’m making it sound. I also had to go without a lot of things that other people would consider essential and make music my priority. I played drums for hours on end with my original guitar players in order to get them where they needed to be on guitar. So it was a long journey before I found my way to playing guitar in the band. So even though I’ve always been the lead singer and composer et cetera, I’ve played all the instruments and paid my dues in order to get to where I am now.
What can you say about the formation of Friends of Dennis Wilson? Who are members of the band? Did the lineup change during the years?
As far as the formation of Friends of Dennis Wilson, all I can say is it was a lot of hard work over the years and the lineup has always changed. After I graduated from College, I then took all my gear back home with me to Detroit and my original guitar player came with me too. We found our original drummer Brandon, who is now passed on (RIP) and then we practiced a whole summer and then we played our first show. Immediately following the first show, Matt left the band and flew home. It was a good show too! But I guess it was meant to be because then my childhood friend Sam joined the band and he’s been with me pretty much this entire time. After Sam joined we found our drummer Charlie Monsoon who stayed with us for the next 7 years. Then we got my childhood friend Tim Donesia to play the Farfisa organ and then we had bass players come and go! The reason people come and go is because touring and playing shows isn’t a priority for everybody! They might like it for a little while and then they get a job or a girlfriend or whatever! One thing I can tell you about the formation of FODW is I knew from early on it wasn’t going to be easy and I would have to remain persistent if I wanted to keep going!
“I seem to have this whole connection to the number 9”
A few months ago you released a brand new album, ‘The Number 9’. What’s the concept behind it?
Yes, we just dropped our new record ‘The Number 9’! The concept behind it is fuckin wild because obviously our band name has a Manson Family connotation to it because Charlie and his family hung out with The Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson and our band is called Friends Of Dennis Wilson…And obviously since I have a band by that name I’m pretty well versed in the whole Manson lore. I’ve read all the books et cetera. The reason why the album is called ‘The Number 9’ is because a year or so ago my friend Carl from the shoegaze band Windy & Carl gave me a CD. Carl was also co-owner of Stormy Records which just closed its doors after 19 years RIP. So Carl burned me this Dennis Wilson CD that had all these obscure Dennis Wilson rarities and studio outtakes et cetera. It also had a couple versions of the Manson song ‘Cease To Exist’ on it which The Beach Boys ended up covering on their ’20/20′ album.
They ended up changing the name of the song to ‘Never Learn Not To Love’. Well on one of the studio outtakes of ‘Cease To Exist’ which was mostly instrumental but then when the chorus came in Dennis Wilson was singing “Number 9, Number 9-9-9, Number 9, Number 9-9-9!”. OMG, I almost dropped to my knees and fainted when I heard it because I realized that over the years people always balked at the idea that there was ever a legitimate connection between Manson and The Beatles! But after hearing this it blew my mind because here was Charles Manson basically answering the call of The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ through the voice of arguably the biggest American band i.e. The Beach Boys! It’s almost too bizarre to comprehend! People always wrote Charles Manson off like he was some fool, but I feel it was almost somewhat of a legitimate feat and real connection for him to basically answer the Beatles through The Beach Boys! I feel it proves there is a connection even if it’s somewhat of a loose connection that messages were being passed via music even if it is only on the side of Manson? I feel like it was a case of “I hear you guys and I’m going to reply in a very big legitimate way via The Beach Boys”. So because of that and the fact that there were 9 songs on the album, the last song on the album is 9 minutes long and the number 9 has always been my number! I was also born on March 9th. I seem to have this whole connection to the number 9. And after being in FODW for as long as I have and then to hear Dennis Wilson singing a Manson song and sing the lyrics “Number 9, Number 9-9-9”, I thought to myself if this isn’t a sign of something I don’t know what is?
What do you want people to take away from the album?
As far as what I want people to take away from the album? People are gonna take away what they want, but what I’d really like is for people to “listen to the album as a whole”. Not just the first song. I know we live in a world right now where things are super fast! We’re getting so much thrown at us everyday, so it’s hard for people to be focused on one thing! But I made this new album to be listened to as “an album”, not just a bunch of songs! Each song flows into each other! There’s also a reprise and two part songs et cetera. In order to understand the first song you gotta listen to the last song! I made this record like they made records in the 70’s when people actually listened to entire records! So that’s what I would want people to take away from this record! I want ’em to view it as one big piece of music!
Tell us about what you are working on right now musically?
For the last 19 years I “always” seem to be working on something musically! Right now I am currently approving the test pressing of my new release which is a limited run of only fifty cassette tapes of the new FODW ‘Dreamdrive’ EP. That will be coming out this fall. I’m also working on the next FODW full-length album which is called ‘Targetz’. But ‘Targetz’ has been put on hold due to my current bass player dying last week out of nowhere! It was a fucking shock to all of us and I’ll just leave it at that! His death really hit me hard man! Fuck, with all the shit the world has seen since the pandemic hit it seems like everyone is grieving someone! Very sad! But as soon as I’m done shooting this movie I’m directing in September I’ll get back to working on the album! Yes, movie. I’m also a filmmaker. I’m directing my second feature film, a horror film called “Let Us In!” this September! It’s cool because I’ve taken FODW into the direction of film scores now! FODW did the score to my first film ‘Strong Arm’ which premiered in December 2019.
“We were tripping at a lot of these shows”
I became familiar with your band via your 2020 vinyl release, ‘Space Maintainer’. What do you recall from working on it?
Ah, the ‘Space Maintainer’ album, haha. I went through a lot of shit to get that album made! It was 2007-2008 and we did a couple big U.S. tours and then we were playing shows in state and then random out of state shows in between tours to promote our upcoming ‘Pyramid’ album! On these tours/shows we played with tons of cool bands like Spindrift (ex-members of Brian Jonestown Massacre and Warlocks), The Tunnels, Mr. Airplane Man, The Disappears, The Strangers Family Band, The Exotics, The Mistreaters, Abe Vigoda, Awesome Color, Jucifer, The Pandas, and in states like Texas, Arizona, up and down the California coast, NY, Seattle, Oregon, Oklahoma, WI, Wyoming, Montana, et cetera. And on those tours people were really digging us! You asked me about psychedelics which I’ll touch on more in a minute, but on these tours we were tripping at a lot of these shows. The shows were packed and our performances were super intense! At this time, I could “feel” where the music was going as far as the whole psych thing and we were playing the kind of music that people wanted to hear, but we were playing our own unique brand of psych rock! It was kinda like a heavier psychedelic shoegaze rock more in the vein of early Verve stuff and early Hypnotics! And at this time, there was all this garage rock coming out of Detroit and all these band names starting with “The” and nobody sounded like us, so it was cool we had our own thing going on and still being able to fly the Detroit flag at the same time! At this time word was catching on and this was all before Facebook. It was still the Myspace era. Spindrift was blowing up and after we played with them in California they started to come to Detroit and play with us. They did this big article in Wire magazine and when asked about what new psych bands to listen and look out for and Kirkpatrick from Spindrift named FODW along with a bunch of other cool bands like A Place To Bury Strangers et cetera. Then back home we were getting articles and on the covers of big local Detroit press publications. Not to mention, I also had/still have my own psych/underground music fest called the “Fiberglass Freakout” which was going on its fifth year at the time! I remember playing with Spindrift in late 2007 in Detroit and Kirkpatrick mentioned to me that we should play this new psych fest in Texas called the Austin Psych Fest (now Levitation or whatever) where we had already done very well at venues like the legendary Beerland and places like the Austin Beauty Bar et cetera. But at the time I was dealing with my own fest, pressing vinyl (which then it was harder than it is today, not as many places printing and long waiting lists) and it was around this time I got pulled over in our tour van on the way to the recording studio for literally less than a half a gram of some shake of weed on the floor of our van. Obviously we had just toured in places where it was legal and our van was a mess. But since I had taken the same route in two days to our recording studio to finish up some tracks, the police thought I was transporting drugs in our van on a known drug route out of Detroit? Let’s just say they were really pissed off because they didn’t get the big score, but they were more than happy to have a long hair hippy in custody, haha. So from that point I couldn’t leave the state for the next two years, but I would on occasion still sneak out of town to play an out of state show which was really nerve racking because I had random drug tests and had to be back at certain times. So, I was like caught in this whole Roky Erickson like trap and it was really nerve racking to say the least. Not to mention we were on the verge of the economic collapse of 2008, so touring at that time was really hard. Also, during this time I also got into a freak accident and broke my leg in numerous places and couldn’t walk for over a year. So with all this crazy stuff going on I figured it was the perfect time to get right back into the studio to make ‘Space Maintainer’, but I was getting resistance from bandmates and people close to me because they figured we had enough material to promote with the new ‘Pyramid’ album as well as the previous albums. But I eventually went into the studio anyway and began working on what would later become the ‘Space Maintainer’ LP.
You’ve been active with this band since 2002. Were you in any other bands worth mentioning? Any releases by then?
No, I’ve never been in any other bands! Just Friends Of Dennis Wilson which I’m very proud of. A couple times I had some people try to sign us, but they wanted me to change our name to a boring “The” name because these people told me the name was too dark or that people wouldn’t dig the Manson connection et cetera. But then at the very same time I had people writing to me from all over saying they love the name and the music. Then I’ve had a lot of people in state and out of state start bands and they would tell me they started the band after seeing FODW. Also, a lot of my ex-band members went on to start bands. So instead of changing my band name or being in three bands at the same time et cetera. I just stayed my course over the years and kept my focus on FODW and I’ve accepted my role as a liberator to the people who weren’t in bands and got influenced by me. I’m also very proud that I’ve never sold out and changed my name just to get signed. Time proved me right too because one of the bigger deals I turned down turned out to be a death sentence for the band that did take the deal. This entire time I’ve been doing it DIY. I design, make, and sell all my records and merchandise myself. All the records I sell are packaged and mailed by me. Over the years FODW merch has become collectible! ‘The Cult Party’ 45 goes for a lot. I’ve seen the painted Manson vinyl from 2008 sell for over hundred dollars. It makes me laugh, but some people are really into it. I’m not into the whole pay to play thing or pushing my music down people’s throats. I let people come to me. I don’t even like Bandcamp and they cost a lot. I only recently put some stuff on there! I’m just really proud of the fact that I’ve done it my way this entire time!
It’s really difficult to find the correct discography for your band. Would you mind sharing it with us?
The FODW discography is the following,
1. ‘Cult Party’ 45
2. ‘Muscle Car Music’ EP
3. ‘This Summers Gonna Kill Me Full Length’
4. ‘Chrome Universe ‘full-length
5. ‘Self Titled Pyramid’ full-length
6. ‘Medallions Are For Witches B-Side’s (contains songs ‘Circle Of Light’, ‘Burnt Offerings’ & ‘Ride’ et cetera)
7. ‘Live, Love, Blood, Bliss’ cassette
8. ‘Space Maintainer’ full-length
9. ‘Strong Arm Movie’ soundtrack
10. ‘The Number 9’ full-length
11. ‘Dreamdrive’ cassette EP
12. ‘Targetz’ full-length (TBA).
How are you coping with the current pandemic?
I’ve been coping with the pandemic just like everyone else, day to day. I write for the Horror Movie magazine Midnight Magazine, so I’ve been busy doing that and then I’ve been in pre-production for the upcoming horror film I’m about to start shooting called Let Us In. This will be the second feature film that I’ve written and directed. I was super healthy before the pandemic, but my drummer and I Both caught Covid really bad. He got a blood clot in his leg and I had severe damage done to my lungs and some heart stuff. Then my bass player just died, not to mention all the other people who have lost family members. It’s just really sad what the whole world went through this shit and we’re not in the clear just yet.
How do you usually approach music making?
I have a couple different approaches to making music. A lot of the time I’ll wake up out of a deep sleep and go right downstairs into our practice studio and pick up the guitar and play the song I hear in my head. I did ‘No Disguise’ off ‘The Number 9’ like that. They’ll just come to me out of nowhere or I’ll come up with a riff and I’ll play it with the band and we’ll groove on it and then I’ll make the change ups and put lyrics on it while Sam will put a hook over it and the leads… And on occasion sometimes we will be jamming or Sam will play a riff and I’ll say, “Hey play that part with this and change that one part to this” and so on. But for the most part I know exactly what I want and what the song’s gonna be called et cetera.
What are some of the most important musicians that influenced your own style and what in particular did they employ in their playing that you liked?
I saw the Verve in like 94 or 95! It changed my life because I just fell in love with Nick Mcabe’s guitar playing. I dig the tone he had in the early 90’s like on the bootleg Hulfred Festival. Songs like ‘The Sun, The Sea’ just blow my fuckin mind man! I think the ‘A Storm In Heaven’ album is a fucking masterpiece. I can take or leave the later Richard Ashcroft singer songwriter bs on the later Verve albums, but they still have some good songs on some of those later albums. I also really dig Stacy Sutherland’s guitar playing in The 13th Floor Elevators. His playing is fucking fierce man. A true psychedelic warrior. I’m also a huge Loop fan and I just love Robert Hampson’s guitar playing. His riffs are so fucking tough. I like repetition in music too.
How about psychedelics? Do they have any role in music making in your band?
Of course psychedelics have played a role in our band. Sam and I have been trippin since we were 14-15 years old. We’ve practiced many times under the influence of many different kinds of psychedelics. We’ve played “only good shows” on hallucinogens. I consider myself a fucking psychedelicized fucking warriors and I can back it up too. But it’s like the Ocean, I respect it too. I have so many crazy stories, omfg. I’ll leave you with one insane story. I cut my thumb real bad when I was 15 and had to be rushed by my grandma to the hospital and they gave me four or five stitches. I get home at like 8:30 pm on a warm summer night and my friend calls me asking me to go to a rave with him? I wasn’t in the mood and I wasn’t a raver, but he said he had some super duper high grade LSD so I decided to go. I was dressed in all white from head to toe and we went to this rave and I’m tripping hard. I tried talking to a couple girls that night, but nobody would talk to me. I just figured it’s because they’re all on ecstasy and I’m tripping, different vibes or whatever? So I get home at like 4 am and my mom comes to the door and says, “go upstairs and wash your face!”. I go upstairs and I turn the bathroom light on and when I look in the mirror I see that I’m covered in blood from head to toe and it was all over my white clothes too. I look down and my stitches has come undone and I fucking bled all over myself. No wonder why nobody would talk to me, lol?
Your finest moment in music?
Finest moment in music! There have been many great moments in my musical career. I can’t pin down one finest moment, but I can say this much…When these fine moments stop happening will be the day I hang it up. Every time I write a new song I get so excited it’s like the first time all over again. Every show is an important show to me! Every time I release a record the first thing that comes to my mind is how I gotta get right back into the studio to make a new album. The day I lose that hunger is the day I stop playing. But I don’t plan to stop anytime soon and I feel in music there’s only a couple routes to go. You’re either a lifer or you’re not!
Thank you. Last word is yours.
As far as last words, I think I’ve said enough already, lol! I just want people to go check out the new ‘Number 9’ album. Contact me directly through Instagram to buy any merchandise. Or for booking contact me directly. Also check out our website. I want people to go “search” for good music because there’s plenty of it out there. Just because you might have never heard of a band or because they’re not playing Lollapalooza or whatever doesn’t mean that they’re not good! The world is a big place and there’s a lot out there, so go find it!
It was a pleasure answering these questions and I would also like to say, FODW loves It’s Psychedelic Baby! Magazine. Cheers from Detroit!
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