New Hope’s Dean Ween Group releases sophomore album ‘rise2’
By Samantha Bambino
It’s only been two years since New Hope’s Mickey Melchiondo, better known as his teenage-crafted pseudonym Dean Ween, released The Deaner Album, the debut of his band the Dean Ween Group. But when you’ve been writing and recording at least two songs a day for the past four years, acquiring enough content for a second album is a piece of cake.
A few weeks ago, the Dean Ween Group released to the world rock2, an eclectic blend of ’80s grunge, mellow rock and instrumental masterpieces sure to induce some involuntary headbanging. Recorded at The Deaner’s dedicated studio facility in Lambertville, New Jersey, rock2 has already gained both national and international recognition, appearing on the first 2018 playlist of the UK’s prestigious MOJO.
For Melchiondo, who boasts more than 30 years experience in the music industry, rock2 has been a long time coming.
“I’m pretty proud of this one,” he said. “It represents the first time that I was able to take what we do on stage and put it on a record. 2017 is a strange time to be a musician, live music is really your main outlet for making a living. I never thought at this stage of my career that I would be putting in this much time on the road and in the studio, but I am, and I’m enjoying it more than I ever have.”
In the first 30 seconds of rock2, the passion that went into the project is evident. In true Deaner fashion, the album kicks off with a bang as a rhythmic drumbeat and baseline introduce Melchiondo belting, “We got a showstopper” — an accurate summary of what’s to follow over the next 10 tracks.
Throughout rock2, listeners are taken on a musical adventure that’s simultaneously energetic, heartfelt and comedic. Standout tracks include “Don’t Let the Moon Catch You Crying,” a surprising yet welcome display of The Deaner’s vulnerable side; and “Love Theme from ‘Skinheads Kicking Your A,’” the perfect soundtrack for any rambunctious teen boy looking to wreak some havoc as shouts of “Oy!” erupt at random intervals.
“Every little thing I’ve ever learned is somewhere on here, somewhere. Maybe you can find a little piece of it that means as much to you as it does to me,” Melchiondo said. “There are many more albums like this one sitting on magnetic recording tape at my studio, but this is a glimpse of a couple months of writing and demoing, and about two weeks of tracking with the band.”
rock2 is a snapshot of fall 2016, which saw the union of the Dean Ween Group (Mike Dillon, Bill Fowler, Ray Kubian, Scott Rednor) and road members from his original band Ween (Claude Coleman Jr., Dave Dreiwitz and Glenn McClelland).
The latter launched Melchiondo into the music industry in 1984. Far from your average middle schoolers, he and classmate Aaron Freeman nicknamed themselves Dean Ween and Gene Ween respectively, never dreaming they’d be stuck with these self-inflicted identities as one of the world’s top cult bands. Ween released nine studio albums (five on Elektra Records) and six live albums before going on hiatus in 2012.
About four years ago, Melchiondo put together the rotating cast of musicians known as the Dean Ween Group as a way to get back into writing and performing after the disbanding of Ween. Once the creative juices started flowing again, they were impossible to stop.
“For four years now, I have been in my studio recording all day and all night, every day and every night when I’m not on tour. A song a day sounds far-fetched, I know. We usually average at least two per day,” he said.
Though organizing his ever-growing catalog of unreleased tracks is becoming a task in itself, Melchiondo wouldn’t have it any other way. Since his Ween days, the studio has been like a second home.
“Since 1984, I dedicated my life to recording in all of my free time. Later on, after living with Aaron for a few years, I moved into an apartment with my girlfriend, who is now my wife,” he said. “She would get up at 5:30 a.m. to go to work teaching, and I would record all day while she was gone. When she came home, I would stop. When she went to sleep I’d go over to Aaron’s place at Brookridge Farms and record all night with him, or Guy Heller, or Billy Fowler.”
“Thirty years later and I’ve found myself back at that same place, at a different address, with the best equipment money can buy,” Melchiondo said. “The only difference now is that my wife tells people that I ‘work nights’ and even with all of that time I put in recording while she was at work or asleep, it’s nothing compared to the amount of time I spend now. And the music is way better for it.”
When The Deaner isn’t in the studio, he can usually be found hosting the weekly “Invitational Jam” at John & Peters in New Hope. Musicians from across the country are invited to perform with the house band, which often consists of Melchiondo, Mike Hampton of Parliament-Funkadelic, Vincent Martell of Vanilla Fudge and many others. Dean Ween also holds a captain’s license and runs his own charter fishing company out of Belmar, New Jersey.
Talk about a man of many talents. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org