Q&A: Unnatural Helpers' Dean Whitmore Is Seattle's Answer to Don Henley

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unnaturaldean.jpg
Laura Musselman
Unnatural Helpers play an album-release show on Friday, May 7, at The Funhouse, with TacocaT, Spurm, and Butts. Tickets to the 9 p.m.

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Q&A: Unnatural Helpers' Dean Whitmore Is Seattle's Answer to Don Henley

  • Q&A: Unnatural Helpers' Dean Whitmore Is Seattle's Answer to Don Henley

  • ">

    unnaturaldean.jpg
    Laura Musselman
    Unnatural Helpers play an album-release show on Friday, May 7, at The Funhouse, with TacocaT, Spurm, and Butts. Tickets to the 9 p.m. show are $7.
    When Dean Whitmore was singing a very rough demo of what would eventually become the song "Sunshine/Pretty Girls" off Unnatural Helpers' new album, Cracked Love & Other Drugs (on Sub Pop's Hardly Art Records), he swore he heard an echo in the room. Turned out it was his precocious 7-year-old daughter, who had snuck up behind him and sang along to the chorus with him.

    Perhaps Whitmore, the brains behind this whip-smart pop-punk act--pop as in Roy Orbison, punk as in the Ramones--has finally found a permanent member for a band with a perennially rotating cast. "I try not to push her too hard with that stuff," he says over a veggie burger at Belltown's Two Bells. "I want her to like pursue it because she's interested."

    Here he chats about The Eagles, mouth guitaring, and shameless self-promotion.

    Does your daughter actually appear on the record?

    No. I wanted her to do it, but then I thought: It's kind of like bad dad territory with talking about smoking and drinking. I just didn't want, you know, her friends' parents going, "What is this guy, a maniac or something? He's got his kid talking about not liking sunshine?" I'll never get on the PTA that way.

    You just got done with a moth-long vacation. How'd you make that happen?

    It's a special thing because I'd worked at Sub Pop for a long time (10 years). Now I only have to work for 10 more years to get it again.

    What do you do for Sub Pop?

    I'm a sales guy. I'm a salesman for mom and pop shops, indie record shops, the Sonic Booms. I solicit and take orders [from them].

    Have you had the conversation yet: "Hey, how about this new album from Unnatural Helpers?"

    That's a little uncomfortable. I tried to be gone, actually, for the timeframe when the single and the record came out. It felt a little goofy soliciting my own record.

    Have you spent the last 10 years trying to get a deal with Sub Pop?

    No.

    You're in an elite group of singing drummers: Phil Collins, Don Henley ...

    Yeah, the comparisons are rarely delivered with anything other than mockery.

    Are you kidding me? Are you telling me you don't wish you had written "Hotel California"?

    You know what I found out yesterday or the day before: I didn't know the Eagles had two drummers.

    Be honest: Did you find that out while reading the liner notes of the Eagles records you were throwing out?

    Eagles records when out a long time ago. I had lots of parents give me their record collections when CDs came in. People knew I collected records, you know. So I would end up with Grateful Dead Records and all this stuff. The Eagles must have come in that batch. I don't think I spent my own money on 'em.

    When you started getting rid of your records recently, were any of them worth anything?

    A lot of indie rock stuff. I had Modest Mouse records that I had bought whenever their first two records came out. I like those records, but ... I'd rather have the dough than the records at this point.

    When you write songs do you start on the drum set?

    Usually it's just a riff.

    So, do you have a rudimentary knowledge of guitar by now?

    No. None.

    No, no, you don't just sing the guitar part--da na na na na--into a recorder when you're writing songs?

    Yeah. My system sucks. I have to dictate it into my iPod, mouth-guitaring. I tried to do mouth guitar on the demos, but then I couldn't play 'em for the band. It was just way too embarrassing. But I did play a couple of them, but productivity went [down] because everyone was just laughing, making fun of me.

    Do you bury those tapes after the fact?

    Um, yeah. It's nothing you'd want to share with anybody.

     
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