Steve Wynn of the Baseball Project and Dream Syndicate Shares His Musical Memories

Steve Wynn

Steve Wynn has been a busy guy of late. Not only has he revived Paisley Underground legends the Dream Syndicate, he's doing double duty taking the field in the all-star unit known as the Baseball Project. When we had Wynn on the phone recently to talk about the Dream Syndicate jamming with Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones as well as the Baseball Project, we also asked him to share a few of his favorite musical memories.

What is the first album you bought with your own money, and where did you buy it from?

"Willie and the Poor Boys" [by Creedence Clearwater Revival]. I bought it at the May Company record store on Wilshire and Fairfax back in '69. I think it was $1.89. That's now LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art].

What was the first concert you attended, and where?

Delaney & Bonnie at [UCLA's] Royce Hall the same year, '69. I was lucky to have an older sister who was a music fan to take me to shows. She's 10 years older, so she could drive and I could stay at her house after the shows. She took me to all kinds of great shows. She took me to see Led Zeppelin, and then, years later, I ended up playing with John Paul Jones.

What was the artist/song/video/album/concert that made you go, "Wow, making music is what I want to do too"?

There were two phases. I started playing in bands when I was nine and I was pretty enthusiastic about it and I think the kind of thing that got me excited about doing that was the Beatles, like anyone at that age, but also seeing [the movie] "Woodstock" when I was nine. That blew my mind. Then I had drifted away for awhile and what got me back into it was punk rock in general and specifically the first album by Talking Heads and Television got me into making music again.

What song by another artist makes you go, "Darn, I really wish I'd written or recorded that"?

There's so many. If I had to pick one off the top of my head right now I'd say "The Mercy Seat" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. That's just an amazing song. That's one of those songs that's deceptively simple, but not at all. It's just an incredible song.

If you could duet with any recording artist, living or dead, who would your dream duet partner be?

I've been lucky to work with really good people already, but I would have loved to have done something with Miles Davis, just to sit in a room with him, let alone made some music with him. That would be great. I think that's the top of the list.

What's the weirdest thing a fan has ever done for you or said to you?

I'm 54, so now people come to the Dream Syndicate shows that are in their 20s. And generally, whenever I ask them about how they heard my music, they say, "My father was a big fan." That amuses me, because I know that next it will be "my grandfather was a big fan."

Do you have a special pre-show ritual?

No, I used to be all about the rituals. I wouldn't eat three hours before, and would drink exactly that much of this beverage and that much of that beverage and not more than that. Now the best ritual for me is no ritual at all. I think the less precious about what's going to happen on stage, the better the shows are.

What's the most unusual thing on your tour rider?

Now, it's pretty ordinary. But then in the early Dream Syndicate days we put on "six artichokes, steamed not boiled" just to see if we'd ever get them. We got it exactly once. Strangely enough, it was at a show at Stanford right after we'd finished a tour with U2, and they gave us not only steamed artichokes, but quite a bit of mushrooms, which I didn't take, but two other members of the band took, and it ended up being a pretty interesting show. I enjoyed the artichokes.

What is your on-the-road must-have?

It's always been music and books. The biggest agony used to be picking out the 20 cassettes or 20 CDs I was going to bring on tour for two months. It was like a desert island discs thing or something, but now it's so easy. Everything is at your fingertips, which is a good thing. I have no nostalgia for the time when I had to listen to the same 20 records for eight weeks.

What's the one genre of music you'd never try to do yourself, and why not?

I don't see any black metal records in my future. Maybe in [current Dream Syndicate guitarist] Jason Victor's. He likes it more than I do. But everything is fair game. By the time it gets filtered through what you do, it's what you do. OK, I'll play black metal, too.

Do you do karaoke? If so, what's your go-to karaoke song?

The last time I did karaoke I was in a bar with two members of the Baseball Project and I sang "Losing My Religion."

What's the most surprising song/artist on your iPhone or iPod?

There's always a lot of surprising stuff. A lot of people bring me mixtapes or records on the road, which I really like, but a lot of times people misunderstand what they think I'd like. [Looking at his phone] There's an ELO compilation on here, but that's because I saw "American Hustle." [My wife and Baseball Project drummer] Linda [Pitmon] has put a moratorium on playing that song ["10538 Overture"] for the next few weeks. I was playing it over and over. It's such a great song. I had forgotten about it.

What's the most recent album you've purchased?

I just bought the new Stephen Malkmus record but it hasn't come yet. I listened to the whole thing online and it sounded great. I was a big Pavement fan, but I like his solo stuff even more. And the new Bill Callahan record. Those are probably the two newest things I've gotten and they're both great records.

Most recent concert you attended?

I haven't seen a lot because I've been touring so much. I've only seen bands I've played with, but I'm going to see the Mingus Big Band tonight at Jazz Standard in Manhattan.

The Beatles or Rolling Stones?

That was always really a very definite draw-a line-in-the-sand kind of thing back when I was younger, and I liked them both. I'd say right now Beatles, and it wasn't always that way, but I've been on a Beatles kick for a year or two.

Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly?

Elvis, but later Elvis. Nineteen sixty-eight Elvis.

Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera?

Well, I wouldn't say neither, but I really like that song "Womanizer," so I'm going with Britney Spears. I would cover that.

The Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac Shakur?

Probably Tupac, but I'd probably choose someone else. Between those two, I'd choose Tupac. I like everything Dr. Dre produces. From that era, probably Dr. Dre.

Follow Craig Rosen on Twitter.