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Rock N Roll Mamas

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Zia McCabe Interview

Keyboardist, bassist, and vocalist Zia McCabe began her musical career in 1995 when she joined The Dandy Warhols. Influenced by the psychedelic pop of The Velvet Underground, the band gained an underground following in the US and more commercial success in Europe with their 1997 album The Dandy Warhols Come Down. The band has released five albums, the most recent of which is Odditorium or Warlords of Mars. Along with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols were the subjects of the 2004 documentary Dig! The film, made over the course of seven years by Ondi Timoner, captured the relationship of the bands as they went from obscurity to success. Zia is married to Travis Hendricks and is mother to two-year-old Matilda Louise.

JW: Before the Dandy Warhols, I’ve heard that you didn’t know how to play any instruments. How did you end up in a band, and how did you learn to become a musician?

ZM: Well, I always wanted to be a performer/artist of some sort. When I was little I thought it would be a dancer, and in college I was heading towards metal sculpture. Luckily, I took a beginning guitar class for fun in college, that really helped once I was in the band, I could recognize the chords and play along, also the dance background was good for rhythm.

JW: You have a two-year-old. Most people don’t think of motherhood and being in a rock band as two things that normally go together. Could you talk about the experience of being pregnant and being a mother while being a member of well-known band?

ZM: We were lucky to have scheduled the pregnancy perfectly so that I was able to do a summer festival tour pregnant. I really enjoyed being onstage with Matilda in my belly, having my bass rig rumbling behind me. I hope Tildy grows up with a special appreciation for music because of it. I was also lucky to finish recording “odditorium or warlords of mars” exactly one week before Matilda was born.

I don’t really know how having a baby/toddler goes together with anything else, but somehow most of us are able to pull it off. It’s great that my husband works for the band so bringing her with us on tour wasn’t such a crazy idea. The thing that I miss most is my free time. One party per tour is plenty for me these days, but I never thought I would miss all that time I spent just laying in my bunk reading or drinking tea and staring out the window as the tour bus rolled down the highway.

The thing that I gained that I didn’t expect was all the fun things Tildy and I do during the day. The pre-mom Zia would have been sleeping off a hangover. I had never even gotten around to going to la Louvre in all the times I’d been to Paris!

JW: You tour about six months a year out of the United States. How do you make the transition between lifeat home and life on the road? What are some of yourmost memorable touring experiences? Is there a gig or a tour you know you’ll never forget?

ZM: Well, we start packing and getting the house in order about a week before we leave, and we unpack and start cooking meals about a week after we return. The transition is pretty smooth at this point because we’ve done it so many times.

All the tours run together for me. So my only reference point now is how big Matilda was. It was crazy when she was tiny, just hauling her around in her carseat from bus to venue to taxi to hotel and back again. It was so much better once she could walk at ten months. Then, she could hang out in the venues and watch soundchecks with her headphones on–actually an army-surplus cloth helmet with built-in earphones. It’s really cute.

I will always have a strong memory of a summer tour when she was one-and-a-half years old. Each gig was only 45 minutes, and we were flying to each show, so it wasn’t worth it to have a nanny. I would have her until I walked onstage and someone local from the festival would play with her while I played and then I would have her again right when I got off stage, not a lot of me time or rockstar time, but still fun.

JW: What type of music do you like? What bands do you listen to? Do you have any favorites people might find surprising?

ZM: Well we always have on the classical radio station playing quietly unless we are listening to something else. Which is usually old country. I am a huge fan of Willie Nelson I also like stuff like Beta Band and Spiritualized. Old rock’n’roll—Stones, Beatles, etc. I could go on and on….

JW: You did some of the photography for the “Welcome to the Monkeyhouse” cover. How did you get started in photography? What does photography offer you that music doesn’t?

ZM: I like to think that a good artist can dabble in any medium–photography, graphic design, painting, sculpture, etc. I know that music doesn’t totally fit into this, but all of us in the band feel that we relate more to the artist than the musician. Photography is a fun and great way to document our amazing life. My mom is a great natural, untrained photographer and artist in many ways, so I’m sure I got my eye and style partly from her.

JW: You’ve mentioned previously to me that you are writing a children’s book. Can you tell us what it’s about? Have you always been interested in writing or is this a new interest?

ZM: I’ve always considered myself a terrible writer. So, the emphasis will be more on the photos I’m using for the illustrations. It has to do with Matilda being on the road, and that’s all I’m saying.

JW: What would people who know your music well be most surprised to learn about you?

ZM: Maybe my love of power tools? Or even more surprising–that I’m a great mom!

JW: If you could play in any venue in the world, where would it be? If you could collaborate with anyone you wanted, who would it be? If you could play for any person–living or dead–who would it be? Any chance we’ll ever see that concert?

ZM: Well let’s see, we’ve already played with David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Tom Petty. I would really like to get the chance to play tambourine onstage with Willie Nelson anywhere in Texas. That would be a dream come true.