Musicians enjoy playing music for its own sake. When they can play music for a livelihood with the freedom to express whatever emotion is apparent at the time, it can be like waking from a dream to find that the pot of gold you visualized actually exists. Steve Wynn realized his dreams as a musician and listeners have had the opportunity to experience his creative talents for several years. Thanks to the success of his 1980s band the Dream Syndicate, Wynn attained his musical dreams early in his career and has enjoyed the freedom ever since. He has made records anytime he wanted, toured anytime he wanted, and has not had to keep a day job. Listeners have had a lifetime of musical expression to follow in Wynn’s career. Wynn’s garage guitar-driven jangle inspired by the Velvet Underground, Neil Young, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, can be heard on more than 15 albums.
Recording album after album with more bands and musicians than most people manage to keep as friends, Wynn covered many styles of rock over his first two decades as a singer/songwriter. Most of Wynn’s songs were about dark subjects, however. Brett Milano shared Wynn’s perspective of songwriting in an article in the Boston Phoenix, “I guess I’m a fan of darker songs for the most part, but a lot of people are.”
It was obvious that Wynn loved to play music, so his comment to Jud Cost in Magnet was no surprise, “When musicians tell me they got screwed by their record company, I just say, ’Yeah, so what else is new. Come on, get over it. If that’s why you got into music, then you’re a loser.’ … All the people who got into [music] to make art and follow their dreams are always happy.” He explained that their happiness often comes from a process. “They can’t believe that they wrote a song, went in a studio and recorded a song, that it exists on record and lastly that somebody actually bought it.” These words were a simple description of Wynn’s career as a musician.
Wynn is a talented, hard-working musician who has pushed himself into new artistic territory throughout his multi-decade recording career. Beginning his musical work in the late 1970s, he played in several American bands, released many solo albums, and worked with groups outside the United States to earn international respect as a singer and songwriter.
While attending college, he formed his first band, a New Wave group called the Suspects. The Suspects’ only single, “Talkin’ Loud,” was released in 1979 and later became a collector’s item. After the Suspects, Wynn played in the Long Ryders with Sid Griffin. Although rising out of the same southern California punk scene, Wynn and Griffin found themselves heading in different directions musically. So, Wynn went his own way and brought along Kendra Smith, who had been in the Suspects, to form the Dream Syndicate.
The Dream Syndicate, with Karl Precoda on guitar and Dennis Duck on drums, was the most legendary of Wynn’s musical groups. It, along with bands like True West, the Long Ryders, Green On Red, and the Rain Parade, were members of an early 1980s, guitar-driven, psychedelic movement critics called the Paisley Underground. The Dream Syndicate released four albums, a few live recordings, and a couple of compilations over a lifespan of eight years. The two-guitar style—reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Fall, the Velvet Underground, and Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited period—sprung forth once more in Wynn’s most recognizable band. They generated an underground following across the United States and in Europe, and experienced moderate commercial success in the mainstream.
During the Dream Syndicate period, Wynn teamed up with Dan Stuart from Green On Red to form Danny and Dusty. They were joined by several other artists from the Paisley Underground and recorded a rough cut, country-rock album called The Lost Weekend, which was released in 1985. It included new songs and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.”
Wynn and Precoda grew apart and eventually became adversaries. This led to the breakup of the Dream Syndicate but it freed Wynn’s artistic desires. Due to a slight degree of desperation accompanying his move to being a solo artist, Wynn continued in a similar manner to the Dream Syndicate when recording his
For the Record…
Born on February 21, 1960, in Los Angeles, CA.
Began music career in college; led the Dream Syndicate, 1981–89; has recorded several solo albums; recorded with The Suspects, Danny & Dusty, and Gutterball.
Addresses: Management —Barry Everitt, European Tour Manager, Cult Artist Management & Agency, IE Harold Road, London N8 7DE, phone and fax: (+44) 181 292 2452.
first solo project. The album was Kerosene Man, and was released in 1990. It contained a glossier sound and was created from a wider range of instruments than Dream Syndicate’s style. Obviously, the album material could only have been done outside the Dream Syndicate, as the pace slowed and the mood eased into a more low-key, mellow attitude. Dazzling Display was released in 1992 as Wynn’s second solo album. According to the Rolling Stone Album Guide, it was evidence of improved writing by Wynn. It was a harder-rocking album that included an appearance by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, and a duet with Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano.
Following his two solo albums, Wynn worked in a band again. He, along with former Long Ryder Stephen McCarthy, the Silos’ Bob Rupe, and House of Freaks members Bryan Harvey and Johnny Hott, formed Gutterball in 1993. Despite being a part-time interest for Wynn, the straight-ahead rock & roll band released Gutterball in 1993, Weasel and Turnyor Hedinkov in 1995, and recorded for another album slated for release in late 2000.
Always the busy artist, Wynn also continued to record and perform under his own name. Shifting the sound a little for the next project, Wynn recorded songs that were more folk in nature and released Fluorescent in 1994. Joining Wynn on the low-key, folksy sound of the recording was John Wesley Harding on harmonica and some backing vocals, in addition to Victoria Williams on backing vocals.
Wynn and artist girlfriend Brigid Pearson moved to New York City during the mid 1990s. Wynn revealed to Cost, “I’ve wanted to live in New York since the first time I saw the place in 1981…. Despite being born and raised in Los Angeles, I’m just so much more in tune with New York: the speed at which I speak, my demeanor, the fact I like to walk and the fact that I hate cars.” Moving to the Upper West Side of the city put him on the fringe of activity but it was quieter and close enough to the action for Wynn’s pleasure.
Wynn released Melting In The Darkin 1996. The album included help from a Boston, Massachusetts group called Come. He had met Come member Thalia Zedek when Zedek played in a band that opened for Dream Syndicate 12 years prior. Wynn and Zedek kept in touch over the years and eventually played together. The work was reminiscent of the earthy sound from the Dream Syndicate. Sweetness & Light was released in 1997. It included famed Boston, Massachusetts guitarist, Rich Gilbert. Wynn expressed his excitement over the Boston music scene in 1997 to Brett Milano of The Boston Phoenix, “To me, it was, and is the premier music city in the country; so many good players come out of there. People in Boston seem to play more regularly than in any other city I’ve been to, certainly more than Los Angeles or New York.”
A couple of compilation, promotion-related compact discs were released during 1998. The Suitcase Sessions, released in January, contained sessions with Eleventh Dreamday from Melting In The Dark, a track from Gutterball, and three tracks with Come. Advertisements for Myself, released in October of 1998 had 19 songs from across his career along with a biography and slick packaging.
Another solo album, My Midnight, was released in 1999 as a limited edition. Wynn kept himself busy throughout 2000 on a variety of projects. He recorded a single each month with various musicians and made them available in MP3 format only as a Song of the Month program. In the fall of 2000, Wynn continued his wide-ranging recording career by completing a tribute cover track, recording with a Spanish band, and working on a new solo album. He had an opportunity to show respect for one of his musical influences, American Music Club, when he recorded their song “Highway Five” for the tribute album Come On Beautiful —The Songs of American Music Club. September of 2000 saw the release of Momento, a project done with Spanish group Australian Blonde. Wynn’s contribution included lyrics and vocals for the Spanish work. A solo project was recorded in Tucson, Arizona with his band and Chris Cacavas. It was scheduled to be released in the United States in early 2001 as a double album on the record label Down There.
Kerosene Man, Rhino, 1990.
Dazzling Display, Rhino, 1992.
Take Your Flunky and Dangle, Return To Sender, 1993.
Fluorescent, Mute, 1994.
Melting In The Dark, Zero Hour, 1996.
Sweetness & Light, Zero Hour, 1997.
The Suitcase Sessions, Return To Sender, 1998.
Advertisements For Myself, Poison Brisket, 1998.
My Midnight, Zero Hour, 1999.
With the Dream Syndicate
The Dream Syndicate (EP), Down There, 1982.
The Days of Wine & Roses, Slash, 1982.
Medicine Show, A&M, 1984.
This Is Not the New Dream Syndicate LP (live), A&M, 1984.
Out of the Grey, Big Time/Chrysalis, 1986.
Let It Rain, Big Time, 1986.
50 in a 25 Zone, Big Time, 1987.
Ghost Stories, Restless, 1988.
Live at Raji’s, Enigma, 1989.
The Lost Tapes—1985–1987, Normal, 1993.
(The Suspects) “Talkin’ Loud/It’s Up To You,” private pressing, 1979.
(Danny & Dusty) The Lost Weekend, A&M, 1985; reissued, Prima, 1996.
(Gutterball) Gutterball, Mute, 1993.
(Gutterball) Weasel, Brake Out, 1995.
(Gutterball) Turnyor Hedinkov, Normal, 1995.
Buckley, Johnathan, Orla Duane, and Mark Ellingham, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, second edition, Rough Guides, Ltd., 1999.
Graff, Gary and Daniel Durchholz, editors, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, second edition, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
Strong, Martin C., The Great Rock Discography, Times Books/Random House, 1998.
Magnet, August/September, 1996, pp. 42-45.
Billboard, http://www.billboard.com/reviews/afreviewdisplay.asp?artist=STEVE+WYNN+&title=Fluorescent (November 21, 2000).
Boston Phoenix, http://www.bostonphoenix.com/archive/music/97/10/02/CELLARS.html (November 21, 2000).
Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/sections/artists/text/artistgen.asp?afl=&LookUpString=1319 (November 21, 2000).
Steve Wynn Official Website, http://www.stevewynn.net (November 21, 2000).
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