Founding members Dean and Gene Ween in 1997
|Origin||New Hope, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
Claude Coleman Jr.
Ween is an American alternative rock band formed in New Hope, Pennsylvania, in 1984 by childhood friends Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, better known by their respective stage names, Gene and Dean Ween. After meeting in a middle-school typing class, the two began playing music and immediately chose the name Ween as well as their Ramones-inspired pseudonyms. Ween performed as a duo backed by a Digital Audio Tape for the band's first ten years of existence before expanding to a four- (and later five-) piece act. The band's highest charting single is "Push th' Little Daisies", which was a hit in the United States, New Zealand and Australia.
While Ween is generally categorized as an alternative rock band, they are known for their highly eclectic catalog of songs inspired by funk, soul, country, gospel, prog, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and more. Despite never receiving much mainstream recognition, Ween developed a large, devoted cult following. After a 28-year run, Freeman quit the band in 2012, citing the need to focus on his alcohol and drug addiction issues.
In November 2015, Ween announced a February 2016 reunion for three shows in Colorado, with later dates subsequently announced.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early years (1984–1989)
- 1.2 Lo-fi period (1990–1993)
- 1.3 Chocolate and Cheese, 12 Golden Country Greats, and The Mollusk (1994–1999)
- 1.4 White Pepper, Quebec, La Cucaracha, and live albums (2000–2007)
- 1.5 Focus on non-Ween projects, Vancouver meltdown (2008–2011)
- 1.6 Breakup (2011–2015)
- 1.7 Reunion (2015–present)
- 2 Style and influences
- 3 Themes and mythology
- 4 Members
- 5 Discography
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early years (1984–1989)
Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo met in a junior high school typing class in 1984. Freeman recalled, “We didn't like each other. He was a jock, and I was more of a trench-coat guy. But we sat next to each other in typing class and both realized we were into music.” The name Ween was a word made up by the duo, a combination of the words wuss and penis. Their earliest home recordings were drug fueled and free-spirited; Melchiondo would later say about this era, “the music was designed to be obnoxious”.
From 1984 until 1994, Ween's live lineup consisted of Freeman on lead vocals and occasional rhythm guitar, Melchiondo on lead guitar and backing vocals, and a Digital Audio Tape (DAT) machine providing the pre-recorded backing tracks. They self-released six cassettes in the late eighties: Mrs. Slack (1985), The Crucial Squeegie Lip (1986), Axis: Bold as Boognish (1987), Erica Peterson's Flaming Crib Death (1987), The Live Brain Wedgie/WAD (1988), and Prime 5 (1989). In 1987, Freeman also released his own tape, Synthetic Socks, which featured Melchiondo on a few tracks. Ween's public debut was at the New Hope-Solebury High School talent show in 1986, where they performed a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" with Chris Williams (a.k.a. Mean Ween) on bass and Karl Weimer on drums. Although this era was mostly just Freeman, Melchiondo and the DAT machine, they did play a few shows in the '80s as "The Ween" backed by the Rollins Band rhythm section, Andrew Weiss and Sim Cain.
By 1988, Ween had become regulars at John and Peter's in New Hope and City Gardens in Trenton, New Jersey. At City Gardens, they opened for acts such as They Might Be Giants, GWAR, Butthole Surfers, and Henry Rollins. Following a February 1990 City Gardens performance where Ween's reception was lukewarm, Rollins got on stage and warned the crowd to “start liking them now”, for one day, “you will get down on your filthy knees and crawl to the altar that is Ween”.
Lo-fi period (1990–1993)
Dave Ayers, working in A&R for Minneapolis-based record label Twin/Tone, went to see a live performance by alt-rock band Skunk in the late '80s in Maplewood, New Jersey in anticipation of signing them to a record deal. Ween, friends of Skunk, was the opening act that night. Ayers signed Ween to Twin/Tone that night, and would soon become the band's manager. Skunk would break up in 1991 and their drummer, Claude Coleman, Jr., would play a few shows with Ween in 1992 before joining the band full-time in 1994.
Ween's debut album for Twin/Tone, GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, was released on January 1, 1990. It consisted of 26 tracks that were written during their first six years, and can be thought of as a "best of" this era. Some of the songs, such as "You Fucked Up" and "Bumblebee", had already appeared on various Ween cassettes from the late '80s. "You Fucked Up", "Fat Lenny", "Nan", and the heavily Prince-inspired "L.M.L.Y.P." would become staples of the band's live show for years to come. Ween played their first overseas shows in support of the album, with a series of dates in the Netherlands in December/January 1990–91.
The band released their second full-length album, The Pod, in 1991 on the Shimmy-Disc label. Recorded on a four-track cassette recorder from January to October 1990, the album borrows its title from the Solebury Township, Pennsylvania apartment in which it was recorded. The duo's use of drum machines, pitch-shifted guitars and vocals and drug-laced humor became a trademark part of their sound. The cover of The Pod was a parody of the cover of the 1975 Leonard Cohen album, The Best of Leonard Cohen, but with the head of Chris "Mean Ween" Williams (who played bass on the Pod track "Alone") in place of Cohen's. Although the liner notes claim the album was recorded under the influence of scotchgard, Freeman would later say that this was tongue-in-cheek. Following the release of The Pod, Ween embarked on their first extensive U.S. tour, as well as a week-long U.K. tour that included a recording with John Peel in the BBC studio. The February 1992 U.K. tour would be Ween's first performances with Claude Coleman Jr., and also featured Shimmy-Disc founder Kramer on bass.
Ween signed with Elektra Records and released their major label debut Pure Guava on November 10, 1992. Pure Guava featured their highest charting single, "Push th' Little Daisies" which gained them media and MTV attention, as the video was a highlighted target on MTV's Beavis and Butt-Head. The song was also a hit in Australia, reaching #18 on the singles chart. The track "Flies on My Dick" featured lead vocals by Guy Heller, singer of Melchiondo's other band, Moistboyz. Heller would occasionally perform the song live with Ween. Ween toured the U.S. in support of the album, and the December 9 show in Chapel Hill, NC would later be released as the CD/DVD package At the Cat's Cradle, 1992 in 2008. Also in support of Pure Guava, Ween performed at MTV's Spring Break in Daytona Beach, FL as well as on The Jane Pratt Show.
Chocolate and Cheese, 12 Golden Country Greats, and The Mollusk (1994–1999)
Following the release of Pure Guava, Ween began to expand their live and studio lineup, providing both a crisper production sound in the studio and an easier live setup. Claude Coleman Jr. officially joined the band as drummer in March 1994, while Ween's long-time producer Andrew Weiss picked up the bass duties. The Weiss-produced Chocolate and Cheese was released in 1994, featuring tracks influenced by '70s pop/rock and soul, such as "Freedom of '76" and "Voodoo Lady", the latter of which appeared on the Road Trip and Dude, Where's My Car? soundtracks. The "Freedom of '76" music video was directed by Spike Jonze; the band also shot a video for "I Can't Put My Finger On It" that was filmed at a Middle Eastern restaurant and featured actual employees of the restaurant. Both videos would be shown on season 5 of Beavis and Butt-Head in 1995. Ween performed "I Can't Put My Finger On It" on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in January 1995. The Chocolate and Cheese track "Roses Are Free" began being covered by Phish regularly in concert in 1997. Freeman would later comment: "I like Trey Anastasio as a person, but as far as the music goes, all that jam band shit makes me want to puke". In 2011, Chocolate and Cheese would have a book written about it by Hank Shteamer, as a part of the 33⅓ book series about music albums.
One month prior to the release of Chocolate and Cheese, Ween would appear in the Saturday Night Live film It's Pat, starring Julia Sweeney. The band (which in the film consisted of Freeman, Melchiondo, Weiss, and Weiss' brother John Weiss as the drummer) was featured in a memorable supporting role and also performed the Pod track "Pork Roll, Egg & Cheese" as well as the Pure Guava track "Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)". The film was both a critical and box office failure, and was subsequently pulled from theaters one week after its opening weekend.
Also in 1994, Freeman, Melchiondo and Coleman collaborated with Japanese noise rock band Boredoms on a project that would be released two years later as Z-Rock Hawaii. Melchiondo became a big fan of Boredoms upon seeing them live in Philadelphia in 1993, calling them "the heaviest band [he] had ever seen since the Butthole Surfers". Boredoms frontman Yamantaka Eye had previously released an album that heavily sampled Ween's Pod album. These recording sessions took place in a Pennington, New Jersey studio during the recording of Chocolate and Cheese.
Ween turned to Nashville studio musicians for the November 1995 recording of 12 Golden Country Greats (1996) which contained only ten tracks. There are two theories regarding the title of the album. The first claim is that it refers to the dozen veteran musicians, known as The Shit Creek Boys, who played on the album. The second claim refers to the fact that the band did indeed record twelve songs during the demo sessions for the album. When it came time to record the actual album, the band chose not to use two of the songs but also decided not to change the album title. The two removed songs were titled "I Got No Darkside" and "So Long, Jerry". "So Long, Jerry", a tribute to the then recently deceased Jerry Garcia, was featured as a B-Side on the "Piss Up a Rope" single. Sticking to Nashville tradition, Freeman and Melchiondo provided only vocals, allowing The Shit Creek Boys to play all the instruments. Elvis Presley's former backing vocal quartet The Jordanaires appeared on the tracks "I'm Holding You" and "Powder Blue".
After a brief return to the original lineup of Freeman, Melchiondo and the DAT machine for a series of dates opening for the Foo Fighters, Ween went on tour with the Shit Creek Boys in October 1996. This lineup performed not only 12 Golden Country Greats material, but also played Ween songs from previous eras with added country instrumentation, including the Pure Guava tracks "Pumpin' 4 the Man" and "Push th' Little Daisies" and the Chocolate and Cheese tracks "What Deaner Was Talkin' About" and "Buenas Tardes Amigo". Parts of the October 23 show at Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre would later be released as the album, Live in Toronto Canada (2001).
The nautically themed album The Mollusk followed in 1997. The album was another eclectic set showing Ween's penchant for satire, deconstruction, and pastiche, including 1960s Brit-pop, sea shanties, Broadway show tunes, and especially progressive rock. Months prior to its release, Freeman would describe the album as "our dark, acid rock record". In 2007, Melchiondo himself named The Mollusk his favorite among Ween's oeuvre. The Mollusk was the album to finally feature studio recordings of "Buckingham Green" and "The Blarney Stone", both of which had been performed regularly in concert for years. Although they did not play on the album, bassist Dave Dreiwitz and keyboardist Glenn McClelland joined the band in April 1997; their debut was a performance of the Mollusk track "The Golden Eel" on an episode of the Comedy Central show Viva Variety. The lineup of Freeman-Melchiondo-McClelland-Dreiwitz-Coleman would remain the same until Ween's breakup in 2012.
Following the release of the Mollusk, Ween would contribute two songs to two different Trey Parker/Matt Stone projects. The song "Love" would appear in the film Orgazmo in September 1997. The song "The Rainbow", as well as Freeman and Melchiondo themselves, appeared in a season 2 episode of South Park, titled "Chef Aid" in October 1998. It was later released on the compilation Chef Aid: The South Park Album. Parker & Stone would later direct the music video for the White Pepper track "Even If You Don't".
The band's desire to pursue alternate forms of media led to the MP3-only release Craters of the Sac (1999), presented by Melchiondo for online download and free trade. Elektra Records released a live compilation titled Paintin' the Town Brown: Ween Live 1990-1998 in 1999.
White Pepper, Quebec, La Cucaracha, and live albums (2000–2007)
Ween's sixth studio album, White Pepper, was the band's final studio release for Elektra and was released May 2, 2000. The pop-themed, Lennon-McCartney–inspired album produced two singles: "Even If You Don't", which was made into a music video directed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and "Stay Forever". Shortly after the release of White Pepper, Ween started the Internet radio station WeenRadio, which was awarded third best Internet music site by Rolling Stone. In July 2000, Ween performed the White Pepper track "Exactly Where I'm At" on the Late Show with David Letterman.
In November 2000, Ween contributed the song "Loop de Loop" for the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Your Shoe's Untied". SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg had contacted Ween and told them that The Mollusk was one of the show's biggest inspirations. Many future episodes of SpongeBob would also contain subtle references to Ween. Additionally, the Mollusk track "Ocean Man" was featured in the closing credits of The SpongeBob Movie in 2004.
Ween formed their own label in 2001, Chocodog Records, which oversaw the release of several self-produced live sets. Paintin' the Town Brown, which was compiled and mastered by the band, was meant to be the first Chocodog release. According to Melchiondo, once the album was completed, Elektra realized the sales potential of the CD and denied Ween the right to release it through Chocodog. Later, Ween released the first official Chocodog album, Live in Toronto. The limited-pressing CD, available exclusively through the band website, became an instant collector's item. Subsequent Chocodog releases were produced in higher volumes to meet demand.
To celebrate the re-release of the band's debut album GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, Ween returned to the original lineup of Freeman, Melchiondo, and the DAT to perform the album in its entirety on September 15, 2001, at John and Peter's in New Hope. Taping was not permitted at this show; in 2015 Melchiondo described it as "the ultimate unreleased bootleg" but claimed it would someday be released.
On August 7, 2002, Claude Coleman Jr. was seriously injured in a car accident on Route 78 near Newark, New Jersey, suffering a broken back and pelvis. Ween quickly organized a couple of benefit shows at New York City's Bowery Ballroom in October to help cover his medical bills. Ween recruited Vandals drummer Josh Freese to perform at these gigs as well as on the band's next album, Quebec. Coleman would make his comeback in December, backing up Freeman at an acoustic show in Brooklyn. Also in December, Ween would release the three-disc Live at Stubb's, which contained parts of two performances in Austin, Texas from July 2000 during the White Pepper tour.
Ween signed to Sanctuary Records and released Quebec, their first studio release in three years, on August 5, 2003. Quebec was noticeably darker in tone than much of Ween's work; according to Freeman, many of the songs were written as he was going through divorce: “I wrote most of these songs right before the end [of the relationship]. A lot of these songs are about that. Even if it’s not direct, you can feel the beginning of the end of the breakup in these songs.” Melchiondo would add, "I like it as a record, but it's very negative. It's one of our darker records, I think. I don't listen to any of our records, but I have never listened to that one." On September 3, Ween performed the Quebec track "Happy Colored Marbles" on Last Call with Carson Daly.
Later that year, the band held a poll on their official message boards to select songs for the band to play on their forthcoming live-in-studio album All Request Live. Released on November 22, the album would feature a performance of all five parts of "The Stallion" (Parts 1 & 2 from The Pod, Part 3 from Pure Guava, the unreleased Part 4, and Part 5 from Craters of the Sac). On November 3rd, 2017, they would perform "The Stallion Suite" live at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, TX. All Request Live also included rarely played early Ween tracks such as "Pollo Asado", "Mononucleosis", and "Cover it with Gas and Set it on Fire", as well as Ween's rejected Pizza Hut jingle, "Where'd the Cheese Go?".
In 2004, Ween released Live in Chicago, a DVD and CD set that compiled tracks from two live performances from the Quebec tour at Chicago's Vic Theatre in November 2003. After playing the festival circuit in the summer, Ween hit the road for a West Coast tour in October. Following the October 17 show in San Diego, Ween's manager Greg Frey announced that the upcoming Midwest tour would be canceled so Freeman could enter alcohol rehab. In the statement, Frey wrote: "There is a problem within the band, that requires an immediate intervention, for the health, welfare and safety of one of its members. For this member, years of touring have taken their toll." Ween would take a year-long hiatus from touring before hitting the road again in October 2005.
In 2005, Ween hit the studio to record better quality versions of previously unreleased songs for the compilation Shinola, Vol. 1. The twelve tracks were all, according to Melchiondo, "songs we regretted not putting on other records". The tracks spanned the band's career, from "Tastes Good on th' Bun", a Pod outtake, to "Someday", a Quebec outtake. Different versions of three of the songs, "Big Fat Fuck", "How High Can You Fly?" and "Monique the Freak" had previously appeared on Craters of the Sac. Melchiondo would later comment, "We called it Volume 1, but I don't know if I want to go through that again anytime soon".
In February 2006, Ween rented an old farmhouse and converted it into a working studio. After writing over 50 songs and recording rough versions through 2006, they picked through them and, with Andrew Weiss as producer, re-recorded album versions for what would become The Friends EP and the full-length La Cucaracha which was released October 23, 2007 on Rounder Records. La Cucaracha, which would prove to be Ween's final album, would later be called a "big piece of shit" by Freeman, adding, "I think the songs on it were good, or a bunch of songs, but overall that was a big clue Mickey and I were finito".
Focus on non-Ween projects, Vancouver meltdown (2008–2011)
On September 21, 2008, Melchiondo announced on the official Ween website that they planned to release a CD-DVD combo before Christmas of that year. He stated, "This time we’re going to be going all the way back to the days when we were still a duo with a cassette deck in the early 90s. It’s probably the brownest CD on the Chocodog label yet." That CD was titled At the Cat's Cradle and was recorded live at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina on December 9, 1992. The package also included a DVD featuring some video of performances from the same era.
Although Freeman had occasionally played solo acoustic shows before 2008, he turned his focus towards these shows—billed as "Gene Ween"—following the La Cucaracha tour. On top of that, in December 2008, he began performing with "The Gene Ween Band", which featured Dreiwitz on bass along with Joe Russo on drums and Scott Metzger on guitar. The set-lists of these shows featured more obscure Ween songs rarely played at Ween shows, a few covers, as well as numerous Freeman-penned songs being performed for the first time. Freeman would perform dozens of shows both solo and with the Gene Ween Band from 2008 to 2011. His first solo record, Marvelous Clouds, an album of Rod McKuen covers, would be released three weeks before Ween's breakup.
While Freeman was working on non-Ween musical projects, Melchiondo turned his focus to fishing. Melchiondo, who spent a lot of time in his youth at his parents' beach house in Beach Haven, New Jersey, became a licensed fishing boat captain and hosted a web series, "Brownie Troop Fishing Show", from 2008 to 2011. As of 2015, he still offers trips on his website, "Mickey's Guide Service", running them out of New Hope as well as Belmar, NJ. In 2013, it was announced that Trey Parker and Matt Stone would be producing a pilot for a reality television show about fishing, starring Melchiondo and Les Claypool.
On February 3, 2010, Ween released a new song, "DC Won't Do You No Good", that became available through a Target Cancer website. On July 28, 2010, the National Post featured an article, with an interview with Melchiondo, in which it was stated that the band is due in the studio this winter to start work on their tenth album.
Ween embarked on a brief West Coast tour at the beginning of 2011. The first show of the tour, January 24 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, British Columbia, was a turning point in Ween's history. It was noticeable from the start that something was off with Freeman, who played the tambourine off-beat on the first song, "Fiesta". His vocals were off-key throughout the night, and he appeared to be heavily intoxicated. Eventually, Freeman lay down on stage while the rest of the band played an instrumental, jam version of the Carpenters song "Superstar". As Freeman began tuning his guitar in preparation for "Birthday Boy", Melchiondo and Dreiwitz walked off the stage, while Coleman and McClelland switched instruments. After "Birthday Boy" was finished, Coleman and McClelland left Freeman to play the final four songs by himself and horribly off-key. Despite this disaster, the band performed in Seattle, Washington, the following night with no issues. Freeman later wrote a song about the Vancouver incident, "Covert Discretion", which appeared as the opening track to self-titled debut album, by his new band, called Freeman, in 2014. That same year, he commented, "You don't blow it on stage, lying on your back, screaming nonsense in front of 5,000 people and not try to change something. Chances are when you're doing something like that, you've got to do something differently."
On August 11, 2011, Melchiondo quietly released an MP3-only collection of songs called The Caesar Demos, named after the band's original working title for Quebec, to friends on his Facebook page. In his comment, he stated the songs were all recorded between 2001 and 2003 while Claude Coleman was recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident, and that many of the tracks featured only himself and Freeman. In addition to a handful of tracks that eventually made Quebec, Caesar Demos would also feature several previously unreleased tracks. Freeman was not happy with Melchiondo's decision to release Caesar Demos without consulting him. Posting on the band's official message boards under the handle "Taer", Freeman commented: "The Caesar demo release was the straw that broke the camels back. Nobody asked Gener before releasing...Deaner broke the golden rule. the Boognish wept that day."
Freeman announced to Rolling Stone on May 29, 2012, that he was "retiring Gene Ween", and a few days later, Ween's manager, Greg Frey, told fans on Facebook that Freeman had decided to "end his musical relationship with Ween", in order to "more fully explore and pursue his solo career". Melchiondo appeared to be unaware of this, stating on his Facebook page "This is news to me, all I can say for now I guess". On July 20, Melchiondo addressed the supposed "breakup" and stated "I can only speak for myself, but as far as I’m concerned, as long as Aaron and I are both alive on this planet, Ween is still together. We’ve never broken up. The idea of quitting is just laughable. This isn’t something you can quit. This is a life sentence."
Later, Freeman confirmed his departure from Ween was triggered by his desire to remain sober, saying "All that matters to me is that I’m getting sober. Becoming an out of control drug addict and alcoholic is my own fault and I take responsibility for it. I HAD to leave the Ween organization to stay sober."
Although no one knew it at the time, Ween's final performances for more than four years were a three-night run at Denver's Fillmore Auditorium December 29–31, 2011, with "The Blarney Stone" being the final song performed by the band until their 2016 reunion. Melchiondo quickly re-formed Moistboyz, which had been on a six-year hiatus, and also started a new band, The Dean Ween Group. Freeman played solo shows until 2014, when he began touring and recording with his new band, "Freeman". In 2015, Freeman began using the Gene Ween moniker again for live performances.
On November 16, 2015, Ween announced that they would reunite for two concerts at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, CO on February 12 and 13, 2016. During ticket presale, a third show was added on February 14, 2016 due to demand. Throughout 2016, Ween played sporadic reunion shows in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, and San Francisco. The band also made festival appearances in Toronto, Chicago, Portland, Arrington, Virginia, Okeechobee, Florida, and Manchester, Tennessee, for Bonnaroo, which was streamed online via Red Bull TV. The band was also due to appear in April at Levitation Festival in Austin, which was canceled the day before the weekend began.
A sequel to the first outtakes collection, Shinola vol. 1, was confirmed to be in the works by Dean Ween on Facebook in January 2016. On October 19th, 2016 the band announced the release of the live album GodWeenSatan Live, which was recorded on September 14, 2001, and features the band performing its debut album in its entirety. It was released on November 16, 2016. On June 1, 2018, Warner Brothers released a compilation album titled Bananas and Blow, according to Melchiondo, the band had no knowledge of the compilation until it was released. Melchiondo felt that the song choice for the compilation felt "random".
Style and influences
Ween is known for its far-reaching musical approach which takes influence from many different genres of music. This style has been termed alternative rock and experimental rock by critics and journalists. Melchiondo once stated, "Each of us had different things in our record collections that the other one didn't have. Aaron's dad had a lot of psychedelic records, I was really into punk rock, and we would just turn each other on to music." Freeman remarked in 2011, "I think when Ween formed I was really into the synthesizer New Wave thing of the mid-'80s and Mickey was more into the punk rock thing".
Both Freeman and Melchiondo have stated several times that one of the band's biggest influences was Prince. The GodWeenSatan track "L.M.L.Y.P." borrows lyrics from two Prince songs, "Alphabet St." and "Shockadelica". Additionally, Ween has jammed on Prince's "Kiss", frequently placing it in the middle of "Voodoo Lady" during live performances. Other Prince songs covered in concert by Ween include "1999", "Housequake", and "Purple Rain". In 2012, Melchiondo remarked on his website that "by far, hands down the greatest living guitarist in any genre is Prince Rogers Nelson. Prince does so many things well that it’s easy to forget that he is also a world class shredder."
Other stated influences include The Beatles, Parliament-Funkadelic, the Butthole Surfers, Pink Floyd, the Dead Kennedys, Laurie Anderson, The Allman Brothers Band, James Brown, Devo, and Earth, Wind and Fire. In concert, Ween has frequently covered songs by David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Motörhead, Van Halen, The Doors, Frank Sinatra, and Billy Joel.
Because of Ween's wide variety of styles and humorous lyrics, they have often been compared to Frank Zappa. Both members have denied Zappa's influence, and in a 2011 interview Freeman stated that although he was influenced by The Mothers of Invention, he was never a fan of Zappa's post-Mothers work. Freeman did perform the Mothers-era Zappa song "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?" at the Frank Zappa Day Festival in Baltimore in September 2011.
Themes and mythology
From Ween's earliest days, they claimed to be "sprouted from the demon-god Boognish". The image of the Boognish is the band's logo. Boognish is also featured in the lyrics of several Ween songs, including "Up on th' Hill", "Pass the Bong", and "The Stallion, pt. 4". The band coined their own term "brown", which is used to describe performances, songs, etc. that are "fucked up, in a good way". The word "brown" is also featured in the lyrics of the songs "Can't Put My Finger on It", "Mutilated Lips", "If You Could Save Yourself (You'd Save Us All)", and "Chocolate Town," as well as the title of the band's live album Paintin' the Town Brown. Another commonly used word is "waste" ("Can U Taste the Waste?", "Tender Situation", and "Back to Basom").
The band's lyrics also commonly contain references to the band's members, frequent collaborators and friends, including Freeman ("I Saw Gener Cryin' In His Sleep", "Up on th' Hill", and "Puffy Cloud"), Melchiondo ("What Deaner Was Talkin' About", "Puffy Cloud", "The Stallion, pt. 2", and "Leave Deaner Alone"), Williams ("Booze Me Up and Get Me High" and "Sketches of Winkle"), Weiss ("Pass the Bong" and "Booze Me Up and Get Me High"), and Larry "Eddie Dingle" Curtin ("Nan", "Laura", "Pork Roll, Egg & Cheese", and "Molly"). In a 2015 interview with Songfacts, Claude Coleman, Jr. denied that "Waving My Dick In the Wind" was about him, calling the idea "complete nonsense." However, he noted that the song "I Don't Wanna Leave You on the Farm" was written about him not wanting to leave his then-girlfriend to go on tour.
Ween has also been known for countless references to food, most notably the New Jersey regional favorite pork roll, found in the lyrics to four Pod tracks: "Pork Roll, Egg & Cheese", "Frank", "Awesome Sound", and "She Fucks Me". The Pod track "Pollo Asado" features Freeman giving a rendition of a conversation he had with a customer while he worked at New Hope's El Taco Loco. The liner notes of GodWeenSatan: The Oneness instructed Ween fans to bring food for the band to their concerts.
- Mean Ween (Chris Williams)—bass on Chocolate and Cheese, The Mollusk and "Alone" (The Pod), backing vocals on "Little Birdy" (Pure Guava), live 1987
- Sim Cain—drums on Quebec, live 1988
- Kramer—bass, live 1992
- Scott Lowe—backing vocals on "Don't Get Too Close" (Pure Guava), Chocolate and Cheese, "The Rift" (Shinola, Vol. 1)
- Guy Heller—vocals on "Flies on My Dick" (Pure Guava), live
- William Tucker—guitar, live 1994
- Pat Frey—drums on "Baby Bitch (Chocolate and Cheese)", "Mango Woman", "I'll Miss You", "Shot Heard 'Round the World"
- Bobby Ogdin—piano; Charlie McCoy, harmonica/trumpet/tuba; Pete Wade, guitar; Buddy Harman, drums; Russ Hicks, steel guitar; Bob Wray, bass; Kip Paxton, bass; Buddy Blackman, banjo; Buddy Spicher, fiddle; Hargus "Pig" Robbins, piano; Dennis Solee, clarinet; Gene Chrisman, drums – (12 Golden Country Greats)
- The Shit Creek Boys—Bobby Ogdin, piano; Danny Parks, guitar; Stu Basore, steel guitar; Hank Singer, fiddle — live 1996/Live In Toronto Canada/Paintin' the Town Brown: Ween Live 1990–1998
- The Jordanaires—backing vocals on "I'm Holding You" and "Powder Blue" (12 Golden Country Greats)
- Matt Kohut—bass, live 1996
- Bill Fowler—guitar on "Polka Dot Tail" (The Mollusk), live 2000
- Jason Fuller—keyboards, live 2001
- Josh Freese—drums on Quebec
- Tomato—drums, live 2000
- David Sanborn—saxophone on "Your Party" (La Cucaracha)
- GodWeenSatan: The Oneness (1990)
- The Pod (1991)
- Pure Guava (1992)
- Chocolate and Cheese (1994)
- 12 Golden Country Greats (1996)
- The Mollusk (1997)
- White Pepper (2000)
- Quebec (2003)
- La Cucaracha (2007)
- Nick Talevski. Rock Obituaries - Knocking On Heaven's Door. Books.google.com. p. 662. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
- Jaime Joyce. Moonshine: A Cultural History of America's Infamous Liquor. Books.google.com. p. 6. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
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