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Aaron Freeman closes the book on Ween
(Ween ©Retna)

By Darren Levin

For most of his life he's been Gene Ween, the nimble-voiced frontman of one of rock's great genre-hoppers -- but Aaron Freeman is finally ready to put his alter-ego to bed. "It's time to move on," Freeman told Rolling Stone from his home in New Jersey. "I'm retiring Gene Ween."

So does that mean the end for Ween, the band that Freeman formed with high school friend Mickey Melchiondo (a.k.a. Dean Ween) in New Hope, Pennsylvania, in the mid-Eighties?

"Pretty much, yeah," says Freeman. "It's been a long time, 25 years. It was a good run."

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Freeman, who released his solo debut Marvelous Clouds earlier this month, says there's no animosity towards his bandmates or Melchiondo, who he met in the eighth grade. He says the pair are still on speaking terms, even though he's been contemplating the decision for the past eight years.

"For me it's a closed book. In life sometimes, in the universe, you have to close some doors to have others open," says Freeman. "There's no, 'God---- that such and such!' For me, I'd like to think it's a door I can close finally."

Freeman and Melchiondo released a slew of home-recorded tapes in the Eighties before they tasted unlikely MTV success in 1992 with "Push th' Little Daisies," from their major-label debut "Pure Guava." After that novelty single, Ween went on to release albums that reflected their intense love of music, from metal to MOR and all points in between. On 1996's "Golden Country Greats," they brought in Nashville session players for an album of country originals, while saxophonist David Sanborn guested on "Your Party," from Ween's most recent album, 2007's "La Cucaracha."

But question marks over Ween's future were raised following an onstage meltdown by Freeman at a show in Vancouver last year. The singer spent several weeks in an Arizona rehab facility battling substance abuse issues. Back at home and in good spirits, he says that his solo debut helped him get back on track. "It's a nice recovery record, definitely," he says.

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Like most of Ween's oeuvre, Marvelous Clouds is another unexpected detour: a covers album of tunes by the reclusive Sixties songwriter Rod McKuen. In his heyday, McKuen was penning songs for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Perry Como, but he's become somewhat of an obscure figure since he retired from the stage in the early-Eighties.

"I was struck by the simplicity and power of songs," says Freeman, who came to McKuen through Golden Country Greats producer Ben Vaughn. "Anybody that can accomplish that kind of thing is great."

Freeman recently spent an afternoon with the 79-year-old singer in his Beverly Hills home. "He's got this incredible studio downstairs in his house -- it hasn't been touched since 1973. He's got a room full of master tapes ... He's got probably thousands of songs that haven't seen the light of day."

So is another volume of McKuen covers on the cards?

"I could make five more Rod McKuen records, but that could get a little weird," jokes Freeman, who plans on releasing an album of original material next.

"It's important to know that this isn't a side project. I'm forging a new thing for myself. So that's all. There's no plans for any records or touring for Ween from my end."

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Jun 1, 2012 11:53AM

My old friend and I used to drive around listening to random albums, and one particular night he had an album titled "White Pepper".  The first song he played was Bananas and Blow. I thought it was a fun, very enjoyable song. The very next song was Stroker Ace. My next reaction was "wow" these guys are rocking the ****. The next song was Ice Castles. My mind was blown and my life was changed forever. How can these weirdos perform so many genres of music and be good at them all? With all that said, I wouldnt be the person I am today without Ween. They took me to lands of fantasy and reality. No matter what mood I was in, Ween worked. They tought me to live a fun and simple life, not take things so seriously, not to be greedy. We only have one life to live and Ween showed me how to enjoy this horrible world with my own peice of mind. To the people who have never heard of Ween, It's never too late. Do yourself a favor and give them a shot. It's your loss if you dont. Turn off your tv. Turn off the radio. Turn off Twitter. You wont find them there.

May 30, 2012 7:01PM

I loved Ween, partied to a lot of their freaky music. Push the little daisies and make them come up.......

May 30, 2012 10:27AM
I thought Gene and Dean Ween were really brothers. I've been a fan for a long time, but this is news to me.
May 30, 2012 9:52AM
Yeah...I suspect you have never heard of any bands outside of what are played on top 40 radio. Guess what? There are thousands of very popular bands that exist outside of that. Ween have been cult favorites since I can remember.
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