Ween’s Claude Coleman Jr.
Times have changed, and so has his address. For the longtime member of one of America’s most beloved left-of-center rock bands—reunited after several years apart—it’s all for the better.
Getting divorced from your wife soon after the band you’ve been playing with for twenty years breaks up is the kind of one-two punch that can drive a person to a pretty dark place. Or it can inspire a total uprooting. In the case of Ween’s ace drummer, Claude Coleman Jr., making a major move proved to be a way forward, personally and creatively.
“I’ve defected out of Yankee territory into the South,” says the New Jersey native of his relocation to Asheville, North Carolina, the formerly sleepy mountain town that’s become a gentrified haven for creative types over the last fifteen years. “It’s been the greatest thing I’ve ever done for myself. I had a bunch of friends who’d been living there and loving it. I actually subleted [drummer] Eric Slick’s house for a little bit when he was on tour with Dr. Dog, to test it out. It’s a perfect fit across the board, and it’s an amazingly creative environment. There’s a lot of music and a lot of great players here.” So much music and so many great players, in fact, that Coleman’s breaks from the reunited Ween’s touring commitments hardly seem like breaks at all, as he cites one respite where he played “like, six gigs in five days.”
“There are so many musical things going on in Asheville,” Coleman explains. “I have to kind of pick and choose, and for the first time in my life I’m actually saying no to some things. I have a couple steady gigs. I play with an incredible organ trio called the Digs. I play with a band led by a great lap steel player, Scott Murray—we do a live-band honky-tonk karaoke. And I play with this band called Skunk Ruckus, which is like a punk, hillbilly, mountain kind of thing.”
That all seems about right, given Coleman’s day gig with the impossible-to-categorize Ween. Claude’s many years with the group, which is based in New Hope, Pennsylvania, trained him to dash between genres like an Olympian. And after a four-year split, he’s making those mad dashes once again, holding it together live as the band shifts from the calypso groove of “Bananas and Blow” to the scatological swing of “Mr. Richard Smoker” to the leaden rock of “Roses Are Free” and slamming guitar freak-outs like “Buckingham Green.”
You’d think it would take Coleman and the reunited Ween weeks, maybe months, to remember how to straddle that fine line between absurdity and stone-cold seriousness with such power and taste. Not the case at all. “Generally we barely rehearse; we kind of just meet each other at the airport,” Coleman says with a laugh. “I’ve been doing it with them for twenty-two years or so, so my muscle memory is pretty strong. We have to finesse some of the tunes and reacquaint ourselves with some of the subtleties. But most of our music is second nature to us.”
As for Ween carrying on past its current touring commitments, it’s wait and see, according to Coleman. “Right now we’re just focused on doing a lot of shows and reconnecting with the fans,” he says. “Just going out and having fun with it. There might be some things on the horizon I’m not even aware of. These worlds collide however they collide. I imagine there’ll be some recording and some new music at some point in the future. But it’s got to come in its own time.” Patrick Berkery
Claude Coleman plays DW and Bucks County drums, Bosphorus cymbals, and Vater sticks.