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Fishing With Dean Ween

JPG: Do you cook it as well or do you just catch ‘em?

MM: I’m not a big fish eater ‘cause I handle so many fish every single day. I’ll kill a few fish per season and eat them. In the summer, we eat a lot of fish. We eat a lot of flounder and sea bass. It’s really up to my charters.

JPG: I didn’t know if you had become a cooking gourmet of different types of fish or if you just catch and release and it’s just the thrill of the hunt?

MM: I am because I have fish coming out of my ears. I see ‘em every day. The irony of, especially the striped bass fishing, is the big ones you want to let go ‘cause they’re breeders. You can make like 30,000 more little babies, striped bass, and the fish are big. So, if I have two guys on my boat, the legal limit is two fish per guy. They’re gonna catch two 30 pounders apiece. You got 120 pounds of meat! Whose gonna fuckin’ possibly eat that? It’s excessive. I’m not a conservationist by any means. People can do whatever is within the law, but I practice catch-and-release. But I handle so many fish, I’d rather eat a cheeseburger. (laughs)

JPG: I was going to say you’d rather eat a steak.

MM: It’s true. That’s what I like. I’m Italian. I like to eat. Fish is good but I don’t want it that much.

JPG: You said you’re not a conservationist, but I saw the video where you were at least interested in fishing from an environmental standpoint when you were like…

MM: Oh yeah, totally, totally. It’s funny. People don’t realize when fishermen and hunters are actually the best measuring stick of the stock. If you’re out there every day and you’re doing it, you kind of have more of a sense and you’re doing it than some scientists somewhere as to the health of a fishery, something like that. So, you see things from year to year go down, go up. You want to release those fish, especially the bigger ones.

I think the smaller fish taste better in most cases. Not in all cases. In a lot of cases. I don’t really have a hard stance to weigh in on that. Like I say, I see ‘em every day. I hold ‘em up. What most people want out of a fishing trip is pictures. Take your picture. Put it in the net. Get it in the boat. Snap your picture and get it back in the water. You’ve got your memories. If you want to take one and eat it, that’s great, about as far as I go.

JPG: Sticking with that, have you noticed anything such as changes that could be related to climate change?

MM: Yeah, over the course of my life, for different fish. It’s different for every fish. When we were kids we would catch weakfish like speckled sea trout and they’re gone now. They’re totally extinct. I see ‘em every so often. They pop up. I watched that. The striped bass totally collapsed in the ‘80s. One of the best fisheries, management success stories. The amount of rebuilding. They put a moratorium on them. They rebuilt the stock until where it is now, we’re catching 35-40 of them a day. Big ass fish. I see it.

To really call yourself a fisherman, you have to be out every day to have your finger on it, and put together patterns and notice that kind of shit.

JPG: Other than the right equipment, what would you say is the most advantageous thing a fisherman should have?

MM: There’s some patience involved, for sure. But I think the most important thing is time. You’re not going to catch fish from your couch. The difference between getting up at four o’clock and getting up at six o’clock is huge. I don’t care what kind of fish it is. You’re gonna catch most of your fish at first light, last light. It’s dedication, patience and you’ve got to put that on your side. You’ve got to sit vanity aside and realize that fishing is like, I don’t know what you can compare it to, It’s a lifetime of learning. You can never learn it all. Keep learning. Keep your ears open. Listen to people. But time is the number one virtue of a fisherman, I think. You have to put in your time. I know it’s a cliché but you have to fish hard. You have to do it often. I’m out there every day, so…

JPG: Do you think in some way that mentality of a fisherman helps you as a musician and vice versa? Those two worlds colliding.

MM: They collide in some ways but not in every way. The similarities are just that you lose yourself. You’re in the moment and that’s…I’m predisposed to anxiety. I’m a very anxious person, in general. You know when the music is great, you’re not thinking, your brain shuts off and you don’t realize that you’re standing in front of a crowd. You’re not aware that anything is going on. Sometimes it freaks you out. You’re onstage and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God. What the fuck?’ I get that way when I fish. I’m completely in the moment. Totally 250% focused on what’s going on. That’s what I get out of it. That’s what I get out of both things. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Like I said, I’m very anxious and to have those two things that do that for me is great.

JPG: I saw Ween play Bonnaroo in 2010 and I was up front taking photos. As far as being in the moment or out of the moment, I always remember the look on your face after you did the first song. It was very hot, humid and sunny and you just looked like, ‘Oh my God, how many more do we have left?’ But, you did it. Played for something like two hours. I felt bad for you.

MM: You can overcome a lot. It’s amazing what that’ll do for your playing, performing. I’ve gone onstage with the flu with a 103 degree fever and done it with no sleep eight million times, obviously. It doesn’t hit you until it’s all over. Just always managed to go into this other person.

JPG: I didn’t want to focus on that but since the subject of Ween has come up, I see shows listed on the band’s website. Are you also working on a new album? Do you work on tunes while you fish?

MM: I don’t know what’s going on with that. I actually started writing some songs in the last few months. We don’t have a studio right now, which sucks. We got rid of our place since the last record, so we don’t have a mutual recording spot. But, I went out to Guitar Center and bought a little 8-track digital recorder and some speakers and headphones and mics. I wrote a few songs and recorded them. I don’t know. There’s nothing really concrete in the works, but that’s kind of how it starts.

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