Weird-Out, Indeed: An Interview with Dante Cimino
by Pete Crigler
When Dandelion came out on the scene in 1993, they were a little different from the rest of the rock pack. Bursting out of Philadelphia, the band set themselves apart with their overly long hair and the fact they were signed to Ruffhouse Records, a renowned hip-hop label home to Cypress Hill, The Fugees and others. Their first album 1993's very good I Think I'm Gonna Be Sick is one of the most grungy albums that came out of the era. "Waiting for A Ride" became a minor hit and the band got themselves recognized and set apart from the other bands of the scene.
When their second album, Dyslexicon was released in 1995, they were down a member; rhythm guitarist Bayen Butler having departed the year before in a cloud of mystery. To this day, no one is comfortable talking about his departure. Pressing on, the band changed their sound a bit, becoming a bit more general alt-rock and less all-around grungy. They also all cut their hair (except for the drummer) and managed to have a mainstream radio hit with "Weird-Out," one of my favorite songs from the end of grunge. Anyone who grew up in the '90's and loves alt rock as much as I do is bound to remember this little gem.
The band landed a support slot on Lollapalooza '95 and things seemed to be looking up when they suddenly broke up around'96-'97. It's been rumored drugs and other substances were involved but those involved have remained mum on the subject. The guys went in different directions. Bassist Mike Morpurgo came back in the early 2000's with another major label band, Laguardia, that released one record and then disbanded. The other guys work with different Schools of Rock around Philadelphia that help kids discover the important skill and power of rocking out. I had the pleasure of speaking with drummer Dante Cimino recently and got the blow by blow on the band's history and their ultimate legacy.
PSF: How did you become interested in music?
DC: At a very young age, my father had a Sons of Italy band that practiced at my house every weekend. My uncle played the cocktail drum, so after they were done, I would futz around on it and thus began my drumming career.
PSF: When did Dandelion come together and what was the scene like in Philly?
DC: Dandelion was formed in 1989 by Me, Mike and Kevin, with the addition of Carl and Bayen later. The Philly scene was pretty cool at the time and only got better as the '90's rolled in.
PSF: How did you guys hook up with Ruffhouse and was it interesting being a rock band on a hip-hop label?
DC: Ruffhouse CEO Chris Schwartz was a constant occupant on Carl's couch in the early days. Yes, being on a hip-hop label was definitely interesting, being label mates with Cypress Hill, The Fugees, Tim Dog etc.. My concern was always they wouldn't know how to market us.
PSF: Do you feel the band had success with songs like "Waiting for a Ride," "Trailer Park Girl" or "Weird-Out?"
DC: Definitely with "Weird Out," we got pretty decent radio play with that one. Towards the end, I would notice people in the crowds singing along or (there were) bigger cheers we would get when that song was over.
PSF: Was it tough out there in the overcrowded '90's alt rock scene?
DC: I don't think so. Of course we were at times compared to a shitty Nirvana, which I never quite understood, That, to me, was the great thing about the '90's in that there was so many different sounding bands all flying under the same flag of "alternative" or "grunge" bands like Jane's Addiction, AIC (Alice in Chains), Soundgarden, Mudhoney, The Melvins, Nirvana, etc. etc., all sounded different in my opinion, I also thought we didn't sound like any of those bands as well.
PSF: I saw once where you guys played some Lollapalooza dates. Any stories from that era?
DC: Yes, they were some great gigs, The only story that comes to mind is Kevin almost getting in a fist fight with Courtney Love because she was well, being Courtney and in the food area where all the bands would eat, Courtney just butted in front of people and was pushing people aside, and Kevin wasn't having any of that.
PSF: How did the band break up? I have heard drugs may have been involved, you can either confirm or deny.
DC: As far as the band breaking up, I can't answer that. I guess me leaving was the beginning of the end, but they did continue without me for a small bit but I HATED touring- it sucked, all aspects and the pitfalls of touring bands made me hate it. I won't confirm or deny anything about drugs being the reason for me leaving the band, but it definitely didn't make me wanna stay.
PSF: What do think the band could've accomplished if the breakup hadn't happened?
DC: Not a big fan of 'what if's' but I have no idea. What did we accomplish while we were a band? Not much, if you ask me. Did we make some money and get to tour the world. YES. Did we have an impact on music in general? NO.
PSF: Do you guys stay in contact and what is everyone up to?
DC: Yes we stay in contact, I have been friends and went to HS with both brothers Kevin and Mike- we will be friends forever. I am Regional Music Director for 3 School of Rock's for Mike who is now my boss, so I get the pleasure of dealing with him on a daily basis. Kevin lives in London so I don't get to see him so much. Pretty sure Kevin who does anything even closely resembling a band. Carl lives in Portland and owns/operates a performance music program, I still keep in touch with him pretty regularly. Bayen lives somewhere in bumfuck nowhere in Pennsylvania and is not a fan of social media, so I don't get to talk to him hardly ever, but I do keep in touch with his wife on FB so she will always relay my messages to him... Miss that guy. But me, Mike, Carl are all part of molding the minds of young musicians, which is pretty awesome!
PSF: Is it nice to see people bringing up songs like "Weird-Out" as one of the best alt rock songs of that era?
DC: Yes, it is awesome to hear that, although until now, this is the first time I have actually heard that!
PSF: What do you hope Dandelion's legacy will be?
DC: Well, since it's been almost 30 years now, I'm pretty sure our legacy is already preconceived. I don't know actually what that was or is for that matter (our legacy). But all I know is we were a bunch of kids that had some pretty amazing times together (and awful as well), who wrote some pretty cools tunes and were one of the best live bands out there.
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