‘Recovery’ Host Dylan Lewis On That Disastrous Weezer Interview, And The Chances Of A Reboot
"He wasn't jet lagged, he was wasted. I'm sorry but he was."
“We couldn’t do anything about it, it was live,” Dylan Lewis laughs, describing the moment when he and the rest of the Recovery crew watched in horror (and delight) as Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion began to physically tear down the set in 1997.
“You can’t just stop recording. And that’s what defined Recovery — the moments when it all went wrong. That’s everyone’s favourite, Jon Spencer, and it’s up there with my favourites too. It was the moment that music television made sense to me and Recovery was defined. Like ‘this is what we can do, these are the moments we can get.’ It’s beautiful to watch, isn’t it? I loved it. I loved seeing that again.”
It’s been nearly 20 years since Recovery was sadly canned by the ABC, but its legacy looms large over the Australian music, and TV, industry. Here was a show — a three hour live show — dedicated to music, comedy, and whatever else Lewis and his co-hosts Jane Gazzo and The Enforcer could think of at the time. It brought some of the biggest artists in the world into the living rooms of young Australians, and it propelled a generation of local acts to fame.
The new ABC documentary, Recovery: The Music and the Mayhem, bottles the chaotic magic of the show — hosted by Lewis, it features interviews with Recovery alumni like Silverchair, The Superjesus, Killing Heidi, and Spiderbait, as well as the show’s producers and crew. Accompanied by a stack of archival footage that has been kept away from the public eye for years, it’s a warm and tender look back at a very unique moment in Australian music history.
“I think it was such a lovely, perfect representation of that time and place and it was captured really cleverly and sort of accidentally,” Lewis says. “It was this lovely capsule of the ’90s, it was just a real buzz, and it was the end of the millennium. We didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have phones, it was the end of innocence in many ways, and so I think it was a really remarkable time in history, just before the year 2000 hit.
“There was no agenda. It was just… this is what we are, this is what we’re doing, it was like a mirror. This is what we’re seeing, you know, in the scene out there. And it was supporting itself, and it was a positive time, and it was a bloody wicked thing to be a part of.”
It certainly ruffled a few feathers: Lewis and Recovery was shouted about in federal parliament, his outrageous eyebrow ring apparently corrupting the youth of Australia. And while the show somehow managed to avoid any punishment over the Jon Spencer incident, they did land in hot water after Green Day appeared on the show. The American band were only supposed to do a sit down interview, but things went awry after they jumped up and took over the house band’s instruments, proceeding to rip through a few songs from Dookie — complete with about a thousand ‘fucks’. It didn’t go down well with ABC management.
“I think, although we wouldn’t say that openly, of course, I think we’re all glad that happened,” Lewis says. “You can only control so much…it was amazing TV and it was hilarious, and honestly you can’t hear the swear words really, I couldn’t decipher any of them. I was just there trying to still run the show. I thought it was really funny, but I had to pretend that it was bad. We all had to pretend it was bad.
“I didn’t know any of the political stuff that was going on behind the scenes until the last few weeks basically.”
“He wasn’t jet lagged, he was wasted. I’m sorry, but he was.”
Anarchic performances were one thing, disastrous interviews were another. There’s not a music journalist in the country that hasn’t shivered while watching Lewis’ shatteringly awkward 1996 interview with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo. After first getting Rivers’ name wrong — Lewis called him ‘River Weezer’ — the interview swiftly deteriorates, with a “jet-lagged” Cuomo barely looking at Lewis despite the hosts best efforts to inject some energy.
Even after all these years, Lewis can barely stand to watch it back.
“I didn’t want to look down at my pad,” Lewis says, after a long groan. “I wanted to get his eye contact because he wouldn’t look at me. He was looking all over the place. I thought ‘I think it’s River or Rivers, but Rivers sounds weird, so I’m going to go with River, but I can’t pronounce his last name. So I’ll say Weezer.’ That’s what we did in those days. I thought that would be acceptable. No. Unacceptable. And from that moment on it was like, ‘Oh no, Oh no, this isn’t going to go well now.’ And that’s what everyone picks up on when they watch it back. I’ve got the name wrong, he said he was jet lagged, and it almost forgave him. It doesn’t.
“I want it to be taken off the internet. It is funny, now I can sort of chuckle a bit and then I’ll feel like I’m nearly over it. It was live and he was off his nuts. He wasn’t jet lagged, he was wasted. I’m sorry, but he was. Look, I love him but I can’t listen to Weezer anymore. And I wish him all the best, cheers.”
For nearly as long as it’s been off air, fans have been screaming for a reboot. There was a groundswell of support for the idea following the show’s 20th anniversary in 2016, but the ABC remained firm: Recovery wouldn’t be coming back. Lewis says he’s been approaching networks for years in the hopes of kicking off another music show, but none have jumped at the chance. Recently, he and Gazzo launched the YouTube channel Recovered, which features music content ranging from interviews to Dylan singing campfire songs.
“I think there’s a new way that people are consuming this kind of information and entertainment,” Lewis says. “Obviously the dream is that one day this gets picked up by a streaming service or whatever the people are watching. So we’ll do our own thing and maybe we can help work out how we could do it. It has to be connected to all the mediums, doesn’t it? It has to be on the internet and the telly and the bloody radio, and podcasting, and forecasting, and multitasking, or whatever you do.
“Someone will invent the perfect show one day — and hopefully I’m involved in it.”
Recovery: The Music and the Mayhem airs on Wednesday 27 November at 9.00pm. Additionally, a stack of vintage Recovery content — including extended interviews and performances — will hit ABC iView just after the broadcast.
Jules LeFevre is the editor of Music Junkee. She is on Twitter.