Morphing Again With Mike Gordon

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For more than 20 years, Mike Gordon held down the bottom end for arguably the reigning jam band of the era—Phish. A founding member of the band, Gordon’s contributions to the band and their lore were essential components of the Phish mystique. His compositions were always quirky, his playing propulsive and playful.

Since Phish disbanded, Gordon has been involved in a variety of side-projects. He released two albums with guitar wiz Leo Kottke. He has performed extensively with The Duo (Joe Russo and Marc Benevento), and together with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, did a tour as GRAB (Gordon, Russo, Anastasio,  Benevento). He was part of Mickey Hart’s all-star Rhythm Devils group that toured in 2006.  He had a short-lived country outfit he played with called Ramble Dove.  

As a filmmaker, he directed the Gov’t Mule documentary Rising Low, and the movie Outside Out, featuring Colonel Bruce Hampton. He released a companion soundtrack album to that film, entitled Inside In.

But as hard as it seems to grasp, for all of his activity, Mike Gordon has never released a solo album. Until now.

The Green Sparrow, out now on Rounder, is an entrancing batch of Gordon funkiness and funniness. It features all of the trademark characteristics that have made Gordon such an intriguing musical figure over all these years. Sly observations populate the tunes here, and inventive playing is rounded out with a group of cohorts that include Anasatsio, keyboardists Page McConnell, Ivan Neville and Chuck Leavell, Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzman and the Antibalas horns.

To get here, Gordon took an entire year off from touring, concentrating fully on writing in his new home studio. During that time, he also assembled a band to hit the festival circuit in support of the album.

Honest Tune caught up with Gordon soon after he appeared with his new band at the All Good Music Festival in July.  Even as rumors of a Phish reunion of some sort seem to be panning out for some shows, some where, Gordon is excited about the future with his new band, the backlog of songs he has amassed and feeding his creativity.  The following conversation concerns such feedings, the properties of round rooms, shamanistic healings and radar blips.

HT: You recorded this album in your new studio.  How has having your own studio helped your creative process?

MG:  It took two years to build the studio because of all the crazy wood, and the materials. Also the angles, the details and the wiring. It was only supposed to take two months but it took two years. I used it a little bit during that time period. But then, starting at the end of ’06 and the beginning of ’07 it was full-time.  Some of the over-dubbing happened there, with a little bit in New York. 

One thing I wanted to do is I wanted to work alone.  Even my other home studios in the past always had someone there—an assistant or an engineer-type.  So I really wanted to face my solitude as Twyla Tharp said in her creativity book.

Mike-ArtWork.jpgOriginally I was going to build it outside of the house, but it’s just so convenient [to have it in the house]. The idea was if I had an idea at 2 in the morning for a song or  a lyric, I could run upstairs and record it. I didn’t really use it in that way. I like having a routine. So I’d work 11 to 7 or 12 to 8, or something like that. Maybe five or six hours. Another great thing about the home studio is if someone is coming through town. Ivan Neville was playing at the Higher Ground here in Burlington, and the studio is ready to rock. If it were someone else’s studio, I might have been able to line it up at two in the morning but it’s just always set up with my gear. There’s a drum set that’s miced up. It takes some extra work. Jared Slomoff is the guy that knows how to run it. It’s there and the kitchen is there and we can record until three in the morning and then I can go to sleep. So it’s actually been working out pretty well.  Ivan played on the song “Jaded” [from The Green Sparrow] and he sang too.

HT: You were talking about solitude.  You’ve talked about different techniques in the past to tap your creativity, like practicing in the dark for instance.  Are you still doing that?

MG: A lot of my writing this year was during the daytime. The studio actually has windows on all four sides, and then high-up windows.  So it is more about light.  The light is amazing in the studio.  You can see some of it on my website. I’m going to put some more pictures up.

There are these leaded windows, so it refracts light at the end of the day.  There are these patterns that get refracted on the walls.  But then there’s a soft glow because there’s light coming from all different directions.  You feel like you’re in a tree house basically, sort of nestled.  I like the feeling of being nestled when I’m working.  Trey’s barn is incredible, and he’s done a lot of songwriting there where he’d put a rug in the middle.  But for me that would be too vast.  

In my studio, there’s the one room that is a half-circle and then there are some other shapes.  Then there’s the room that I call the nook..  It has the soundboard in it so you can use it as a control room, but usually I’m just in the corner where I have the desk and the keyboard built in.  Guitar amps and bass amps all in this tiny spot where I have everything I need.  So I was very much on the daytime schedule.  But towards the end of the year I changed a little bit where I wanted to mix up the parameters—working with someone else, sometimes working in the dark, sometimes just going for a drive down to this secluded beach where I wrote “Traveled Too Far.”

HT: You mentioned wanting specific kind of wood for the studio.  Was that for visually aesthetic reasons or sonic properties?

MG: This guy Mike Larson is a visionary. He built my old house and studio in Vermont, which I had before. I introduced him to Trey and he re-built Trey’s barn—it’s 150 year old barn on a mountaintop.  Then Trey’s home studio.  He’s self-taught and an incredible visionary.  He collects salvaged materials and he knows the salvaging of old estates.  He has all of these ideas.  When I built the studio, I wanted to do it with a vibe in mind, more than, say, acoustics.  I didn’t care as much about acoustics.  I just wanted to feel like I was in this incredible, enchanted Wizard’s castle. But small.  

In the main room there is cypress, which was underwater since the Civil War and pulled out of the swamps of Florida.  It has all of these holes in it. It’s called pecky Cypress.  The holes hold this sort of sediment from this fungus that grows and gets cleaned out. But since it’s a soft wood, it starts absorbing some of the middle frequencies that might get a little screechy or resonant.  Because it has holes in it, that’s what they use in studios as bass traps.

So that, in theory, could attack the bass frequencies a little bit and calm them down a little bit if they’re resonating too much.  So it wasn’t done scientifically, but we were thinking that it would have a nice effect on the acoustics.  The other thing is that round rooms always have a focal point where if you stand and face a round wall you hear yourself from behind your head, or from all directions, just in the center.  My room has that when there’s not too much clutter in it.  There’s something about that.  Something karmicly about round rooms.  

There’s the song “Round Room” which my friend Joe wrote the lyrics to, that became the title track for the Phish album Round Room.  When I had my peak experience in ’85 at Goddard we were all playing in this round room, which was part of a cafeteria.  So the studio is put together with gut feelings and visions more than scientifically.  The final thing I did was the shamanistic healer that I see on rare occasions.  We brought her in to do a welcoming of the muse and a cleansing of all these salvaged materials and their back-stories and tragic things that were in the soul of the wood, and the lighting fixtures.  So she came and we did this Native American ritual with some chanting.  Mike Larson, the builder was there, and Jared the engineer and me and my wife and one other person.

Mike_Gordon_01_300.jpgHT: What is her name?

MG:  Gloria Sidler.  John Paluska, the Phish manager, had gone to her..  She’s very…I’ll go and spend three hours but I’ll only go once a year.  A lot of it will be like therapy.  Not psychotherapy, which is Freudian but,  it’ll be more symbolic.  There will be a part where she just does channeling.  She very much combines it with day-to-day living and talking about that.  I like to do these things that kind of  pull my way of thinking into a different direction.  The Artists Way, which I’ve been talking a lot about lately, is this very popular book on creativity that I got into, and Trey had recommended.  I still do the exercises. People do these exercises for decades. It’s designed to get you out of the worry, the fears, the censoring that you do internally when you’re creating something and bring you back to your childish sense of wonder.

HT:  That seems to be represented on the song “Andelman’s Yard.”  It has a childhood innocence and wonder about it.

MG:  Yeah.  It comes from that kind of inspiration. It came from a dream that was reoccurring, and the feeling with writing the song and the scene that I picture. It’s not even what’s happening exactly, physically, It’s almost a return to some inner parts of my soul.  When you go back to your home neighborhood—it’s my mom’s house, she’s still in the house I grew up in—there’s something grounding anyway.  But then to go and tunnel underground there’s something that returns me to some of that childhood.  When I was little, my neighborhood had, and still has a little bit, a few square miles of fields and woods and trails.  My friend—Steve Andelman, actually, he was one of my best friends. I’m going to send him the album, because now there’s the song.  But we would go for these walks that would be miles.  We would know after going down this path and that path that there’s a swamp and a hidden burial or a rock to climb on.  It’s funny to think that how something so backward as a childhood experience would be the thing that throws me forward and to the jams being incredible on stage.

HT: Yeah, but the notion of a tunnel itself is a transformative itself.

MG: Yep.

HT: You mentioned you collaborated on the song “Round Room” and you did the work with Leo Kottke.  But you wrote all of these songs by yourself, right?

MG:  Yeah. I wanted to really do it myself.  In October Jared came in.  It was still pretty much me writing the songs.  He might have written a line of lyrics here and there, and suggested some chord changes maybe.  But basically he was engineering and producing and I was doing the songwriting.  I love collaborating.  Some people like writing songs together and some people like writing songs alone.  I’d never tried the alone thing that much.  I had a little bit over the years, but I wanted to get deeper into that.

HT:  When you were writing the songs for this album, it is different than your other post-Phish projects.  You did the duo with Leo, you worked with The Duo and other projects.  Did you feel like you wanted these songs to be more personal?

MG:  I guess I always wanted the songs to be personal because if they represent something personal then, I don’t know who said it first, maybe Paul Simon, but a lot of people say that you have to start from a personal space or there isn’t going to be anything meaningful to start with.  Ideally, you find something in that that’s more universal.  From the universal you might go to something symbolic and fill it in with details that are fresh for the song that are not the details that were in my life.  I think that’s a pretty typical way that it works.  I think it was Paul Simon that laid out that process.

When I was writing the stuff for Leo, it was some lyrics from my friend Joe and some from myself.  But I was writing alone but it was only an hour a day. I would go the Woolworth building which was down the street from me in New York, and I would spend an hour a day and I would write a song a day in that hour. Then I’d develop it a little more later but what I wanted to do, one of my handful of goals for ’07 was to spend more time.  I wanted to spend all day.  All day for a year. I wanted the chord progressions and the lyrics and the arrangements, even the emotions, to go in different places.  I would say that I’ve always looked for something personal, but I just had more time to flesh it out.   Just to make this commitment and to say: No gigs allowed for the year.  Because even having one gig in the calendar means a month of thinking about songs, and practicing and getting the gear ready.  With Phish we had tried that.  We said we wouldn’t play in the summer except for one gig in August.  Then it ends up being that the summer is a playing summer instead of a non-playing summer.  I still sat in with a lot of bands around town, but that didn’t involve practicing.{mospagebreak}

HT:  When you’re writing those songs with Leo, somehow you’ve got to be envisioning how they are going to be played—with him.  With these songs, I guess you had envisioned you’d be touring with a band?

MG:  I knew I wanted to have stuff that’s very rhythmic and upbeat and danceable.  There are more songs that weren’t used for the album than were.  There’s more that are  are dreamy and have different vibes.  I want to get into and use some of them still.  I’m going to be using the backlog and writing new stuff.  So in the end there is going to be…at this rate, when I die, whenever it is, whether its soon (hopefully not) or a long time from now, there’s going to be extra stuff that nothing was done with.  I think that’s the way that it works with an artist.  My mom’s studio has huge storage rooms.  Half the stuff is paintings that she showed to people but didn’t sell.  The other half is just ideas that are half-finished.  I think with a healthy artistic routine, that’s what happens.  You have stuff that’s half-baked.

You have to learn how to finish things too.  I have ideas for ten albums worth of stuff right now.  But there’s so much to do.  That’s why its great to just say that these are ten songs that work together well and just flow.  So I’m really happy to be able to weed it down like that.  John Siket was really good about that.  He was really good about saying that even though you can fit 74 or 80 minutes on a CD, it’s not beneficial to do that.  I read a lot of stuff online.  There’s a special experience that happens in getting from the beginning to the end.  I think I had a version with all 17 songs.  We recorded 17 songs and had them all on one CD.  I went for a drive and I really liked the demos, or roughs whatever you call it, for friends.  I was heartbroken at the idea of throwing some of it out, but at the same time it was pretty easy to just say that by taking these, it’s going to be a great album.

Mike_Gordon_02_300.jpgHT:  There are ten songs on the album but you recorded 17. Do you anticipate playing those other seven in the live setting?

MG:  It’s fuzzy because even beyond those seven are others that I didn’t finish recording but are half recorded that I’d like to dabble into.  On this tour, we have a handful.  These ten songs have some intense arrangements.  Then we have ten or so other songs we’ve already been playing, cover songs and other people’s songs.  Then there’s lists of older songs of mine I’d like to bring in, songs of other band members and more covers.  There are so many possibilities and I don’t want to take on so much that we’re not getting deep inside what we do take on.  

We didn’t have to learn all of the album songs before we started touring but we decided to because they all the ability to be transformed in the live setting.  But we haven’t played them all.  We’ve been concentrating on maybe half of them.  There are a couple we’ve played once.  Then there are three or four that we haven’t played at all yet but I want to play.  Might as well get these ten going for now.  But there are songs that just stick in my mind that are of the other seventeen and then beyond that.

It’s weird.  Before this year I had a backlog of songs but not so much that I felt like I wanted to go out and work with.  Now it’s the opposite, I don’t want to work with too many.  Hopefully this band will be playing for years.  There feels like there is so much potential and we’ve had so much fun in the first months of being a band that there will be time to try everything and write songs together and all of that.

HT:  You did a song at All Good called “Crumblin Bones”.  What other songs from the other guys are you working in?

MG:  Yes, That’s [keyboardist] Tom Cleary’s.  We’ve been playing …[guitarist] Scott  [Murawski] has a lot of songs.  At Rothbury, we played his song “Cool World”.  It’s kind of latin-y and Trey sat in with us on that.  Everyone in the band….the drummer, most of his tunes, half of them are Indian sounding and the other half are almost straight ahead jazz.  We took one of his jazz tunes and worked it into the middle of a sort of folk song as a sort of medley.  It’s really cool.  It’s a vehicle for just sailing rhythmically.  The percussionist Craig Meyers is in three different African bands.  One of them called Barika that he wrote most of the material for.  It’s sort of simple, but mesmerizing African rhythms.  It’s just so fun to experiment with the possibilities.

I’d like to write other songs knowing what I’d like to have with these guys on stage.  On the other hand, the other half of it is that now we have these songs what can we do with them and how can we use them as a launchpad to take them further and further away from the launchpad into space and back.  Or across the world and back.  There’s two things—developing the material and developing what you do with the material.

HT:  A lot of places to go.  The audience playing the band experience you did at All Good was an interesting experience too.  Did that go how you thought it would?

MG:  I told the story and I left out a little component of it.  But basically I told the story about “Radar Blip” and about running in all of these crazy unexpected places.  Then I realized that when I go for my run from my house I always go to the right.  Then Todd the drummer discovered this construction site.  I said, ‘What do you mean?  There’s no construction site on my road.’  And he said, ‘yeah, you just go down to the left.’  That’s when I did explain the part about how I found this little secluded pond, all because of just going a different way.

Which is how the music is.  It’ll be going along and feeling a certain way and you don’t realize that you could just play a different chord and it would have a whole different emotion to it.  And that chord is just around the corner.  Here’s the most ironic part.  The way you get to that different chord is by accepting what’s there, fully.  It’s easy to wish it were different, to be playing a groove and think ‘I wish this were faster’ or ‘I wish people were playing less notes’ or ‘I wish this sounded more like reggae’ or ‘I wish this sounded more like it did when Phish played it.’  

Not that I’ve had any of those specific thoughts but the point being that as soon as you accept your present moment a hundred percent it opens up these possibilities about how it could change. That’s the catch phrase isn’t it?   Acceptance breeds change.  So that’s when I had the idea, sitting at that pond, that if I could run in different places.  I did that in Albany one time.  I tend to run by the Banana Republics and the Starbucks and then there’s always this point where that kind of neighborhood gives way to a different neighborhood.  Maybe its run down, maybe there are railroad tracks and some pawnshops.  Then there are some things that I don’t know what’s going on.  I don’t know if it’s a factory or a drug warehouse or who knows?  That’s when it gets interesting.

In Albany one time I was going further and further into different kinds of neighborhoods and under bridges, down railroad tracks and in the woods.  It was a peak experience.  When you’re running these endorphins are being secreted, maybe like when people are dancing.  That’s what I was thinking—let’s do that with the music but wouldn’t it be great to have the audience be the ones that actually direct and conduct the band.  I’ve always fantasized about ways of doing that.  

When I had my Outside Out tour, which was just four dates with Bruce Hampton., I played the movie and played guitar in his band.  We had some brainstorms and one of them was that we had a keyboard on the stage, facing the audience.  The idea was that there is this light on the stage and when I push a button the light lights up.  The soundman sees the light and turns on the keyboard.  People could come up and play the keyboard along with the band.  I hadn’t seen it done before. I liked it because if you’re in the present moment, why not?  Why not try different ways to let the audience take part? Sometimes it would work out one way, sometimes another way.  Actually, we were playing in Connecticut and one person was a really good keyboard player and he came up when we were doing this kind of gospel-y jam.  He was playing from the audience while dancing.  But what we were doing at All Good is just scratching the surface of a new kind of thing.  But I wouldn’t want to forget the importance of just getting in the zone and closing my eyes but I think there are ways that haven’t been explored yet for the audience to be interactive in new ways and reach new heights as a result.

_MG_9065.jpgHT:  People started getting it toward the end.

MG:  It wasn’t the whole crowd doing it, but the front half maybe.  I think it worked pretty well.  One thing I had said is that you’ll have to have group mind for it to work because if everyone is giving different signals it won’t work.  Pretty much it was happening.  People were looking around and saying ‘okay, we’re going to put our right arm up and this is going to be the group mind signal.’ It’s a powerful thing when minds come together for good things, as opposed to war or something like that.

HT:  You’ve worked with Scott in the past but how did you put together the rest of your current band?

MG:  I played with a few different people.  Everyone I jammed with, or auditioned, or whatever you’d want to call it, were all great people.  I started out around Burlington because I’d fantasized about doing a lot of rehearsing as time goes on and not always needing plane flights for that.  Then there were some people around Boston and New York.  With the keyboards, there were just a few people I played with but Tom I really clicked with.  I had been on these different jam sessions—honky tonk stuff.  He’s very well-rounded.  He plays a lot of jazz, but he can rock out.  He is a very deep musician.  It always felt good in these jam sessions, to play with him.  He’s kind of quirky in a way that relates with my quirkiness.  Same with Craig Meyers.  It was just a good feeling.  I would have so much fun going down and hearing Rubble Bucket that he plays with or some of his other bands. I just like his energy and his sound, his sensibility and his rhythm.  They both lived around town and it just felt right.

The drummer thing was a little harder because there are a lot of great drummers, and I couldn’t really decide who I was connecting with.  On the album, it was the hardest thing too.  Because on some of these drum tracks I would months—figuring out drum loops, getting real drummers.  It was always an extra thought process that went with the drums. Same with the band.  I wanted to spend more time.  But then the idea of Todd really came together.  I had had a jam session with him and Scott.  There was something magical that happened.  Even the first time we played together I think I could go back and write three songs from that.  He was listening so hard.  He’s mesmerizing.  But he’s funky.  He can rock out.  He also probably plays more jazz than rock and plays with some real interesting world musicians, world music.  But he rocks out.  He really steps up to the plate and its very danceable.  It’s so fun.  In the end it just became clear.

There are so many great drummers.  I’m a real fan of drums.  There are people I would like to play with but I haven’t and people I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to play with.  But Todd is really great.  First, it was a matter of going to a lot of websites—Google, You Tube, MySpace, All Music Guide. Then, meeting people and talking to them, jam sessions, recording.  I really wanted to think it through.  I didn’t want it to be a project that—I can’t guarantee that all the members will stay the same, because things change and who knows what people’s plans are—but I saw it as a long-term thing and that’s why I really wanted to think about it.

HT:  So for the foreseeable future this is the lineup.  We talked earlier about you playing with The Duo and maybe even Ramble Dove was more of a collaborative thing, but in this band you are the bandleader.

MG:  I don’t like to be a dictator type leader.  I don’t like bands where I sense that.  We don’t have a band name yet, but I want to have one.  I have a list of a thousand, I just don’t have any I like enough yet.  I haven’t decided yet so we’re just using my name.  But I really like there to be a band sensibility.  I have so many ideas, its nice to feel like I’m going to have a forum for these ideas.  If other people in the band have ideas too, hopefully we’ll be able to run with them.  People I’ve played with have said that they like working with me because I’m not a dictator type.  If I have an idea I don’t see it set in stone.  Because it is just an idea and it would need to be tried and tapered by what works and what other peoples ideas are.  Sometimes I go down to see bands and if it is billed as a person’s band, I might not expect to like it as much.  That’s a weird thing to say.  The other people in the band will sometimes feel like sidemen, and they won’t be given the chance to really thrive.  They’ll be given some chance but not a full chance to become all they can be as musicians.

So I think having a band name is symbolic of the fact that there is something there.  I have so much creativity.  I’m so glad that I organized my life so that in ’07 I could write songs all year and then make this album and have material for other albums and put this band together.  But ultimately, I’m just one person.  And when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts it’s a magical feeling.  That’s when The Muse, herself, takes over.  I want that.  So that’s why I’m looking for the band sound.{mospagebreak}

HT:  And you still have some other projects that pop up from time to time.  You played with Bill Kreutzman.  Do you have any plans on playing with him again?

MG:  I love playing with him and I hope to.  He’s playing with the band I …curated is the word I’m using, because he didn’t know Scott or Oteil.  None of them knew each other before this year and now they’re doing some touring.  But I love his playing.  A lot. It’s so passionate and in a way it’s a microcosm of the whole Dead sound.  There is going to be improvisation but its rocking and massive sounding and huge.  The sensitivity of a floating jazz drummer mixed with the power of rock and roll.  He encompasses that with such unique vision and passion and precision.  I get very inspired by watching Bill.  I don’t know when we’re going to play again.  But hopefully soon.  

_MG_9069.jpgThere are a few drummers—he’s one of my favorite, and Jon Fishman—who people don’t realize how good they are.  Jon Fishman is amazing.  He has this floatiness that is just hard to imagine in a human being.  But also Doug Belote.  He’s on a lot of songs on this album.  He keeps getting better and better too.  He’s into the magical category.  And Russell Baptise.  He was actually up in Vermont the other day for a birthday party and came to my studio twice—once in the morning and once in the night.  He is so funky but also he tells a story when he plays.  It’s not run of the mill.  It’s mixing it up and its mind-blowing to me how fun it is playing with him.  I’d like to play with him more.  There’s this young drummer from town, Sean Preece, that’ll be my fifth one.  He’s only 21 but he’s playing all these gigs in town and it always feels good to play with him.  There are those, but then I’d like to play with Richie Hayward.  I’m such a drum fan.

HT:  Sounds like you have a lot of plans and you’re really stepping out on your own with this band.  Then the Phish reunion rumors come down the pike and I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about that but is that frustrating to you that as soon as you get all this together that starts looking more realistic?  Is there anything new to report there?   How would you even fit it in with all that you’re doing?

MG:  It’s hard to fit everything in, but there’s room.  We haven’t made any specific plans, but we are all inspired about the possibility.  There will be plenty of time to do other stuff.  One experience informs the other experience.  We just keep learning as musicians and individuals.  So,yeah.  There will be plenty of time for everything.

Mike_Gordon_03_300.jpgHT:  Do you think you going out and delving into this and Page doing his record and Trey’s had all kind of stuff going on—does all of that help you get in the mind frame of revisiting Phish?

MG:  It goes both ways where that helps us get in the mind frame and doing Phish because of how intense the chemistry is inspires the other things we do too.  Ninety-five percent of my musicality comes from my years with Phish and what we learned by figuring things out together by thinking about it, and also by having fourteen hundred gigs and other jam sessions and practices and just experimenting.  There’s something about commitment.  When you commit to something, you grow as a result.  

Usually, commitment means not being committed to other things—throwing out some possibilities.  So by doing Phish for 20 years there are a lot of other things I didn’t do.  But I’m glad I did it, because I learned so much from it.  It goes back and forth.  It might be a little bit frustrating sometimes.  You know I have a hotline that fans call.  If they start talking about Phish a lot when I have a new album out, I start to think that I can’t really think about Phish right now because I’m excited about my new album.  At the same time, I love getting together with the Phish guys and our friendships are stronger than ever.  So it’s nice too.

HT:  The Phish Walnut Creek DVD is out now.  Should we be expecting more DVDs from that era where there were Jumbotron feeds at nearly every show?

MG:  Different eras.  We did a lot of archiving and recording.  There are all kinds of possibilities.  It’s a regular thing that we want to look into the archives and make meaningful choices.  There are so many incredible experiences, obviously, that we had and some other people had, it makes sense to try to put it together in meaningful ways. There could be movie projects.  There could be different kinds of CDs.  It’s an ongoing thing, but it goes at its own pace.

_MG_9175.jpgHT:  Didn’t you have a 20th anniversary video that you were working on releasing?

MG:  I helped on it.  It was Jared Slomoff that did the editing and the compiling and I was sort of overseeing.  We played it in on six screens at the Fleet Center in Boston for our 20th anniversary.  I really liked that thing.  In fact, Trey just watched it recently and said he liked it too.  We talked about releasing it.  I still hope that we will.  I don’t know if its going to be anytime soon.  The biggest hurdle is licensing issues.  There are people in it, but more so cover songs.  So we have to figure that out logistically.  One piece of film can only represent an aspect or a slice of the band.  It’s only one perspective.

It’s kind of like Bittersweet Motel was just one director’s look into the band, from the outside.  That’s what he wanted to focus on.  I really had fun watching that movie and being involved in it. But its only one slice. The 20th Anniversary thing also is only a slice.  We had thousands of videotapes in the Phish archives to choose from.  We just wanted to take fun, intense, meaningful moments and put them together.  Some fans might want something with a lot of talking and interviews and discussing, more like a VH1 special.  It is definitely not that.  It’s more just passionate moments of either funny things or playing.  

We lengthened it by a little bit since the version we projected.  If people have it on You Tube—I think they were making cell phone versions of it and everything.  But they wont’ have the finished thing we would be putting out.  But its going to be some time before we figure that all out.

HT:  I hope you get it out. I think people will want to see it, and have it.

MG:  That’s good to hear actually. Because I would really like to see that come out.

HT:  Politics are on everyone’s mind right now.  You’ve been mostly apolitical in the past but you’ve done some Headcount stuff and  you’ve gone on record as supporting Bernie Sanders.  What is it about him or the political climate that made you want to make a political statement?

MG:  There are a lot things and its sort of hard to sum up.  It’s been a long time that he’s been around town.  He was the mayor and then representative and now senator.  But he’s fearless.  My dad is actually a big Republican.  Maybe he wouldn’t call himself that.  But essentially he is. Watches Fox News and the whole deal.  So we have a lot of political arguments because I’m pretty far to the left I’d say.  

But my dad at one point said he kind of liked what he could tell about Bernie because he senses this guy who is fearless and he clearly he is for the people.  So he talks a lot about the average person and how people are working hard and the wealth is concentrated in a small percentage of the population.  Meanwhile, decisions that affect the environment and our health and whatnot are being decided by people who don’t care and are more interested in profit than having it be a good country for us to live in.

But the way he talks, he’s a very charismatic speaker and you can tell when you listen to him talk it’s not just rhetoric.  He’s not just delivering a line.  He just very much cares about these issues and will stand by them and go against…there’s footage of him in the Senate debating and he’s relentless.  You can tell that he’s genuine and all these issues that have to do with the common person and the environment are being cared for in a very passionate and very genuine way.  He’s an independent.  One of the only independents to be in some of the positions he’s been in, in a country that is very much about the two parties.  He’s a big inspiration and you don’t feel like his own political gain has a single iota to do with what he’s talking about. He takes the kind of local politics concept that the country was built on—the town meeting, that vibe, and brought it to a national level.  

People might not always agree with him, but I’ve always been very aligned with what he thinks.  It’s just rare to see someone so feisty and passionate and see that its coming from the right place.  Kind of like with musicians, you can just tell that someone is playing because they want to show off their chops or they want to see their songs charting on the radio and they’ve dialed into the most recent pop formula or if they looked in themselves and found part of their souls, like hopefully I have done with this album, which has to come out and has to be nurtured and not deal with the fears that come along with that.

So I would say that in the same way that a musician does that, I sense that about him as a politician in a way that I rarely see.

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