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Mike Gordon: I am quite well. Thanks for having me.
Mike Gordon: I think it is because we feel so confident about our own material now and we have so many songs of our own, that we feel like we can play a bunch of other people's songs without sacrificing our integrity. And it has been fun to learn the songs as we get better and quicker with songs. The biggest example is "The Dark Side of the Moon" this past Halloween.
Mike Gordon: The project evolved a few times. At first we thought we had many cool photos, and the main goal was to get them out. Then our manager, John, made us feel that the band is evolving in an interesting way, and we always analyze it, so why not share the analyzing? It was Richard Gehr's idea to stem it as one concert, then it evolved to a year with Phish. We knew we wanted to make a book, but we didn't know how important the text would be. We are really pleased the way it came out. We are in the process of making a film, hoping that it will turn out like the book and get to a place that we are really proud of.
Mike Gordon: I am 33, and a lot of people say I haven't grown up either. It is hard to stay in touch with the child's mind, so I think it is a nice quality to be able to hold onto the child's perspective, but in terms of how our music is inspiring to people and what they do with their own creative urges is a different issue. In general that is how art works; people get inspired to do things for themselves and give things to the world. But not growing up is a good thing...
Mike Gordon: Thanks for the compliment. I have actually been spending all my time working on a film (not the Phish film), and I like to write, so hopefully at some point I will have another book out -- who knows, maybe a novel. It is hard to have a lot of different interests and find time to do them all.
Mike Gordon: My favorite venue...hmmm, tough one...the Gorge in Washington is up there -- the acoustics are always good. These are hard questions...the band just keeps evolving every year. Sometimes I talk about my peak experience in 1995, but we were only playing to two people. I talk about it in the book. I always write things in my journal, then I have to go back and remind myself which shows I really liked.
Mike Gordon: I did write it. I wrote the four band member profiles and a couple of the others, then Brad Sands wrote all the rest of them.
Mike Gordon: I am not sure when it will be on, but it was really nice, because it is such an intimate little environment to be playing in. There were people closer to Phish than I was to Phish.
Mike Gordon: That is a much older song. Trey was experimenting with ways to write songs, and in the case of "Reba" it was based on how each word sounded phonetically and having them be about the subject of meat. Kind of another lyrical writing experiment.
Mike Gordon: I think that is a good thing, because it just means that the times are swaying toward a direction of more spontaneity and experimentation, which is what improvisational music is supposed to be about. The '80s are long since over. I don't know how mainstream it is becoming. I guess maybe the only danger would be if there started being a jam band flavor of the week where it was capitalized on by the radio and trivialized, but it is not something I spend any time worrying about.
Mike Gordon: Utah was a gig where there weren't as many tickets sold and a lot of people had decided to skip it, whereas Halloween was the hottest ticket we had. So the original idea was to sort of tease the people who would have wanted to hear the song but blew off Utah. Sometimes inobscure things happen in obscure places. We didn't think of the idea until dinner time, at which time we started to learn it. We began to think it would be really cool to cover a whole album during Halloween then play the album the next night. We try to do things that stretch the limits of a band. It wasnt as well rehearsed as "Loaded," but it was fun; they both were.
Mike Gordon: Well, that would be unplanned if this were to happen. I did play the banjo at Neil Young's Bridge School benefit, but it hasn't been the focus as of late. It would be nice. We have been focusing a lot more on just sort of doing what we do best with less extra stuff going on, and since I don't practice the banjo very much, it ends up being somewhat novel rather than serious.
Mike Gordon: We don't talk as much as we used to about infusing styles, although we do listen to a lot of styles. These days the influences are more blended together into an original sound, but we have ideas from time to time about funny mixtures, like doing a house music kind of album, for example. Who's to say what we will actually do?
Mike Gordon: Briefs.
Mike Gordon: Our friend Myndy taught us a couple of dance steps. We could use some more lessons, though.
Mike Gordon: A lot of people have been asking about Toronto. There are a lot of places we dont play anymore; we haven't played in Vermont in years, so who knows?
Mike Gordon: Well, I can say we just watched a rough cut today and gave input today as a group. It is hard to know what direction the movie will go now. I don't have any personal interest in getting more involved creatively, because it is not my movie and I am working on my own movie, which takes all of my home time, but we are giving some input and are very interested in seeing what direction it might evolve.
Mike Gordon: Actually, a lot of stories in that book are from when I was younger. It is a compilation of 15 years of writing. I could probably pull together another one if there is enough interest.
Mike Gordon: I can speak for this tour -- I like the "Split Open and Melt" jam in Madison, WI.
Mike Gordon: We think it is a really cool thing, but at the same time it could be a problem. The first time it happened, people starting throwing up the glowsticks, and Chris(our lighting guy) turned out all the lights. It was spontaneous, and it is still cool. Then, this year at the Lemon Wheel, I got hit in the eye by one, right in the ball of my eye, and I saw spots for about an hour. I could wear goggles, it is not too much of a problem. The other night, Trey caught one during a guitar solo, but then again if he is going to catch them, then they will throw them, which could end up being painful in the end.
Mike Gordon: A lot of people may know this, but also at the Lemon Wheel concert I was with my friend Pistol, and I decided to ask some of the skateboarders to hold onto the back of our golf cart, and at one point we had 46 skateboarders holding on to the cart. We had someone on the hood telling folks to watch out as some of those trailing fell. Then Pistol wanted to drive, so we switched drivers while moving, and we were swerving, so while Pistol was driving I walked off the cart and onto some people's skateboards, and I realized how hard it was for some people to hold on. There is one thing...
Mike Gordon: Responding to the first part -- the book was a project that had to evolve, and there was one point where we got a packet of interviews of the band. When we first read the packets it was very enlightening. Even though we spent 15 years together and know each other very well, there were some new things we talked about with the interviewer, and we learned a lot about ourselves and made some progress in the group dynamic by talking about it. I think that is why people really like the book; you get this sense of this ongoing discourse among analytical musicians. A lot of times when we talk about some issue, it is sort of like we are jamming with words, and a lot of our jamming onstage is improvisational, and the book is a dynamic of that music in a nonmusical form.
Mike Gordon: The most obvious answer is Bill Monroe, not because he influenced me specifically but because he influenced the genre. Then there are other people who have been around for a while -- Ralph Stanley. And Dell McVory, whom we recently met, is a big influence on all the band, also Tony Rice. One of my favorites is Tim O'Brien and Hot Rize -- he just has a great voice. It was 10 to 15 years ago they toured around, and Allison Krauss. There are others that I can mention, but those are some that come to mind.
Mike Gordon: It is entirely spontaneous. We get there (to that part of the song), and we don't know what is going to happen, whether it will be long-held notes or words. I actually have to give credit to a singing teacher we had -- Jody -- she came to one of our concerts and said we do all this improvising and concentrate on our playing, why not infuse the singing with some of that energy? And it was her idea to do vocal improv, and we started doing that at our singing lessons. This is another example of the evolving -- however, we don't try to overanalyze things. There was a time that we were saying even during vocal jam it is important to start from a simple soft musical motif in order for it to go somewhere meaningful, and that is something we talked about.
Mike Gordon: We go back and forth on that issue. There was an interviewer yesterday who said to Trey, "You are the one band that can go out and make a triple album and not have it be too pretentious, yet you concentrate on making three-minute songs." We thought he had a good point and we should go out and make a triple album; at the same time one thing that appeals to us are concise, well-crafted songs -- when we listen to music, that is what we are listening to, in addition to Miles Davis jams. We don't write songs like we used to when we were 18, we are just different people now so, we would have a different approach. Each album we make tends to be a reaction to the previous album, although we are very excited about our new album. There have been conversations about making albums with really long songs with a lot of different sections, plus albums that are more song oriented like the last two, but who knows.
Mike Gordon: We wanted to quit playing them for a while either because we had been playing them so much that we needed to give them a rest, or we felt they were written a long time ago, and we don't feel genuine singing them any more. Sometimes giving a song a rest for a while is necessary in bringing it back again.
Mike Gordon: Because Art=Z.
Mike Gordon: It was Trey's senior project in college to come up with a story.
Mike Gordon: I will close by giving you a quote: "Expect the unexpected."