Well, honestly, we've got a fairly long day. Our sound checks are approaching two hours at this point where we're rehearsing elements of the show, whether it's songs we're playing that night or beginnings and endings of the songs, or elements of the transitions. We never rehearse the things we intend to improvise, but if there's things we need to tighten up or just where we're going to stop and start and get in and out of things. So we're rehearsing close to two hours a day, just before dinner, and then come back and play the show for three and a half hours. So just before we go on, we'll have a set list meeting where we sort of review -- we just go down the set list and talk about all of that stuff right before we go onstage, and then that's it. But then after the show, we don't really talk about it unless there's a big train wreck, and then maybe there will be like, "What the heck happened? What were you doing?" and "Why did we do that?" And we'll usually laugh about it. We never have arguments about that kind of stuff, and it's usually pretty funny when we train wreck. [laughter]
Well in the old days, is that something you guys used to fight about a lot?
No, we never fought about it. In fact, if anything, usually the person responsible for it will feel pretty crappy, and that's about it. But I remember at times getting so down on my own playing, and not wanting to hang up the guitar, but not wanting to play lead guitar for a while. Different things, like being really self-critical about my role in the band and what I really ought to be doing or contributing because of how the shows were going and what the weak spots were. And I was analyzing this stuff and maybe over-analyzing this stuff and, you know, you just kind of need to stop sometimes and just not do that.
And I think Chris made a really good point; it's that youthful mind -- it can be really destructive. It becomes too much of a head game where you start to over think it and you really just need to play, but at the same time it totally helps to have your chops together first before you get in the game. So any exercise and whatever you can do in the first place before you get into the event clearly helps so you don't have to think about that stuff, so it doesn't have to be a head game and you can just sort of be on top of your game when you're in it. And that's kind of where we're at these days, and it's nice that we can just sort of laugh about that stuff. And as tight as we can be, we've always been a pretty casual band.
I've been really curious about what happens when you're on stage improvising or when you're in the thick of making music. I try to ask this of every musician that I talk to, about where you go when it's really happening. Is it visual? Like when you're in the improvisational bliss state.
Right. Well I guess for me it is somewhat visual, and not as in… I mean it's difficult to describe, but the things that I see when I close my eyes are probably closely related to the guitar, and the shapes and patterns that I sort of visualize are most likely closely related to the shapes and patterns of the guitar. So everything is kind of geometric. But it's sort of vague. It's sort of like when you're drifting off to sleep, like if you're really, really exhausted and you're drifting off to sleep and you're dreaming, but you're not quite asleep yet in your mind. It's that kind of a state, you know? But the thing is, you have to be an active participant, too, so you can't just completely let go, you have to be on with what you're doing. So, there's a lot of sensory input going on during this whole thing, and it's easy to sort of follow the guitar for a little bit, and then all of a sudden you hear something come through on the bass and your mind goes that way, and then you might really be grooving with the drums for a minute, and it really does become very conversational in that way, but it's hard to really have an argument.
There's a lot of information there to sort of pay attention to and not pay attention to at the same time. And you also have to kind of choose what to pay attention to and sort of choose to be open minded and not pay attention. So it's sort of a weird state to be in. You kind of want to be in a meditative state, but at the same time you're at a rock show onstage with thousands of people in front of you and you want to be actively engaged. It's a very weird position to sort of be in.
Ideally, you know, it would sort of be nice to be home alone doing this in a quiet place [laughter], but at the same time we're onstage in front of a bunch of people doing this. Every now and then I will literally find myself losing my balance from time to time, and just swaying and doing odd things because I was really more focused on my playing and not really on what I was doing physically. You sort of have to be all aware and you have to be this Zen student to be in the right mind and time, and be able to pull it all off. And we're 20 years in and I'm not there.
[laughter] Yeah, it's like a lifelong study and you have to just keep working at it.
Yeah, absolutely. And then on the other hand, I see people like Derek Trucks for example, and I see he's 20 years ahead of me, you know, where I need to be. In that regard, I just think it's something about the way he situated himself in the music. He's really… I don't know… his state of mind is just right for that.
Yeah, that's a good example. I was talking to Marco Benevento recently when he was playing up here, and we were chatting about how awesome it would be if the crowd would drift as far as he does sometimes when he plays. And it sounds sort of weird sometimes to be at a rock concert and wish that you're audience was just on the brink of falling asleep but very actively listening to you.
Right! [laughter]
It's like, "What, that's not supposed to happen." But we were talking about how that's sort of, for both of us, the favorite moments that we have is when you get to that state where you're so far into it in that you're in that meditative place.
Right, and that's exactly what I'm talking about, and so sometimes I'll get to those points onstage and then I'll open my eyes because a change is coming up or something, and for whatever reason I'm like, "Oh right, I'm at a concert. Oh right, there's people here!"
"Oh shit, everybody's looking at me!"
Right! I have a job to do. [laughter] You know, and it's one of those things when I realize, "Oh, there's drool coming down my mouth." [laughter] "Oh, right, OK, what was I doing again?' And I am completely lost in what I'm doing, but yeah, you're right. And I think in a lot of cases, a lot of people are right there along with us for that ride and that's a great thing. And there are some people there who just don't get it and probably aren't. You know, that's the cool thing about this music scene, people are for that kind of experience. They're there for that ride. And that's what I love about this kind of live improvisational music. People thrive on that and they encourage it. People push us to those limits, which I love.
Yeah, that's why I keep going back. Well, going back to what you said, just having those moments where you open your eyes and, "Oh yeah, I'm playing a concert." What was your experience like, say, the first time that you really lost your inhibitions in a way to be comfortable enough to go there in front of anybody? Did you have a moment in time where it was kind of a breakthrough?