DC: No‚ he…it was interesting though.
PL: How long can that sustain itself? And in the case of Skip‚ where he was trying to present people this really positive image when the thing around him-you know we had been on the road for two months then‚ and our wives were all back in Mill Valley having affairs with other people‚ and‚ you know‚ it was the '60s and you're trying to be a good example to all the other flower children. But really‚ what we were was just rock musicians. So there was a point at which the whole thing just kind of came undone. And Skip was the guy that manifested any of those‚ that unwinding thing where he just turned into Mr. Hatred. In the space of a weekend he just turned from Mr. Love to Mr. Hate.
I heard a thing on TV-the other night‚ they did a documentary on the Summer of Love. Well‚ they were talking about how in the beginning‚ things were… they looked pretty positive‚ and there was some freedom‚ too. But there were these other problems like just trying to sort of live outside the box. But these people were still products of the '50s and in the same kind of moral dilemma that our parents were struggling with. I just think at a certain point‚ putting a veneer of love over that‚ or freedom‚ it sort of was done with the best of intentions‚ but in the end it was a thin veneer. It didn't go too deep‚ and all you gotta do is scratch the surface of that and you'll see that there was really a lot of anger and‚ you know‚ like‚ especially when you listen to Moby Grape‚ I think. Peter Fonda told me that one time‚ "When I first heard you guys‚ I saw the beginning of the end."
DC: That's interesting.
PL: Positive‚ but the words and the sound of the music was changing. You know‚ it wasn't the Byrds' jingle jangling anymore. I mean‚ there was that there‚ but there was also this really hard edge we sang about.
DC: I think that's the thing that has kept the music evolving to my ears after I've listened to it over the years. I've heard more below the surface as time goes on. And that only makes sense‚ but…
PL: That thing that was real‚ that we were mad‚ and when we played together‚ that all comes out. You can be as well-rehearsed as you want‚ but at the very core of that music‚ you know‚ there's this thing of‚ like‚ pounding the thing…the opposition into a pulp.
DC: Yeah‚ well there's a definite edge to the guitars and especially the drumming.
PL: That lasts for a while. And then when you make it‚ that just kind of poof! it just‚ you know…disappears. And then you're stuck with being able to carry on or do something…or maybe it never went away. I don't know whether what you're saying about us is what kept us together. Maybe a shared sense of…I don't know what it was‚ but it was self-fulfilling in the sense that when you show up like that‚ it's very tough to put it into perspective. Like‚ it's not really an act‚ it's not like…like I've heard Robert Plant talking about his newest thing; he didn't really like the English Invasion because it seems kind of artificial and kind of‚ you know‚ when you see Spinal Tap and they were in that band before Spinal Tap and they had the frilly shirts and the crocheted jackets-that sort of approach. When he listened to the bands coming from the West Coast‚ he saw…at least he thought he was seeing something real. And that made sense to me because in a way that music was just an attempt to document whatever we were going through in the subculture over here. It wasn't like taking advantage of somebody that had already made it. There was that there‚ too. I mean‚ we all respected the Byrds. I don't know one band‚ including the Airplane and all the rest of them that came afterwards‚ that didn't highly respect the Byrds. And I think that there was an element of that in most of that music‚ where there were harmonies and there was an attempt to sort of make that thing smooth‚ smooth it out‚ make it legitimate almost. You know‚ make the music more than just an attempt to get people to think about you on some level where you're just trying to do something that has maybe been done better‚ but just showing that you're interested in what's happening or something. It was more like trying to change the course of western pop music‚ but using the Byrds maybe as a jumping off point.
DC: Yeah‚ and that's a great point because-and this came to mind as I was watching the video but also as I listened to the new collection-when I'm listening to you guys‚ I can't help but‚ when I'm at work or I'm talking to friends say‚ "Have you ever heard of this band called Moby Grape?" And most people never have‚ which is a shame.
PL: OK‚ but that's the job we took though. I've felt that too‚ and especially when I was looking at that thing the other night on TV‚ because these people went on to have these great careers. And some of them‚ I mean…I like Eric Clapton OK‚ but he's not God to me‚ you know? He's just another guitar player. He played all right‚ but he was nowhere‚ to me‚ nowhere near as good as Jerry (Miller)‚ just in terms of being able to get around on the guitar. He's been a good student of the blues. He's got the vibrato down sort of and that thing‚ which most people didn't have. So he was a good student of that‚ and he thinks when he plays. He's not an idiot that just gets up there and starts beating at this…he doesn't not think about what he's doing. It's what it is‚ man. And he sort of became a caricature of himself‚ and he's still doing it. And I don't hear it having gone anywhere really. I mean‚ it's like‚ it works as though he's a part of that-you know‚ that thing that makes bunches of money. There's a point at which I was watching it and I found myself being bitter or jealous or envious of him. Not that I'm as good as Eric Clapton or whatever. But‚ you know‚ I was in a situation where I was in a band and there were people that were definitely as good as that…watching all of that stuff unwind. And from that perspective‚ it's hard to watch‚ especially when they showed the Buffalo Springfield‚ and‚ you know‚ I love them. They're really cool guys‚ Stephen especially. You don't have to give him any slack; he's a great musician. And the rest of them really were‚ too. It's just that that wasn't our trip; that just didn't happen for us. Maybe people thought it should have. Like you were saying‚ most people never heard of Moby Grape. But in the end‚ you know‚ if you think about that too much‚ you just die in a state of…like a mouse without its cheese.
That's kind of what I saw going on with Skip‚ when Skip died. That was the sad thing about it. The last five years I'd go up‚ he lived in a trailer up there‚ Capitola. I used to hang around with him; we'd spend the weekends together. But he just basically kind of hit the…he was helpless in a way in terms of being able to define anything or control his feelings. And so it was like this trip where you'd go to see him and it would have the same effect on me that it always had‚ which it sort of to put me in a state of heightened awareness where I could see colors. Skip always had that. You know‚ that charismatic thing.
DC: Yeah‚ well‚ he's like a conduit to a different level of awareness‚ that's for sure.
PL: He was in a coma‚ and the last thing to go is your hearing. And they had More Oar in there and were playing it for him as they pulled the plug and we were holding his hands. I mean‚ it was like this death of Van Gogh or something. That's the drama of it. You know…it was just so intense.
DC: I had an interesting thought the other day‚ though‚ and I was thinking of this after I spoke to someone about you. If someone like myself were to give a friend all the Moby Grape albums‚ all the music I could put my hands on‚ didn't tell them the story of the band‚ that they might very well go‚ "Wow‚ these guys really had everything planned out as they evolved from their first album up through Truly Fine Citizen and Moby Grape '69." And that's hardly the case at all. You guys must really have had to struggle to keep things together and keep working over the years.
PL: Yeah‚ it was just like one step…one situation…there was never any real plan. It was just‚ the whole thing changed and so that the songs sort of changed. That wasn't the whole band in Truly Fine Citizen; it was me and Jerry (Miller) and Don (Stevenson). So that's all you have-three-fifths of a band that really required those other two guys to be what it was‚ which was like this all-for-one-one-for-all sort of approach‚ where we put out those singles. People ask me about that all the time. They say‚ well‚ that was an attempt…that wasn't really a publicity gimmick; it was an attempt not to get a hit record. Because what we wanted was for the album to make it.
DC: Yeah‚ well‚ it worked I guess. (laughter)
PL: Well‚ it did. And other people made it work better; like Led Zeppelin didn't want a hit record. But that's really the story of it. But the way people interpret the thing‚ you know‚ they just think everybody is out there to make millions of bucks. And that's really what they want to do‚ is they want to watch…it's like a blood sport where they watch people falling by the wayside. And then you get to play this other part‚ you know‚ the part the guy played in On the Waterfront‚ where he could have been a contender. And other stuff happens in the lives of these people that have nothing to do with being‚ like‚ life in the fast lane or anything like that. So‚ that would be where all those other songs would come from. When if you look beyond 20 Granite Creek‚ or even that one and then on beyond that‚ the songs that are in those records basically document the time we spent trying to survive in the subculture after having been rock stars at one point for a brief period. So that to me is really what Moby Grape is‚ and it always will be that. Anybody in the band can do whatever they want‚ you know? It's just that when we all get together‚ it creates this vortex of energy because nobody else is really still around from that. Not the original members‚ now we're working with Omar Spence‚ who's Skippy's son. With all the original members‚ we're going do a gig at the Monterey Pop thing on the 28th of July‚ and that'll be really cool.
DC: Right. I wanted to ask you about that because I was surfing around the internet and I noticed those dates. I think you've got one on the 21st of July and one on the 28th.
PL: Yeah‚ the 21st is more like a warmup gig.
DC: Yeah‚ I was gonna ask you who was gonna be a part of the band and how you were gonna devise the set list and stuff.
PL: Well‚ the band is the band‚ with Omar. We also have this guy that we've played drums with all these years; we'll have two drummers. The set list is basically the first record minus‚ I think‚ "Ain't No Use" maybe. And‚ you know‚ with some songs off the second record and the third record. We're going to do "Seeing Dark Magic‚" which was never recorded; it was a song Skip wrote that's really good for jamming and having people dance around. And that'll be what we do‚ 16 songs. I think we're supposed to play for 90 minutes. And it'll be real good. Skip's son can-beautiful-looking guy‚ you know…looks like Skip. Not exactly‚ but pretty close.
DC: It must be eerie for you guys to look around and see him onstage with you.
PL: Oh yeah‚ yeah. No‚ it's great. We love him; he's like our son. There's this thing about not wanting‚ you know‚ you have to protect him sort of. And in this business‚ things get out of control. It's like we wouldn't want to have to watch him go through the same thing that Skip…that would make terrible karma for us. So there's this‚ especially with me and him‚ where I'm trying to tell him‚ "man‚ when you make it is when your troubles begin. I mean‚ especially in your situation 'cause you're trying to take over for your dad. And the same curse would try to overcome you." I mean‚ that's how this whole thing works; it's kind of a war of a tradition. You can expect that. I haven't really seen any signs…like he's a Christian; he goes to church all the time. He was made consciously aware of all these things‚ about the thing about him being more like his brothers and sisters in terms of being the one who was sorta gonna have to carry on for Skip.