Do you remember specific moments over your career in which you hit that next level of connectivity?
Well… yeah, I feel like it happens once a week. It happened in Syracuse in March, and then in Pittsburgh it happened again like a week later. Something special happens between us all onstage on those particular nights -- it made everyone in the room feel as one. I don't know… as corny as that sounds, that's my interpretation of what I felt.
With these kinds of experiences and going back to what you were saying earlier about the thrill of the chase, how is it different now than it was sixteen years ago when you were first having these experiences?
It's not. That's why I'm still doing it. I've always said it doesn't matter if it's a few people, two hundred people, two thousand people or ten thousand people -- it doesn't matter. The same thing happens. If it was different, I might not do this now. If it was different -- you know, I manage three bands, I may just do that if it felt different. You get up and you try to make people freak out. And that's so much fun to me, I can't stop. I keep doing it.
The Biscuits wanted to take a break and I sensed Magner didn't want to take a break, by him saying to us, "I don't want to take a break." [laughs] I felt the same way so I said let's play. The Biscuits definitely needed a break, that wasn't anything we were contesting. It was clear it was time for a break. That being said, on a personal level, I just want to be playing music. This is what I do. I like managing artists too and managing our own band -- I really enjoy the business side of it. But, in the end, nothing is more rewarding than creating a new song and performing it for people.
That's awesome. What about some of the other things in your life -- you said you just turned thirty-nine, you're a father -- how do these things play into your development as a musician?
I have three young kids, and young kids love dub step and electro [laughter]. So… it's making it easy for me to not get left behind in the jam band world or the electro jam band world or whatever. My seven year old says, "Dad, you got to be getting hip to this Porter Robinson stuff. I met this guy in preschool." [laughs] They're so young -- the guys who make this music. But you know, you just try to balance it. I know what's most important. What's most important is my kids. That's the number one priority. Just knowing that your number one priority is your kids, everything else falls in place. They go to school and I work, and I thank my lucky stars every day that when I go to work it doesn't actually feel like work. It's so much fun and it's exactly what I want to be doing. It really feels like I'm unemployed, right up until April 15th when I have to write those tax checks. Right up until tax season it feels like I'm unemployed -- there are so many weeks that I just hang out with my kids and write music while they're at school and then they come home and on weekends, so much of my life is chilling with kids. I know that you have to stay current and you have to keep writing music and reinventing yourself -- these are the lessons I learned from the people I'm inspired by: Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane. The true greats. They continue to inspire me to do this and inspire to continue to do this for my life. As decades passed, they were inspired by new things and followed new paths in terms of sounds. If you look at Miles Davis in the 1950s he was playing cool jazz, in the 60s it was modal jazz, in the 70s it was jazz fusion, in the 80s -- a lot of people don't know this, but on the album Amandla, I feel like he pretty much invented R&B, right before R&B really hit, he put out a jazz album that was R&B. I don't know, he definitely invented cool jazz and modal jazz with Birth of the Cool and Milestones in 1957, and he definitely invented jazz fusion. You know, those three things… I don't know, that's what inspires me. Musicians that are playing at the highest level and then not being afraid to switch it up completely and leave what they've known behind at that moment to play something completely different and new. That's the difference between early Pink Floyd and later Pink Floyd -- at some point their fans had to be like, "What the hell? This doesn't sound like Pink Floyd." It had to have happened. There's no way they changed that drastically without backlash. When Wish You Were Here came out there had to be a backlash from all the people that loved the early, psychedelic freak out stuff. Here are these pop songs, you know? Like what the fuck? I'm trying to put myself in the position of the kid who was into "Astronomy Domine" and then hearing "Wish You Were Here" -- you know? Like, "What the fuck?" Don't you think? It must have happened.
That goes back to your first question: does it humble you? We're not Pink Floyd. I'm not a delusional person [laughter]. These are just my inspirations and I'm not saying we're anything like them, but I do know we've been extremely fortunate to have the success we've had and it's scary and daunting to set out on a new path while the Biscuits are on break. And it's so rewarding and so much fun too. It's what I always said I would do. My whole life. When I discovered Miles Davis in jazz school, that was the promise that I made to myself: As music changes and as technology changes, we're always going to try to be influenced by what goes on in popular culture and bring it back into what we do. Look at the Grateful Dead in 1977 and the disco, you know what I mean?
There must have been some backlash for that. You know, disco sucks, disco sucks, and then the Grateful Dead do it. There had to have been backlash.
I think they're still feeling backlash from it [laughter].
Yeah, I've had the pleasure of getting to know those guys a little bit. And some of the experiences and conversations I've had with them have been about backlash and they amused me. I think it was Phil [Lesh] who said to me a quote they used to say, "The Grateful Dead: Pissing off a small handful of people since 1965." [laughter]
I've told this story a bunch, but it just ruminates so well. Here's this guy who has been playing stadiums, you know, for decades. And he's trying to reinvent himself with Phil & Friends -- this is back when we were playing with Phil & Friends. We were up in his studio in Marin County and he said, "Are you guys familiar with these message boards?" [laughs] It was like… "Come on!" He's played stadiums, you know? He was like, "Well, this week it's everybody knows who should be in my band except me." I was like… are you fucking kidding me? This guy who has been playing stadiums and doing this for forty fucking years is reading message boards? What the fuck has this world come to? I was just like, "Dude, don't read the message boards. You can't read the message boards." At that point, we had already stopped reading our message boards. We already learned that the hard way. You want to go crazy? You can't read that stuff. You want to be yourself and know what you like. That's an important part of being an artist -- to know what you like and know what you think. And people will follow if it's in your heart and you're working hard.
Phil checking out message boards…
I've told that story a bunch, but the reason I tell it is that it's still so surprising. It's amazing. But, you know, you heard that about Phish too. Not from the people in Phish, but just from hearing all those stories from being a Phish fan, you know, around the hiatus or breakup. Not insider information like Trey was on PT or something, but you just hear about it. You hear stories. It's not healthy. That shit is not healthy.
Hold on, Michetti is fucking with me. This guy has been fucking with me all day. We're on a bus this tour. We were in a van on all our previous tours. When you're in a van, you know, everyone is pretty humble. When you're on a bus, that's when the attitudes come out. And this is a nice fucking bus. I'm thinking, "How the hell can Conspirator afford this shit." It's a nice bus. Spirits are high.
I know we spoke before Camp Bisco 2005. So, a lot has happened since then with Camp -- what are some of your thoughts on how it's evolved? It's been a pretty remarkable movement in music.
Yeah, you know, we're just riding the wave and shit. Just trying to take advantage of the scene and make as much cheddar as possible. This is what kids say to us. [laughter] "You just care about the money man!" I'm like, dude, do you have any idea how much money Camp Bisco lost while we were cultivating the electronic music festival? You know? And so many kids want it to be a jam band festival, you know? "Bring the jam bands!" It's like, "What?" It's never been that if I remember properly. Ever since the first one, the idea was for the Biscuits to play a lot of sets during the nighttime and have electronic music going until the end of the night. Even in 2005, I think that's when Younger Brother came out, and I think that's when Hallucinogen and Shpongle came out. We brought OTT, and Alex Paterson from the Orb… you know, this was all in the old days. It was like a drum 'n' bass festival at first. And then we started to bring in some trance acts. Anyway, through all these years nobody gave a shit about electronic music except for us. I'm not saying that as a "look how cool we are," I'm saying it as a "look how uncool we are." Like, we're the only people in the county that love this music. We liked it so much that we threw festivals around it and lost all kinds of money every year [laughs]. But we did it for the love of the music, for real. That's what it's about. And now, the scene has exploded. It's so exciting to see what's happened with electronic music, and all these new styles of it. There's this new thing called "house music," which you've might have heard -- it's a brand new type of electronic music, cutting edge stuff. Have you heard of house music?
[laughs] House music? Never heard of it.
Brand new kind of music. Great stuff.