KM: Well‚ sure. There's always going to be some of that. And we experienced some of that with the last record. Even though we thought it was a great record. It's definitely a bit of a departure sound-wise from what we've done. But we really enjoyed making it and think that hopefully it will stand the test of time and people will go back to it years later and say‚ "You know‚ that was a really interesting and good record they made‚" even though at the time people were saying I would rather see them live or listen to a live show. Again‚ it's just kind of the other side of the craft-getting to work something in the studio. It's fun for us. I think this album is probably a little more accessible than the last record. So even though it's maybe not as a big raucous dance album‚ like the live show might be‚ I think that it'll grow on people and if they give it a chance it'll be popular with the fans.
MM: Yeah‚ definitely. I'm curious to see how everyone reacts to it once it's out there and people get to take it in. Because right now‚ like I said‚ it hasn't left the CD player. And I was driving over the weekend on a road trip and thought‚ "boy‚ if I could predict the future‚ this is going to be everyone's must-take on the road."
KM: That'd be all right with us!
MM: Yeah‚ it definitely has that feel. Well‚ going back to the last album‚ that was great in terms of just the risk involved. It's such an experimental kind of album.
KM: Well yeah‚ the band's been together for over 11 years now and I think it's important for us to take some risks and push the boundaries a little bit in the studio and try some new things. Just to kind of stay creative. If you don't push the boundaries a little bit each time and just kind of do what you know‚ you're maybe not growing much as an artist. So I feel like it's been important for us to get in the studio and push a bit and see where we can go with it. And then you take things from that and incorporate them into the live show and so then your tonal palette becomes larger from which to work when you are playing live.
MM: Right. That's kind of the point.
KM: It is. You want to grow and develop as artists over the career and continue to improve as songwriters and push the boundaries in the studio musically and incorporate some that into your show and bump it up a little bit each time with each new project‚ each new album.
MM: That's great that the focus is there. Do you ever feel like you lose…or have there been times where you feel like the band has lost focus with everything? For instance‚ you have this really great organization. And it's pretty big: your own record label‚ ticketing‚ publicity. It's all kind of in-house. An off-shoot from the band. And it's great. I think it's a great thing. And you had the Ticketmaster thing. And also this community of people who follow you around. I'm sure there are some issues with that at times. Do you ever feel like the bigness of it kind of takes away from the focus of just making great music?
KM: It can. It can. I don't feel like there's been as big an issue with the bigness of it taking away as there have just been periods where I think the band has felt a little burned out or not as creatively inspired. And certainly there are distractions from the bigness and the business and you know‚ you've got your personal life as well. And all the guys except Mike Kang are married now and couple of us have kids and so you have other things going on in your life as well that demand your attention and that you're interested in. So I think there have been periods where the intensity has been stronger and lower. Fortunately‚ I think this album has really been a catalyst to refocus the band. And it seems like that every time-last couple times we've gone into the studio. It's really been an opportunity for everyone to feel like they really get their creative ideas out there and expressed by the band and really developed. So it kind of super-charges the band again to go out and hit the road and play the new material and reconnect with each other and the fans and feel inspired again. In that way the studio process really does a good job of jump-starting the band's excitement every time.
MM: Good. Keeping the fire burning.
KM: Yeah‚ keep it going‚ you know? You gotta add fuel to that flame and making the record is a way of doing that. Giving the band new material to play…that's exciting. And again‚ the studio is just sort of a hot spot of expression and creativity and I think we feel like we really get to push the boundaries there. More so than in the live shows sometimes-where there are certain parameters and certain expectations and whatnot. And it's all great and it's good but it's different; it's got it's own energy of connecting to the fans and playing to the fans. We're enjoying the balance. I hope we can continue to make studio records every year or year-and-a-half or so just to keep that creative input going and the juices flowing with the band because it really is a good way for us to refocus and get excited about going out again.
MM: That's great. Well‚ on the other side of things: the live show-how do you feel about the playing over the last year or so?
KM: I think this last tour we did‚ the spring tour‚ was probably our strongest playing in a while. I guess there are some reasons-well‚ we were fresh out of the studio. Even though we weren't really playing the album material-only a couple of the songs. But we had a great three nights at the Fillmore in Denver and then we did a little tour of the Rockies and the West where we played a lot of smaller markets‚ a lot of smaller venues. Ski towns that we hadn't visited in a while. Places like Park City‚ Lake Tahoe‚ Boseman‚ Jackson‚ Whistler‚ BC‚ you know‚ a lot of places that are secondary markets but that were great mountain towns‚ great ski towns‚ great crowds for us back in the early years. So it was fun to go back‚ play some smaller venues and reconnect with the crowds. And I think the band just felt somehow in the smaller venues just really relaxed and willing to take some chances‚ get really excited about the playing‚ and I think it was loose and confident and it came across really well I think. I think its some of the best playing we've done together in a long time. So that's really encouraging and hopefully that kind of feeling will segue right into summer.
MM: Right‚ that momentum. Sure. That's great. I'm kind of curious just about music for you. Some of the things it does for you. I know obviously you've been doing this for a long time and there are a lot of assumption on my part‚ but I imagine there is some sort of spiritual outlet that you get from playing live or I'm sure you've had some incredible experiences on stage.
KM: Yeah definitely. It's a passion and it's a creative outlet and on a good night it's also kind of a spiritual connection as you say. It's a way to really get in touch with the universe. When you're up there and really a part of playing as part of a group and feeling really connected and in the groove‚ it becomes a really big experience. Sometimes I even get the feeling that I'm kind of outside of myself and it's just all happening. And that's great. When you're feeling like that and you're so in the groove and it's all happening you know that you're probably not the only one feeling that way‚ you know‚ the other guys in the band and the crowd. I think that's part of what makes live music appealing both to the crowd and to the musicians as well is that when it's really happening for you‚ it's one of those larger than life experiences and it can take you to a spiritual place or just a place of bliss where you kind of are lost in the moment in a really good way and connect with the music and the other people and the energy. You know‚ it's food for the soul. Keeps us coming back and keeps people coming to the shows. I guess it is like food for the soul and we're the cooks up there and each band cooks up a different kind of recipe and different foods‚ different recipes‚ appeal to different fans. And that's why each band has it's own fans with some crossover of course. But if String Cheese cooks up what appeals to you‚ that's why you keep coming back. It's something that is very satisfying to attend. I'm the same way; whether I'm playing or seeing music‚ I crave that satisfaction. I want the band to take me to that spot where I'm feeling the big vibe. I think that's why we all go see live music‚ isn't it?
MM: Oh yeah. Absolutely yeah. That's why I'm doing it.
KM: It speaks to people and we all feel it. It's kind of an intangible thing. It's a little hard to put your finger on exactly what it is‚ but something about that excitement and that pulse. And even being a little kid-I remember the first time seeing live music. Whether it was at a Fourth of July local park with some local band playing or musicians at a restaurant or whatever‚ I kind of got that feeling of like‚ "whoa‚ this speaks to me. I want to be around this. I want to be a part of this. I want to learn to do this."