It's State of Mind. A music magazine. My girlfriend and I started it three years ago. It's free‚ slowly spreading out across the country. It's great to be able to provide this for people to read. Before the magazine‚ I was fortunate: there were people out there talking about all different kinds of music that inspired me to go out‚ go nuts with curiosity and discovery. And so now I think‚ at the core of it‚ it's part of my duty as well to go out and hopefully turn some people on to some stuff and point them in the right direction‚ so they go and find it and become part of it‚ you know? Hopefully someone will find inspiration in what we put out‚ or they'll pick up an instrument‚ or get off on music in some capacity.
That's a very‚ very important segment of our world. Because‚ I mean‚ nobody listens to radio anymore. People get their music from their friends‚ or word of mouth of some kind. I don't know how magazines fit in there‚ but obviously that's an alternative form of communication‚ it's like word of mouth. In other words‚ you don't get turned on to the music by hearing it‚ you hear about it. It's very interesting the way the whole industry is changing.
Yeah‚ it definitely is. Our whole approach was just to go find music fans and do it the grassroots way‚ I guess. Hand it to people if they want it.
You're also finding grassroots music‚ too‚ right?
Oh‚ yes‚ of course.
Right. I don't think people really are interested in reading‚ or hearing about‚ the established stuff. They can get all that from the mainstream media. So it's kind of incumbent upon you guys to search out the cool new stuff‚ you know‚ the young guys that are coming up with different ideas. It's very exciting. I'm certainly honored to be able to talk to you.
Well‚ it's an honor to have you here‚ too. Actually‚ I just thought of an idea out of that because you talked about young guys coming up. I remember back in the mid-nineties‚ right after Jerry passed‚ there were all these bands that started doing the same kind of thing the Grateful Dead were doing. Where they were channeling the philosophy and approach‚ and they were playing bars. And I was really excited about it at the time. There were all these bands‚ playing all kinds of different music and stretching out like crazy‚ and they were embracing that philosophy. And I was friends with a bunch of people who were also into the Grateful Dead. My attitude was: "This is what we learned from the Grateful Dead's music: you go out and you search for different kinds of music and you support it." And I remember having this hang-up because there was a Dead cover band that played every week‚ and it seemed like everyone would always go there. And I'd always try to encourage people to go elsewhere as well‚ to check out what the younger guys were doing. But I remember a friend of mine telling me‚ and this had a very profound effect because the way he stated it was perfect‚ he said‚ "Well‚ the Grateful Dead's music‚ you have to understand‚ you still go see an orchestra play Beethoven's music. And you know‚ a hundred years from now‚ this music is still going to be very important. This is part of how it happens. People go out and play this music." What is your opinion on that?
I thought it was really quite gratifying to see the whole jam band phenomenon explode. I can't say that we felt we were laboring in solitude‚ because it never seemed like that to us; we knew it wasn't just us involved in it. I mean‚ there are the gods and there's the audience‚ and there's the crew. It's all a collaborative effort. But at the same time‚ the thing I really liked about the whole jam band movement‚ and still do‚ is that they're not imitating us musically. They're simply taking the concept or the potential of what we were doing and applying it to their own music. And I find this is better than what we would have wished for if we had ever thought about it. You know‚ we didn't want to influence people to sound like us‚ so to have musicians take the kernel of what it is that we do and apply it to their own music‚ that's cool.
Yeah‚ and I think that is what happens with the best bands: if you take that kernel you're not gonna end up sounding anything like the Grateful Dead; you're gonna sound like you.
What does Levon say? You take what you need and leave the rest. [laughter] It works on all kinds of different levels.
So another thing to throw out there to you: I keep having conversations with friends about the fact that every time you put a band together‚ it sounds both simple and very complex. You have someone like Trey [Anastasio] playing with you or [John] Scofield or Greg Osby‚ and these guys have their own voices. But no matter who you're playing with‚ I can immediately tell it's you. It's not necessarily material you're playing‚ but more about the space you create when you're improvising. I always know it's your band.
I like to just let it happen‚ but I like to put in a little course correction here and there. I tend to make suggestions at certain moments. But that's really the extent of my active interference. Or sometimes we'll agree before the set that between these two songs we'll take this little road‚ over here into this key‚ into this realm. And then I'll count the song in and we'll go to the next song or something like that. But that's pretty much the limit of my role in that way. First of all‚ I think the fact that John Molo and I have been playing together for almost nine years now is a big factor. He's the one guy that I don't want to swap out. Because that's the core of the space. That's how we define the space. Me and Molo define that space‚ pretty much by how many notes we play. We could be playing at a really fast tempo but be playing really open and not too many notes in a bar‚ and that'll create a certain kind of space for the musicians. Or we could be wailing away and just throwing out machine gun rips and shit‚ and that creates another kind of space‚ but that space is a little more claustrophobic. We kind of have to conflict with one another or walk on each other. And that's musically appropriate sometimes. To have all this shit going on‚ everybody throwing ideas out‚ thinking fast -- the fun there is to find the one that's gonna stratify out of all that‚ settle out and be our next path. Really‚ it's a question of knowing when not to try and control it.
What is it about Molo? I was going to ask you earlier…
Well‚ first of all‚ he has this encyclopedic knowledge of all things related to drums‚ rhythm‚ pop music‚ and genres. It's just this profound sweep and range of rhythmic elements. And what he does is he combines elements from all different kinds of genres when we're playing. So he'll be playing a funk kick drum with a country snare and hat. But it's so seamless‚ you don't really notice that they're fused rather than superimposed. And he can turn on a dime‚ which is very important. We've gotten to the point where we can just look at each other and we can actually change the tempo and go off in a different groove‚ kind of diagonally. And that's fun to do. If we're somewhere‚ and maybe we've been there just a hair too long‚ Molo and I can take a left diagonal and it's like a wake-up call: "OK‚ well‚ here's a turn in the road." We're not on a track. We are a Ferrari‚ not a train. So‚ you know‚ that's why I really like to play with Molo.
Anything on some of the other guys and what they're bringing out of you?
Well‚ I don't know if you've heard Jackie Greene's stuff. Check out that record American Myth. Check out the arrangements and the guitar playing and the little comments that they all make behind the vocal. They're having a little subtext conversation while the song is going on. It's really cool. I heard one of his tunes on the radio and I really liked it. I went to the Web site to find out who it was and when I saw who it was I remembered I'd heard people say‚ "Check this guy Jackie Greene out." So I actually went and got the record‚ and I really liked the whole thing and said so in an interview. So Jackie sent me an email saying "Wow‚ thanks for the kind words in your interview." And when the time came to start putting something together‚ Jackie was one of the first people I thought of -- his songwriting‚ his guitar playing‚ and that he's a keyboardist. So you get to have a band that can have two keyboards and one guitar or two guitars and one keyboard. And so that's just delightful. [laughter] Jackie's singing and playing is world-class and his songs fit in so beautifully with our stuff. It's really fun to make set lists and weave those songs in and out with all the Grateful Dead classics and everything else. And we're gonna be jamming like crazy.
And of course‚ Larry Campbell needs no introduction. He plays all those instruments and every one of them with consummate mastery. And his spirit -- he's like this warrior. More like a shaman; he's got a hold of the tribal ancient knowledge. And it kind of comes out in his music‚ when he lets us play it. He's another guy that loves to just play. We get going and it's just like this mountain‚ or like a river -- the Nile or something. Really powerful‚ really broad‚ really wide‚ and really deep.