MM: It is a weird thing because I know writing something like that is really tough to articulate without sounding pretentious. It's very hard to state the way you feel in a song and have that song‚ those lyrics‚ really represent the way you feel.
BB: It's easier when it comes to personal things about love and a lot of times I write about‚ you know‚ dealing with your own hang ups and fears. "Sometimes True to Nothing" is a good example‚ it's an attempt to reach out and address some personal issues of depression. "Six-Sided" is just a real personal moment‚ and for the most part those are the types of lyrics I love the most. I equally admire the stuff that can incorporate political/world issues‚ it seems much harder and much more of a skill. The person who does that is a real communicator and speaker. The stuff that I do is more... I'm trying to find ways to bring those things together‚ and making it easier for myself to do that.
MM: Definitely‚ it's not an easy task to convey some kind of idea like that…
BB: It's tricky. Trying to write about the food industry in a song is not easy‚ you know‚ to make it creative and you've got to find a way to do that.
MM: It always seems like you've got to point out some facts and make it funny. (laughs) So people listen to it and say "oh my god‚ that's funny and wow that's true." It's definitely a tough thing where you're playing music on all different levels‚ and then you're really putting yourself out there with trying to make that kind of statement.
BB: Michael Moore has been a big inspiration to me. He does it with humor‚ that's his device. Musicians have that power too. I think a lot of them it's just a difficult thing. Like you said it puts you out there‚ and all the sudden you have to be accountable for your actions.
MM: Then you get labeled. Like‚ boom - that band stands for that. That's a lot of heat to deal with when you're just trying to make good music.
BB: Bob Dylan...
MM: Right - under constant heat as a guy writing songs and speaking his mind. He's human like all of us‚ and if you listen to all his records there are tons of contradictions. That's one of things I find so beautiful about him‚ it's human‚ you know? He doesn't have the answers‚ and stop acting like he does. He's throwing those ideas out‚ so take it or leave it. But people - well it's a tough thing to swallow when some one comes out and blatantly says something‚ especially in political terms.
BB: I think people really wanted to keep following what he was saying and what he was doing‚ and I think he realized how dangerous that was to have people follow you like that. I don't know what happened‚ but it was something he had to do - back away from it.
MM: So Dylan - definitely an inspiration to your songwriting?
BB: I say the first few albums The Times They Are A-Changing‚ The Freewheelin‚ and Another Side of Bob Dylan - those albums I just love. His understanding of the songs is just beautiful - I love all those albums. Of course Blood on the Tracks and Basement Tapes - those are the main Dylan albums I listen to.
MM: All of those albums are incredible. Another thing I find so brilliant about him is that he hasn't ever stopped‚ especially lyrically. It's funny because on his newest album‚Love & Theft‚ his voice has gone to shit‚ but he still belts it out and there's so much emotion and understanding that comes through that voice and those lyrics. I don't know‚ I can't say enough about Dylan. It's kind of what you said about writing lyrics - when you feel a certain way about something‚ it's hard to put yourself out there and say something like that. Whatever is in my head it seems like Dylan found a way to say it.
BB: Oh yeah‚ so many ways‚ so many times. He knows what you're thinking‚ man.
MM: Yeah‚ he's like my subconscious. (laughs) Well‚ something else I wanted to talk about is the way you approach playing live in terms of improvising. Is there anything specifically right now that you're trying to implement into improvising?
BB: I think lately that has been more about the individual research area‚ like discovering new things about our instruments that surprise each other. As a group we've been trying to realize‚ or make real‚ this sound we have - a further integration of all the stuff we've been inspired by. I think we're still working with a lot of the same concepts that we have in the past in terms of group improvisation. It's pretty much about opening up to what each individual has to say and responding to that.
MM: So you're continuously trying to develop those underlying ideas?
BB: Yeah and just trying to write new songs‚ and trying to get into the concepts behind them‚ and trying to make them happen as a new sound. On this tour especially‚ we have seven or eight new songs that are all different and a new style and new sounding to us. The whole art of improvisation itself has never really been discussed as far as like trying different concepts. For example‚ the way Phish used to work on their improvisation‚ using whatever technique they would do. We never really have done that‚ it's always been understood when we get up there. Just the three individual brains and trying to make them hear each other. We understand each other really well at this point. I know what Marc needs to do to make him happy. I'm learning more about how to accompany him when he's taking a solo‚ or how to accompany Andrew‚ or advice to give Andrew on I how I like to be accompanied. When we are all improvising to figure out how to be in our range and occupy our own area of the sound. We can't all be playing a lot‚ you know‚ within improvisation there are so many different elements that you have to be aware of‚ and you have to remain focused on that.
MM: It's all about listening to each other.
BB: Basic tenants of improvising‚ it all comes down to respecting each other‚ trusting one another‚ and respecting the music. Also‚ tone - paying close attention to the tone of each of the instruments. Having a real singing sound and conveying little statements that people could laugh at‚ or close their eyes and think about something. It's a very individual thing becoming an improviser‚ and you're lucky when you find three people that can work together on bringing out each others' individual things. We are still three individuals who share a lot of love for each other‚ and a love for each others' sound. That's why the band is perceived as such a unit.