Interview with Jerry Garcia
Action World, November 1970, Vol. 2, No. 5
I interviewed Jerry Garcia the day after they played Queens College (Saturday, October 10). Musically the concert was a bummer, but to many of the people there, it was a tremendous success. The reason for this is simple: the Grateful Dead are such a fantastic rock band that even when they are bad they outshine almost any group in the contemporary rock scene.
When the Dead are right they blend the most intricate musical craftsmanship with incredibly beautiful singing. As Bill Graham once said: “On any given night the Grateful Dead are the best fuck’n rock group in the world.” If you haven’t seen them yet, what are you waiting for?
J.I.: What happened last night at Queens?
J.G.: What happened last night? What do you mean by that?
Well, last night you didn’t seem to be groovin’.
Right. That’s right, it was shitty. I mean, we flew all day long and came here for that gig, and didn’t get a chance to check out the sound very well or anything like that. The PA system wasn’t too good, and the sound was muddy on stage, and ah, when it’s muddy it just destroys any kind of hope for good interaction. You know, we can sort of play together instinctively, so it was together, but it wasn’t really high because it wasn’t enjoyable; and plus also when we went there we got a big hassle at the gate, man, all the way with people coming in and doing all this shit, laying weird trips on us and it’s like, ah, it’s not a groovy situation to play in when there’s that kind of shit going on, you know.
Did the fact that people broke in…?
That stuff doesn’t bother me, man, I don’t care what the people do, but there’s no reason why they should lay it on us, you know. I mean, it’s like, ah, you know, we were just trying to get from the car to the gig and there’s a whole crowd of people, man. Nobody was hurting anybody or anything like that, but it was just this pressure trip. It’s weird. And, ah, it doesn’t make it easy to do it good and feel good about doing it.
Did the fact that the audience, the people there, seemed to really groove affect you?
There were people who were there to be there, and then, there was our audience. And I think the people who were our audience could dig it that we weren’t getting off that heavy. But to the people who were there just to be there, it wouldn’t have mattered what we done – it could have been anybody. I mean, you know, it was like the exciting trip of breaking into a place and it’s that thing, you know, which is an okay flash if that’s what you like, but it isn’t what the music is about.
The last time you were at the Fillmore there seemed to be a lot of hassling with Graham’s people, who were running around shoving people who were smoking dope. Meanwhile, you made it clear to the audience that you were getting off, thereby encouraging the audience to light up.
Well, it’s the famous dichotomy, man – us against them. Yeah, I mean, we don’t give a fuck if everybody gets up and stands on their seats, or dances in the aisles, or dances on the stage, or anything like that. I mean, we’ve had it happen a million times and we’ve never been hurt or anything by it. But, like, then again, we don’t have to run the place next week, and it’s like there’s some reasonable in-between place, you know, where everybody can get it on and feel right about what they’re doing and the people who are there working don’t have to feel so hassled that they can’t enjoy the music. ‘Cause that’s like a thing that the people in the audience don’t realize – that the people who work at the Fillmore work there because they like music.
Did, like, Graham hassle you at all?
I mean, you know, Graham used to be just a penniless hustler in San Francisco. You know, he’s Bill Graham. He used to call up Kreitzman (one of the members of the Band) and ask him for advice when he first started to promote rock n’ roll dances.
That was back when the Pranksters were still doing things. Do you ever see Ken Kesey anymore?
What’s he into?
Nothing. He never was into much of anything. He just does what he does. He just fucks around and lives on the farm. He’s been working on trying to get in the movies.
As an actor?
Well, just trying to get a bunch of people to give him money to make a movie.
Like when he went across the country in the Prankster Bus? Did you ever see that movie?
Yep. I mean, I saw pieces of it. It was about nine hundred hours of film or something. It’s just the work of stoned freaks with cameras. It wasn’t made by movie people. I mean, it wasn’t a movie in the sense of you go see a movie, you know, it was just footage – endless footage. I can’t see enough of it.
In the last year or so, you’ve been getting much bigger. Like, a lot more people.
Yeah, it’s too weird, after all this time. Well, last night, if that’s an example of what it’s going to be like I’d just as soon fuck’n retire, man. I don’t want to make any performances – appearances when there’s that kind of shit goin’ on. You know, I really don’t. I’m not interested in it. Yeah, it’s too weird. I mean, it’s only music. That’s the way I feel about; it’s only music.
Music obviously exerts a tremendous force on this country…
Oh, yeah, I guess it is; but that doesn’t mean that I oughta carry around the responsibility of being that guy that dispenses our music, you know what I mean? It’s like being the President. I don’t want it. I don’t want the fuck’n job. I mean, I liked it when you could just be a musician; it’s like being an artist and a craftsman or something, you know: it’s a craftsman trip. Nobody goes – nobody mobs a cat that makes nice leather clothes, man, or a guy that does woodwork. Why the fuck should they mob musicians? I mean, it’s weird.
Has that been hassling you a lot lately?
Only when we play at colleges, man. That’s the only place where it’s going on like that. And our audience is mostly, like, older and cool, pretty cool about that kind of shit.
I’ve heard, and you tell me if this is true, that you generally adjust your price to what the people can afford?
Do you find it getting harder to give free concerts?
Ah, the reason that it’s harder to do free concerts in, say, the middle of a tour, is that first of all a free concert has to be set up by somebody; somebody has to do it, you know what I mean? That means that there has to be a certain amount of energy going out to make sure that there’s a place to do it – generators and shit like that. But not too uncool about telling everybody that it’s going to happen. That’s one. That’s a tough one. It has to be somebody local. The next one is that usually in our tours we don’t usually have a free space. Where for example the equipment guys would wanna move a bunch of shit around. Like twice a day, for example, is what it boils down to – to do a free thing. But it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work for a lot of people, and nobody realizes it. And I’m not into making people work that much more. It would be groovy to do free things, but see, the thing is, it’s not effortless anymore. It’s not effortless and it’s not particularly mellow anymore. And it used to be those things. See, like, I’m not interested in making a whole bunch of people work for a weird scene. You know, for a scene where there’s — every time you have a free thing outdoors, man, you, have to remember there’s a whole bunch of people who are there and they’re there being responsible for, like, the equipment. You know there’s sound stuff, PA, and all that. They’re there because they have to take care of that shit. That’s their work. That’s their work. That’s where they die; that’s their ass. They’re trying to take care of it. Meanwhile, there’s a whole bunch of other people who equate free with free, you know, with utter absolute freedom. And that means the possibility of fuck’n stuff up. What it does, is that it puts some people in the position of cops when they aren’t cops. You know, the people whose equipment it is and stuff like that. Now, I don’t like to see people go through that kind of shit. If it was possible to do it and have everybody be cool it would be groovy to do it. But it’s not possible to do it that much anymore. It just isn’t.
How many nights a week do you gig, generally, when you’re on tour?
It depends on the kind of tour. A lot of times we do every night. Sometimes we have a space here and there.
It continually amazes me how you can do four nights in a row at the Fillmore playing six or seven hours each night.
Well, that’s probably our longest gig, but see, it’s easier than anyplace else because the sound in there is pretty groovy. You know, and it’s mellow. It’s pretty comfortable. We play there a lot and we’re acquainted with the starting. You’ll always play better if you have the same place. And see, there, it’s a regular routine: we go there and do the work, go home and crash, get up, and go play and crash. It’s a regular routine, I mean, it doesn’t allow you time to do much of anything else. But we don’t always do it that way. Like, last night, the format was typical of whole other kind of gig we do which is kinda like a “hit and run” gig. I mean, the thing is on that we spoil New York audiences by playing at the Fillmore East and doing their six-hour sets and shit like that. But you can’t humanly keep that up all the time. So, like, when we do two-and-a-half hours everyone feels like it’s a bum. Holy shit, only two-and-a-half hours.
Last night I got the feeling that you guys were really uptight?
No, we weren’t really uptight but the sound wasn’t good, it wasn’t particularly pleasant, and all those, you know, militant vibes, man, shit, that kinda stuff. And the thing is, in New York, you can’t get a moment’s peace. I mean, not a moment’s peace. You can’t go and sit somewhere and get your head together and cool yourself out a little before you play. ‘Cause, like, there’s a million people going “Ahhhhh!” I mean, it’s weird. You see, that don’t happen to us anyplace but here. And it makes it so each time we come here it’s a little weirder. And eventually we’re gonna get to that point of diminishing returns where we would be leaving more fucked up than when we came. You know, I mean, that and that’s like, “Who wants it?” ‘Cause you can’t play good music if your head is fucked up. Really. You can create excitement but you can’t get into anything very deep. And that kinda stuff fucks your head up.
0n this tour are you doing a lot of hit and run gigs?
Well, most of our tours are those kinds of gigs. See, there’s only two theaters, man, they are the only two places that are set up pretty groovy all around for music and for smooth stage changes, good lighting and all that – the Fillmore and the Capitol Theater. And those are the only two in the whole country. The rest of the places we play are sort of anonymous halls and auditoriums and gymnasiums and all those kinds of places. Well, the thing is that we do our best show, in that sense – show sense, here in New York, ’cause here it’s the show world.
What kind of arrangement do you have with Joe’s Lights where, like, the last time I saw you at the Fillmore, the film clips were often directly related to the content of the music?
Right on, yeah. Well, they’re used to playing with us. Light shows generally like to do a gig with us because when we’re on we have a flow – like a light show flow.
Do you have people who work for you doing that kind of stuff?
No. I mean, it’s not a question of working for anybody, it’s – we work with a lot of people. And we don’t take anybody on the road with us or anything. We don’t make that much bread. I mean, for example, if we were making enough bread to be able to afford to do that, we would have had our own PA last night, and we would have gone through a number of sound tests to do what we could to make it better. But we don’t have any control over any of that shit, so we have to use whatever is there. It depends on there being at least a fairly decent one and that’s hardly ever the case. There’s maybe about three good, really good, PAs in the United States.
What’s the scene with the New Riders of the Purple Sage? They weren’t with you at Queens.
Again, it’s a question of can we afford it, because it costs a lot of money to move a cat from the West Coast to the East Coast. And, like, at the Fillmore they pay us enough – where we can bring whatever we want, pretty much. But at other places, like, colleges and stuff like that where we’re playing in a small hall and they’re not going to have much in the way of gross capacity and everyone is going to bust in anyway, we can’t afford to bring that many people and to do all that.
Are the New Riders going to be with you at the Capitol Theater in early November?
I think so, yeah. We take them with us when we can. We work it out in front but a lot of times people – whoever the promoter is – says, “No, we don’t want the New Riders ’cause we don’t know who the fuck they are.”
They seem to be very much a part of “An Evening With The Grateful Dead.”
They’re old friends. They’ve been gigging for years. Marmaduke, shit, he’s been here now for years.
The last time I saw you with the Riders they seemed to be into a very heavy scene. They played three songs in a row that were almost apocalyptic…
Well, that’s Marmaduke; he writes the songs. He’s a good songwriter, really excellent songwriter.
His songs seem to be very political.
They are, but they aren’t – ’cause Marmaduke is not a political dude, not at all. He’s a humanistic dude.
Is Owsley [reputed to be the finest maker of LSD] still traveling with you?
Owsley’s in jail.
How long has he been in jail?
About six months.
Do you still hand out acid at concerts?
Well, we aren’t quite that blatant. You know, I mean, we aren’t dealers or anything like that. We don’t have huge tons of LSD. We usually have enough to get ourselves high, as high as we want to get, usually. And usually enough to get a few other people high. But, see, everybody else brings it and it doesn’t matter who brings it. You know, none of that stuff matters. In fact, it doesn’t even matter whether or not you take it. It’s a trip for those who like it. As far as I’m concerned, I mean, I don’t consider it a necessity.
Do you trip a lot when you play?
A moderate amount, I mean, we don’t get incredibly flashingly high at a gig except when we know it’s going to be a good scene and there isn’t any kind of pressure. What we do, man, is usually take, like, a small amount, just enough to keep us at a certain level which is, like, super groovy for music. And it’s just, like, an optimum mechanical facilities level. But it’s a thing, and you have to experiment with drugs for a while to know what’s right for you. And nothing always makes it, you know, there’s so many variables.
Are you going to be coming out with a new album in the near future?
Yep, we just finished one.
Is it a live album?
No, it’s a studio album.
What songs do you have on it? Does it have “Candyman?”
Yeah, “Candyman” is on it.
Are the Riders coming out with an album with you?
Well, not with us, but the Riders are working here and there on an album – they’re putting together an album, but the Riders aren’t signed with any record company or anything.
Really? That’s incredible because they’re so good.
Oh yeah, right, the New Riders are a good band.
What about your bust in New Orleans? How’s that working out?
Some of the guys are still going to court down there, back and forth.
What are the charges?
Grass or Acid?
Yeah, they also said barbiturates, but we didn’t have any barbiturates.
Is there any chance that some of the group might wind up in jail?
There’s always that chance.
But does it look like they’re out to screw you?
No, it looks like it’s gonna be okay.
You’ve been busted twice. When you come to New York, or gig anywhere for that matter, are you paranoid?
No. I just consider it sort of an occupational hazard, you know. I mean, it’s like if you’re working on a skyscraper and if you’re paranoid about falling, you know, you shouldn’t be working. And that’s like if you’re playing rock n’ roll music and you’re paranoid about getting busted, you shouldn’t be in rock n’ roll music. I mean, you know, it’s one of those things that happens, man – there’s nothing you can do. There’s no profit in worrying about it.
Getting back to Bill Graham for a minute …the last time I saw you at the Fillmore, a couple of people freaked out and the House manager got up there and said there was some spiked orange juice or something going around, and it wasn’t too cool. Did they hassle you about that?
Well, considering it’s us – how can you hassle somebody like that? I mean, it isn’t always us. We get it as often as anybody else does, I mean, somebody lays it on us without us knowing it.
I don’t ask that because I think you’re uptight about it, but…
We’re not uptight about it, hell no, because they all get high themselves. I mean, we get them high, you know, mostly when we go to play at a place we get the staff and crew high, ’cause those are the people who are going to be working with us.
I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve started to get really big…
Well, we aren’t really big, man, we’re only really big here in New York. The rest of the United States – they don’t know who we are, and around home [San Francisco] people know us just because we’ve been there for so fuck’n long. And other places, you know, they’ve never heard of us in the South.
You don’t go there, though.
Well, we don’t do that much traveling, man. We don’t work all that much, because, like, mainly we’re into staying high, and diggin’ it – enjoying what we’re doing. And to work all the time is to make yourself hate it. So we try and keep – balance out our schedule.
When I say big, I mean like the last gig you played at the Fillmore. I knew some people who went to the box-office at six in the morning four days in a row – just so that they could be the first ones to buy tickets when they went on sale, so that they could get seats right up front; and on the fourth morning, there were twenty-five people ahead of them when they got there.
Well, man, we can’t be responsible for things like that.
Has that been happening a long time?
Ah, yeah, that’s the way it’s been all along. It’s getting more that way. But there’s always been – like at home there’s always been a certain group of people that don’t ever miss a show anyplace we go on the East Coast – I mean the West Coast. You know, like, every show. I mean, that’s the kind of fans we have. We have fans in the sense – it’s kind of like symphony fans; they go to see whether or not we get it on and shit like that, I mean, they know all our trips. And, ah, with us it’s a sort of a thing, I mean, we have all the elements, but it’s only in special situations where it all works, you know, it just works and everything is right. And that doesn’t happen all that often. It happens more often at the Fillmore, here, and those kinds of places. Because the environment is groovy, in the sense that you can hear what you’re doing. I don’t really have anything to say, you know. I mean, that’s why I play. You know, I like to avoid adding to that celebrity bullshit, too. I mean – I’m just not – it doesn’t make it easy. I would rather be playing good music and getting off that way than having to go on all the celebrity trips.
Do you find it unavoidable at times?
Only here, man. This is the only place where you can’t get away from it. You can try, but – you can’t really get away from it. Because it’s a trip here. I mean, New York has got that kind of, like, theater trip – a theater background and that thing of focusing on personalities, you know, that’s a big trip in New York. Because there ain’t jack shit else to do. Really, I mean, what else is there to do – man, walk the streets and buy things. And so it leaves, you know, it leaves a lot of human things just completely fucked up and that’s one of the things that has never been successfully handled in this society and that is how – how people relate to artists. Ah, because all the roles – the roles of what artists are doing is all changing, and those relationships have always been awkward, and the whole star system which was, like, a merchandising invention in the twenties for movies, you know, it’s not something that really happens – it’s something that somebody invented and laid on the public, you know – personalities. It’s responsible for all the evils in the music business, that whole trip, in terms of what it does, in terms of why people, ah, turn to down or drugs and stuff like that just to get away from the shit for awhile. I mean, Jimi Hendrix lived with it, you know. I mean, I never saw him without a half-dozen weird people hanging around him – vampires and shit. And, ah, it’s just a bummer; a big fuck’n bummer.
Did you ever jam with Hendrix?
No, I never did. The opportunity just never came up.
Were you close friends with Janis Joplin?
I was pretty good friends with her, yeah. I’d known her for a long time.
Had she been shooting dope for a long time?
Well, she used to be a speed freak, years ago – in pre-rock n’ roll days. She was a real heavy speed freak back in those days – had heavy abscesses and everything and she was a real down chick on a really down trip and then she decided to pull out of that whole scene and cleaned up for a couple of years and went back to Texas, and then came back to the Coast when the whole rock n’ roll thing started. She was like a little girl. She came out and she was really together. She started singing the rock n’ roll thing and enjoyed it immensely. And she was into juicing which was way better than speed, I mean, it’s a bummer, but it’s better than speed. And then from juicing she just got into smack, because again it’s one of those things that are trying to turn down the volume. You know, when you’re Janis Joplin, man, with all kinds of people hitting on you, day in and day out – superstar and all the rest of that bullshit, man, you go back to the motel, sit down, fix up with some smack – just to get a little sleep, you know, just to nod out, you know, come down. You know, and it’s just so easy, so easy, man, ’cause you just, you know, say – consider the situation, man, you come back from a recording studio – ah, it’s so real and easy when you’ve been into the rock n’ roll scene, you can see just how it happens, man – you come back from the recording studio, you go to some bar or something late at night and get a few drinks, you know, just to come down from the excitement and all that shit, the excitement and tension and all that shit, unwind, take a few drinks, go back to the hotel, you got a little smack there, you fix it up, but you don’t know how much you did, and you know maybe it’s a little too much and you nod out and that’s it – you’re dead, you know, it’s just that easy. And it’s like, ah, it’s because of all that weird pressure; if it was a human situation, man, if being a musician in this day and age was a humanistic situation, none of those people would have to do that – would have to go to those extremes – nobody would have to do that shit. It’s just weirdness. Weirdness. And it’s weirdness that’s laid on musicians by fans, by music lovers, you know, who confuse what music is with what personalities are.
Isn’t that also true of what is generally happening in the country?
Yeah, well, it’s another example of one of the things that’s wrong with the society. There are so many, you know, there are so many that it’s appalling.
The last time I saw you at the Fillmore, I really got a sense – especially listening to the new Riders – that one song was almost a call for revolution; I forget the name…
Do you think that very soon it will become impossible…?
Well, on the West Coast it’s already so crazy you can’t believe it, I mean, with courtroom bombings and all that going on. It’s been going on hot and heavy out there for years. But, see, everybody’s had a chance to take a good look at it, man, step away from it, you know, that isn’t it – fighting, and hassling, and bloodletting and killings and all that shit, that ain’t it. Whatever life is about, that’s not it. You know, I think everybody should take one step backwards and two steps sideways and let the whole thing collapse. You know, nobody vote, nobody work – let it collapse, man. You don’t have to break things and fuck things up and kill people and make all those people uptight. They’re all dying and they’re all going away. You know, because it don’t work – none of this stuff works, it just doesn’t work. But it’s obvious, you know, it has to be obvious to everybody because it’s everywhere. The information about it is everywhere, every newspaper, TV, the straightest level of communications are saying that everything is fucked up. Go outside and take a look at the air. It’s fucked up. I mean that’s how clear it is.
The air’s not like that where you’re living now, is it?
Well, it’s had a lot more chance to smooth out. But it’s much weirder, it’s weirder, in whole other ways than it could ever be here. I mean, New York is kinda locked into a weird game that has to do with the material universe on one hand, and the intellectual universe on the other hand, both of which are just fictions, man, of Western Civilization. They don’t have anything to do with what life is about. And this is, like, the last real bastion of that whole ethos – the big city, the incredible marketplace scene, and it’s just really weird. And the people in New York think that New York is the way everything is, and it’s not that way. I mean, my advice to New Yorkers is for everybody to leave, just go away.
Go to the country?
Go anywhere, go to Canada, go anywhere.
Then they won’t be able to see the Grateful Dead.
We would go; we would be there. We would be wherever it was comfortable and groovy. Because, I mean, playing is what we do and that’s what we’re into. We like to do it; we enjoy it. We’ll always be playing, somewhere.
What about politics?
I mean, with us and politics, man, generally none of us are political thinkers or into political trips or activism or any of that kind of bullshit. Because for one thing, man, we’re all from the West Coast and see, the West Coast, man, has the West Coast – it’s the wild west and it’s got that tradition. And the thing that we do out there, man, is we’re into a situation where we’re together as a family and we’re concerned with that survival on every level. We’re prepared to defend it – whatever it takes. But we ain’t saying that anyone else has to do it. I mean, what we decide to do doesn’t necessarily relate to what anybody else has to do because we’re into making our own decisions. Because we can take into account our whole scene. But we’re not into making decisions for everybody because we can’t take that into account, so we don’t go and say this is what we should do or that’s what you should do or anything like that because that ain’t what we do. And nobody can do that anyway. That’s just – anybody who claims to be able to decide what’s right for everybody is really a fool.
Are any political groups coming to you and making you do things for them?
Well, we are doing things for some of them. But not on the basis of political trips, but on the basis of – we were able to get it on with them. Like the Black Panthers.
How are you working with the Black Panthers?
Well, we got a couple of possible projects going on, but we’re doing a thing here at Madison Square Garden with Huey Newton, and I think maybe the Jefferson Airplane wants to do it too. It would be like a fund raising trip for the Panthers ’cause the Panthers are righteous. I mean, you know, they’re not into – they have a rhetoric trip going on – but what they’re doing is actual, practical things. They got a free breakfast trip, and they’re starting a free shoes thing, they’re starting shoe factories and stuff like that. They’re really doing things, man. They’re into action and that’s something we can understand ’cause we’re from a place where talk is cheap. I mean, talk don’t mean nothing, anybody can say stuff; the thing that counts is what you do.
When I heard you on Alex Bennet, you said you flew in with Newton from the West Coast. Was that the first time you met him?
Yeah, well, it was the first time we got a chance to really get into it with him.
And on the plane you came up with this idea?
When do you think it will come off?
There’s a date, but I don’t know when it is. We have a date. It’s already together.
Are you working with any other political groups?
No. Well, we constitute a political group, in a sense, I mean, a rock n’ roll group within the rock n’ roll universe. And us and the Airplane and Quicksilver have sort of a loose organization which is, I mean, is strictly in our own interest, or in the interest of anything that we can all agree to do. And as far as specific organizations, like, we don’t have any affiliations with any, but if there’s a righteous thing, no matter who’s doing it, if it’s righteous, we’ll do it, you know. If it avoids all the bureaucracy and bullshit and goes right to something, we’ll do it. That’s the sort of thing we’re interested in.
Concerning “Feedback” (a put on Live Dead) and that kind of music, as I understand it from the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test – you were into that about three or four years ago…
Well, we’ve been into every kind of music that we do now, all the music that we do now, we’ve been into all along. We’ve always been doing a lot of kinds of music.
Do you find your audiences calling for set numbers?
We try and discourage that, as much as possible. But we fall into patterns. We’ll have a pattern a year.
And it slowly evolves?
Well, yeah, it slowly evolves and if it gets habitual – you know, we get into this habitual thing and finally everybody will get so colossally bored with it that in about a year, bam, it will all change – there will be a whole other thing. And that will be a whole new thing, and then we’ll start building on that, and then in a year it will all change completely. It’s like that – we go into long phases.
As your music evolves, do you find it as a result of the gigs you play – in other words, through improvising? or do you work it out in the studio?
I work on music a lot. I’m into music a lot. I play with a whole lot of different people, in a whole lot of different contexts, I do a lot of studio stuff, and I’m just into music a lot. With me it’s, like, constantly adding experience and new ideas and new input, and everybody has their own way of doing it. Like, Phil Lesh (a guitar player in the band) buys billions of records, listens to music all the time, gets manuscripts, studies orchestral arrangements and things.
Is there ever friction in the group when you’re trying to put together new material?
After all this time we’ve learned to be able to work very well together, generally speaking. I mean, you know, we’re enough into each other’s trips, man, that we can bust each other if somebody’s being an asshole or something. We’ve all learned to leave room for each other in the development of an idea or playing. I mean, it has to be a cooperative trip or it ain’t music. I mean, we’re a band. That’s where we are; it’s evolved that way because we stuck it out. We never worked at it. What we used to do is rehearse a lot, you know, we would take weird ideas and rehearse a lot, every day, six hours a day and, ah, you know, you could keep that up for so long, and then everybody starts getting at each other’s throats because you start getting more and more detailed, where finally you’re defining musical feelings to such a razor’s edge. ‘Cause our trip is really analytical when we get into rehearsing. Well, like, take one figure, man, and play it over and over again for two hours, and stop it, and slow it down, and write it out, and invert it, and do every sort of variation with it, and look at it in every respect ’til we understand it perfectly, and then we’ll go into the next level of it rhythmically, and then about three levels into an idea we’ll start to have differences of opinion because of the differences of our nervous systems that perceive time subtly different and perceive pitch subtly different and so it gets into that extreme and tiny “subtly” where you start finding differences, but, like, around the big open center, man, which we’re all a part of, you know, we can all agree perfectly well.
Do you do a lot of interviews?
Here in New York. I do a lot of everything in New York. It’s just weird. I mean people recognize me on the streets here; that’s how weird it is. I mean at home, man, I’m just another freak. I mean, at home I’m just being there – if you can put yourself in the situation of walking down the street and have people go, “Hey, what’s doing,” you know, call your name and ask you for your autograph – that’s some weird trip. With something like that going on – well, you can appreciate how weird it is, ’cause I can appreciate how weird it is.
I’m surprised it doesn’t happen on the West Coast.
Not at all, man. You know, so what, everybody is a fuck’n celebrity out there. I mean, you know, I don’t know anybody who isn’t a rock n’ roll star. But there they’re a dime a dozen. Everybody. I mean, that’s like the whole scene; socially the people I go and see are other musicians, old friends and shit like that. I go to the studio, hang out in the studio, play music, rap, smoke dope. That’s how everything gets done, man, just like that, absolutely no organization.
Like that thing on the last Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album. (Garcia played the pedal steel guitar on a number of cuts.) Are you doing anything like that now?
Well, me and Phil (Lesh) and Bill Kreitzman have been playing with David Crosby for his album, and I just did maybe three or four tracks for Graham Nash on his album. They got a good scene going. They’re great.
Are they still together?
Well, what they’re planning on doing is getting together and touring about a month out of every year. They got a record together and then doing everything they want to do in between. They’re just leaving openings for themselves to do whatever they want to do.
Thanks a lot.