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Built To Last: A Conversation with Jerry Garcia

by Steve Peters on August 04, 2014

Has the increase in popularity that occurred when In The Dark was released leveled out at all?

Not very much, no. They’ve continued sloping up. We haven’t come to the end of whatever out growth spurt is. It never has been the kind of thing where we enjoy a growth of audience and then it flattens out. It’s always been a slow, steady curve, so it’s still doing that. It’s hard to tell where it can go ‘cause there isn’t much left, you know? So as far as the success curve, we’ve already topped it out a couple of times. It’s like, “Where can we go from here?” I don’t know. We could conceivably sell more records but that’s also one of those things that’s problematical. Also, as far as records go―I can’t let this go by―you felt that this record is looser? I think that this record is actually tighter than the last record in terms of control.

It’s just that it feels more natural…

I think the thing is feeling more natural is what we’re after. I think we’re finally getting to it now. We’re learning how to make a record that has some of that Grateful Dead quality of loose tightness, but also has all of the detail that you can have on a record.

The appearance of casualness, although it’s kind of calculated casualness…

Yeah, absolutely. That’s an interesting response to it. I mean, that’s kind of what we’ve been hoping to get all along on records, and I think we’re finally getting to the point where we can do it.

Your popularity has caused some problems such as ticket demand exceeding supply and not being asked to return to certain venues. Have you come up with any solutions?

We don’t have any solutions. The thing is that by the time they get to us they’re ultimatums. They’re no longer possibilities, they’re lack of possibilities. By the time we hear about something―say, the town of Hartford says, “Absolutely not. You can’t play here,” and we say, “Why not?” “Because of the camping and the vending,” and that kind of stuff. We’re getting that same rap from nearly everywhere now. There’s very few places that welcome the way the shows, the way the audience and so forth, has defined itself previously. It used to be kind of a nice thing, but I guess now it scares people or something. I’m not sure what the objection is, but the point is that there’s somebody out there who objects seriously to the way the crowd is. And this is not behavioral. I don’t know what it is exactly that they don’t like. I don’t know what they’re offended by so badly, but whatever it is it’s very offensive to somebody because they’re not letting us come back to places. This put dud in a weird situation where we now have to start to try to control the outside world, which is like hey, c’mon. Nobody can do that. The police can’t do it―why do we have to do it? It’s one of those kinds of situations. I really feel that our audience is getting a bad rap that is doesn’t deserve. I think probably the only reason that we have problems is because we play more than one night at a place. I mean sporting events, the audiences are way worse. Any professional football game, the audience is way rowdier. SO it isn’t just the behavior of the audience. I guess it must be the thing of being there for two or three days or whatever. We try to communicate with Deadheads: “Look, we’re scaring them. We either have to do this, clean up, behave yourself, park out of town,” I don’t know what. We can offer suggestions and open up the subject for discussion and hope for some helpful suggestions, and hope that Deadheads will find some other way to define themselves in some other context, though I’m not exactly sure how.

One thing that’s been brought up is the idea of newer Deadheads who might not be as conscientious as to how to carry themselves within the of shows…

I’ve heard that kind of talk, but I don’t buy it, really. I mean, we don’t have that much trouble at our shows no matter what. We don’t have riots and that kind of stuff, so if there’s a whole lot of new Deadheads and they don’t know how to behave, why aren’t we having more of those kinds of problems? The “why” part is almost completely moot. The point is that we are having the problems and places won’t let us back. That’s it. That’s what we have to deal with, and everybody else has to deal with either we’re gonna have it the way we want it or we’re not gonna have it at all. Those are our choices. We don’t have a third alternative in there. It’s not open to negotiation yet.

Next year marks your 25th anniversary. Do you have anything special planned?

We don’t have anything specific planned, except that we know we’re going into our 25th year―well, actually, our 26th year. As far as are we going to do anything special, hopefully everything we do is special!

Is there any chance you might do some acoustic shows like you did in 1980?

Don’t know, don’t think so. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen right away. First of all, you can’t support an acoustic show really worth a shit in stadiums. It’s totally the wrong environment for it. It’s even pushing it to do the theaters, really, as far as the quality of sound is concerned. I don’t think we’re going to do something like that. We may do something off-the-wall, but there’s no telling what it is at this point.

The word is going around that you may cool off in the U.S. for a while and tour Europe in the beginning of 1990…

Yeah, that looks like it pretty much is going to happen. We’ll be playing here, too. We don’t be doing one instead of the other, we’ll be doing both. It’s just that they’ll be separated in time a little bit. Mostly the thing is that we’ve neglected going back to Europe for a long time. We have people over there waiting for us to come back.

I also heard a great rumor about a show in Russia next year with the Dead, u2, and Paul McCartney…

I don’t know about U2 and Paul McCartney, but we’re talking about going to Russia, yeah. It looks pretty likely… now that things are kind of loosening up, I think we definitely want to go to Russia. We haven’t been looking at it for a long time though, saying “Gee, wouldn’t it be great to go to Russia?” We know at least that we aren’t going to have to worry about the audience being biased. They’ve never seen us over there, so whatever it is that we’re going to bring to them, it’ll be a chance for us to kind of check out something, you know what I mean? What it’s like to take the Grateful Dead to entirely fresh minds and see what their response is, or what their reaction is, or anything. We have no idea.

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