Built To Last: A Conversation with Jerry Garcia
How in touch are you with the Deadheads themselves? Is there any interaction beyond getting onstage and playing?
Yeah, a certain amount. I donât have meetings with Deadheads on a regular basis, but people do talk to me, and people write to us endlessly. People make known what their feelings are. And also thereâs things like The Well, which is a computer network where lots of Deadhead discussion kind of stuff goes on, and you can always poke into it if you want to find out what people are saying. There also are people who are very concerned with what Deadheads say who are part of our scene who will report saying, âHey, look, theyâre saying thisâ or âtheyâre saying that.â But we operate on rumors and stuff just like everybody else does too, to a certain extent. But there is some dialogue on there.
A lot of people were happily surprised to hear you bring back âDeath Donât Have No Mercyâ this past weekend. How did that come about?
I remembered the song! ( laughs )
It wasnât spur-of-the moment obviouslyâŚ
No, we rehearsed it. You pretty much have to rehearse something if you havenât done it for a long time, at least go through it and say, âHereâs how it does.â And thatâs one of those tunesâitâs a good tune. Thereâs no reason not to do it.
The same can be said for a lot of other songs youâve dropped from your setsâŚ
Thatâs true, but some of them are not very performable. Some of them are very difficult to perform, or at least weird to perform, and some of them just donât work now. But some of them do. Weâll eventually find the ones that do and, you knowâŚ
Then thereâs the people that come to every show hoping for that elusive âDark Starâ or âSt. Stephenâ âŚ
Yeah, right. Well, eventually weâll play âem.
Are the rigors of constant touring taking more of a toll on you as you get older?
No, itâs getting easier in some ways! And we also make every effort to make it as humane as possible, too. I mean weâve already done our tough tours. We had those during the â70s. Itâs pretty easy to survive it now.
Are you feeling healthy these days?
Yeah, pretty good.
Did you have to find substitutes to replace your previous habits?
Not really, no. Itâs kind of like when youâve had enough, youâve had enough, really. For me, it was one of those things that was not that difficult. It was easier than I thought it was going to be. On the other hand, I have no idea how much drug-taking or any of that had to do with my subsequent breakdown. But itâs ironic that after I cleaned up, then I broke down! ( laughs ) That was weird. It was like âHey, maybe I was better off on drugs! At least I wasnât dying!â But Iâm okay now.
I wanted to ask you what kind of music youâre currently listening to. Do you keep abreast of new things?
No, I donât keep abreast but I do listen to new stuff. Iâve been listening to some interesting music from Martinique, which is a French-speaking island, and this stuff is recorded in France. Itâs got some of that Afro-Cuban intensity, but some of that kind of Brazilian sophistication harmonically. Itâs something in between those two worlds. Itâs very engaging music, really pretty stuff, and also has a great drive. Other stuff, tooâthereâs some interesting African guitarists, a kind of finger-picking thing with African music thatâs interesting. I keep up with the bluegrass world some, and I kind of listen to whateverâs going on. I spend a lot of time going back and listening to stuff, too. I always go back and listen to Art Tatum and Django Reinhardt, and Milesâ [Davis] stuff I listen to all the way through, his whole career. John Coltrane. Ornette Coleman. Mostly itâs one of those things where you stumble from one thing to another, and somebody says, âHey, listen to this. This is really great.â Musicians turn you on to stuff.
The collaborations you did with Ornette on his last album were great. It was really a pleasure to hear you in that kind of settingâŚ
Well, itâs a trios thing. Rob Wasserman is doing a trios album. His last one was Duets. Now heâs doing a trios one, and he wants me to do a thing with Edie Brickwell. I would love to do it. It would be interesting and fun to do. I like to stay open for things like that. Iâm doing some stuff for Merl Saunders, and I did some stuff with Warren Zevon. You know, whenever these things come up, if the time is thereâI owe Country Joe McDonald a record, too. Iâm supposed to produce one of his records, and if I ever get the time Iâd love to do it. Iâd love to do more producing if I could. Time is the killer for me. Thereâs not enough time to do all the stuff I want to.
How do you relax when you have time off?
I go scuba-diving.
No, in Hawaii usually. Thatâs what I like to do.