The Grateful Dead Revisited : A 1976 Interview with Jerry Garcia
I’ve noticed your concerts don’t change as much from show to show as your albums do.
That’s true. That’s because albums get to be a certain time and space and the concert thing is a flow.
And you always know what to expect from a Grateful Dead concert.
In a way. But we’re trying to bust that too. That’s one of the reasons we dropped out.
Is this it for the Grateful Dead as a touring entity?
No. We’re gonna start playing again.
You have so many members of the Grateful Dead on your solo album (Reflections), it could almost be a Grateful Dead album.
A lot of the energy from that record is really a continuation of the Blues For Allah groove that we got into. We sort of continued the same energy because we were having a lot of fun doing it.
One of my favorite things that you’ve been involved with in the last few years is the Old And In The Way bluegrass album you did with Vassar Clements, David Grisman, and Peter Rowan.
That was a good band. It was satisfying and fun to be in.
Was the reason you only put out the one Old And In The Way album and didn’t do a whole lot of touring with that band, because of the fact that there’s only a certain amount of acceptance bluegrass can get?
That and also we ran into a really weird problem in terms of dynamics which was that bluegrass music is like chamber music: it’s very quiet. And if the audience got at all enthusiastic during the tune and started clapping or something, it would drown out the band and we couldn’t hear each other.
What an album though. I didn’t know you were such a hot banjo player.
(laughs) Oh I was real hot when I was a kid. Now my reasons for playing banjo and my reasons for liking bluegrass music are completely different from when I started, ‘cause then I was really hot.
I think that Old And In The Way album may be the best bluegrass album ever recorded.
Wow. Thank you. I’m happy with it too, but the truth is, we had much better performances than were on that record.
That’s hard to imagine.
Oh yeah. We had performances that were heart-stopping. And perfect, you know, but there weren’t as many that were recorded that well.
That banjo solo you did on “Wild Horses” and Vassar’s violin solo on “Midnight Moonlight”…Jesus.
Well, that was really a thrilling band. And I think that was the nicest that Vassar’s played, too. When he was playing with Old And In The Way, he played the maximum of mind-blowing but beautifully tasty stuff, and the music had enough interesting kinds of new changes and new things happening—Pete’s good songs for example—so that Vassar had a chance to blow with a lot of range. More than he does normally. That was neat.
The Grateful Dead have been a strange band for my taste, in that, if I like a band a lot—and some of your stuff I’ve liked an awful lot—I normally like just about everything the band does. But with the Dead, some of the stuff you’ve done has just gone right by me, while other stuff just blows me away. And it’s the same way with your concerts. Say, you’re in the middle of a jam. I’ll be half asleep for a few minutes, and all of a sudden, you’ll do something for five or ten seconds on guitar that will make my hair stand on end.
See, I have that same kind of reaction to the Grateful Dead myself. The Grateful Dead is not anybody’s idea of how a band or music should be. It’s a combination of really divergent viewpoints. Everyone in the band is quite different from everyone else. And what happens musically is different from what any one person would do. For me, the band that I have right now, I’m real happy with. I haven’t been as happy with any little performing group since Old And In The Way in terms of feeling “this is really harmonious, this is what I want to hear.” This band that I have now is very consonant. The Grateful Dead had always had that thing of dissonance. It’s not always consonant. Sometimes it’s dissonant. Sometimes it’s really ugly sounding and just drives you crazy.
Do you spend a lot of time in San Francisco?
Yeah. I spend most of my time just working. I’m very taken with our scene. It’s very interesting.
Your records are getting softer. In fact, there’s only one uptempo song, “Might As Well,” on your new solo album.
That’s true. That’s probably the worst thing about it, the lack of balance of material.
You thought it was too quiet?
When I listened to it, I thought maybe you didn’t like to rock and roll as much anymore.
No, uh…it’s not that. All these things have to do with luck. And timing. For example, the way that solo record was recorded, really a lot of material was performed with the intention of using it on the record, but of the takes that I felt were acceptable, they tended to be more of those softer tunes. So I decided to go with those because I felt the feeling of the tracks was better, not because of wanting it to be that way.
You guitar playing has remained fairly constant the last few years. The only real deviation was on this new album on the track “Comes A Time.” You used a mild fuzz.
I just used a small amplifier.
There were some real nice sustain on your playing. It sounded terrific.
Yeah. I do those things more on other people’s sessions than I do my own. I tend to be real off-handed about my guitar playing on my own records. In fact, on Grateful Dead records too.
What other records are you referring to?
Well, when I just go and do sessions with somebody more or less anonymous.
You don’t do session that often, do you?
Not any more.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
- Relix Live Fridays: Trey Anastasio at The Fox
- Grace Potter & The Nocturnals "The Lion The Beast The Beat" (Official Video)
- The Allman Brothers Band Before Gregg?
- The M & Ms: Medeski, Mali, Mercurio, Moore at (Le) Poisson Rouge (A Gallery)
- Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger "The Pequod"
- Trey Anastasio with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center
- More Visions of the Hangout Music Festival 2013 (A Gallery)
- A Blowout for the So So Glos
- Interlocken Festival to Feature Neil Young, Furthur, String Cheese Incident, Black Crowes, Zac Brown and More
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "Friend of The Devil" at the Beacon
- The Salvation of Page McConnell (Relix Revisited)
- Interlocken Adds Widespread Panic and John Fogerty, Furthur to Play Workingman’s Dead
- Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa "If Heartaches Were Nickels"
- The Final Ingredient in Dogfish Head’s Grateful Dead Tribute Ale Is…
- Stone Gossard Readies His Moonlander
- Trey Anastasio Band at The Hangout (Video Stream)
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll