Relix Revisited: Widespread Panic’s Michael Houser Keeping Busy
This coming Friday, July 2nd, marks the eighth anniversary of Michael Houser’s final performance with Widespread Panic. As the band wraps up its weekend in Red Rocks, we decided to look back to 1999 and this interview with Houser.
Widespread Panic has, over the last few years, quietly become one of the most popular bands on the improvisational music scene. In a recent interview, guitarist Michael Houser spoke about his music, the band’s new album, ‘Til The Medicine Takes, and plans for the future.
In the past couple of years, you journeyed to other parts of the world including Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Do you have any further plans to stretch maybe to Japan or South America?
Europe was the place we’d been wanting to go for a long time, and it was really big for us to get there. But once on stage, after a little while, you kinda forget about where you are. Every place we play, there’s a tension there until you get used to wherever it is you’re at.
We’ve talked about going to Japan, and we want to go back to Australia and New Zealand. We had a great time down there, and it was a lot of fun. The people were very nice. But right now, we have to concentrate on Europe. And we hope to get to South America someday, too. I don’t know what the market is for our type of music down there, but we’ll go anywhere really.
Your audience has been growing steadily, but it seems as though you prefer the smaller venues to the hockey arenas. Is the intimacy the smaller places provide more appealing?
We definitely prefer the smaller venues. As far as making a decision as to where we play, that’s usually just based on how many ticket we can sell, unless it’s a special show, like the Fox, for example, where you just want to go and play that room. And we have a lot of shows where people show up that can’t get a ticket, but we also have shows that aren’t sold out. We sell a lot of tickets in the South and the Midwest, and we tend to play the smaller venues in the Northeast and the Southwest. It’s really just a matter of where we think is the right place. And sometimes it can be a tough decision because we get pressure from our manager and then pressure from the promoter to play this or that venue, so it’s all kind of wacky.
Does your new album feature some of the new songs you’ve been playing on tour?
A lot of it is stuff that people who come to our shows will have heard in the last year or so. And then we always have a surprise or two that we come up with in the studio.
Do you approach music differently in the studio than on stage?
It’s just a different thing. You have to approach it differently just by the nature of what it is. And I guess there are musical considerations that we may make, so yeah, it’s definitely a different thing. I don’t know that I could really describe all the ways it’s different. It’s just as exciting, just in a different way. You don’t have the instant adrenaline that you get when you go on stage, but at least for me, I still get nervous when I know the tape’s running. So there’s your own nervous expectations, I guess. And there’s a lot of opportunities in the studio that you get that you don’t have live—to play with a song. If you play a bad note, you get to say, “I played a bad note there. I’d like to do that again.” That’s fun. It’s not live, and one of the things that people like about live shows, at least I think, is that they get to see the raw edges of a band, and on a record, everything is just right. Both of them are fun. We would hate to have to pick one or the other.
Along the lines of live stuff, it seems Light Fuse has been very successful. Do you plan to do more live albums soon?
Not soon, but definitely in our future. That’s something that we’ve talked about already because we had a lot of material that didn’t make it onto that record that we want to put out in live form. Again, it’s just a question of time and how the record company feels about it. We’re at the end of our contract with Capricorn after this latest record, and if we have them or another record company, we’ll have to find out how they feel about live records, because most record companies don’t like really like live records unless it’s just a pure merchandising concept. And it’ll probably be a struggle to get the next one out, but we’re definitely up for doing it as soon as we can.
I heard you guys mixed board tapes with audience tapes that people sent you on Light Fuse. Is that true?
No, that was to correct a mistake. When we started with our digital recording machines, we knew that we had to have an audience mic, and so we set up a mic on either side of the stage facing out towards the audience. When we went back and listened to it, what we heard was just the few people around that mic talking and stuff. The digital tracks, all the stuff that we recorded, were very dry, so we needed to mix in some audience with it to give you the feeling that you were in a place live, because otherwise it sounded like it was just a studio record. When we went to use our audience mics, we found out pretty quickly that they weren’t going to work. We went through a few days of wondering what we were going to do. Finally, we realized that there were tons of people out there who had these tapes if we could just find someone. And it was really easy, once we decided to do it. We had the tapes we needed in a day. It was definitely a case of a fan helping out the band.
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.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
- The Rolling Stones with Dave Grohl (Gallery and Clip)
- Lotus "Age of Inexperience" (Official Video)
- Morning Teleporation Share "People On My Floor"
- The National at Public Assembly and on Colbert (Gallery and Clips)
- John Fogerty and Dawes "Someday Never Comes" on Letterman
- Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers "Little Too Late" Live at the Hangout
- John Fogerty: Wrote A Song For Everyone
- The Facebook Photo Contest Top 10
- 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
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll