Behind the Magic: Bill Kreutzmann & Mickey Hart Talk To Billy Martin
The Rhythm Devils are preparing to embark on some extensive summer touring, so we offer up this extended version of Billy Martin’s interview with Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann that originally ran in the Feb/March 2009 issue of the magazine.
Photo by Danny Clinch
Over the years, many friends and fans have expressed their experiences witnessing the Grateful Dead in concert as transcendent. I always wondered what it was that made it so magical. I always assumed LSD probably had a profound influence. However, after speaking with the band’s two drummers, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, light has been shed on plenty of The Other Ones.
Most of you reading this article probably have had more experience as fans of the Dead than I have—you don’t need me telling you what they’re about. But, having the chance to talk to both of them and getting exposed to their personalities, it gave me an inside look at their basic philosophy: the sum is greater than its parts.
We—Medeski Martin & Wood who I play drums for—opened for The Others Ones, as they were known then, at Oakland Arena New Year’s Eve, 2002. I felt the collective love in the arena, onstage and backstage—the band’s well-crafted magic was in the air. The fans were very warm, as were the crew and band. Some of the events backstage that made it special were Chris Wood losing his slide piece and one of the crew giving him Jerry’s to use. And, as we were going onstage, Mickey saw me with a Brazilian cuica instrument and yelled some kind of supportive gesture, which I couldn’t make out but, whatever it was, the supportive vibe continued.
I actually remember Mickey Hart more as an ethnomusicologist having attended one of his seminars back in the ‘80s. I was in my early 20s living in New York City, digesting as much music as possible, especially African and Brazilian. His knowledge of world music really impressed me and made me want to pack up and start traveling to these far off, vanishing musical worlds. More importantly that evening, he indirectly introduced me to the writer and philosopher Joseph Campbell, who in turn, saved my life. Campbell made me understand an artist’s place in this world when I was in dire need of direction. And, in interviewing Mickey now, I could hear the effect Campbell may have had on him in his poetic and philosophical responses to my questions.
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