Tom Marshall Gathers Steam
Tom Marshall’s lyrics have long been associated with Phish and for good reason. His relationship with frontman Trey Anastasio now spans over 30 years, and the two have collaborated on many classic tunes, while establishing a unique chemistry that is fueled by Marshall’s ability to not only present a poignant lyrical image, but leave enough to the imagination for the listener to ponder. We caught up with Marshall on the eve of Super Ball IX as he discusses his current writing projects, including some fiction and a possible book, and his work with Anastasio which may appear on an upcoming Phish studio album later in 2012. Marshall also remains an astute observer of the Phish scene, while always maintaining an individual point of view of what makes the band tick.
After you’re done reading, stop by Jambands.com for more of our conversation with Tom.
What are your initial thoughts about Super Ball?
TM: I’m useless at doing any kind of work while anticipating this festival. I am very, very excited. I feel like they are ramping up to something incredible.
It is the fifteenth anniversary of the Clifford Ball. Did you want to talk about your thoughts looking back at that festival?
TM: (laughs) You know, it’s funny because I was reminiscing with my good friend, Scott Herman who has been to every single festival with me, apart from Indio. He and I realized that all the festivals, unfortunately, in our memories, blend into one. I do remember, and it could be the Great Went, this incredible moment where we were hanging off the back of a golf cart. One was driven by Trey, and I forget who the other one was, and Danny Clinch was in the passenger’s seat of Trey’s golf cart, and he was just clicking, clicking, and clicking. I’ve never seen those photographs and I have realized that to me is kind of the epitome of the whole thing right there. We were cruising on a runway, and then cruising through tents, and people were realizing that was Trey who was going by at 20 MPH, or however fast a golf cart can go. They were running after him, and a little bike parade was happening—it was just so fun.
The cities that they’ve built up in all of them, the world and the environment—it has put me off on other festivals. I don’t go to anything else because I’m treated so well. I’m like family at Phish. I’m just afraid of being one of many in another festival. Also, I don’t feel like the other people will get it. I also don’t want to see a multi-band festival. I like the single-band aspect, and I think that Phish is the only one that can really pull that off.
I think the festivals always worked because fans were immersed in an environment that produced a unique singular experience. It isn’t just the band and its music, or the fan base that has made that happen. I also feel that your lyrics have contributed to the Phish mythology. Obviously, that is respected by older fans. When you show up at a Phish festival, it must feel like a homecoming in a way.
TM: (laughs) Well, it’s funny. I have recently seen some stuff on line from young kids, young fans, first time fans, and they get on Phantasy Tour, and a lot of them write good things about Phish lyrics. It has always been my style to be a little bit ambiguous, not the most obvious thing that you would think about, or think what a song is about. If that is what people like about Phish—normally, it is the jamming, the unpredictable nature of live shows, but, the lyrics are part of it. I’m noticing that first time fans are getting it. I think that’s great. I see a lot of “What Are Your Favorite Lyrics?” threads from users I don’t recognize on Phantasy Tour. You know, every now and then, I’ll check them out.
The place has gotten a little negative for me, and it is always the people who stay home, who don’t go to the shows. They see it on paper, and they tear it apart like “oh, this was a terrible show,” and they weren’t even there. Whatever. I’m so not worried about that. And neither is the band, I’ll have you know. In fact, of the four band members, the only one who ever might have a chance of ever getting on Phantasy Tour, I would think, is Mike. For almost six or seven years, Trey doesn’t get online and doesn’t read reviews at all. Do the math.
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Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
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