Phish, No Fear Of Flying: An Interview with Mike Gordon (Relix Revisited)
Trey said it could take one year or it could take twenty years. He likes to say that because he likes us to be on our toes in terms of innovating. He said it there were an era where we weren’t writing new songs, weren’t trying new things, he would quit.
So we were having this argument about innovation and Trey, like I said, he wants us to be constantly innovating and constantly original. What my argument was is this thing about growth and even art. I’m on shaky grounds when I talk about the philosophy of art, but ultimately the argument gets to the point where I say my main reason for doing this isn’t artistic. I don’t even consider myself an artist in the truest sense because there are these things that supposedly make art higher—originality, art being for art’s sake and the fact that you can objectify it to be able to analyze it, and timelessness, the fact that it will stand the test of time. My favorite musical experiences are very timeful. They’re just the moment, and you couldn’t listen to a tape later and have the same experience necessarily. You might have a different experience that would be new to its own time. For me, it’s more of a religious thing and a meditation, and I was making this example. If you take a Zen Buddhist or someone who meditates, is the goal to meditate in a new way that people have never meditated before? Is that gonna be the best thing that that meditator can do? Probably not. The goal is to go down the path. Maybe they’ll discover their own path, but it’s a tradition and when they finally reach Nirvana, it’ll be the emptiness place where the individual is so gone from the equation that they couldn’t be called an artist really. They’re so one with the art.
Let’s say there is someone who invented a new hang glider and they got to be famous for that, and they invented a new way of hang gliding where they could do a certain kind of spin. And then later they got to be famous for that. Then they got to a certain age where they said, “This has been great, all this notoriety, but I love to hang glide and now I’m gonna do it the same way from now on. I have a house with a mountainside and I’m gonna just jump off that mountainside and maybe I’ll go a little but differently, I’ll twist a little bit differently one day, but really I’m just gonna head down to the pond in the same direction every day and this is gonna be my meditation. I might not make it into the papers as often ‘cause I’m not breaking world records and inventing new hang gliders, but it’s what I’m gonna do.” And then maybe there’s another hang glider that, until the age of 80, like Picasso, is inventing new ways of doing it, breaking new records, using new mediums, and let’s say that they’re both happy. Is the guy that’s changing constantly till the end of his life any happier or more righteous than the guy who at the age of 48 decides that he’s gonna do it the same way from then on?
I also made the example of my mother who’s a painter. She does art backdrops. Over the years, she has changed her medium. Now she paints on plastic. What if at one point she said, “I like painting on plastic, and I don’t think I’m gonna change from now on. Each painting will be a little bit different, like a snowflake, so I’ll still be exploring, in a sense, but I won’t be changing, I won’t be as radical but I’ll go through life still loving what I do.” Is that a crime? So this argument that’s been happening for 12 years, right about that point, we had to go and do sound check. We started to come to the conclusion that we agreed with each other. That what we were saying is the same thing from different angles, parallax I guess you’d call it. And that really, without any change, I might not be happy. That to me, change is important. To Trey, continuity is important even though we’re taking the opposite stance.
What if we had to be so original that we would never play the same song more than once? We’d write it, play it and it’d be gone. What if each night had to be so different that there would be no building blocks that would got from one night to the next? And he agreed that that would be the extreme. [What if] innovation was so important that every second had to be an artistic creation that had never been made before, which is the way that Fish used to make up drum beats. He always used to think that each song had to have a beat that was very different from any other song that we had. And over the years, now he’ll actually play a solid beat for a while and be happy with it.
After sound check, we got back together and we said that we both realized that continuity and change sort of travel together and they both are important and that both philosophies, and the fact that we take opposite stances, adds richness to the band. We look at things from different angles.
I took the whole question one step further by wondering why we took opposite sides, maybe just for the fun of arguing. I realized that I like to innovate. I’ll be on-stage and I’ll think, “Oh no. We’ve played this beat so many times before. It’s like this incessant babbling of rhythm that I’ve heard before. I want it to be something new.” And when I’m really meditating, when it really becomes the Zen thing for me, those are the times when I accept the beat how it is, even if it’s something I’ve heard before or even if it’s been going on without changing. So the idea of staying the same… I have so many inhibitions and things I worry about—does the bass sound good, do I look stupid up here (laughter) and sometimes I have these peak experiences and I realize how many of them go away. I never realized how many inhibitions were there that I never even thought about, worrying about [and it] suddenly slips away and I see that they were there and I get to one with the moment and just accept the beat, and so it becomes an acceptance of the continuity. It all kind of ties together, change and continuity.
The Howlin’ Brothers take to the Relix rooftop and share a song they wrote with Warren Haynes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
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.
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