Mickey Hart: The Core
Big Band Theory
I’ve been “song catching” since 1967 when my associate Bob Weir suggested that we go to the zoo on the full moon to record the animals—one of his more brilliant suggestions. Of course, we were impaled on the gate, and we never got into the zoo, but that singular event started me on my long journey. Mickey Hart Band was built around what I call the “rhythm of the universe”—my attempt to sonify the history of the universe since the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. I’ve been working with George Smoot, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006 for his discovery of the Big Bang. So I’ve been transferring light waves into sound waves, bringing them into our limited spectrum of hearing and making music with them. This isn’t science fiction though—these are real vibrations that came from these sonic seeds. The challenge was to make it fun, educational and entertaining. I played some of these seed sounds in their first incarnations on Dead tour in ‘09. They were very primitive—pretty much the raw data. I really didn’t sculpt them at the time. Each night during our [drum segments] we went to a different place in the universe, and we wound up at Earth.
Extracting the Cosmos
I realized I needed a real dedicated band that went along with the spirit of this project, which was the personification of the universe. I gave [Robert] Hunter some of the grooves and songs, and he threw his heartand soul into writing cosmic-related lyrics for these songs. A lot of Robert Hunter’s Grateful Dead images were cosmic, and I wanted a poet/songwriter’s take on the feeling of dancing with the infinite universe—stories about the sun and the stars, the galaxies, the planets. He delivered the mother lode to me and I decided I needed to make a record. I’m co-producing it with Ben Yonas. He’s a brilliant, young producer/musician who also plays in the band. Zakir Hussain, Giovanni Hidalgo and Sikiru Adepoju are all on there too, so it is a three-quarters Planet Drum record in some places.
Honor Thy Neighbor
[Widespread Panic bassist] Dave Schools is my neighbor [outside of San Francisco] and when he came over one day, I played him some tracks. He just looked at me and then I knew he was our bass player. I could see it in his eyes. He didn’t even have to say anything. He knows a lot about the Grateful Dead—what songs he loves and what we should play. I constantly ask his opinion on all of that. He’s great counsel.
Previous Rhythm Devils
The Rhythm Devils was a beta site for some of the things I’m using now at a higher level. When I toured with The Rhythm Devils [between 2006 and 2011], I was starting to come to grips with a new rhythm and new ways of representing time using compression. I was also perfecting the idea of linking the whole band together in a MIDI form where everybody would be able to read everyone else’s pulses electronically, if they so desired. So, there was a whole matrix of interlocking machines that had to be brought into play in order to accomplish this kind of a project live.
I have no problem playing Grateful Dead songs—they’re part of my musical DNA—but it’s a fine line when you play Grateful Dead material. [In the Mickey Hart Band we] try to have fun and be creative but stillmake the songs recognizable. There’s a certain aesthetic we try to bring to the Grateful Dead songs we [play live] so that we are not covering them. There’s no fun in that. Cover bands do that. I try to figure out what this band could do to enhance these songs’ vision. We’ll play some of these beautiful ballads and, of course, some of the songs I wrote: “Fire on the Mountain,” “Playing in the Band” and “The Eleven.” We’ll be doing “King Solomon’s Marbles” and “Brokedown Palace.” [“Brokedown Palace”] is such a beautiful song and it’s such a great sentiment that we like to leave people with at the end of the night. The Grateful Dead were telepathic and that was a great strength: to be able to read each other’s thoughts, almost before we would turn them into sounds. This band is starting to get to be telepathic. That will make it dangerous.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
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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.
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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.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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