Dick Latvala and The Story of the Grateful Dead Vault
The “Wall Of Sound” shows in 1974—did they come out well on tape? The technology was huge.
Yeah, but the tapes just reflected the same board feed as before. I wasn’t on the tour, I was in Hawaii, so I didn’t experience one of the shows, except in the formative stages at the end of ’73. It made a premiere at the Cow Palace basically, which is a great show (3/23/74). I can’t wait to release that someday.
What material are looking to release now?
Like I said, taking public pressure to heart (laughs), I am reluctantly clawing and crying into the ’80s, listening to a lot of the ’83-’84 period stuff, seeing what’s most appealing.
Is there a Jerry Garcia Band archive?
Yes. In the vault, each band member has an area.
Will any of that see the light of day?
Well, it’s already seen the light of day in taper’s circles. I certainly have a lot of feeling behind releasing old stuff from Merl [Saunders] and Jerry in the ’73-’74 period—some great, unique stuff. But that’s not the emphasis at the moment. It’s not my province even. It’s John Cutler’s and Steve Parish’s (Garcia’s road manager) province.
How far back in time does the archive date?
You can get as esoteric as you wanna go, back to trombone stuff by Phil in 1959. A lot of bluegrass stuff in the ’60-’63 era. Not a lot of individual shows maybe, but there’s examples of stuff that should be gone through at some point.
Not really. Warlock era—the earliest example I think of is that Tom Donahue thing from 11/3/65. It has those renditions of “Caution” and “Mind Bender,” “The Only Time Is Now,” “Early Morning Rain” and some others. There’s not a lot of stuff in the vault. There’s a lot of parts missing. It’s amazing anything was recorded at all in the beginning, in the heaviest of the days. I’m amazed anything survived in good shape.
Do you listen to any other music besides the Grateful Dead?
Tons. In fact, I’ve always told my friends to turn me on to something I don’t know about, ‘cause I don’t listen to the radio at all. I never did, except in the ’60s when it was creative programming, and I’m not really up on modern stuff—that’s why I turned to tape trading.
I put on a lot of stuff like Henry Kaiser and David Lindley in Madagascar, volumes 1 and 2. Or the best album of all time percussion- wise, the most mind boggling LSD inspiring [album] is The Other Side of This by Airto Moreira. He’s magic, and with that album he was given free rein to do whatever he wanted.
I listen to a lot of Henry Kaiser’s influences ‘cause he’s more adept at knowing the world music scene, and he turns me on to different things. I’m from the R&B era of the ’50s and Fats Domino and Little Richard are my kings. I’m into the blues and especially country. Not Muddy Waters style, particularly more Lead Belly, Robert Johnson stuff. Then it was gospel and then I learned that white people played music in the ’60s when LSD came in—when all that happened.
The archive is a very important historical resource. What does it all mean to you in the intense sense of it all, what do you think this all means?
If I took it all seriously, I would probably freeze of a heart attack. (laughs) So by necessity, obviously, you can’t function from there. I think it’s very important. It’s sort of like a Dead concert. You can wish you were gonna go to the right one, and maybe all things point to it being the right one, but somehow it is or isn’t. I don’t know how to answer that question really.
I think that destiny leads the way, so whatever happens, happens. It’s all for a reason.
Yeah, I think everything is happening as it should, but it’s just a very unusual time, and I don’t know how to predict things. I’m not a manipulative type, so I’m not gonna maneuver things for my self enhancement. I have a role to play it appears, and I’m doing that with gusto, and I can’t not do it. It’s not even a question. I’d be doing this without ever being hired. But a lot of what I do isn’t just that. A lot of other things go into my daily experience, so it sounds advantageous to all these people that want to hear all the tapes. I could tell you some drawbacks that would boggle one’s mind. So there’s good and bad in everything.
Everyone has got to understand that their lives are just perfect the way they are. The Grateful Dead was just a great thing to experience, and we all have that experience in common.
What impact has Garcia’s death had on you personally?
I was relieved initially, because it seemed like that would clear up a whole lot of the difficulties I was experiencing over the last few years. Difficulties meaning for me, personally, not enjoying the shows sometimes because of Garcia not paying attention—easily noticeably not paying attention, or blowing the lyrics. So I was relieved that finally this was a clear change. And then shock, and I think I, basically, am in denial.
Because of the subculture that exists, which is now bigger than the Grateful Dead itself, it does still endure. It’s critical that people like yourself are passing something on for us to pass on…
Yeah, that’s right, and not get to carried away, like when you asked that question about the importance of archiving, and I’d go into shock thinking about it. We’ve got to do our thing with ease and steadiness and not get all worked up and crazy about it.
What do you think the future holds for us Deadheads?
I don’t know. The way I see it is, when I discovered live tapes, I was compelled to go in this direction. My future was this destiny. If you weren’t at the show, the next best way to receive what happened was hearing the tape. It’s the next level, so tapes right away were inherently important. As far as having the music become more accessible through our vault release program, I feel optimistic that’s gonna increase more than ever, not only because of demand, but because of our need to survive.
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