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Relix Revisited: Jon Fishman Speaks from Phish’s 1996 European Tour

Christophe Rossi | February 19, 2018
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In honor of Jon Fishman's 53rd birthday today, we're looking back to the Phish drummer's July 1996 interview with Christophe Rossi—editor of France's percussion magazine Batteur—during the band's European tour that year. 

We met Jon Fishman after Phish’s opening show on July 10 at the Zenith in Paris where the band performed with Santana. (The Zenith is also the same venue that the Grateful Dead played during its last European tour in 1990.) Interrupting his chat with Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, who by chance was on holiday in France, Fishman graciously answered the following questions posed by a Phrenchman turned Phish Head.

What would you have called the band if your name was Wolfman – Wolph?

Fishman: (Laughs) No, actually when it was time to decide a name for the band, I suggested the sound of an airplane taking off – “phssssh.” But then we thought that we needed a vowel. Imagine people saying, “We are going to see Phssssh tonight…” We had already designed the logo and the “i” fit perfectly in the middle. So Phish was not named after me.

What is your brand of vacuum cleaner?

Fishman: Electrolux, 1956. I am into vintage vacuum cleaners, you know, the new ones just suck your face right off. These old Electroluxes last forever, they never die, they have good motors. I brought mine for this tour in Europe. I may use it tomorrow in London, and I will definitely use it in Amsterdam.

Is your mom following the band on this European tour?

Fishman: How do you know she’s a Phish Head? (Laughs) No, we told her to stay home. My mother, she’s out of control. We kept her locked at home with chains. She’s not only into Phish, but into ten different bands now. She travels around, goes on tour, crashes in motel rooms. She is 60, and I think that when she has no more responsibilities; she has fun. My parents were no musicians, but they were very encouraging – they let me use the basement to practice drums. They were kind of scared that I would starve being a musician, but now that everything worked out okay, they’re happy.

Were they also afraid of the drug scene that often surrounds a musician’s life?

Fishman: I was never heavily into drugs, even if I was in a couple of phases taking drugs, but nothing to the point where my parents would get worried. My drug is music! Drugwise, I ended up stopping quickly, because I would have one experience or another where drugs would end my ability to play. Of course, my first experiences inspired me to play – it was like graduating. But very soon it would get in my way to play. The drug becomes a pain in the ass when you have to go do your homework and learn something new, and then it blocks you up and makes it harder to learn something. Also, when you’re high, your playing seems to sound better, but when you listen back to the tapes, it sucks!