Interview with Robert Hunter and Greg Anton, August 25, 1997
When I Can't Tell the Song from the Singer
- Since you know that Judge is the vocalist, do you write into his voice
or his sense of phrasing, or do you just give him the words and it's his
"art" to figure out how to sing them.
- That's a subliminal thing. I've never been able to give a truly correct
answer to that. I don't write for anyone's sense of phrasing but
my own. It's a hard question. I don't really know. I bet there was a time
when I thought I would write something different for
Jerry than I would
write for myself, for example. Generally though, there were things I would
say that he wouldn't, and I wouldn't say those things.
- Jerry didn't want to get into political rave-ups and stuff and I appreciated
that and didn't go in those directions, though I was quite capable of it.
With Zero, I can get a little more into that stuff, like the Wounded Knee
business in Spoken For and in Possession. They're more politically conscious.
I had no desire to be entirely apolitical or anything. It's a stance I
took which happened to fit the Grateful Dead pretty well. It hasn't fit
Zero that well. They're more political beasts than the Dead was.
- You and Jerry kind of co-evolved a vocabulary of songs that part of
the audience took to be Jerry talking to them, though some people knew
they were your words most of the time. Millions of hallucinating people
believed that this voice was telling them something, but with Zero there's
seem to be much more of a consciousness that Robert Hunter, the well known
established lyricist has now joined forces with this band.
- Jerry was a magnificent, charismatic star, and anyone within 20 miles
of him was over there in the limelight somewhere. That's not the case with
Zero. Zero is not a personality cult, and the Grateful Dead was, to a large
degree. The rest of us took on a hazy sort of half-life while Jerry radiated
The Dead Audience and Zero
- It sometimes feels like the whole Dead thing and the whole "Kimock sounding
like Garcia" thing that a lot of fans focus on, whether or not that's true,
seems to dog Zero a little bit just because, who wants to be so much like
any other thing?
On the other hand, perhaps Jerry's disappearance from
the material plane, and the Dead not being a performing band, has opened
up more space for other musicians, other bands. even literally, in that
dollars that maybe went to a Dead show are now free.
- Reading stuff on the Net, though, people are starting to more and more
vocably demand that the Dead reform in some way. They're not content
that we all have our own little individual spaces that we're developing
right now. They're even tending to look at Zero as spare parts for
re-forming the Dead. This is disturbing.
- Your collaboration with Zero arguable lends some of the Dead cachet
to Zero, as a marketing tool or a cultural thing, doesn't it? That's a
- True, but if you actually look at it phenomenologically, I'm adding
my cachet to Zero, but if they're identifying me as the Dead, then
they think I'm adding the Dead cachet. It's all definitions, isn't it?
It's weird, and I have to not let it influence me as much as possible.
When I sit down to write a song, I just write a song the same way I ever
wrote a song, and that stuff goes away. But the way people accept it is
in terms of known categories, and maybe, for that reason, they're hearing
their fantasies overlaid on what's really there. I'd like to see some new
audiences come in for something like Zero, some people who're maybe a little
even "Dead innocent," so they can truly hear Zero.
- You don't want one band to have, as it's ultimate the goal, the whole
audience of another band. You want people who didn't know about or didn't
like the Dead, but, maybe because they like jazz more, or...
- Anybody who likes Coltrane likes Miles, right? You don't get mistakes
about that. And anybody who likes Zero's gonna like the Dead, and I assume
vice versa. There is a local loose-limbed, jamming sort of thing--I would
tend to call it indigenous San Francisco music
- of which the Dead partook, rather than the Dead
created it and anybody else who works in that form
is somehow copping off the Dead. I don't think that
Zero does cop off the Dead.
- Is that an issue for you at all, Greg, or is that just audience bullshit
that doesn't mean anything to you?
- The latter.
Kimock's Role in Composing Zero Tunes
Greg, you mentioned that you've brought some songs to Hunter with a
Kimock lead and melody there already, and other times it's just raw chords
and the melody comes in, guitar line comes in later. Is there anything
you want to say about about how you work with Steve?
- Kimock has a unique guitar voice.
- Usually, I give Hunter some chord changes, and we go back and forth.
I'll try to fit the words on in, I'll ask him for another chorus, or this
or that. Then Steve usually will rearrange it to some extent, add a bridge,
add a chorus, or leave it alone. That's pretty much how it's gone. With
Chance in a Million we went through a whole bunch of verse ideas, re-wrote
the song a bunch of time, worked up the verses, and finally came up with
Chance in a Million. But with End of the World Blues, I don't think one
word or syllable or lick changed from the original thing. It just snapped
together. So every song's a little bit different.
Copyright © 1997