Interview with Robert Hunter and Greg Anton, August 25, 1997
Nancy Germany, take one (Catalina)
- I wanted to go back to Nancy Germany. Was it Catalina that came out
of that one?
- Chance in a Million.
- Chance in a Million, right. OK, but, the title Theme from--
- Catalina came from the soundtrack that Greg did for a dramatic live
stage presentation of the Pawn Broker --some very, very fine music from
that. What became Catalina was in that.
- Yeah, but actually before that it came from a thing that I was working
on with Donna Godchaux. I actually I played that song on the piano and
she sang along. She just scat sang. There weren't any lyrics to it. We
recorded a Front Street. It was very melodic. Then we used it on the soundtrack,
and then I gave those changes to Hunter, and he put put the lyrics to Catalina
to it. And that's that's how we found Judge.
The Catalina One-Word Judge Audition Story
- You had a talent search or something, didn't you?
- It was unintentionally like that. The word got out that Hunter was writing
lyrics for us and a lot of people thought they were the person to sing
them and wanted the gig.
Martín knew this guy, Judge, and called
me up one day. He said "Hey man, I've got this guy that's got a set of
pipes. You've got to hear this guy's voice," and I said, "Forget it, man."
I said, "I have had singers coming out of my ears. I'm taking a break.
No more auditions, no more, not right now." I was really burning out on
it because it was a lot of people.
- So naturally, Martín being the way he is, he just shows up at
my house with this guy. I'm sitting at the piano. I've just come from Hunter's
house and I have this little shred of paper: a song with one word, basically.
Martín walks in with this guy, and he goes, "Hey, Greg, you gotta
hear this guy sing, man. Give him something to sing to." So I was kind
of pissed off and said, "OK, wise guy. You want to sing? Here's a song
that's got one word. Let's hear you make it a song." The guy goes, "Cat-alina!"
and I practically fell over backwards! It was so strong when he sang that
word, and I said, "Wow, you just made one word into a song!" As it turned
out, it's one of the band's very favorite songs.
- It's kind of a signature tune, I think.
What about the "More Instrumentals" Crowd?
- There's been a little bit of discussion on the mailing list. From some
people who've been seeing the band a long time one of the regular complaints
is that they want more instrumentals.
They want to hear the old stuff. They take pains not to blame Judge, know,
but they sort of focus on him as the guy singing the lyrics.
- My experience of it is different. I'm always surprised to hear that
comment, because we do so much playing. We play Home on the Range, which
has a whole bunch of words, and no matter how many words there are in the
song, we still play four times as long. We do all the lyrics, we do this
gigantic long jam, and then maybe come back to the lyrics, depending on
the song. There's so much playing on almost all of our vocal tunes. there's
so much instrumentation built around the lyrics. When we play Pits of Thunder,
there's so much playing in that, and then eventually we repeat the last
verse to close the song. We do that every time. But sometimes we really
stretch out, some times more than other times.
- I've noticed that. They've put some sound clips up on the Zero web site,
some from the album but
also some live cuts
so people can compare,and I listened to the
Pits of Thunder,
which is under five minutes on the album, right? It's very concise, though it
still has that wide open groove. There's a
live version from somewhere
on the web site that's about 15 minutes
- And about five minutes into it, it's still the drum solo to introduce
the song! So right there you could fit the album track three times into
that live version of it.
- So for people who say, "more instrumentals," that song is as long as
any regular band's instrumental song would be. There's as much jamming
- It wouldn't be the Net if people didn't take contrary views to what
you've decided to present to them.
- I personally like some of the concise songs, like Horses. We do a sax
solo in the middle, and we do a guitar solo outro, but it's fairly brief.
It's just presented as a song, as a ballad. I love playing that song, I
love playing Catalina, I love playing Roll Me Over.
I like playing ballads, on the drums, and I like the words, and
I love listening to them. As many times as I've heard them I still
like listening to them.
Nancy Germany, take two (The Burning Question)
- Let me see if I can get back to just one stupid question, but it's just
something that has plagued me, and it's Nancy Germany. The title of that
song is Theme from Nancy Germany?
- What does that mean? Is that like the theme from a movie, or is that
just an imaginary title, or what?
- With instrumental songs, you get a name by somebody making a joke or
whatever. We first played that song in the studio. The first Zero recording
we did was me and Steve. I played piano and drums and he played bass and
lead, and we came up with the core, the main five or eight instrumental
songs (some of which Hunter's since written to). So, we were in a studio,
working, and Steve was watching some old news clip on TV, some old World
War II news reel. They're talking about Nazi Germany, and the guy's got
this accent: "Natsy Germany, Nazi Germany." Steve said it sounded like
Nancy Germany, and he said, "That's a nice name, isn't that? Nancy Germany?"
He came in and told me about this, and I said, "Yeah, let's call the song
Nancy Germany," and that was it.
- I didn't know that.
How Many G's in Greg?
- Some of these questions are short. Some of them are just things that
I've always wanted to know.
- Some of them are things I've always wanted to know.
- Is Greg spelled with one 'g' or two, at the end?
- I spelled Gregg's Egg's
with two g's because of the eggs, but
now everybody thinks I spell my name that way.
- That messed your life up.
- I don't care. It's really one g. Yeah, but I spelled g, r, e, g, g,
apostrophe, s, e, g, g, apostrophe, s. I used to raise chickens
and sell eggs, and I called them Gregg's Egg's.
- You don't do that anymore?
- I got chickened out.
Roots of Zero
- Before Zero, what were some of your other bands. I gather from a
album that you played with Steve.
- I was playing with Keith and Donna in a band. We had some guitar player
and Keith wanted another guitar player, and we were playing at
which is the Grateful Dead studio.
Kimock came to try out for this band,
sat down, and Keith did not even look up. Kimock set up and after a while
asked what song he was playing or at least what key he was in. Without
looking up, Keith said, "If you can't figure it out, there's the door."
(He laughs.) Then, after Keith died, Steve and I played in Donna's band
until she started to get more into religious music.
A Political Song
(one of the songs on the new album) has a political message.
- Well, that's a song that really, really needed being written! For years
I've been aware of all our fans getting salted away. When the Grateful
Dead plays, it's "a field day for the heat." All the people sitting in
there-- I feel helpless about it. Sometimes I feel like we oughtn't to
be playing or something. I think the message is clear when people
are arresting your fans: "unless you decide to stop playing...." Getting
the quota.... Something needed to be said about that.
- I think Zero fans are kind of from the same subculture.
- You bet they are, and especially Greg, who's an attorney, and has had
to fight a lot of these cases. He called and told me about a friend of
his, who'd been busted. He was going over to San Francisco County Jail
to visit him.
- I came over here from there and I was just blown out. I was saying "this
great guy, how can they do this?"
- And I just though, "OK, it's time to write that song. Let's get it written,
and hope it goes out there, and does what it's supposed to do," Somebody's
got to register a complaint about that particular thing.
Copyright © 1997