The Other Ones Gig
It Started with Phil & Friends
I hear you're going to sit in on a Phil Lesh & Friends show.
There are Phil & Friends shows August 7th and 8th  at the Fillmore.
That's how that whole Other Ones thing got started. This lady Kathy who
works for Phil at the Unbroken Chain thing called me up and said, Do you
want to do a Phil & Friends? and so I said, Sure. She called up like a week
later and said, Do you want to audition for the Furthur Tour? for the Other
Ones thing. So I went and auditioned on a Monday morning, just like this,
and I'm totally fogged. I went down there and played, and it was fun, and it
was nice to see those guys. Then a couple of days later they called back
and said, "Nah, never mind. We got somebody else." And I said, "Cool." Then
a week later they called back and said, "Will you come back to rehearsal?"
And I went, "OK, I'll think about it." So I went back, and that was it, so I'm
already in and out of the thing.
What I get in our communications - and we get a lot of it because we get
hundred of phone calls and more e-mail messages every day - is, "Wow,
now that Kimock's on the tour, I want to go to more places."
Cool. That's good! Is any of that information communicated in any way to
the band or to anybody else?
The people that can do something about stuff, generally don't surround
themselves with people who know, because people that know then get into
the thing with people that do stuff about stuff, right? So people that know
talk to people who care, and then people that care eventually talk to the
people that can do something about stuff, but people that know generally
don't talk to people that can do something about anything, and the people
that can do something about anything generally don't talk to people that
know. There's like this "people that care" thing in the middle. You know
what I mean?
I think I'm following you.
Bass Greats, Lesh and Vega
I was going to ask about playing with Phil Lesh, because you said of Bobby
Vega "when in doubt, he's funky." I love Phil Lesh's lead bass playing, but I
would almost never describe him as funky. That doesn't seem to be his
thing. He's more out of some classical western field.
Maybe he's never in doubt.
That could be it.
That's a good answer. No, both of those guys are great players. They're
both unfailingly musical. Bobby is never at a loss for the groove, and Phil
is never at a loss for the note choice thing. Phil's a great player. Playing
melodically on the bass - and this is something that I deal with with
Bobby all the time - there's some hierarchy of note choice relative to
register, where there's different kinds of tension and release, and relative
degrees of consonance and dissonance, relative to the register you're in. In
higher registers there's obviously way more stuff you can get away with,
so to understand how to play melodically in that register Phil plays or
Bobby Vega plays, it's a whole different ballgame down there. I don't
really understand it, in fact. I know how to work my side of the street, but
it's different, down that low.
Who Plays What Solo?
The Other Ones is an eight-piece band...
Yeah, with like 30 guitar players.
... with three guitars, and in this fairly short amount of time, the whole
group has had to rehearse and get familiar with material and
arrangements. Have you literally worked out where you're going to play a
lead or a melody or a fill here and
is going to play it there? Is it mapped out who's going to solo?
Well, not much. There's some stuff where right inside a tune - for
example, in Sugar Magnolia, after the first little chorus, I think it's my
job to take that break. I think! We'll see. It kind of gets switched around,
and it's hither and yon. It'll settle in once we get going, I think. And
there's a couple of tunes, what the hell is it? Corinna, I think.
A very rhythm-based song.
Yeah, where I was just like, Oh, this is cool. I can just skank on this. And
then somebody says, How about some solos? and I'm like, "No, man, I'm
with the rhythm section." I dig that.
The Dead used to be accused of being all rhythm section. You've got two
drummers, and at times they've had two keyboard players. You often have
many different rhythms overlaid, going on at the same time. Is it hard to
pick your way between them, or float something in there?
It's cool. I have so much fun. Admittedly it's been like one gig. "One data
point," as Doug [Greene] would say, "does not a curve make," but I really dig
playing with both those drummers. Of course, I don't really know either of
them or their stuff that much, but just being in the section, I actually got
to the point where I could have one eye on Molo and one eye on Mickey Hart,
and play with both of them at the same time, limbs going everywhere. It
was very cool. So I dig that.
But, specifically in terms of the distribution of the soloing and the parts,
I came to the thing a little late, so as much of the responsibility for
playing any of the parts stuff that Mark is willing to take, he's more than
welcome to. I don't know the material all that very well. I've heard a lot
of it, but I've never played it before, because the whole
Jerry Garcia thing,
as cool as it is, has also kind of cast a pretty long shadow over the stuff
that I've been doing. I showed up in California
in '75 or '76 and people would say, "You sound like Jerry Garcia," and I
would go, "Well, I was trying to sound like Roy Buchanan, so I'm obviously
fucking it up." In many way, I'm clueless. Probably in many other ways, it's
perfect that I am clueless. So, how it's exactly going to work out, I don't
Rehearsing the Oldies
One of the features of those earlier Phil & Friends shows was that they
started resurrecting what was from the fan point of view the "forgotten
repertoire" of the Grateful Dead, such as Alligator, which hadn't been
played since forever, Mountains of the Moon, and The Eleven at the show
you played in, which the Dead hadn't played really since 1970.
I'm relatively clueless. I think most of the stuff that got played at the
Warfield was the "A List" of stuff to learn, either because they wanted to
do it or because they thought it would be easy to learn. For example, they
just asked me this in the radio interview, "Are you going to play Dark
Star?" And I said, yeah, I guess so. We spent all damn day on it!
I listened to Dark Star the other day from the record [Live/Dead] and -
what a great track, man! that's a bad jam! there's all kind of great stuff
going on there - where they're coming from, playing that stuff, playing the
spaces, playing the music, I'm there anyway. I don't have to rehearse that.
I might be patting myself on the back, but I think I'm there to do the
unrehearsable part of it. But everybody else in rehearsal, they're learning
that stuff. They're figuring it out. I don't care how many times they've
played it. What do you work on when you're working on St. Stephen, when
you're working on Dark Star? You're working on the text of the tune. The
exploratory portions of it are necessarily left for later.
The Depth and Breadth of Hornsby's Bag
Are there other new tunes in the works?
Yeah, there's going to be other good stuff, different stuff. We got to
whatever we could get to in rehearsal. The Hornsby stuff I really dug too.
Hornsby seems like the kind of player who can pick up on little sounds he
hears and throw them back at other musicians.
He's so sharp and fast. He's great. His presence as a player and a person
was probably the thing that hit me most strongly initially, because he just
does it all. There's a lot of music in that guy, and obviously in everybody
else who's playing too, but Hornsby plays the piano and knows all that
literature. There's so much great piano music, and he knows all of it. He'll
sit down and play Gershwin. He'll sit down and play Charles Ives. He sits
down and plays Bach. Sits down and plays Bill Evans, just like Bill Evans
played. It's spooky. And he rocks, and he writes hit tunes. Guys that play
all that stuff, they either play the piano or they're some kind of rock star
or something like that and they don't get it, but Hornsby, the depth and
breadth of his bag, man, is fuckin' amazing. Inconceivable. He's got it all.
Call the Tune?
Are there new covers, material that the audience would know but wouldn't
expect this band to be playing?
And you haven't brought material to them to play, like, "Let's play
Elizabeth Reed," or anything along those lines?
Hardly my place.
Have Guitars, Will Travel
How many guitars are you taking with you?
I'm bringing the new guitar (which is the Florida guitar),
the Explorer (the one with the angles), the white stratocaster (which is
kind of like my main squeeze), the Vega (which is the guitar that I play the
most around the house), the Epiphone Emperor, and a couple of lap steels.
One thing that's cool is I'm going to get to play some more lap steel on the
thing, which I'm real excited about. At first I thought, it's going to be the
usual, a couple of guitars, but I'll get a chance to play some more steel
just to help spread out the available guitar tonality.
There are tunes that had steel on them, like the Wheel, which was on a
Jerry Garcia solo album originally. He plays several guitars on the cut, but
he plays a pedal steel on that.
Yeah, see that's good, because I wasn't aware of that. That's good to know.
I'll have to look at that song.
Then there's the question of playing it where it wasn't played before.
I think the lap steel thing is going to work nice. I'm not going to play pedal
steel with these guys. That's too much of a hassle, just another layer of
production complexity that I'm not willing to deal with relative to the
time involved playing it.
How come the lap steel isn't a hassle?
Well, I've got the legs, man. I've got legs, so I can stand up and play that.
And that's cool. You have to sit down and play the pedal steel. And then,
you play too much steel, man, it makes it hard to play the guitar. The
angles that you have to hold your body at are so different, and the weight
of the big steel bar is a lot to deal with.
Editor's Note: Steve's lap steel guitars appear to have been mounted on
legs for the Other Ones tour, according to show reports (often
misidentifying them as pedal steel guitars) and