Michael Snyder's Interview w/ Trey

Thanks to Ted for posting this to rec.music.phish
By Michael Snyder

Phish, the wry, progressive rock quartet out of Burlington, Vt., fell
together in the late '80s.  Since then Phish...wooed and won a rabid
following by relentlessly touring.  Five albums -- including the recently
released "Hoist" on Elektra -- have ranged in stule from complex jazz-rock
fugues to good-time latter-day country-rock to concept-laden flights of
fancy.  But it is Phish's unpredictable, improvisational nature in concert
that has made it one of the most successful live attractions in pop music.

[and this when they were still playing 3000 seat theatres!]

Furthermore, the band's good-natured humor, cyber-hippie spirituality [so
that's what that is!] and instrumental expertise brought the Grateful Dead's
[gotta be at least one] fiercely loyal, tie-dyed crowd into the Phish fold.
 Phish plays [locally this week]....  Last week, Anastasio discussed Phish in
a phone call from a Tempe, Ariz. hotel room.

Q:  Do you believe that Phish is, as many contend, the Grateful Dead of the

A:  Not really.  But there is absolutely a connection.  We do share fans.  I
think its an energy thing and a sense of adventure.  There's a similarity
with the Dead shows because of the risk in improvisation.  They do it.  We do
it.  And you never know what's going to happen.

Q:  Was the Dead a primary influence?

A:  I've seen the Dead once in the past seven years, but I saw them a lot
when I was in high school.  Personally, I've always listened to a lot of
different kinds of music.  I was just watching an old Zappa video on the bus
last night.  I always loved Zappa's compositional sense and his bands.  We
draw on bluegrass and the harmonies of traditional American music.  And
there's jazz.  I just did a short, three-night tour with Michael Ray, who was
a trumpet player with Sun Ra and did horn arrangements for Kool and the Gang.
 [Interesting!]  He also came out and jammed with us on a couple of
occasions.  As far as the Dead, I like the sort of spirituality and
transcendance thing they get into when they write and improvise.

Q:  Is the erratic nature of improvisation daunting for you and your band

A:  It's not as much of an on-off thing as it is with the Dead.  [Meaning
that the Dead could be really "on" one night and "off" another?]  But it
ensures that each night is different.  We try to let the spontaneity take
over.  We just played Dallas [the Bomb Factory] the other night, and the last
65 minutes of the show were completely improvised.  It wasn't planned, but it
happened, and we just took off.  [I remember back then reading this and
thinking, "ooh, i'd like to hear that some day!"  sure enough....]   If it
wasn't for nights like that, I wouldn't be doing this.  I'm not traveling
eight months out of the year just to sit in hotel rooms.

Q:  "Hoist" is definitely more song-oriented than your earlier albums.  Why
is that?

A:  It's probably a reaction to the last record "Rift."  It's a polar
opposite.  "Rift" had few songs.  It was a darker concept album with all
kinds of heavily composed stuff.  Which was a reaction to the album before
"Rift," " A Picture of Nectar," which had a lighthearted fantasy vibe.
 There's another difference from earlier recordings.  We arranged the new
album for the studio.  We decided to record it without taking the new songs
out on the road first.

Q:  How was it working with "Hoist" guest artists such as Oakland's Tower of
Power horn section, banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck and vocalists Alison Krauss and
Sly Stone's wife, Rose?

A:  We worked with Bela and his band before.  You get to be friends when you
see them on the road all the time.  They're amazing musicians.  The most
exciting thing for us was having Alison on the record.  We listen to her
albums all the time.  We wanted hornig, so (producer) Paul Fox said, "You
might as well get the best."

Q:  Your albums don't give you much room to stretch out as you do in concert.
 Is that problematic?

A:  Well, we've only sold a total of a half-million copies, and this is
already our fifth album.  We know we built our audience with the live thing,
but we love it.

Q:  How did this all get started?

A:  We met in Vermont.  Three of us graduated from Goddard College, an
alternative school from the '60s, where you design your own wourse of study.
 For example, I worked with a composer, Ernie Stires, who taught me arranging
for three years.  [Thanks Ernie!]  I wrote a couple of musicals, big-band
arrangements, atonal pieces.  Meanwhile, Fish was locked in a room with a
drum set for three years.   [Supposedly virtually true!]  So we got together
and played in Burlington, then New Hampshire.  It just spread acroos the
country.  We built the whole thing up through word-of-mouth and a network of
people trading tapes.  Like, we went to Telluride, Colo., and played seven
nights at a bar for the door.  We met everybody in town and made friends.
They told their friends.  Next time back in Colorado, twice as many people
came to the shows.  The time after that, twice as many again.  We're still
doing that.  [And they're *still* doing it!]

Q:  What accounts for your fans' devotion?

A:  It's the experience at the concerts.  [Amen!]  There's a real feeling
between us.  I don't feel like I'm performing *at* the audience.  It's like a
party.  Or it's like some night in high school, where you blew off some plans
and, instead, you and your friends stayed out all night.  You went to the
lake and watched the sun rise. It was a spontaneous bonding experience that
you remember all your life.  Tha's how I feel at a show when everything goes
right.  It's much more powerful than a planned-out show.  When people have
that experience, they're hooked.

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