On Saturday night, at 8PM PDT, Phil Lesh sat down for a live cyber-interview in the AOL Coliseum auditorium with me and almost 900 online guests in the audience.
Tom Paddock and his crack crew of dead.netters provided the extra computers and monitors, and the Fillmore staff gave us 3 live phone lines up in the balcony of the venerated hall. Phil was delayed by traffic, but as if by magic, he appeared just as I was nervously ending my introduction!
What follows is Phil answering a combination of questions submitted earlier from AOL and dead.net, as well as some live questions from the people in the auditorium and one from me.
AOL GD Forum sysop
David Gans, Dennis McNally, Geoff Gould, and Tom Paddock just before the event starts.
Copyright 1997 America Online, Inc. and the GD Forum
Geoff Gould : Welcome to tonight's special AOL Live event. My name is Geoff Gould, and I am the AOL GD Forum coordinator. Before we start the official proceedings, and I clear the question buffers, I'd like to ask that we come up with really good questions. If all I find in the buffer are questions like: "When are the Dead getting back together?" and so on, it makes it harder to find the good ones! We have also fielded some questions from the net, so this will be an 'inclusive' event! ;-)
Well, thanks for your help; we'll get started in a minute.
There...all the lines are cleared, let's get on with it.
GG : Tonight we are pleased to be coming to you live from the historic Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. They are hosting a special dance party to celebrate the release of Dick's Picks 8, and the latest Vault release, "Fallout from the Phil Zone."
First, an announcement that may not be news: Next Tuesday, June 17, Grateful Dead Records, distributed by Arista/BMG, will release "Fallout from the Phil Zone" to all your better record stores (also available at 800-CAL-DEAD and of course via the AOL GD Forum Store, kwd: dead). 2 CD's, $19.95.
Unlike previous GDR releases, this one is a selection of individual performances from various shows (rather than one night), and includes a 1967 "Midnight Hour," and two other Pigpen tunes, "Easy Wind," and "Hard to Handle," from 1970. Old Dead anthems include "Viola Lee Blues" and "Dancing in the Streets". An early version of "New Speedway Boogie" and the never-before-released "Mason's Children" will please you, along with great performances of "The Music Never Stopped," "Box of Rain," and (just months before Jerry died) a fabulous take on Dylan's "Visions of Johanna." Phil, of course, was the Executive Producer and they are his selections.... Now entering the auditorium, Maestro Phil Lesh:
Phil Lesh : Thanks and it's great to be here all...
GG : first Q from from KBerger123:
Phil what prompted the origin of this project and what criteria, if any, did the songs/recordings have to meet in order to be chosen for this project? Also, what was the final criteria for songs to make the final cut assuming that you had more material to choose from?
PL : I kept finding great individual segments from shows that the whole show didn't hold up for release and I kept complaining about it and my wife Jill suggested that I do a compilation, an anthology, of individual performances that I like.
GG : from SPIRAL1347:
Were they selected based on different reasons? i.e. first time the tune was played, birthdays of band members, etc...
PL : The only criterion was whether or not I liked the performance.
GG : from Macromic: Which Pigpen song(s) did you use and why?
PL : Midnight Hour from 1967, Labor Day; Easy Wind, and Too Hard to Handle. The reason I did Pig Pen songs is because I love Pig Pen, and these are three of the best
Pig Pen songs.
GG : Pigpen's been gone for quite a while now. This disk has some incredible Pigpen performances. Do you feel he's been recognized outside of the GD community for the talent he was?
PL : I don't know that any of the modern day Dead Heads really have any idea how important Pig Pen was to our band. He was the original spiritual driving force behind the Warlocks electric blues band that became the GD, and he was our lead singer and Pig Pen was really the front man and the rest of us sort of backed him up a lot.
GG : from EBCameron:
What would you say was the most difficult task in selecting the songs for this album?
PL : Listening to all the material to find the jewels.
GG : from Rumi68:
[re: Mason's Children] What was it about that tune that caused the GD to ditch it so quickly? Was it a musical issue, a lyrical issue, or just a matter of the tune getting lost in the shuffle of everything you were doing at the time? The song is a lot of fun.
PL : Yeah, the song was a lot of fun, but it wasn't enough fun for us to keep doing it, but I think it sorta got lost in the shuffle.
GG : from JStarks188:
Will there be more output from the phil zone ?i like the idea of one set of cd's covering
all the years
PL : There probably will be more output from the Phil Zone but that's separate from a plan that we have to release some box sets covering the entire history of the band and the first one is slated to be the 85-95 decade.
GG : from Patriotick:
So is this a trend? Are we now going to see Micky's picks or Bob's best ?
PL : I have no idea.
GG : from Happyart:
I know that Dick has a lot more to pick from but it would be interesting to find out if you all would be up for releasing any studio material from 1995?
PL : There are no plans to release any of the studio material from 1995.
GG : Hows about a live album of un-released songs? Thanks, Jeff and Vicki
PL : We're hoping that that will be part of the first box set.
GG : Given your interest in experimental music can we expect any vault releases along the lines of Seastones or infrared Roses? I think the Dead's catalogue could stand a little more weirdness... Thanks, Joel Peterson
PL : God bless you, Joel. I couldn't agree more, of course...
GG : Phil, Are there any plans on releasing the new songs in any format? (live, video, studio etc.) I would of loved to have seen a video of the band doing "Liberty" as a sort of a tribute to either Jerry or the whole scene in particular. Tim Lynch
PL : We haven't looked at any of the video of the new songs, so we don't know what we have and therefore there are no plans.
GG : from WALBERO:
Why hasn't the record Historic Dead come out on cd yet? And if it does when?
PL : I don't know that we own that record, and frankly we hadn't thought about re-releasing it. I would have to listen to it again and see if it sounded as good as it did when we released it.
GG : from dead.net:
Has there been any consideration to releasing a CD/CD-ROM in which userscould "mix" their own album (as some other musicians have done) -- allowing deadheads to take part in the "creation" of Grateful Dead music?
PL : We are discussing something of that nature with the producers of the Classic Album video.
GG : from Carusomelt:
I am curious to know If Phil has considerd doing somewhat the same thing In video form?
PL : The same video form as what?
GG : a compilation I think
PL : No, we haven't thought about that.
GG : from MCADKSTAR: Where are the videos?
PL : In your mind.
GG : from Peaceferg:
What does the future holds for you musically and will you be doing any work with other
members of the Grateful Dead?
PL : I look forward to doing musical work with other members of the GD when that starts happening on basis whatsoever. And I'm also composing a symphony based on GD song themes.
GG : from CidStone:
What's Phils opinion of the Furthur Tours? Does he have any plans to join in at some point? We miss Phil!
PL : I think it's great that Mickey and Bob and Bruce and all the other artists are out there bearing the torch and allowing people to come together and commune as they did on tour.
GG : from RMPresents:
When will we get to see Phil live on the East Coast? I'm jonesing to hear the man!
PL : Not in the near future.
GG : from dead.net:
My notion is that you guys could tour for a season or a year with a guest lead guitarist, much like the way Bruce came in for a while. I'd like to include a lot of Grateful Dead songs, because like many others, I really like the tunes and lyrics. Maybe you could give it a try? It'd make keeping on trucking a little easier and a little more fun...
PL : We have never imagined that any guitarist could replace Jerry. If we do tour as a band, it will have to be because we really feel the need to play music together.
GG : from JNB062470:
Do you forsee a "Grateful Dead Museum" in the near future, and if so, can you give us any details? (and have you seen the exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?)
PL : We are in the process of trying to build a gathering place which we call Terrapin Station. We will be sending out a special edition of the Almanac in August to communicate the details of our plan to all the Dead Heads. We also plan to have a website dedicated to Terrapin Station, hopefully with a large feedback area and a virtual experience of the museum as it is evolving so that Dead Heads will have a chance to give us their input after having experienced the museum virtually.
GG : from Mike Gordon, Phish's bassist:
Geoff asked me try to think of a question, so . . . Do you feel like you pioneered the tendency to begin a measure on a high root and fall an octave or so down in the middle of the measure [opposite of normal tendency]? It makes the low note have more impact.
PL : If anybody pioneered that tendency, it was Bach...or maybe even Palestrina. What I may have pioneered was the tendency to run a lot of scales.
GG : Do you still have, or have you ever gone back to the musical score you were working on in the 60's that you stopped doing in order to join the Grateful Dead? Jeff Harrison
PL : I never stopped doing anything to join the GD except maybe hanging out. Yes, I have the score, and it was finished a long time ago and I have never wanted to revise it.
GG : from D2EDude:
Is the Rex Foundation still alive? If so, will there ever be a chance of a charity
concert in the future that could benefit the Foundation, a benefit concert that may involve members of the band?
PL : I am no longer involved with the Rex Foundation.
GG : from DarkStr101:
Heres a question a lot of heads have been wondering about since the debut of Unbroken Chain in 95: Was Phil ever thinking of pulling another fan favorite out of Mars Hotel? Pride of Cucamonga? I personally think it would have been a great sucess.
PL : I really love that song. It's one of my alltime favorite Petersen lyrics... surpassed only by Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues which we sang once, I think, and then it disappeared forever.
GG : from Sampson1ss:
Hey Phil, how about a reunion? All remaining band members? It's been too long; we are dying to see the family.
PL : We don't have anything planned in the near future, but I hope that we can play together soon.
GG : from dead.net:
I heard you were working on a remake of "Anthem of the Sun". Is that true? If so, when will it be released and will it have any alternative or outake tracks?
PL : What a great rumor. I spent three months of my life re-mixing Anthem of the Sun in 1972, only to go back to the original mix. No, I'm gonna leave Anthem of the Sun alone.
GG : This is about the newest Phil song, "If the Shoe Fits." What inspired that song? Will there be a version of it released? Thank you, Pete Stuart Sequim, WA
PL : If the Shoe Fits was a collaboration with a friend, Andrew Charles, who has also written songs for Santana. We got together and he played me this song and I edited it a little bit and started doing it.
GG : Hey Phil, how's it going. I've heard you talk about the importance of singing and it's transformative effects - it's fantastic that you plan on a sing-along this Winter. Related to that, I was wondering what your thoughts have been over the years about the "audience parts" of songs -- the significance of (sometimes up to) 70,000 people singing in unison, and the spontaneous creation of these audience parts at shows. Take Care!--Sandy Stahlman
PL : Well, let's see, where to begin...the audience parts of the songs are in a way what inspired this. In fact, we plan to begin, for instance, with everybody singing, "You know our love will not fade away"... It's planned to be a benefit for organizations in the Tenderloin that use art and creativity for healing purposes. Its focus is food for the soul. We want to create what David Crosby called a positive religious experience brought about by people singing together.
Question : Why did you decide to choose this version of Box of Rain? Any special reason?
PL : I think it's because my voice sounded less strained on it to me than any of the others.
Question : Question for Phil: Do you think there's too much CD product going on the market. And if so, why is that?
PL : I have no idea.
Question : Phil - how much input/veto power do you have over Latvala and the Dick's Picks releases. Is he pretty much on his own - just how does that work??
PL : I have no input or veto power over Dick.
Question : You must really enjoy the time spent with your kids now that the tour is over. Have they worn you down yet?
PL : No, and they never will!
Question : What other artists do you listen to in your free time?
PL : I'm too busy composing right now to listen.
Question : Phil, did you ever play the "chord", one where you found the perfect instrument?
PL : No, but I played "the line".
GG : from dead.net:
Do you classify Frank Zappa as a modern 20th century composer, do you listen to Zappa?
PL : Yes, I'd classify Zappa as a modern 20th century composer, just as I do Duke Ellington. I haven't listened to a lot of his music lately, but I do admire it.
GG : from dead.net:
Why did the shows in China scheduled for 1988 fall through? Are you all still interested in going?
PL : I imagine if we get together again and play, we'll play here in the United States before we go to China.
GG : from unknown source:
Care to elaborate on the carrier wave?
PL : The carrier wave, huh? As I understand the carrier wave, it's a superconscious thread that used to tie us all together when we were really playing the music. But I could be wrong.
GG : Thank you Phil for being here tonight.
PL : Always my pleasure, ladies and gentlemen of the netscape domain.
GG : a big round of applause for Phil
We'll now adjourn to the after-show party in the Rose Garden!
We bid you good night
Phil Lesh and GD Forum sysop Geoff Gould do the cheezy photo-op after the Fillmore chat.
I made Susana Millman use my cheezy QuickTake for this shot. It's not her fault!
In a pose either reminiscent of Mount Rushmore, or an Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Album, we find Janet (typist), Phil, and Jill Lesh engrossed in the post-AOL dead.net IRC action. Note the earplugs. It gets loud for Phil too!