DB- You mentioned that you had done this once before in preparation for writing new material. Do you have a specific purpose or project in mind that has led you to aggregate all of this media at this particular moment?
MG- Well I am putting out a studio album but most of those basic tracks are recorded and then I imagine more albums after that because I’m already going to have extra material. But I also have concepts of how I’ll be recording and writing that will be different from the past.
Here’s an example. Scott Murawski and I are starting to do songwriting sessions where we’ll go to a remote place and toss some ideas around. And we’ve done two now and the interesting thing about it is we don’t know what it’s for.
I like that about it. We don’t know if it’s for an album or to play live or neither. Or if we came up with stuff, he could take it to play with his own bands or I could take something to play with Phish. It’s more about process for the sake of process rather than the outcome.
I’ve read about Bob Dylan and everybody else on down who has years of stuff stockpiled. And he’ll look through that when he needs it. I kind of like that concept, too.
Jared and I currently have about 5 projects going, one of which is my next album but there are a few others that are ongoing. One of them is to do more of what we’ve done in the past, which is to take jam sessions and to try to glean some musical moments that could become songs from those sessions. That’s what we did in October of ‘07 when I came up with so many songs that have been used both on my album and now with Phish and for my upcoming tour. It was a very fruitful month. Our only two rules were that we had to do one song a day and that everything had to start from something pre-existing, even if it was just a groove.
We went through years of material. Now we have about 15 more jam sessions since we did it last to go through and try to pick out little moments. There’s one with me and Bill Kreutzmann and there’s one with me and Zach from Sound Tribe Sector 9 and a bunch of others. It’s about three years of them, since we last archived and cataloged back in December of ’06.
DB- In terms of those sessions with Scott, did any new songs come to fruition? I noticed you debuted some new material last night.
MG- Not yet, they’re still in the germination phase. We’re still exploring the process as collaborators and trying all kinds of different methods, different places and different things to work on. Different gadgets to use to record with, a different schedule…it’s pure experimentation. There are some fragments that are looking pretty promising but no not yet.
DB- What instrumentation did you use in those sessions?
MG- He’s a good drummer and the first time I wanted to bring small stuff I could fit into my car so we wouldn’t need to have people set things up for us. I got a kids drum set because that would be small and we set that up. He also brought a couple guitars and a mandolin and I brought an acoustic guitar bass and an acoustic guitar and then we had an eight track hard disc recorder. But it ended up being too much stuff. Like I said, these are just ongoing experiments, so I wanted to try the next one with less stuff. Also the rule was no computers because we both work with computers a lot and we wanted to use our ears and not our eyes to edit songs.
The next time we wanted to have less stuff, so it was no pedal boards, no amps, and a two guitar limit per person but we really only used one each. We both played the bass a little but mostly we used acoustic guitars, so it was two guitars with the idea of experimenting.
We actually wrote this song “Short Circuit” ten years ago that I ended up playing on the tour in ‘03. We had spent 24 hours straight writing that song, with him playing drums and pedal steel and electric guitar and me playing acoustic guitar bass and some other stuff. One thing I like about working with him is we both have a whole bunch of different talents and they’re not necessarily the same.
DB- Getting back to the notion that ideas are a dime a dozen, I would say, though, that one thing I like about your music and also certainly about Phish, is that you’re never lacking for ideas. Sometimes I think that contemporary society gives short shrift to the whole currency of ideas, which has always kept things active and lively in social, political and cultural realms.
MG- I think there’s two sides of the coin. One of those is that ideas are cheap. You can think of a million ideas in a minute and it’s the following through that counts. I spent the first fifteen years of my life typing up very elaborate schemes, even when I was six years old. Then finally when I was 15, I saw the value of following through and finishing something. I just decided from then on, I would plan a lot less and do a lot more. So it’s definitely all about the following through.
Although the other side of the coin is I have been learning that quantity is sometimes more important than quality. There’s a quote from The Artist’s Way. She [Julia Cameron] has lots of quotes in the margins and it’s a spiritual book, so it’s something like, “You provide the quantity and God will provide the quality.” She’s saying, “Do it a lot, do it every day, do it many times,” which goes along with the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers where he says anyone who does something for 10,000 hours is an expert at it.
The first time Scott and I did one of those weekends, we were finding that we were working on a single concept a lot and sometimes getting stuck on it. So I started to think after that we should just do many different ideas really quickly and as soon as we’re stuck, just move on to something else because there are so many possibilities and to be stuck isn’t worth the time in a way.