Photo by Larry Hulst
Mickey Hart is at it again. He just played what seemed like a one-off show with members of Planet Drum, he’s touring with his self-named band and he’s also working at self-professed “breakneck speed” on a new album he plans to release this year. Hart took a break to talk about Planet Drum, how he is reinventing some of his older music, and just what’s happening with his brother in music, Bob Weir.
I heard that you, Giovanni Hidalgo, Sikiru Adepoju and Zakir Hussain—Planet Drum, of course—played Berkeley, CA’s Ashkenaz. How did that happen?
Yeah, that’s true. What happened was the four of us were actually in town at this one time. And it was the [85th] birthday of Baba Olatunji. So we had dinner together and headed over to Berkeley and played together for the first time in years and it was magic. It was a magic rhythm carpet ride. The four of us have a real thing. It has got a real unique feeling. We are rhythm brothers from way back.
So do you think you’ll do more together?
We might be thinking about reconstituting Global Drum and Planet Drum and all that stuff and maybe going out on the road with this.
What got you interested in doing some of that now? You seem so busy.
Those records— Global Drum and Planet Drum —not only did they both win Grammys but they also set pace for instrumental percussion. People love the percussion ensemble and of course we loved it too, but everybody in the band has their own careers as well. Everybody [lives] all over the map. They have the major maestro and virtuoso statuses so they have those kinds of careers.
Now we are going to get together again and try it out again and see where it takes us.
Do you see yourselves recording or touring?
Probably both touring and recording. We think this may be the right time. I think we really want to play with each other again. You might stay our trigger fingers are itching. The only way you can satisfy that is with the four of us—the core of Planet Drum, Global Drum reuniting. You can’t get that anywhere else. That is the thing about music; if it feels good you want to do it again.
Can you share some details?
We just came up with the notion last week. We don’t know! We can go wherever we want to go. We just have to say we want to go, where we want to go. Now everybody’s looking at their schedules and saying ‘When do you want to go? How do you want to go this?’ Really this is just in the formative stages so it’s funny you should ask me this.
That’s one thing about you, is that you’re always willing to try new music and not always recycling past songs in exactly the same way.
I play a little bit of that. You have to know what part of the past to bring with you and you have to know how to reimagine it. It has to grow. If it just sits there and you’re playing the same song and you get into a rut, then I just don’t see the value of that unless it is just a payday and unless you are punching the clock. That is where I am personally. There are some great songs that the Mickey Hart Band can play and just really devour. That is what I look for. And I look at the stuff we played and the big songs I love so much.
This week we reworked “Playing in The Band” that I wrote for my first solo record and then Grateful Dead got it. Tower of Power played horns on it. Those horn parts were never played by Grateful Dead or anybody. It never was played live. We used a different arrangement. We have learned the original version of “Playing with The Band” and “Greatest Story Ever Told,” so now we are going back to the very original kernel, the birth of all these songs. The Mickey Hart band is taking some of the amazing parts we as Grateful Dead said “No. Too complicated. Let’s forget it.” We made it into a Dead song as opposed to a Mickey song.