Photo by Dean Budnick
At this point it may be hackneyed to suggest that for Bob Weir, the music never stopped, but son-of-a-gun if that isn’t the truth. Fully five years after the final performance of the Grateful Dead, Weir remains a vital musician who continues to delight and surprise. To employ a metaphor drawn from the sport that provides the backdrop to his upcoming musical on the life of pitcher Satchel Paige, Weir has not lost his fastball. Indeed, not only that, but over time, he’s added a slider and a tantalizing slow curve as well.
Weir has a number of projects set for public consumption in the months to follow. The debut release from Ratdog, a studio recording entitled Evenings Moods, is scheduled to appear in September. Also on the horizon is the premiere of a musical that traces the life of Satchel Paige, the baseball player whose mantra “Don’t look back, something may be gaining on you” likely carries some resonance with the guitarist as well.
On August 23 he will take to the road with the Furthur Festival, which will feature the second incarnation of the Other Ones. This time out, Billy Kreutzmann has reentered the fold to accompany fellow rhythm devil Mickey Hart, while Alphonso Johnson will perform on bass. Furthur will tour through September with Ziggy Marley and Melody Makers on board, heading out from California and traversing the nation. For additional information on Furthur, the Other Ones and Ratdog seek out the appropriate constellation on www.dead.net.
DB- Since you’re in rehearsal now with the Other Ones, I know our readers would be interested to learn a bit about the process. How loose is it in terms of focusing on individual compositions versus exploring areas outside the structures of the songs?
BW- Right now what we’re doing is a little of both. We don’t work on the improvisation so much because that kind of happens naturally when we get out on stage. What we’re attempting to do now is really just work up a bunch of songs to kick around once we get out on tour. What we’ll do though is we’ll establish a groove upon which we’re going to work. We’ll work on the arrangements so there are no huge thundering clams and then its understood that okay, here’s an instrumental section, we’ll develop that when we get out there. We’ll just save it for then.
DB- I would imagine that in that context though with so many musicians, so many voices, that there is a danger of clutter. I interviewed Mark Karan, a few months ago and he mentioned that from his perspective there was a bit of that on the first Others Ones tour.
BW- With our approach sometimes it’s real good and sometimes you need a traffic cop. We’ve got our best guys on it. I think we have to re-establish our corporate selves as it were. That’ll happen. It’s happening now in the studio and then it will sort of reforge itself once again when we get out live because it’s just different when you’re playing for people.
DB- From experience long does it typically take for something like that to gel?
BW- God, there’s no telling. We could come hot out of the box and I think we actually will. Then typically at the end of the tour things are a lot tighter anyway. It’s been that way on any tour I’ve ever been on.
DB- Who brings songs to the Other Ones? Who takes the lead there?
BW- We all do. Particularly the guys who are singing of course, but everybody steps in. Like for instance the two guitar players wanted to do “Help On the Way” and “Slipknot” and all that kind of stuff which is going to be an undertaking because they’re complicated tunes. But they really want to do them so we get to figure out who’s going to sing them and exactly how we’re going to address it.
DB- Do you find yourself more drawn to revisiting older tunes, or exploring newer material with the Other Ones?
BW- Half and half. We’re going to have to have a certain number of chestnuts worked out so that the people who are coming to hear those will get to hear them. At the same time we’re going to have to have enough of those so we don’t all go crazy repeating them. And then on top of that we’re going to want new stuff of which there’s a fair bit that we’re working on to present. There’s also the open-ended stuff that will arise when we get out there. If we start visiting a given place long enough we also may endeavor to make a song out of it somehow. “Only the Strange Remain” came out of one of those for instance.
DB- In terms of creating new collective music, how long do you anticipate it will take for that to happen this time out?
BW- It already is happening. We’ve gotten to where we’re playing stuff and we’re trying to put lyrics over it. But that’s the natural stuff that happens when you’re playing regularly with people.
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