Photo by Dean Budnick

In the middle of the 1970s, Steve Kimock made his first move to California. He was living in a Pennsylvania commune at the time, but one day he got the call that his folk rock outlet – The Goodman Brothers – would open for Hot Tuna at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco.

“We got in the van, loaded all our stuff up, and drove to California. It was a huge, huge, huge deal. We had no money, no nothing. Just totally out-the-ass bunch of kids. We’re driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, and we’re like ‘Dude, this is it! Here we go across!’ Just like, stars in our eyes, ‘We’re playing in San Francisco!’”

However, the magical moment didn’t last long.

“Right in the middle of the bridge, our van dies,” the guitarist laughs. “So we pushed it across the bridge, over the hump onto the other side over by the toll booth. We eventually got everything and everybody there, and made the gig, and opened up for Hot Tuna. And that’s where I met Jorma, my very first gig in California. And we’re still playing together.”

Indeed, that rocky beginning kicked off not only Kimock’s lifelong partnership with Hot Tuna, but his career as a top-tier sideman and an often-acclaimed frontman for everyone from Phil Lesh & Friends and Ratdog and to his own Steve Kimock & Friends and Zero.

Below, Kimock discusses his new band Maximum Love Vibes, the state of the jam scene and much more.

I was told you moved back to California once more. Is that true?

Yeah, sometime in the last couple years I moved back to California. You’ll also hear that I’m moving back to Pennsylvania.

Back again? Well I was going to ask you how moving back to California is affecting your work…

California’s great! Now I’m moving back to Pennsylvania. And that’s going to be great too, so it doesn’t matter.

I got kids—four boys. And just two bigs and two littles. The two bigs are adults, and the two littles are both still in school. The elder of the two littles is attending the Lehigh Valley School of Performing Arts. The biggest one, Johnny the drummer, he graduated from that program in the second year of their existence.

Is it exciting to see all the great things that are happening for John right now in the jam scene, playing with Mike Gordon’s band?

Oh yeah, that’s like my favorite thing in life. He’s into it, and is doing so well. He kicks more ass every day.

You’re also starting a new band with John, Dave Schools and Jerry Joseph: “Maximum Love Vibes.” How did all that come about?

I don’t actually know exactly how it came about. I’ve known Jerry forever. We were on the road back in the ‘80s with Little Women—a rock and reggae band. Jerry and I always had great chemistry. And Schools, Jerry, Johnny and I always had great chemistry. It’s sort of been trying to happen forever. It feels like “Oh for Christ’s sake, what took you so long?” I’ve been advocating for more Jerry Joseph in my life, for decades. And we’re finally getting more Jerry Joseph so that’s fine.

I honestly don’t know how much Schools wants to go out and work. He’s digging producing these days. You know, he does the Panic thing, which is huge, and he is probably super taken care of doing that. I’m not going to speak for him, but I bet he’d rather be in the studio or in his lovely home with his lovely wife and dogs than running around in a fucking van or bus or something like that.

And yet, you guys picked Alaska for your debut shows.

Alaska picked us. Alaska picked us.

What do you mean by that?

Who would decide to go to Alaska?!

That’s what I’m wondering!

I’m just kidding. No, the Alaska thing is hip. And the promoter has been trying to get my band up there so many times. This [band] is just a whole bunch of threads that have been running parallel forever. Kind of tangling, and this finally fell out.

What about the name? Maximum Love Vibes?

That’s Brian Wilson! That’s the sign off on the album on Pet Sounds. It’s a Beach Boys reference. If you could have someone name your band, who could be better? Brian Wilson…Or maybe Bob Marley.

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