Did you have input into what performances were selected for the album?
What is on the album was up to Betty Cantor-Jackson. It was recorded pretty early in the life of the band. We were playing at Sweetwater in Mill Valley. She brought out all of her recording gear and recorded a couple of shows. Chris just left everything up to her; the mixes; the songs; everything.
When you see Betty show up with her gear, do you think differently about playing knowing she is recording?
No. I try to not think about that kind of stuff. Pretty much, no matter what the situation is, I try to stay within my game. I try to not let outside things get into my head- whether it’s someone recording, or it’s someone in the audience, or whatever. I just try to focus on what’s happening onstage.
You have a long history of playing in bands with Sears and Molo. What I liked so much was the instant musical rapport you seemed to have with Greg. Is that how you are with everyone you play with or was there something unique to that collaboration with him?
I’ve always tried to approach playing with other musicians that way. Just like you say: have a musical conversation; give everybody a chance to speak. Somebody asks a musical question and somebody answers it. Just like we’re talking right now. It just sort of happens naturally. I hear some of that on the record. I can hear that it’s the beginning of us playing together; getting to know each other’s styles; learning the spaces each one of us gravitates to; where the holes are. That’s something that is pretty prevalent in the Marin music scene.
I believe you played Pappy and Harriet’s near Joshua Tree in the first days following Neal Casal’s passing. Can you tell me what that was like?
Yes. He passed on a Monday. I saw him the prior Saturday at LOCKN’. And then we played at Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday and Saturday. Those shows were kind of surreal. Usually when the band gets together it’s a really festive celebration. There was a darkness hanging over that weekend. A lot of Neal’s friends and CRB fans from Southern California showed up for the gigs. There was a lot of hugging and crying and storytelling.
Did you know Neal well?
I considered Neal a friend. We talked guitars a lot. We both played guitars by the same guitar maker. I have five Scott Walker custom guitars. Shortly after Neal started up with the Brotherhood he called me up and asked about Scott’s guitars. I invited him over to check them out.
I think about that a lot- the role of the actual guitar in defining that Marin sound. Do you think it has played a part in creating a style and sound or is it coming from the individual player, and that player just happens to be influenced by the same things as other players in the area?
I think that’s a great question. I think there are more people playing custom guitars. It’s not just specific to the Marin scene or sound. As far as my ears go, the style of music I like to play, and the sounds I like to get, I’m looking for something that most standard, off-the-shelf instruments don’t provide.
Fair to say a lot of that traces back to Jerry Garcia and his custom guitars?
It’s fair to say that a lot started with Jerry. He was the first guy that I was aware of that was playing a custom instrument that sounded completely unique. I think that drove a lot of the custom guitar industry, honestly. A lot of players have been influenced by that sound and that style.
What’s next for the Rustlers? Do you think the band will write any original material?
Hard to say. There has not been a whole lot of serious talk about that. At the inception of this it was meant to a be a low pressure, easy kind of thing. At the time Chris was still doing the Brotherhood. That was his outlet for more original stuff. They’re on hiatus now. He’s doing the Black Crowes tour. I guess we’ll see what happens after he does the Crowes. Right now there is no specific plan for what happens next. I think all of us in the band would be totally down to do some writing together and bring some original material into the project. We all have other projects that we do. We all keep busy. When Chris’ schedule lightens up and he’s ready to play again, we’re all ready. We dig doing it.