DB- In addition to Steve Earle, who are some of your other influences?
TM- I’m surrounded by my influences: JB and Mike, Vic Chesnutt, Danny Hutchens, Jerry Joseph. All these people are around me all the time so it’s kind of scary, actually. Little drummer boy over here trying to write his little songs, when you’ve got all these heavyweights around. But it helps too, and it’s nice when they hear the songs and they’re encouraging about them.
DB- What do you write on?
DB- How long have you been playing?
TM- I played guitar before I played drums
DB- When did you start playing drums?
TM- It’s like the classic Van Halen story. My brother played drums and I played guitar and we swapped one day. I stuck with it because I just enjoyed playing drums. Now it has become something I can hide behind, back in Fort Todd. At this point I would still rather play drums on stage than guitar because I’m not as confident in my guitar playing as I am in my drumming. So I keep my guitar playing behind closed doors for the most part.
DB- Let’s go back to the album, how hard was it selecting tunes?
TN- Unfortunately it wasn’t too hard because we lost a lot of the recording due to human error. So we should have had more to select from than we did. DB- Did you multi-track every night?
We had seven eight track machines but in order to tell what you have, you really need to bring everything into the studio. When we finally did that we got the bad news. There were a few important shows that we were lost- either the horns weren’t on there or there were tracks that weren’t on or whatever. It was pretty upsetting.
DB- Anything in particular that you regret losing?
TN- Mainly it was some shows we remember being quite good but human error jumped into the fray,. For instance, the last show of the summer tour in New York was lost.
DB- How democratic was the process of selecting tracks for the album?
TN- It came down to whoever would get up, go to John Keane’s, sit there and listen to all of it (laughs). Actually eventually we all sat down and listened and decided which ones we wanted to use. It was pretty much unanimous.
DB- There are a number of cover tunes on the album. I’m curious, who typically introduces those?
TN- Whoever really listen to a particular band. The NRBQ songs, I’m the NRBQ-head so those songs are because of me. Van Morrison songs you can probably bet would be through JB. Someone will be listening to what they like and turn everybody on to it who will say, “We should do one of these songs.”
DB- How vigorously do you rehearse those before you bring them out at a show?
TN- We don’t work stuff out too much before we try it live. I guess we figure that’s the proving ground right there. And people seem to enjoy watching a song progress too, kind of watch it grow before their eyes. There seem to be a lot of fans out there who appreciate that.
DB- Do you have any particular favorite moment on Another Joyous Occasion?
TN- The jam going into “Big Chief.” That was probably the band’s favorite part, where we were all like “Yeah, that’s pretty cool.” I think John Keane calls it the “Beehive Jam.” You can hear a swarming sound if you turn it up real loud and listen carefully because so much stuff is going on at once.
DB- What about the song “Arlene,” which typically can go out pretty far in the live setting. What led you to offer a “dance remix” on the new release?
TN- It seems like there’s a growing number of ravers coming to our shows. That’s cool and we wanted to do something for them, for the people who like to go to dance and stuff. We noticed this new group of kids coming to check us out and we said, “Let’s try this and see what happens.” Of course we’d done that before on Brute [the band’s collaboration with Vic Chesnutt] with a song called “Blight.” So it wasn’t actually the first time we’d done something like that.
DB- I’ve heard some people say that it really changes the entire mood of the album, which otherwise presents live tracks.
TN- The thing about it is, that is a live track with a couple of loops thrown on top of it. So its not as manufactured as I believe everybody thinks it is. If you can listen through a couple of those loops it’s basically Widespread Panic playing “Arleen.” It’s just got an edit with the horns on it, where the horns are struck in a couple of repetitive spots with that little lick they do. It’s pretty much a straight-up live performance with nothing taken away, it’s just got some stuff piled on top of it.
DB- Widespread Records, how active is the band in its direction?
TN- We pretty much make all the policies and the decisions. It’s our record company, we’re trying to run it. There are certain things we don’t need to know about but we’re all involved in the big issues.
DB- What was the impetus for creating it?
TN- We just wanted an outlet where we could put out stuff anytime we wanted to. Right now we don’t have a major record deal so it only made sense, really. We’ve also got the April shows from Athens in the can which we want to release. So we decided to become a record company and get these things out there, because I don’t know how long it’s going to before the next studio release comes out.
DB- Will you be releasing Athens as complete shows?
TN- I’m not sure yet. We have to go back and listen to them first of all. I’m not positive what format, whether we’re going to put it out altogether, one night at a time, or how we’re going to do it. We’ve haven’t discussed it yet.
DB- How many releases a year do you anticipate?
TN- We haven’t put a number on it. A couple a year seems reasonable. Possibly as the business grows we might be able to be a bit more ambitious but it’s a pretty small operation right now.
DB- Do you anticipate that you’ll put out the music of anyone else?
TN- Right now, probably not. Maybe in a year or so if things go well. Probably though we’ll be more into distributing stuff, I don’t know if we’ll sign bands and given them recording budgets. We’ll probably give them an outlet to sell their music like we do with the Widespread Panic merchandising site which carries Bloodkin CDs and the Barbara Cue CD.
DB- Well that provides a nice segue. Speaking of Barbara Cue, how did that come about?
TN- Basically, William Tonks, who’s a good friend of mine- he’s been in several bands, I’ve known him ever since I lived in Athens- we were always big NRBQ fans. For years we talked about getting together and doing a tribute show. We finally did it. He got a bunch of guys together who felt the same way about the band, we learned a bunch of their songs and did a show. Man, we had a good time with it so thought we’d get back together again, and then we started asking around, “Does anybody have a song to contribute?” So we all started throwing out songs and writing originals. It just kind of went from there.
DB- How has sound of Barbara Cue evolved?
TN- I don’t what the hell Barbara Cue is. One minute we’re playing stone cold country and the next minute its full balls-to-the-wall rock and roll. We kind of get dubbed as an alternative country band. I guess that’s what it’s evolved into from a wacky pop cover band to the point where nobody knows if we’re the country cousin or the city cousin .
DB- Well you did say you like Steve Earle.
TN- Exactly. He can’t make up his mind either. (laughs).