Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio has nearly completed recording the basic tracks for a studio album with the eight-piece band which backed him on a recent North American tour, Billboard.com can reveal.

Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio has nearly completed recording the basic tracks for a studio album with the eight-piece band which backed him on a recent North American tour, Billboard.com can reveal. Anastasio will now begin writing orchestral parts for the music, which will be recorded by a 35-piece orchestra at the artist's studio in Vermont. The set will likely surface in April 2002 on Elektra.

"I've been looking at classics like [Stevie Wonder's] 'Songs In the Key of Life' and other classic Motown arrangements, where there was the use of a full orchestra in terms of sonic range, but still based around popular songs," Anastasio tells Billboard.com. "This is the cool thing about getting the chance to do something outside of Phish. Phish is only four people who could only do so much. But to be able to put together an eight-piece band with a 35-piece orchestra melded together, it just opens up a lot of cool opportunities."

With Phish on indefinite hiatus, the artist has a number of other projects looming on the horizon, including the Sept. 18 release of five complete live Phish shows spanning 1995-2000 (a sixth will follow in October). The shows, chosen by Phish with input from the band's rabid fanbase, are the first in what Anastasio hopes will be a new series of releases every six months.

"[Fans] requested eras like 1995, and I never thought those were any good," Anastasio admits. "In listening to [those shows], I realized I thought they were right. I got it. It made me feel very good about the choices we made, because there was an energy going on back then that is pretty undeniable."

But the guitarist enthuses that he really "can't wait" to head out on the road next month with Oysterhead, the power trio that also includes Primus bassist Les Claypool and Police drummer Stewart Copeland. The group will play two warm-up club shows Sept. 14 in New Haven, Conn., and Sept. 15 in New York, before setting off on a month-long trek Oct. 21 in Seattle. Oysterhead's Elektra debut, "The Grand Pecking Order," drops Oct. 2.

"Most of what you hear on the album is first or second takes," Anastasio says. "We had barely played together at all. We played that one show [at New Orleans' Jazz Fest in 2000] and we had a couple of jams. That original jam session we did [in Vermont], that may be favorite recorded Oysterhead. I still drive around listening to that. I play it for people all the time. It's just long jams with the three of us playing. It's so heavy. I mean, look at the rhythm section!"

Tickets to select shows on the full tour will go on sale Sept. 7. Visit the group's official Web site for more information.