Trey Anastasio Talks Grateful Dead, Phish Tour & Advice for John Mayer in 'Relix' Story
It's been a banner year for Trey Anastasio, who masterfully stepped up and performed with the Grateful Dead at their highly publicized Fare Thee Well concerts, before hopping on Phish's summer tour. Anastasio then switched gears again to focus on his new solo album Paper Wheels, which he will support with a 13-date fall tour before he rejoins Phish for a four-night New Year's run at Madison Square Garden to ring in 2016.
The Phish frontman sat down with David Fricke for an interview for the October/November issue of Relix magazine. In the interview, Anastasio explains what he learned in Dead Camp -- his euphemism for the first half of 2015, when he immersed himself in the band's 30-year body of studio and live recordings in an attempt to get inside the head of late-guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia.
Anastasio had a few revelations while playing in the band on their five Fare Thee Well shows, saying that Grateful Dead drummer Bill Krueutzmann and percussionist Mickey Hart "together are one heart." He adds, "There has never been a great rock band that hasn't been built around an irreplaceable drummer." The guitarist stated from the first note of "Truckin'" in Santa Clara, Calif., it was apparent that Kreutzmann and Hart were "driving the ship."
Another takeaway from his experience at Fare Thee Well was patience. Bob Weir had to remind Trey on many occasions to slow down. "He is patient, comfortable -- no rush. Sometimes I'd be like, 'You really want to play this song that slow?'"
The 51-year-old guitarist also revealed that Bob Weir and Phil Lesh tended to ignore his tendency to want to end a jam. "I love to jam," Anastasio says. "I love to jam long. But even for me, the time would come when I'd think, 'This is too noodle-y. Let's play the next song.' I would do something, a lick, that gently alluded to it. Then Phil would look over at me and put his hand up, like, 'What's your rush, dude?'
"All I wanted was for them to be happy," he says of filling the large shoes of the late Jerry Garcia. "It was terrifying for me in that nobody can stand where he stood. But I was there in order for everyone to be together again, one more time, singing these songs."
Anastasio's takeaway from the entire event. "I just loved it, absolutely loved it." He adds, "It was the Grateful Dead. It was amazing. I was freaking out. I loved it."
Following the five Fare Thee Well shows, Anastasio joined Phish for their summer tour, which many consider one of their best outings in the band's 30-plus-year history.
Anastasio recalls several moments from the tour -- including the band's five-song second set in Philadelphia on Aug. 12, where each song became a springboard for an elaborate jam, and their three-day Magnaball festival in Watkins Glen, N.Y., where he had no "conscious connection" to what was happening onstage. "I don't understand what everybody's playing.' You're in these jams, and they're just going -- waves of something -- and everybody's a part of it. Mike, Jon, Page, the audience, that guy we know in the front row. We're all here, and the music is churning."
Shortly after Fare Thee Well, Dead & Company announced tour dates with guitarist John Mayer. Anastasio met with Mayer to hand over the baton and give the guitarist a bit of advice. "This thing he's doing with them, it will go on for however long it's gonna go on," Anastasio explains. "What I was saying was: 'You and I, this is not our band.'"
The perpetually busy Anastasio will release his solo album Paper Wheels on Oct. 30. The effort is available for preorder in various bundles here. His fall tour will kick off with a two-night stand at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Oct. 16.
You can read the entire interview when the Oct./Nov. issue of Relix magazine arrives on Oct. 22. Fans can preorder the issue here.