Former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh tells Billboard.com he's "stoked to the eyeballs" about the nearing Terrapin Station, his first full-fledged reunion with his former bandmates since Dead vocalis
Former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh tells Billboard.com he's "stoked to the eyeballs" about the nearing Terrapin Station, his first full-fledged reunion with his former bandmates since Dead vocalist/guitarist Jerry Garcia's 1995 death.
In preparation for the reunion -- during which Lesh and the band's surviving original members, vocalist/guitarist Bob Weir and percussionists Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, will perform four sets over two nights (Aug. 3-4) at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wis. -- the bassist reported he and his bandmates recently convened for three weeks of rehearsals in the Bay Area.
"We did a week of vocals and two weeks with a full band. And it was very, very, very productive and fruitful," he said.
Joining the original members of the Dead will be Jeff Chimenti (keyboardist in Weir's band Ratdog) and two members of Phil Lesh & Friends: keyboardist/vocalist Rob Barraco and guitarist Jimmy Herring. Collectively, they will be known as the Other Ones, the same moniker Lesh, Hart, and Weir used when they performed together on the 1998 version of the once annual Dead spinoff trek, the Further Fest.
While Lesh said he experienced a certain amount of comfort and ease while playing with his former bandmates ("It's like putting on an old shoe"), he admitted the pairing will reflect the new musical experiences each original member has accumulated since the Dead's disbanding. "Everybody was very conscious [of that]," he said. "Since we really couldn't recreate the Grateful Dead, we wanted to apply all the evolution that everybody has gone through in the last seven years and apply all the things we've learned through playing with others to playing together. So, it's been really, really, really exciting."
After reuniting with Weir and Hart as the Other Ones -- a name taken from the Dead song "The Other One" -- Lesh had a falling out with his former bandmates over the Dead's merchandising empire. Around this same time, he underwent a liver transplant. Since then, he has toured extensively with Phil Lesh & Friends, which recently issued its debut studio disc, "There and Back Again," via Columbia.
While he has been joined occasionally onstage by his former bandmates in the past two years, Lesh says the time is right for a full-fledged reunion. "Seven years is a significant space of time in traditional teaching," he offered. "Your life can be considered [to be] falling into seven-year units. Major changes -- and you might even say Karmic responsibilities -- occur every seven years. You're not really grown up, for instance, until you're 28, until you've gone through four cycles. And so seven years is a meaningful amount of time for change.
"Beside that," he continued, "we had been disagreeing on a lot of lower level stuff. Last year I started really feeling that we needed to reaffirm our relationship on the high level that it started at, and that level was intimately involved with making music. That relationship, when that's not happening, and everybody's just part of the board of directors that's just doing business, it makes it harder for individuals and passionately committed people like the Grateful Dead guys to work together. So Bobby and I started communicating, and Bobby sat in with my band, and then Ratdog and my band played together on the summer tour last year. And Bobby sat in with us again. And on New Year's I invited everybody -- all the surviving original members -- to join my band for our set. I guess that sort of broke the ice, and put it back on the level that it really needs to be at -- that's the high level of making music."
Joining the Other Ones at the two sold-out concerts will be Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, Donna The Buffalo, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Jorma Kaukonen & Blue Country, the Disco Biscuits, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, and Gov't Mule vocalist/guitarist Warren Haynes, who will perform an acoustic set. Each Dead member will also perform with their own projects -- Hart with Bembe Orisha, Lesh with his Friends, Kreutzmann with TriChromes, and Weir with Ratdog.
Also nearing is the Aug. 13 Broadway Books release of "A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead," longtime Dead spokesman Dennis McNally's eagerly anticipated, 600-page tome on the band. "It's an honest, strong, truthful book," said Lesh. "I'm glad it's happening and I'm glad it's gonna be out there. It gives a pretty balanced and objective view."