When Phish called it quits in 2004, it left a gaping hole in the jam band community -- those nomadic concert goers called Phish Phans suddenly found themselves with wide-open schedules. And so other bands emerged as jam band giants, and the members of Phish moved on to new projects. Phish bassist Mike Gordon has arguably stayed busiest since the breakup, touring in various projects such as The Rhythm Devils (with members of the Grateful Dead), GRAB with the Benevento-Russo Duo, and with Leo Kottke in a guitar-bass duo.
With a new band and his Aug. 5 release, "The Green Sparrow," Gordon talked with Style from his Vermont home about his life post-Phish and the likelihood that he'll take the stage, once again, as its bassist.
Style: Since Phish you've been involved with various projects. Where does the new record fit in with your past efforts?
Gordon: Well, it's kind of a thing I always wanted to do and was just putting off -- especially when Phish broke up. I wanted to make my own record and put my own band together. More than just a record, I wanted to just really start putting my own repertoire together. ?Ý What's happening now is something I always knew I would do and I finally have gotten to. ... This feels like the main thing for me; it's not another project that I kind of dabble in and leave behind. I see it as being in it for the long haul.
Now how did you come to form your new band? How did you select the musicians?
Well, the guitar player I've been playing with for years, maybe 13 years or something, in all different projects -- Scott Murawski. The others I had never played with -- well actually [I also played with] Tom Cleary, the keyboard player. Those two guys are from around here, from Vermont. ?Ý The others I just kind of found through the grapevine, but it took a long time.
There were hundreds of musicians I was Googling and some that I was jamming with, and a lot of them were really good. But I wanted just to feel the chemistry that was beyond good. If it was just going to be for the one album cycle, then it might not matter as much to me, but I really see this as being something that I hope to just build over time. ... that's why it took me six weeks of playing with different drummers before I picked one that I wanted.
That's good that you found a nice fit.
Yeah, it's been feeling really good. We just played at the Mile High Festival in Denver, and it was a really high-energy set -- there were points when we were all jumping up and down. That was really cool.
What's the significance of "The Green Sparrow," the title of your upcoming record?
Well, it's a line from the song "Morphing Again" on the album, and when the line comes, I always get this emotion. It's sort of, um, it's hard to describe. ... I don't know what the bird exactly means, I haven't analyzed it. It just kind of felt right when the song was being written, but it also feels like a guardian angel maybe -- like the bird is coming at the right time to do the right thing. It's like a string of gut feelings, from writing the lyric to picking the title from the lyric. The record company even suggested that to tie it all together I rename the song "The Green Sparrow" instead of "Morphing Again," but I like it more that it's just a little character in a song that's tucked in there.
You've been speaking of this band as a long-haul project, but earlier this summer at Rothbury [music festival], once again you shared the stage with Phish-mates Trey Anastasio and Jon Fishman. How did that feel -- to play together again in front of a crowd?
Well, yeah, it felt great. But there were four other people other than the three of us. I guess it was sort of strange how things happen like that. It was our third gig ever, and then there were all these sit-ins happening. I guess it was a whole big mish-mash of emotions. Really, I was just goin' for it and it felt really good -- both in terms of our set before Trey and Fish got up there, and after, with them, felt great, in both ways. And as time goes on, if Phish decides to do more stuff, there's gonna be plenty of room in the schedule to keep playing with this band.
In a recent Rolling Stone interview Trey Anastasio said, "I would give my left nut to play ["You Enjoy Myself"] five times in a row every day until I die." Has there been any talk of taking Trey up on the offer and playing again as Phish?
Oh yeah, there's definitely been talk, and we've been pretty open about it. But what there isn't is any specific plans. It's just such a busy era, but I'm sure soon enough we'll figure out what we might wanna do if we're gonna do something. I can't really say any more 'cause there isn't any more to say.
So it sounds like everyone is getting along?
Yeah, we're getting along great, and we're enthusiastic about what possibilities there might be. S
Mike Gordon plays Toad's Place Tuesday, Aug. 5 (release date for the new album), at 8 p.m. The Bridge opens. Tickets are $20. Call 648-TOAD or visit www.toadsplacerva.com.
Gordon also gives a free in-store performance at Plan 9 Carytown Tuesday, Aug. 5 at 1:30, the release day of his new album, "The Green Sparrow." Toad's and Plan 9 offer the CD and a ticket to the show for $25. 353-9996.