JAMBASE: You’ve been with Panic now for seven years full-time and I can’t
how fast that’s gone by.
What do you want to accomplish with the band? You, personally.
JH: You know, I want to stay true to what the band has always been while
forward. That’s not
always easy. Here you have a bunch of guys who basically grew up and learned to play
together. JB told me
something that kind of blew my mind and that’s that he’s never really been in another
band. That’s incredible.
I always wanted to have that: be in one band and grow up in that band. It didn’t work out
that way for me – and I’m
not saying I didn’t enjoy playing in all these amazing bands – but JB did what I think all
young musicians want at
some point, which is to really be in a band and not just be a hired gun or a guy that sits
in with a lot of people.
JAMBASE: But it doesn’t sound like Panic ever made you feel like a hired
JH: No, no, but I want to continue to write with the band. Writing is not
that comes easy to me. I
throw away a lot more stuff than I keep and often people have to talk me out of throwing
something away. I come up
with a lot of ideas that may have come from things I’ve always loved, and that could be
Bach, or Coltrane, or Led
Zeppelin, or McLaughlin or P-Funk or Dixie Dregs. It’s so easy to write something that
sounds like someone else, and
it’s so hard to write something that people go, that sounds like you, or they instantly
know who it is. That’s
something I’m always working on with the band.
With Panic, I’m still in some ways trying to find my way. There are parts of my musical
vocabulary that just wouldn’t
fit in with his group, but that’s true of just about every band I’ve ever played with. We
have a lot of songs in Panic in
minor keys, and what happens to me sometimes is that I find it easy to exhaust my
particularly vocabulary on one
If we’re doing a show on a particular night, and in the setlist we have five minor-key
songs in a row, sometimes I’m
worried we’re having the same conversation a few times. So personally I want to bring in
some other tonalities,
maybe some we don’t commonly work out of -- some other spice in what we do, so I can keep
[Photo by Ian Rawn]
JAMBASE: If you don’t mind my asking, when after you joined Panic did you
feeling like more of a
member of the band and less of, if not a hired gun, a new guy in the lineup?
JH: Well, they’ve been my friends for so long – I’ve known them from ’89
– so I
always felt welcome. But no
one is as hard on you as you are. I’m not really an Internet person so it’s not like I’m
going on message boards
looking for dirt, but I also know there has to be some frustration out there sometimes
about how I play – you’re just
not going to please everyone.
You’re dealing with a band with 27 years of history and a lot of diehard fans, man! I know
what that’s like. When a
band like Panic loses one of its shining lights…[pause]…when Mikey passed, that’s just
hard. For anyone who was his
friend or near his family or a big fan of the band, it’s just never going to be the same.
That’s a testament to Mike,
you can’t just go replace a guy like him, he had his own sound.
I think Panic was similar to the Dead in that way. Those guys in the Dead all learned how
to play coming up with
Garcia. And after Garcia passed, they all had to find a new way to play – they could try
to play the way they always did
when he was alive, but if Jerry’s not there to be part of that, it’s just not going to
sound the same. The guys in Panic
had to react much the same way. They came up together, they lived together, they were
longtime friends – it’s a deep
thing. I mean, they can get someone else to fill that void, but it’s not going to be the
same, and you know that, and I
I had a long talk with all of them about this when I first joined. I didn’t know that they
would want me to stay – I
really did think this was going to be temporary. They’re a family organization. They don’t
want some bitchin’ guitar
player, they want someone they can get along with and feel comfortable with.
I’m not hung up on it anymore. I’ve gone through periods where I felt real comfortable
with the band and that I had a
balance in between how much I wanted to play Mike’s lines and how much I could put my own
thing in there. There
are still times when I’m uncomfortable, and I think, I’m not paying enough attention to
the original here.
JAMBASE: How do you wrestle with that?
JH: I go through changes and cycles. My basic approach was to listen to
and listen to the live
stuff, and if there was a certain type of thing every time – say, Mikey played the intro
to "Surprise Valley" a certain way
– and it’s on literally every version I’ve ever heard of it, well, I began to view that as
a part. I need to play it that way
every time we play the song. And when I heard him do things completely different, I knew
it wasn’t something I
needed to learn because he was changing it.
It’s always a work in progress. But this is the third major incarnation of the band and
they guys are always telling me,
man, don’t be hung up on playing like anyone else but you. But I do wrestle with it. If
you’re going to stand in the
spot where a beloved person once stood and that person reached people deep in their
hearts, you have to be
respectful of that territory.
I tell you, I never saw this coming. And I never believed I’d play with the Allman
Brothers, or play with Phil and Bobby,
either. I never thought I’d get a call from JB saying come play with Panic – you could
have knocked me over with a
feather! So to get back to what you had asked about, I know I play more on the jazz side
of rock ‘n’ roll, but I have
long hair, and I play a solid-body guitar through a really loud amplifier. There are
things with me that are going to
come into the music, and some people will say, well, this isn’t what I remember, but you
just have to play from the
heart as much as you have to do your homework.
Check back on Thursday for the second part of our chat with Mr. Herring.