Written By: Chad Berndtson
:: Interview - Jimmy Herring :: Part Two ::
Earlier this week, Jimmy Herring filled JamBase in on the state of all things Widespread
Panic and opened up a bit on
his approach to Panic’s music over the past seven years. Herring, of course, is involved
in many other pursuits
outside of the band, and here in Part 2 of our interview, delves into the Phil Lesh
Quintet reunion, his work with the
Ringers and other pressing topics.
[Photo by Ian Rawn]
JAMBASE: You’re part of upcoming reunions of two beloved bands in the
Phil Lesh Quintet and
Aquarium Rescue Unit. Regarding the Q, you played in a bunch of different Phil lineups and
also with The Other Ones
and The Dead, but I take it you’d agree that the Q was really a special lineup.
JH: Absolutely. There was absolutely something special there. I think
was a big part of it. I’ve
known Warren for so long. We’re both from North Carolina and grew up listening to many of
the same influences,
and we just got to be such good friends, you know? That enters the music.
I didn’t know Rob [Barraco] before I played with him with Phil, but it didn’t take long at
all to feel like he’d been one
of my best friends for 30 years. He’s just that type of person – he’s so cool. We called
him “The Oracle.” If you ever
had any question regarding Grateful Dead music or what it sounds like, it was “Ask
Barraco!” He had the answer to
any Grateful Dead question, talking about the tunes and whatever else, he just knows that
stuff so well.
And John Molo, I mean, shit, he played with Bruce Hornsby, and I’d done a tour opening for
Hornsby with ARU and
gotten to be friends with John then, and that was like, I don’t know, ’95-’96? But that I
actually got to meet with him
and play with him four years later – it was 2000 that the Quintet came together – it’s
And then of course there’s Phil. Any band Phil Lesh is in is going to be great because of
Phil and his philosophy – the
way he approaches music – is just so unique. I looked at it like an incredible learning
JAMBASE: That seems to have been true of most Phil Friend experiences,
the four of you guys.
JH: Yeah. Being around Phil, Phil never tells you what to do, he just
gives you an
outlet. Bruce Hampton is
like that but a different flavor. Both are a different color, but what they do is give you
this outlet to be yourself, and
have this freedom – this freedom you can’t get playing with anyone else.
With Bruce, it was always, I don’t want to hear Steve Morse, or Jimmy Page, I want to hear
you. What do you sound
like? You’ve got a little girl? She’s two years old? Great, play that. That was Bruce’s
thing. Phil was different, but he’d
set these unique parameters. He’d want you to listen and react. He doesn’t want you to be
in your own space. He
doesn’t like solos – I remember early on “solo” became the S-word in Phil’s band. We
didn’t use that term because
Phil doesn’t like it because it means one. In that band we’re having a conversation.
It was such a joy, and I learned more about that type of playing from Phil than anyone
else. Some people never quite
understood it. We’d come to a show and there’d be people there who knew me from ARU, and
they’d talk to me after
the show and be like, man, why aren’t you playing? They couldn’t quite understand how
completely and utterly
different that was than just going up there to play solos, and people who didn’t know Phil
and the Dead thing
thought I was holding back!
I tried to describe it as that conversation – people trying to talk with each other. If I
sit up there and just play a bunch
of notes all night, no one else gets to talk, it’s just me talking. For us it was like
going through school of some sort –
we called it PLU. Sometimes there would be songs where Warren, or I, or Barraco might take
a solo, but when we were
improvising and really going deep, that’s what Phil was after and where he wanted us to be
listening to each other.
His whole thing used to be, if you find yourself in your own space, stop, listen and
react. It’s hard to do if you’re just
to just playing songs. But we were able to do that and I believe we got as close to what
Phil was shooting for with
that band than anything I ever did with him. It’s not something you can turn off and on.
But we played a lot of gigs
together. After a long time, that’s when it got really good.