Mike Gordon: In His Own Words

 
We didn't need a hiatus from our friendships because the friendships never waned, but we were just taking some natural time off. But, I missed them. We would hang out at band practice in real life or on the tour bus, and there's just this effortless rhythm of conversation or just shooting the shit and laughing and making each other laugh. In the last year when we've gotten together that's come back.

-Mike Gordon

 
Photo of Phish's final performance at Coventry by Jeff Kravitz

How do you gauge the fan reaction to your music and their own cravings?

Mike Gordon
I hear from people on my hotline [and] that's a good way I can gauge. People that just say, "Why don't you get the guys back together?" I usually hit delete because I'm bored of it. Phish kind of was what it was, and for us to do it again I'm sure, at least in some small way, we'll want to reinvent ourselves and try out some new music and new ways of doing it now that we're in the next part of our lives, in the next era of our lives. Whatever it was it's not gonna be [again] anyway. At least I hope it isn't because that wouldn't be as exciting. The four of us have this rapport that seems lifelong, so it could be something great but when people are just saying, "When are you gonna play these old songs again?" it just kind of bores me, so I hit delete. But, it seems like the people are interested enough. If I were to go back and do Phish and not put myself into it fully then I wouldn't want to do it at all.

All four of us want it, to some degree, [and] it's just sort of a matter of timing. I feel like I have many years of ideas here on my own that I really want to try out. I have so many ideas that I feel like the Phish dynamic is one thing, and it'll be something new because we're older now, but this [new band] will be something different and a different dynamic, and I really feel like I can soar with it. It's gonna take a while to figure it out. It's baby-steps just to do a first gig after Phish had done 1400 gigs.

You wrote all of the songs on this last album. Tell me a bit about your songwriting process and how you get yourself into that zone?

I keep trying to discover what's working for me and I keep finding different things that work, but then I want to try something different. A lot of what I did in the past with the albums with Leo [Kottke], when I contributed songs, involved going to the Woolworth Building when I was living in New York. It was pretty much an hour a day, and I'd try to write a song in that hour and record it so the songs were sort of simple and undeveloped, because it was a quick thing each day and I wanted to do one a day.

There had been times earlier in my life like when writing "Mound" or Round Room or certain projects, even "Destiny Unbound," where it was weeks on end working on one song, but the one thing I had never really done was make it a full-time job. I don't know a lot of people who do that but I knew I wanted to. 40 hours a week I'd go out to my studio. It's a small but exotic little place, very inspiring up in the trees in my attic level. Just to spend a year there seemed like a nice idea, so that was the main difference. The first difference was that I wanted to do it full- time and not just for an hour a day. And then I kept experimenting in all sorts of different ways. I wanted to do more writing by improvising, because there were a lot of times I was sort of piddling on the bass and practicing and came up with cool basslines, and I remember a couple of times jamming with me and Fish [Jon Fishman], coming up with bass and drum things, thinking, "I wish this was recorded because I would write a song from this," and not so much following through.

Mike Gordon from mike- gordon.com
So, what happened was at the end of '06 I compiled twenty years of jam sessions and ideas from different mediums - 8-track, 4-track, mini-disc, sequencer, mini-cassette, cassette, reel-to-reel tapes and computer sessions. I put all of this on one hard drive, and there were a lot of bass and drum jams because that's sometimes conducive to coming up with patterns. So, when '07 started, which was my big writing year, I didn't want to use those at all yet. I really wanted to start from scratch because that's not really something I'd done too much yet.

Inside In started from the movie soundtrack, which I guess was starting from scratch, which was an evolution of the stuff with Leo. The last one was recorded in the Bahamas, where I'd taken these bass and drum jams and set some calypso kind of grooves. I really wanted to just get into a room with no previous inspirations and see what came out. So, that's what I was starting to do in January '07, and I thought it would be a lot of instrumental music but then I really wanted to work on lyrics and ended up only spending a few months working on lyrics, and then going back to recording some songs and spending a month or two on each song playing all the instruments. These became songs that weren't just demos and they became songs on the album.

Then, I thought I would spend six to twelve months just writing songs and actually used the whole twelve. By October, I switched everything up, and I knew sometime in the second half of the year I wanted to switch all my methods because it had been enough already and one thing I wanted to do was I wanted to work quicker. I wanted to work with someone else and I wanted to go back to those jam sessions that I had archived and use them. So I got with Jared Slomoff and we had a rule: a song a day throughout October and everyone had to start from one of those archived fragments. We came up with nineteen songs in October, and I had six from the first nine months, and then I came up with a handful in November after Jared left. So, it was all different methods in the course of the year. There's a lot of different things that I was trying to do differently each month, trying stuff differently from the previous month.

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