Mike Gordon: In His Own Words

I'm much more antsy to get out on the road and make another solo album. But, I'm gonna really enjoy it when Phish does happen. 'Craving' isn't the word that comes to mind but 'excitement' is.

-Mike Gordon

Photo of Phish in 1995 by Nubar Alexanian from phish.com

Mike Gordon
I like songs to be as long as possible, onstage at least. I would rather a song went for an hour and a half than three minutes because if I'm enjoying it I don't want to stop. I like things that go on for a long period of time. I like David Lynch's movie Inland Empire, which was three hours long and was weird the whole entire time. My friend left in the middle of the movie but I just wished it had a fourth hour. So much of our lives are spent, ya know, brushing our teeth, going from one responsibility to the next, trying to drive and do errands, that if I'm in this unique headspace, if I'm in this euphoric state, I want it to last for a long time. But, on an album I want it to be exciting but part of the excitement is for the songs to be concise and to make their statement.

Do you find yourself getting into a songwriting rhythm?

It was down to a science almost, but even when it's down to a science songwriting is still a strange art. I think that you have to balance what inspirations you get from life and from your daily activities with a real discipline, and that balance is a struggle to find. But we had it down to where we were taking and figuring out which fragment we wanted to start with in the morning and then started to loosely put it together. If it was a bass and drum jam we would take different parts of the jam and start to make little loops and maybe verses and choruses and that kind of thing. Then, I would play guitar or sing a melody, and then we'd go out to lunch and we'd call it "Lyric Lunch," everyday.

I really like [that] routine because there's so many variables within that habit. I do well with it. I get a little freaked out when being an artist and being in the music business is so dynamic and always changing. I need some constants, so having a certain routine or place where I go, or maybe even a way to unwind or even reflect that's regular, ends up being really important to me, and then sometimes tearing up the routine and doing something completely different to mix it up.

My favorite thing is if I'm onstage playing it feels like home. Or I guess being anywhere where it feels like you don't want to be anywhere else at that given moment is a great feeling, and I think all therapy is geared towards that [idea of] living in the moment, and that all of the problems people have that lead them to find a therapist are based on worrying about the future or ruminating on the past. As soon as you can embrace the moment [things improve], which is why meditation is so helpful.

Do you still meditate?

Mike Gordon
I haven't been meditating lately, but last year I did some meditations. I read David Lynch's book Catching the Big Fish, where he talks about meditation and how even if he's on a big twelve-hour day of filming he'll still, in the morning and at night, take twenty minutes each, and he thinks that some of his best ideas for the film will come out of that. He'll change around a scene or something, so I did that, but it was minuscule compared to what I did a few years ago where I was meditating a lot.

A lot of meditation like Buddhist meditation will start you off, at least in the first few years, concentrating on your breath a lot. It's regular, repetitive, built in, happening, flowing. So, I've done a lot of that and it really teaches you to embrace the moment, because that's what's happening. To allow your mind to calm down when all the other thoughts come in as distractions can just sort of come and go without taking over because normally we're living life as distraction to distraction, almost as if we're asleep.

This is an election year. How do you feel about the connection between politics and music?

With Phish, we always had a stance that we should avoid endorsing a candidate or a party simply because we're musicians and not politicians, and why should we tell people what to think about politics when we're not politicians? But, with me, I've taken a little more license. I did one other thing with Bernie Sanders where we did the "Honkytonk the Vote," and now he's a Senator and he said that was an important event for him. It's not that I want to alienate the people who might not agree with my politics but at the same time I just feel so passionate about Bernie and I have for over twenty years, and I really believe in what he stands for. He's an independent. There's actually Republicans in Vermont that vote for him, and now I'm doing something else for him [a free concert on August 15 on the water in Burlington, VT]. I don't feel like I want to get heavily involved in politics because I don't feel that it's my arena, exactly. I feel like if I believe in something there's no need to censor it either. This is a chance to do a free concert and turn people onto Bernie and politics. He's pretty much aligned with the Democratic party.

Where did you get those purple pants?

That's definitely American Apparel. I used to be completely Banana Republic but I switched. I know they're both big chains. I started getting colored pants from this guy J Kos in New York, a little boutique [where] I'd see these lime green pants that I really liked. I've been going to American Apparel lately and getting all these sort of weird pants and shirts. High Sierra was the green and then Rothbury was the purple, so I was completely American Apparel all weekend.

Mike Gordon is on tour now, dates available here.

JamBase | Vermont
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[Published on: 8/14/08]

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phunguy starstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 11:16AM
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Great stuff G!

Him starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 11:32AM
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The new CD is great !!

I caught Gordon & the band last week and they sounded real good also.

::: Off to American Apparel for pants :::

NatiMatty starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 11:33AM
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Looking forward to a nice little Phish run...whenever it may be!

BGsteveBG starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 11:38AM
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I stare at my tickets to his show in CHI for a few minutes everyday.

ScIFreak starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 11:49AM
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voodoochili12 starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 12:15PM
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jiudice starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 12:28PM
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Andy- nice work! Great interview...

I look forward to seeing you, your bro, and Phish up here at the Gorge for their three night run in Summer '09!! :)

AZ~*Droo* starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 12:36PM
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"But, I'm gonna really enjoy it when Phish does happen."

holy shit, instant goosebumps

cstrong Thu 8/14/2008 12:45PM
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I saw this show on Tuesday in Arlington, VA. Very fun time that made me remember how much fun I have had watching Mike for all of these years. 15 to be exact. Also great to see him play with Scott after seeing Scott play with Billy and Oteil a few weeks ago. Long live Mike!

breckenridgejam starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 01:07PM
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"Excitement" isn't the word that comes to mind but "holy fuggin' shit I can't wait!" does...

jalew Thu 8/14/2008 01:13PM
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Nice to see the boss "working". Great interview. Thanks!

Chad M. Schyvincht starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 01:19PM
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Looking Forward to seeing some "Cactus Head Whomppers" at the Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco! I was asked about the phrase "Cactus Head Whomppers" after it was posted in Glide Magazine's Hidden Track Blog yesterday read it at: http://www.glidemagazine.com/hiddentrack/interview-mike-gordons-solo-story/ ... If you care read on: Cactus Head Whomppers to me reflects that "Zone" that Mikey gets in when all of space and time shrink and expand at the same time and he is lost in the old Modulus Quantum 5 Bass tones. Mike to me is and will always be one of the most talented bass player, singer and songwriter in American Music History. With or with out Phish... Keep on Whomppin' Big Cactus and we will follow.

All the Best, Uncle Donnie

onearmguitarist starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 01:52PM
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See you in San Fran Cactus! Cant.......freakin'........wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

rulosa01 starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 01:57PM
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"Where did you get those purple pants?"

rulosa01 Thu 8/14/2008 01:58PM
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bluntsnbisco that is some quality sarcasm. unless you are being serious, in which case I am concerned that your skull is soft and some damage may have been done to your brain.

ThatFullSound starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 02:15PM
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Mike, We love you. You're the quirkiest freak I haven't become friends with yet. Much love from Beantown. Oh, and Northampton, MA really appreciates your starting the tour in our town!! Have you been to Amherst? Puffers Pond is a famous spot for us and you'd fit right in. Come back soon. 413!

PunkJazz starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 02:23PM
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Train Song!!!!

blackheel Thu 8/14/2008 02:26PM
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Puffers Pond. Wow. Haven't heard that in a while. I'm a UMass grad in NC. No place better then Western MA but a decent scene here in NC. Long live Mike's purple pants!

RobHornfeck Thu 8/14/2008 02:29PM
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saw him on Tuesday in Falls Church, VA...GOOD TIMES! I thought the band killed it, and there were a few jams that put me off balance!

minguslax35 Thu 8/14/2008 02:37PM
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bluntsbisco, you're so negative in every thread. you have your whole life to be an asshole, take today off.

adventuresinperception starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 03:49PM
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cant wait for summer tour 2009!!

bluntsandbisco- you are the biggest kook in the world, showe some respect

justin r starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 04:24PM
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justin r

great article mike is genius

Daddyphatsacks Thu 8/14/2008 04:40PM
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Mike rules. Keepin' it real with Bernie Sanders and Vermont. I'd love to see Phish get back together and take the whole festival/tour/show/thing to a new level. These guys are still young enough to make a huge impact on what is possible through music.

JAMBASE- PLEASE pull bluntsnbisco420 account.

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 04:48PM
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First off, let's all just not respond to Blunts - he's just doing what he does to get a response - don't; and maybe he'll quite and go away.

Now, Andy. FANTASTIC, WONDERFUL, MAGNIFICENT ARTICLE!!! Great interview, fantastic questions. Thank you for getting Mike to open up so vividly and sharing his thoughts with us all. I love Mike G, with or without Phish. I have caught the tour three times including tour opener in Northhampton which was bomb diggity. The set at GOTV was Bombbastic - better than the set at Allgood. I love The Green Sparrow. I will see/hear Mike just about anytime, anywhere, anyhow. That said, I await anxiously the day our favorite quartet gets back together and plays for us all. And as much as I will love to hear some sweet chestnuts, I look forward to hearing what new music they can all come up with and put together now that they've had time to have some space to themselves. Glad they are all healthy and clean. Should make for interesting artistic output at this point.

Like I said, thanks for the great read.

PunkJazz starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 05:00PM
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Just got the Sparrow album and its killer. For a phish phix check out www.phishows.com the have over 400 shows from all eras and the even snuck in a few soundboards check it out! perfect for those who aren't torrent savvy

ezmc321 Thu 8/14/2008 05:24PM
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I just recently saw Mike with his band opening for Govt Mule...

First off, I would have much rather seen Mike play two sets then the shortened opening one...

With that said, the pianist is AMAZING! I couldn't get enough of him... my favorite jams were just mike, the drummer, and the pianist.

But does anyone NOT like the guitarist? I just don't feel he has a good sense of the groove and where that should head...

tourfan Thu 8/14/2008 05:53PM
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Scott M is one of the most talented and underapreciated guitarists out there. So glad that Mike has brought him the attention he deserves.

KudzuHug starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 06:37PM
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mike gordon is the man in my opinion. he new album is awesome as well.

i'm currently digging the last track 'sound.' who else could pull off purple pants but gordo.

Scarphace Thu 8/14/2008 06:55PM
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Bluntsnbisco, you're an idiot!!!!! Wanna talk about hack jamband bassists, let's talk Brownstein (douchebag). I'm glad you got busted in New Jersey. Maybe it will give you some time to reflect on your life, your negative attitude, and your crappy taste in music. Keep dropping the bombs Gordo!!!!!!!!

Flat5 Thu 8/14/2008 07:44PM
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bluntbisco, that was kinda funny. good try, bro.

mgizmo starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 08:56PM
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I really appreciate Mike's eccentric tastes in art. Great film about Allen Woody called "Rising Low" that Mike made. Check it out if you haven't already seen it.

Sixmilliondollarman Thu 8/14/2008 09:03PM
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Scott Murawski is OB1's cousin.

FormulaOBX Thu 8/14/2008 09:04PM
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So what do you do for a living?

robertlupo starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/14/2008 09:25PM
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note... the David Lynch movie he is talking about is actually "Inland Empire" not England Empire..great movie anyhow

acomma Thu 8/14/2008 09:35PM
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Grateful Fred starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 05:08AM
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Grateful Fred

Caught him twice yesterday in Buffalo....Siiiiiiiiiiiiiick. How anyone could say Scott M. doesn't rip is beyond me. The whole band was groovin last night!

selimsivad starstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 06:47AM
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The David Lynch Movie is "Inland Empire" this should be changed immediately. Also see the movie. Pure Art.

Ching starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 07:58AM
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Great article...ANYONE with the name BISCO in their screen name def. has no room to talk about bassist in jambands when Bisco is the most boring awful band in Jambands...what a joke.

Gordon is one the most talented guys in jamband world

CreativSimplicity starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 08:31AM
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sure thang, just caught the free show/s in buffalo last night. decided to go to in store appearance last minute and it was great. complete acoustic, hand percussion, no drumset, acoustic bass, and accordion. actually got to tell the man how beautiful the set was and got a handshake before the cd signing started. really great dude, let me tell ya.

sami420anne starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 08:45AM
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you and your music is irreplaceable mike. Rothbury was bindblowing...enjoy the road...can't wait to see you on it again

Robusto Fri 8/15/2008 09:03AM
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Bonnaroo to Rothbury to ACL/Liberals For Michael Savage > You are the most gigantic tool . . . ever.

FreshFlavor starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 09:14AM
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Love the Cactus. Just seeing them all happy and groovin with their music is a beautiful thing. Take your time fellas...enjoy the road and all life has to offer. The fans aren't going anywhere and will right along side you on your travels.

MyFavBandIsTheBestYoursSucks starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 10:58AM
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Great interview. Keep it coming.

Hey Jambase. Lets organize a

bluntsnbisco420 vs. Bonnaroo to Rothbury to ACL battle of the wits on jambase TV. I'll score the Iocain Powder.

rider11 starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 11:00AM
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Mike G you are the man. Keeping it real everyday of the year and pushing music the way it should be. If and when Phish comes back I will be there, but until then I will keep enjoying your new solo stuff!! Thanks! Oh yeah Roth was insane

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 01:54PM
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myfavbandisthebest.....i'm up for the challenge.

RothburyWithCheese star Fri 8/15/2008 01:55PM
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oh yeah, when is jambase going to take down that ridiculous Community Guidelines section that nobody abides by?

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 02:52PM
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^^^^^ Actually, about the only body that doesn't abide by the guidelines is you and Blunts .... ^^^^ Maybe you should try.

bob sacamano Fri 8/15/2008 05:21PM
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bob sacamano

mean people suck.

Jack Straw Berry starstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 06:30PM
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Jack Straw Berry

dude, I need to go clean the bong and change the vw oil..."when phish happens"!! all sarcasm aside...best music to ever come out of vt!

cliftonhanger starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 07:07PM
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I was also in Buffalo last night. Hardly no cops, great vibes, great show, free show, A+++ Gordo's band rocked. I even got a handshake from Scott. Makisupa was sweet and some jammin' new tunes. I am also looking forward to when Phish play again with much excitment, but i will definately go if he comes back around again.

snowphlies starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 07:44PM
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Last night in Buffalo was incredible !!! The show opener was an easy 10-15 min groove, Scott Murawski was fuckin on fire, whoever doesnt think highly of the man is insane. I thought he ripped and fell right in place with the flow. MAKISUPA POLICEMAN - So sick !! Tons of energy - Gordon looked so happy, great time !! go see MIKE NOW !

snowphlies Fri 8/15/2008 07:55PM
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Just a heads up to the people who went to the Buffalo show, I talked to a taper after the show and he said the he was allowed to plug into the SBD and that he is going to put it up a MATRIX for download soon. : )-

torn&treyed Sat 8/16/2008 09:10AM
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Wow that whole section where he was like "i was jus the bass player, no one cared etc..." that was a huge eye opener. Who knew mike was so insecure. This one time I met him at a signing for Mike and LEO and I stupidly said "see you at new years" and he said oh yeah? as if like will I see you back there and I was like well I mean Ill see you, but you won't see me, to which he chuckled. I always loved how mike's stance on the breakup was "guys all we have to do is practice a bunch"

EVILFUNK starstarstarstarstar Sat 8/16/2008 10:54AM
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Im lovin the pic of Mike with the KINGBASS (odd headless~semi bodyless bass hes playing in the pic above)designd and built by DAVID KING in Portland, Or. I busted the head half way off my Modulos Q-5 a few years ago so i sent it to King to modify ~ bassically make it headless. he repaird what was left of the neck, cut it down to fit it his custom brass nut design, routed the body some to fit his most glorious brass bridge complete with bone sadles ~ the same design he uses on his basses. than he choppd the body to make an armrest. the result was outstanding! deeper, warmer sound, lighter overall and shorter ~ easier to travel with. I love to brag so let me tell you its the sickest q-5 ever! after owning, playing and also contemplating Kings redesign of the q-5 I see only 2 possabilities that make sense 1.everyone who plays a modulus needs to send thiers off for modification by King or MODULUS SHUD SIT DOWN WITH MIKE GORDON AND DAVE KING AND REDESIGN THE ELECTRIC BASS. Ive playd the Modulus Flea bass(peice of crap) the new Gennisis basses Modulus designd with Mike Tobias (sweeeet) and my headless q~5 (dogs them all) and belive this would be the best bass ever. i think they could sell a few of them also~ dont you?

check out dave kings website~ do yourself a favor &send him your modulus.... http://www.kingbass.com/

HoodooVoodoo Sat 8/16/2008 03:29PM
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I sent David King 3 lbs of lead and he customized it so well that it is now gold boullion. Thanks David King!!!


smcalilly starstarstarstarstar Sun 8/17/2008 01:51PM
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bluntsnbisco, you're the worst child ever conceived and you suck at life. good article.

WidespreadPhanic starstarstarstarstar Sun 8/17/2008 06:39PM
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cool article.

I think this is an important line: "Whatever it was it's not gonna be [again] anyway." regarding phish.

i'm not looking forward to all the bitching and complaining when phish comes back. no one's going to hear 90's phish ever again get over it. i'll still enjoy every show and they can jam the way they want.

and mike's new album is pretty cool, woah I've realized I've traveled much too far

huxster Mon 8/18/2008 09:10AM
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BGsteveBG Mon 8/18/2008 10:14AM
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I met Mike outside of the Chi date for GRAB, and yes, if i would've started taking pictures of him and stuff, there would've been a mad rush of people. He was chillin out there just saying hi to people and that was pretty sweet of him. No other famous musician in that same situation would be okay with that.

karma2all starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/18/2008 01:52PM
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Oh Huxster, you are so silly. I met him once outside of the Nutter Center in Dayton (December, '97, I believe) and he was nice as could be. You can't even begin to imagine the endless stream of picture-seekers for him in that context. Try to see the world through someone else's eyes, respect, and love.

dreadyknowsbest starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/18/2008 05:49PM
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prophecy starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/19/2008 06:05AM
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I want a pair of purple pants!

breadloaf Tue 8/19/2008 11:21AM
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Great article, very well done, thanks! If you are a musician or music lover in Vermont, you run into Mike pretty much constantly. He is quite pleasant, I find that most folks around here just leave him alone and it is not a big deal. I thought Mike's work with Leo Kottke was inspired.

Hoodoo, maybe the funniest post on here in years, thank you, hilarious.

EVILFUNK Tue 8/26/2008 02:18AM
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I was taking a piss at the boston music awards in like '91 or some shit and Mike used the urinal next to me (no shit - true story). than phish played Rift. its no big deal really ~ thats why i have posted about it here.

can anyone else remember Vermont before every trustifarian in the universe moved up there to rub elbows with phish? i can. shame how vt got played out. glad i make my own scenes.

Broesau starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/26/2008 01:46PM
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If you haven't seen Mikes website and you like Mike Gordon flavored writing, you got to check it out.

bolsernt Thu 8/28/2008 01:06PM
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From the Colorado Daily 8/28 issue.... I can't believe JamBase hasn't posted this yet for the Phish shock-factor...


"Phish did play a show, and we'll play together again at some point," Gordon said. "There are no plans now, but it would be for something that was a 'big deal.' We've been talking about doing it again. It wouldn't be as something nostalgic, it would be to re-invent ourselves.

"The rumors are true, but it's loose for right now."

thehurricane23 Thu 9/4/2008 11:41AM
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Mike's new stuff is about a million times better than Phish's post hiatus music. I mean WTF? Why cant ya'll get it together and write some good new material or just stay with this band.

akeay starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/29/2008 02:39PM
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Had this story bookmarked for awhile now. Finally read it. Mike Gordon is one-of-a-kind. That stuff about the Phish chat room in '95 where he would have 90 people in there not saying anything, but then someone would join and no one would be talking - that is great stuff. That's why I love this guy. Remember the old Phish hard mail newsletters they'd send out before email? Those Mike's Corner columns would make me laugh so hard. I wonder if I still have 'em lying around somewhere. Saw Mike and his new band play at Outside Lands - they were so sick that I bought the new album. I hope Phish doesn't get back together for awhile.