"The morning he (Garcia) died, I was in New Hampshire, and he came to me in a dream. He was dressed elegantly, in Castilian splendor... In the dream, I was backstage at some gig in a club and I discovered a big old can of invisible paint... and Jerry came by. And I said, "Hey, check this out! Invisible paint!" And he didn't seem interested, which kind of surprised me. He seemed really preoccupied."
Photo by Jay Blakesberg
Okay, fair enough. Garcia passed away in 1995. How often, if ever, do you feel his presence, and can you tell me about any supernatural contact you might have felt when you "knew" he was there?
Well, okay. The morning he died, I was in New Hampshire, and he came to me in a dream. He was dressed elegantly, in Castilian splendor.
Jerry Garcia by Jay Blakesberg
And he had a long velour cape and all that kind of stuff. In the dream, I was backstage at some gig in a club and I discovered a big old can of invisible paint, and me and the guys in the band that I was touring with, it was Ratdog at that time, we were all, you know, having great fun with the invisible paint, and Jerry came by, you know, popped in. And I said, "Hey, check this out! Invisible paint!" And he didn't seem interested, which kind of surprised me. He seemed really preoccupied.
Then I woke up and I think it was 6:15 and you know, I had to go hit the bathroom and then I went back to sleep, so I know what time it was. And that's probably right around the time he checked out.
So, you know, as they say, when somebody checks out, they make some rounds 'cause time and space no longer exists for them.
I've got chills hearing that story... That's amazing.
And aside from that, you know, he's "there." Every time, you know, any time I pick up a guitar, he's almost there playing. I can hear him.
Garcia & Weir by Jay Blakesberg
You know, I can hear him. I can hear him coaxing me, saying "Go here, go there... no, don't go there." And I'm my usual headstrong self, so I can feel him lightening up, or getting pissed off at me or whatever, just like always!
That is great. I mean, you've got to appreciate that.
They say, in the Japanese culture, in their belief system, when you speak somebody's name who's departed, they're there, they exist. And any time we're playing one of Jerry's songs, we're basically saying his name. So he exists.
I like that a lot. Any thoughts about the passing of Ray Charles? Did you know him?
I never met him. But he was way influential. I was a big fan of his all along. Especially when I was a kid, though.
Music-wise, who are you listening to these days?
You know, I listen to anything but current popular music. I like modern classical, and jazz. Good old fashioned, mean, street jazz.
By Tony Stack
Anybody come to mind, jazz-wise?
Well actually, John Coltrane. Miles Davis. That era really was packing 'em in for me.
Anybody you'd like to perform with that you haven't had a chance to yet?
Ah, the list is too long.
Let me ask you this. I hope that this is not an uncomfortable question, but there are a lot of people that say that "The Dead," as opposed to the Grateful Dead, is a reunion of sorts, and they feel that Vince Welnick is conspicuously absent. Was he invited, or did anything happen to prevent that?
Well, what happened was that both Phil and I took up with keyboard players that we preferred playing with, basically. And we took both of them on tour last year.
And then that got whittled down to just Jeff this year. Now, Vince is a good keyboard player and a great guy, you know, and a good singer for that matter, but I've got a hotter hand going right now with Jeff.
Jeff Chimenti by Susan J. Weiand
Well, that's legitimate.
I mean, he takes us to way cool places.
Exactly. Which is what your intent is. No, that's beautiful. Vince has joined us for a number of shows and it's inspiring for us. It sounds like a '90s era Dead show, so it's pretty cool. Real quick... A few tongue-in-cheek questions from my fellow band members, if you would indulge us.
Have you learned the words to Truckin' yet? (Laughs)
Well, I'll tell ya. (Laughs). You can know the words as well as you possibly can, but if you're not having the best of days, it's all just a series of tongue twisters. It's diabolical when those words come. I know 'em, but it's tough to get them out sometimes.
That's a beautiful explanation. I have no idea how you do it, all those lyrics, and all those songs, but you manage. Did you have a dog named Otis?
Yep. It's a crippled alien spacecraft I think.
Okay. You know there's a band in Pasadena that's called "Bob's Dog Otis?"
Are they any good?
By Tony Stack
Actually, we love them. They join us from time to time. A good band. Anybody ever fall off the stage? This is a real question!
Yes. Once in a while it has happened. You don't see it though. Sometimes when it's dark and you try to walk off the stage and you don't see the edge, you walk off. I've done it myself a couple of times.
No major injuries though?
Regarding the leadership of the band, who would you say is in charge now, if anybody, or is there a democratic process?
You know, it's a... well, they say camels are racehorses designed by a committee, but that's pretty much what we've got, a committee rule.
Any plans to tour Europe, either with the Dead or Ratdog?
I'm trying to get Europe on the map for both bands really. We've been there with Ratdog a couple of times. But this year, I don't know if we'll have time to do that because it's awfully far away.
Two more questions then I'll let you go. Normally I'd never ask anything like this but my editor said I needed to ask, why go out as "The Dead" and potentially risk tarnishing the legacy of the Grateful Dead," if you understand my question? Some people have that criticism.
You know, the hell with the people who feel that way. Let them feel that way. The fact is, we have, you know, almost 40 years of musical conversation that we've built up, a bag of tricks which is, you know, 40 years in the making. And it's absurd not to use that. These people, I don't know where they get off, having those kind of thoughts or those kind of opinions. You know, who are they? The hell with them!
By George Weiss
They obviously didn't "get it" in the first place.
That's been my opinion.
Well, you know, they have their own notion as to what the Grateful Dead amounted to. First off, we're not calling ourselves "The Grateful Dead." We're calling ourselves "The Dead." Secondly, I have an obligation to play with these guys, to continue to further the music. And, boy, you know... those people are serious cranks!
Couldn't agree more! Well tell me, have I just killed any shot at having you sit in with my band sometime?
Not really. You know, if I'm down your way, I'd love to.
Okay, great! Well Bob, it's been great talking to you, and I want to wish you good luck we'll be seeing you at as many shows as I can possibly make.
JamBase | California
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