Ben ‘Junta’ Hunter Addresses ‘Ask Trey’ Response About Debut Phish Album
Yesterday, SiriusXM’s Jam On transitioned into the limited-run station Phish Radio. The first six hours of the channel were devoted to the premiere of “Ask Trey,” a question-and-answer session with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio. One of Trey’s responses dove into the correct pronunciation of the band’s debut studio album. Junta was named after Phish’s first manager Ben “Junta” Hunter. Ben shared memories of finding out the band had honored him.
Anastasio was asked, “How do you feel in your role as a band leader today versus 30 years ago? Are the pressures higher or lower and do you enjoy it more or less?” Trey explained that he “grappled” with that position and that it’s something he does “naturally.” He talked about keyboardist Page McConnell embracing Anastasio’s role as leader. “I can’t be me without you being you,” McConnell told Trey about the guitarist’s leadership abilities. “Without you in that role, I don’t feel comfortable,” Page added.
Eventually, Trey’s response turned to the band’s early days and the release of Junta. Host Ari Fink stopped Anastasio in his tracks and asked the guitarist to confirm the proper pronunciation of the record. “I’m not going to say it, it was always both from the beginning,” Trey said about whether the album should be called “Hoonta” or “Joonta.” He added, “We had a manager named Junta, it was his nickname, but quickly … immediately … I thought it was fun that we were like going to take over the world. It was like a coup! I like that it, but I don’t know how it’s pronounced – both!”
Ben “Junta” Hunter sent a note to an email list about Trey’s shout out and gave JamBase permission to share what he wrote:
I was amused by Trey’s shout out on Sirius XM re: Junta, since one of my enduring memories of working with the band is going to the suburbs of Boston to pick up a box of 500 newly dubbed cassette tapes (yes, cassettes) of Phish’s first “professionally” recorded effort. I couldn’t wait to fire a copy up in my car and hear how the record sounded–really loud–on the old Alpine deck, so I broke into the box and pulled out the first tape I put my hands on. It had “Junta” emblazoned prominently on the cover, and I laughed, thinking this was probably another practical joke by the band, since hijinks was (and is) a regular part of their vernacular. It wasn’t until I got back to the Dionysian home office that I unloaded the box and realized they were ALL called Junta, which was a shock, since I hadn’t been privy to any conversations regarding the title of the forthcoming album.
At the time, I wasn’t exactly sure how to feel about the album being named after me, but on balance I was glad, because I certainly was living inside the music as much as anyone. Of course, the songs on Junta are now generally considered to be amongst the most important in the band’s canon, which I suppose is a weird source of pride for me, although Trey’s present recollection that the album was ever referred to as “Hoonta” (as in, a coup, which, in some ways, it certainly was) seems to be revisionist history, since I was always known to everyone in (and not in) the band as “Joon-Tah.”
Nonetheless, to Trey’s point, “Junta” is certainly a double entendre at this point, isn’t it, and it’s all just semantics at the end of the day anyway. One thing that seems incontrovertible is the fact the boys are playing with a lot of passion and precision on this swing, and that the rest of the summer is going to be a hot one, at least musically.
Check out the cover of the original cassette version:
“Ask Trey” replays are scheduled for Sunday, August 5 at 2 p.m. ET; Monday, August 6 at 7 p.m. ET and Tuesday, August 7 at 12 p.m. ET via Phish Radio on Channel 29. Phish returns to the stage tonight in Alpharetta, Georgia.
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