Howard Wales Talks Jerry Garcia & ‘Side Trips: Volume One’ In New Interview

This Friday, Round Records will re-issue Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales’s Side Trips: Volume One on vinyl in honor of Record Store Day Black Friday. Non-vinyl collectors will also be able to stream the live archival release, which was originally put out in 1998, and will also be able to purchase the LP as a digital download. Keyboardist Howard Wales gave a rare interview to Aquarium Drunkard about Side Trips: Volume One, which presents over an hour of exploratory improvisations recorded at a legendary Monday night jam session at the Matrix in San Francisco during 1970 with bassist John Kahn and drummer Bill Vitt.

Wales, Garcia & Co. went on to release the famed studio album Hooteroll? in 1971. “We were doing acid jazz when nobody was. [Laughs] We were doing stuff that was completely different,” Howard told AD. He went on to discuss his background before meeting up with Garcia and revealed Harvey Mandel taped the recording used for Side Trips: Volume One. Wales talked about a musician who was crucial to the project, “John Kahn played bass. Both Jerry and John died 10 months apart. John was a wonderful friend of mine. I really miss Jerry a lot. I miss Jerry a lot because he was a lot like me – both in background and our families – and the very fact that he was a heartwarming cat. We had the most intellectual conversations that I ever had with anybody in my life.”

Howard Wales has fond memories of Hooteroll?, “The Hooteroll? album stands alone. Going back to what I was saying about individuality back in those days, if you listen to the album, you know that each song was definitely unique. I think that’s what really sold the whole thing about Hooteroll? is the fact that it was just like that. I think it’s the things that stand alone that are so individualized. I think those things really stand the test of time.”

Wales also discussed the genesis of a run in support of the LP, “Jerry wanted to do the Hooteroll? tour, because he is such a kind and giving person and wanted all the best for me. He wasn’t going on the tour because it was him, he wanted all the accolades for me.” Another topic discussed was why the legendary Monday night jam sessions at Matrix stopped:

I’ll tell ya. I wanted out for the very reason that it got so popular. There were so many people coming down to sit in. There was too much discourse. People were jumping on the stage. It just got really crazy. It was a wonderful event. The place only held like 90 people and it was all sit down, no dancing. It was all just listening. There’s a point where a good thing can turn into something not so good. [Laughs] That’s what happened; that’s the truth. I’ve done other jam nights up here, but it’s not the same. It was such a big scene in San Fransisco and people wanted to hear each other. People ran all over the place saying, “Oh, we gotta go see this. We gotta go see that.” The excitement of all of that was just incredible. I mean I could go on and on. I’m like a person who’s really traveled the entire moods area. I wish we could have that kind of a feeling, but it’s not going to happen again.

Head here for more of the fascinating chat. Only 2500 copies of Side Trips: Volume One will be available on Friday, yet – as mentioned – the album will finally be available on streaming services and as a live download.