Trey Anastasio Discusses Ghosts Of The Forest, Phish & Documentary With Rolling Stone

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Phish frontman Trey Anastasio spoke to Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle and while a portion of that interview leaked last week, the full feature was posted on the magazine’s website today. Anastasio talked about Ghosts Of The Forest, Phish, the Between Me & My Mind documentary and more.

One of the biggest takeaways from the article is that the Ghosts Of The Forest album, which is due on April 12, was recorded in just two days with a band of Trey, Phish drummer Jon Fishman and Trey Anastasio Band bassist Tony Markellis. Anastasio explained that the sessions came after the death of his longtime friend Chris “CCott” Cottrell and after TAB keyboardist Ray Paczkowski underwent surgery for a brain tumor. “By the time the studio dates came, there was a lot of emotion in the air,” Anastasio said. “I had a bunch of songs. But it’s so raw and organic. We recorded in two days. I remember we were done, and [our manager] Patrick Jordan I remember being surprised. I called up Patrick and said, ‘We’re done.'”

Trey also explained why he chose Tony and Fish,”The big impetus was Fish and Tony were two of the first people I met when I moved to Burlington when I was 18, and I started a band with each of them. Tony was the foundation of TAB and Fish was the foundation of Phish, thus the name. But they had never played together. And they had been friends and circling — I think they had played maybe two songs together in 30 years. I thought it would be fun to call them and track the thing as a trio.”

Anastasio noted that he does he best to stay in the present, yet at some point it became clear the material he had written was about CCott. Trey described the final experience he had with Cottrell and others he’s lost in his life:

I went through this thing with Chris at the last stage of his life. I sat for days with him with my acoustic guitar. He sat on the couch and he kind of drifted in and out of consciousness. It was powerful and scary, and also kind of beautiful. It sort of became [about], “Well, we’re all going there, we’re all here together in death and in dreaming, and we’re free of time.” I was thinking about my sister who also died of cancer, and my grandmother. We carry these people around with us.

Anastasio said Ghosts Of The Forest may be “some kind of mid-life crisis on record” and discussed the death of his sister. He also noted Cottrell was a smoker right up until he died and the line for Ghosts song “In Long Lines” of “I lit your cigarette” refers to one of the last things that happened in CCott’s life. “I don’t recommend it for everyone who has cancer,” Trey quipped about Chris smoking until the end.

Trey Anastasio – Ghosts Of The Forest

When asked about what Ghosts Of The Forest shows will entail, Trey discussed the musical Hadestown? Hadestown but made sure to add, “This is a concert, this is not a Broadway show or anything like that, but it has definitely grown into something that feels really unique from anything else I’ve done at least in quite some time. It’s going to be completely based on the album, expanded greatly — a little scary, but it feels good to be letting this thing grow organically, and it’s only eight shows.” The guitarist also noted the shows will feature plenty of improv, yet “the narrative and the arc seems to be holding pretty steady.” He was also asked about his excitement for opening night this Thursday in Portland, Maine:

Now is the time and I get to go to Maine. This is what my mind’s been on, because it’s always on the next show. I get to go to Maine, which I love. I love the State Theater. We’re going to go to Maine and we’re going to go in, and for one night, we’re going to go on a journey for everybody together — the audience and us. We have this audience that’s open-minded, and the whole thing just blows my mind. I can’t even. Nobody’s going to have any idea what we’re even going to play, you know. I won’t even know until that day. I kind of know right now, but we’ll be at soundcheck figuring it out. And then off we’ll go.

Trey was asked about the potential for another Baker’s Dozen residency from Phish and avoided directly answering the question, though he shared his appreciation for the fanbase and noted how special the run was. In response to a question regarding the various projects he’s involved with and what drives him, Anastasio noted “I think the risk makes me feel alive. Change is the one thing you can count on.” That second line is a lyric for his song “Money, Love & Change.”

The guitarist discussed Phish and said, “I think the most exciting thing right now about Phish is the level that the teamwork and camaraderie has got to. I wonder if it’s noticeable, but it really amazes me.” He mentioned he’s not even sure where the band s playing this summer but expressed how happy playing with the band makes him and paraphrased a line keyboardist Page McConnell said earlier this year, “It’s not fair that we can be laughing that much at work.”

Anastasio went on to talk about the documentary Between Me & My Mind. He said the team that put the documentary together pitched him on the concept of “We would like to make a documentary because nobody understands or has ever been invited into the process of how the doughnuts are made.” He added the filmmakers were around for a year and discussed some of what that year entailed:

It was a fascinating year that they were around. They were around during the period of Ghosts of the Forest, the “Soul Planet” thing, probably a little teeny bit of the birth of Kasvot Växt. It was a good year. It was an interesting year in the Phish world. A fascinating year. That was a lot of fun. I mean, I’m nervous about it. I’m not going to lie.

Head to RollingStone.com for much more about Ghosts, Phish and additional topics.

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