Trey Anastasio Open To Playing With Grateful Dead Members & Talks New Phish Album
In less than a month Phish will finally perform again more than five months after their last performance as they begin a Summer Tour in St. Paul, Minnesota. Guitarist Trey Anastasio spoke with Rolling Stone about the upcoming tour, where Phish is at, the status of the foursome’s new album, politics, playing with members of the Grateful Dead and many other topics in an extensive interview.
Anastasio confirmed Phish is in the process of making a new studio album which will be produced by Bob Ezrin who also produced the band’s last LP, 2014’s Fuego. Trey mentioned the foursome is still in the process of working on the album and that fans can expect to hear new tunes this summer. He also revealed the quartet tracked a couple of the songs Phish debuted last year. While he didn’t mention any names, “Blaze On,” “Mercury” and “No Man In No Man’s Land” are among the tunes the Vermonters debuted in 2015.
Phish has laid down material for the new album at many locations. “We’re kind of all over the place, flying down to Nashville to work, and then I’ve been doing a lot of work on overdubs at Avatar, which is in Manhattan, and then we go to Burlington, and worked at the barn, and we’re even working at Page’s house and Mike’s house a little bit,” Trey said.
He also noted all four members of the band are contributing new songs, “Page brought some great songs, Mike brought some great songs, Fish brought some great songs. I’ve got a lot of new songs. And everybody’s just diving in, in a unified way. And we can’t wait to get back on the road. It’s going to be a good summer.”
The guitarist also addressed Phish’s recent focus on original music and “scaling back covers”:
Yeah, first of all because we love to. We’ve always had a lot of fun playing covers, and I’m sure we will continue to. But what was starting to happen was after 2013, 2014, 2015, I would get home and kind of think to myself, “Man, we played, like, ‘Guelah Papyrus’ once in the last two years.” And I like that song. I’m a big “Guelah Papyrus” fan. It’s one of my faves. Last year we got home, and and we didn’t play “Fluffhead” the whole summer. And that wasn’t a conscious thing. We have a lot of good songs, and we have more in the repertoire all the time. But I’m sure this summer we’re going to do at least six or seven more [new songs], because we’ve been making an album. So we’re probably going to want to play them. So the original songs have sort of moved to the front burner.
Another topic discussed was the effect playing five Fare Thee Well shows with members of the Grateful Dead last summer had on Trey. “It was sort of like doing those Halloween albums. It’s really good to be forced out of your box and reevaluate. I had to learn a hundred songs. How could that not be good? You learn melodies; you learn chord progressions that are slightly different than what you would have played,” Anastasio said. When asked about whether he’d be open to playing with the Dead again, here’s how Trey responded:
I’m open all the time. It was definitely a little gigus interruptus [laughs]. There’s a lot of practicing for a short run, but I don’t know. I had such a good time playing with Bob and hanging out with Bob. I spent a week out at his beach house before the Fare Thee Well tour; the two of us just played. We sat on two little stools in his living room and just played and talked and it was fantastic. He’s such a good guy, and really fun. And I got to go to Phil’s and spend time with him and his family before the shows. Billy came to New York and played drums with me. So, I mean, I love those guys, and I’m always open. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
While Phish drummer Jon Fishman has been one of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ biggest supporters, Trey is taking a different approach. “I’m a lot quieter than Fish when it comes to that. It’s a funny thing. I definitely am watching just as much as everybody else is every night. It’s just the way I’ve always felt. I try really hard to keep my mouth shut when it comes to politics. And I always admired Jimi Hendrix, who would say he didn’t really want to go there,” Anastasio said.
Head to RollingStone.com for more of Trey’s chat including his take on re-listening to Phish shows, the band’s chemistry and more.