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Published: 1998/12/15
by Chip Schramm

He’s No Cinderella: The Evolution of Derek Trucks

C: What are your tour plans after the 11th when you play the House of Blues in Cambridge, Mass.

D: We’re going up to Pennsylvania and then Maine before coming back down south. On New Years we’re doing the Roxy with Government Mule in Atlanta. The night before we’ll be in Greenville, South Carolina. Those shows will be a lot of fun. We’re looking forward to it.

C: How did you get interested in Eastern Music?

D: It was through Jeff Sipe. He’s a drummer in Atlanta. He played with the Aquarium Rescue Unit and now he plays with Leftover Salmon. I would always go over to his house in the last five years and we would hang out and listen to music. He turned me on to Ali Akbar Kahn. He’s such a surreal player. It definitely opened things up. It’s great to listen to different kinds of music from all over the world, especially kinds that are so evolved. Those guys study what they do for thirty years before they go out in public. It’s definitely taken a lot more seriously than it is here.

C: I noticed that the eastern influence started to creep in towards the end of the album on “Pleasant Gardens” and of course the last track, “Deltaraga”. Did you use any special instruments on those tracks?

D: That’s all the same guitar. I love the guitar. It’s a 36 National. It sounded great in the studio. I just played it in one room with brick floors and it reacted really well.

C: What abut the guitar technique?

D: It was just guitar, you know, slide on the national. We wanted to do something like that tie the Indian theme into that of the Delta Blues theme. Those were kind of the two angles we were coming from.

C: Are you interested in eastern philosophy as well as eastern music?

D: Yeah, definitely. I do a lot of reading as far as eastern philosophy goes. Krishna Murdi and a few others. I am definitely into that whole culture. His book is “Freedom from the known.” You should pick up a copy. I think it’s pretty easy to find.

C: One of the things liked about the album was how you took a tune like “Death Letter Blues,” which is so raw in tone and treated it with a guitar licks that were incredibly precise.

D: Yeah, I’d been listening to a bunch of Son albums, on that tour, on the way to the studio. We decided that we’d do some of that. The same with Howlin’ Wolf and Bobby Bland, it was all stuff we’d never done until we were in the studio. It all came off. It kind of surprised us. We hadn’t worked it up. We just went through it a few times and the energy was there. Sometimes you can have a few magic moments in the studio and be lucky enough to capture it on tape. Usually when spontaneous moments happen musically, it’s live. Every once in a while you can catch one in the studio. We keep that as a general goal.

C: Tell me about your experience on HORDE tour over the summer.

D: That was great, we got to sit in with a lot of the bands. We got to hand out with Col. Hampton a bit. It was cool, hopefully we can do it again next year. There’s a lot of great band on it. Govt. Mule was on it. Hopefully Medeski, Martin, and Wood will make it back next year. I love seeing those guys. I’ve seen them once, but I want to check them out more.

C: Do you have any one set or jam session from that summer that sticks out in your mind?

D: Yeah, during our set of the last show in Atlanta, Jimmy Herring was sitting with us and John Popper came in and sat in. Then Count M’Butu, a percussionist from Atlanta, joined us, so it was a great day.

C: I’ve seen Count Mbutu sit in with Widespread Panic a few times. He’s really fun to watch.

D: Whenever we’re near Atlanta we try to get him to come and play with us. He can do some pretty amazing things. He really changes the whole color of what you’re doing.

C: Tell me about Frogwings. What are your future plans with them?

D: That’s a trip, just being around that many great musicians. It’s a great thing for me at this point, musically, when I’m trying to grow as quick as I can and keep up with stuff. When I’m with Oteil and Jimmy Herring, I try to lock them in a room at least once in the trip and take out some paper so I can take notes. They’re encyclopedias of music. They know so much about the craft. Whenever I’m around people like that I try to absorb as much as I can. To be able to play music with guys like that is just a great trip. I think we’re gonna do that again, early 1999.

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