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Published: 2000/04/15
by David Saslavsky

Mickey Hart Band: Trance Portation for The New Tour

The Mickey Hart Band will hit the road starting May 9th in Washington DC. This outing, we will be treated to more of a hybrid of world beat and rock n’ roll, including Grateful Dead songs. Grateful Dead member, Vince Welnick, will even be joining in on keyboards and vocals. The remaining members are Gladys “Bobi” Cespedes (Vocals and Percussion), Rahsaan Fredericks (Bass) Humberto “Nengue” Hernandez (Percussion and Vocals), Rick Schlosser (Drums) and Barney Doyle (Guitar). Although we haven’t seen Mickey Hart out touring in recent months, his work is prolific. He recently released his latest book and companion CD, Spirit Into Sound. The book (written with Fredric Liberman) is a fascinating compilation of quotes on music from modern musicians to ancient philosophers. Mickey is now Editor In Chief of Grateful Dead books which will next year release a book on all the commissioned and folk art of the Grateful Dead. August and September will be another Other One’s-style reunion for the return of Furthur Tour. It will feature the same line up from 1998 with the bass duties handled by Alphonso Johnson, who Mickey describes as “one of the best bass players on the planet.”

Mickey spoke with jambands.com about his upcoming tour, his work with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and the roll of music and trance in our lives.

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DS: Congratulations, I just heard you are being honored by the Library of Congress in celebration of their 200th anniversary.

MH: Thank you. It’s a living legend award honoring different people who have contributed to humanity in some way shape or form. My connection of course is the preservation of the sound archives of the Library of Congress (The American Folklife Center), and my work with the Grateful Dead, and all the wonderful things that I’ve done. It’s a great honor. I’ll be in Washington hosting part of the ceremonies with Colin Powell. It really just sheds some light on the great repository of sound that we have at the library which is the largest in the world really, a million hours of recorded material dating from 1890 including the roots of the Grateful Dead and all music that’s been given us. I’m on the Board of Trustees at The American Folklife Center.

DS: After five years of exploration into the world beat, you’re now about to embark on a tour that’s more of a hybrid with rock and roll.

MH: It still will have some clave in it, but I’m going to get some old time religion back into the repertoire. I’ll be doing some Grateful Dead material. Long enough has gone down now. It was very emotional for me to hear the music, and it still is, but I’m starting to come to grips with it, and it feels good. So this will be more rock and roll, more jamming. Vince Welnick’s in the band, so that adds another dimension to it, but there will still be a lot of percussion in it.

DS: Will Vince be handling the lead vocals?

MH: He’ll be doing some of them. We’ll split it up between me and Vince. And Bobi Cespedes.

DS: And where did you find the other members?

MH: Audition. Barney Doyle on guitar. I asked for tapes and then I brought them into the studio and we jammed. The band just came together.

DS: Some of our readers might not be familiar with RAMU?

MH: RAMU is really a sound droid, a robot , a memory bank, a MIDI instrument that contains all of my percussion collection. It allows me to combine gamelans, balophones, jews harps and all of these delicate instruments that you could never take on tour and create a tapestry that is quite unique, sort of an instrument of the future, along with the drums that surround RAMU. It’s in both worlds, the archaic world and the modern world, and the digital domain as well.

DS: Along with Grateful Dead material, what else can we look forward to?

MH: There’ll be some new stuff. We’ll try to never repeat. Every night will be different.

DS: The CD Spirit into Sound is more of a return to the archaic instruments. It has a feel as if we’re transported to different parts of the world. Is that what you were trying to achieve?

MH: Yeah, I’d say. I was sort of praying to the nature spirits in that one, the soft side of percussion. I was exploring the romance, the quiet side. I’ll probably never go there again or not for a long time.

DS: Why’s that?

MH: I’m not there anymore. I try never to do anything twice. If you stay in the same box, it’s boring. I like to keep myself interested. That’s why I play everyday and I still have a lot of enthusiasm for my music, because I keep changing. It was a beautiful place to visit. That’ the type of music I listen to, music from around the world. Now, this is more of a dance band, a rock and roll band. That’s where I’m headed now. It’s still got world beat in it. Half of the band is Afro-Cuban. There’ll be clave, and there will definitely be a lot of drums.

DS: Did you develop the CD with the book Spirit Into Sound in mind?

MH: I was compiling the book, and these are the musical images, which is spiritual really that came to mind while I was working on the book. Any book about music that doesn’t have an aural component to it is a mute book. So this book and this CD are loose companions. They are sort of sisters. You’ve probably noticed that every time I write a book, there’s always a CD that accompanies it. That’s sort of a habit with me. I like that. I can’t write a book without dreaming the music that the book inspires, even though, it’s not a literal translation.

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