The Shaman and the Group Mind: A Psychic Digression With Mickey Hart
[Editor’s note: at the end of December Mickey Hart and the Other Ones will close out the year with two shows- 12/30 at the Universal Amphitheatre and New Years Eve at the Oakland Coliseum Arena (for more info visit www.dead.net). While the following interview skirts these events, it does reflect some very heady thoughts Mickey shared with our inimitable columnist DNA. For instance, if you’re curious about the telepathic experiments the Dead conducted in 1971 then read on…(and let the Dream Lab experiments begin…)]
It was with anticipation and deep honor that I was able to interview Mickey Hart. Before I get into it let me share a story about Mickey that might help you understand my fondness for the guy.
The place was Nassau Coliseum, Long Island during the early eighties. It was that phase of tour when many, and I mean many, people would go in the hallways during drums. Yes fans, you know it’s true. There was a long stretch you treated drums like you treat Dylan. You split till it’s over. (By the way, Dylan rules!) I worked my way to one of those killer seats right behind the drums that always seemed to be open, but yet was one of the best places to watch the band in the Coliseum. Mickey just finished a drum solo that was godly. Parish placed a towel on Mickey’s shoulders and led him off the stage. I realized that this I had just witnessed the best drum set ever, the most tapped in primal rhythm I had ever seen. Of course for Mickey, it was just another night on the road.
It’s now more than a year since I began writing for you all at Jambands.Com. I want you to know that I think of you all as my friends and that even though I am supremely opinionated in my head, that in my heart, I’m all about “One Love.” With that disclaimer out of the way, let the opinions begin. The Dead were the most important band of the century. They were a group of musicians who wrote awesome tunes, jammed better than anyone since Smuckers, and were brilliant and interesting each in their own right. They were also more than a band. They were midwives to change, they were cheerleaders for weirdness, they were a tribal syncopation that allowed transcendent splendor. These facts are irrefutable and I will openly debate anyone that disagrees. So, bring it on!
Since Garcia died, I have been reticent to make many comments on how I feel about the scene. Basically, if The Dead were a signpost to new space, then the future awaits us beyond the signs, pointing fingers and remnant parts. With that in mind, enter this interview with an open mind, as I seek to explore the weirdness of it all with Mickey Hart.
Well I ain’t often right
My phone rings, at 11:30:
Mickey Hart: DNA this is Mickey are you ready?
DNA: I thought it was at noon. No, I’m ready, I’m excited. Briefly, I followed you around from 78 till 92 and saw about 500 dead shows and side projects.
Mickey: Oh my god, holy Jesus.
But I’ve never been wrong
DNA: I was dedicated. I ended up getting my Masters from Sonoma State in Transpersonal Psychology.
Mickey: Do you know Stanley Krippner?
DNA: I happen to have a signed copy of Song of the Sirens right here in my hands. So my first question would be about the ESP experiment that the Dead were involved with at the Capitol Theater back in 1971. And I know that shows get a bit fuzzy over the years…..
Mickey: NO, I remember it quite vividly.
DNA: How was it you got involved in that exactly?
Mickey: Well at the time Stanley was the director of the dream laboratory in Brooklyn in New York City. He was conducting studies in dream telepathy and he was using psychedelics in that research. This was before 71 though…
DNA: It started in 1970 with Richie Havens.
Mickey: Richie was one of the sleepers.
DNA: And the Holy Modal Rounders.
Mickey: That’s right. So Stanley was working there using mind expanding drugs, working Kirlian photography and all kinds of stuff. Stanley was a pioneer, a circumnavigator and he was fond of the Grateful Dead. I met him at a party for the great Indian drummer. That is where we met and we became great friends. Eventually Garcia, Stanley and I got into a conversation where Garcia proposed the experiment. A plan got formulated where there would be a group of sleepers at the Dream Lab and we would ask the audience to concentrate on an image that was presented behind us. Our idea was to send that imagery to the sleepers via telepathy. We did the experiment for five or six nights and got like five direct hits. The sleepers accurately described the image that was behind the wall during REM. It was a very powerful night. The images were selected at random by being pulled out of a hat. It was a great moment.
DNA: Did you ever do anything like that again?
Mickey: No, we never repeated that experiment again. I know that other people have done similar events, but you’ll have to research that one.