Chris Kuroda: It Always Goes Back to Phish
And though the shadow of a sigh
_May tremble through the story, _
_For happy summer days gone by, _
And vanishd summer glory
It shall not touch with breath of bale
_The pleasance of our fairy-tale. _
- Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
Former Phish Lighting Director Chris Kuroda continues to trip the light fantastic in a series of intriguing projects which include long-term work with Aerosmith, a four-month tour with R&B superstar R. Kelly, a current tour designing lights with the Black Crowes, and a renewed collaboration with some other old friends. Kurodas life has changed quite a bit since the halcyon days of Phish and his priorities, like many fans and this writer, have shifted toward family obligations. However, a life led on the road can create its own share of domestic challenges, and Kuroda faces these responsibilities with considered thought and care while continuing to log thousands of miles on his lighting console.
Jambands.com sat down with the lighting designer hours before the Black Crowes appearance at Sunfest in West Palm Beach, Florida. Indeed, Kuroda was in the middle of about ten things, as we began our discussion, but it didnt deter the guru of rock show lighting magic from giving this writer his full concentration and focused attention. This highly-defined attribute would also be pondered in our long conversation about life on the road, the toll it takes on family, the work habits of his own father, the evolution of the state of Vermont, a location that is a key to not only the Phish legacy, and the jam scene, but Kurodas residence since the 1980s, the difference between cue to cue lighting and on the fly Kuroda-trademarked theatrics, historic live events and what happens when your lighting console craps the bed during a seven-hour set, and Kurodas humorous response to the Lifetime Achievement Award given to Phish at the Jammys on May 7.
_PART I Which Dreamed It? _
RR: You are doing lighting design for the latest Black Crowes tour.
CK: I am on the Black Crowes tour currently, yes.
RR: And you joined the group again along with new guitarist Luther Dickinson.
CK: Yes, hes a great guy, a great player. I come and go from the Black Crowes. Its been very consistent for me over the last three years or so, but theyve also been able to give me the flexibility to do other projects when they come up. Its been nice. I really like working for them. Theyre fantastic people.
RR: You just mentioned something that I was going to ask about. What is the difference between an obviously set schedule and series of tasks with Phish, as opposed to your work over the last four years, post-Phish, since August 2004? What is it like to have that flexibility after so many years as their Lighting Director?
CK: Its a little bit of both, I would say. There are a lot of things I like about it, and there are a lot of things that are more difficult about it, just the same. Branching out has been a real positive in my life and in my career because Phishas fantastic as they aredoing the same thing for that length of time, I wouldnt say gets boring or anything, but you kind of get stuck. Its kind of like Groundhog Day. (laughter) Do you know what I mean?
RR: Yes, exactly.
CK: Phish has always been a very family-oriented situation where, when people find their niche with Phish, they tend to stick around for a long time. Everybody really liked it. It was a great organization to work for, so you find yourself working with the same people for the last 15 years, which is great, they become friends, but at the same time, you just keep seeing the same faces over and over again. You get to know everybody, you get to know their quirks, their pros and cons as people, and, after a while, it is almost a vicious cycle where you kind of feel stuck. Along that line, just being able to go and do things with different people and work with different organizationssee how different organizations functionand try to find a way to fit in within somebody elses framework has been a challenge. Its also been really refreshing. I do like that end of it.
RR: Id like to talk about Phish, but Im also curious about the work youve chosen over the last few years. Youve collaborated on some exciting projects. Lets start with your lighting work on a recent R. Kelly tour. How did you get involved?
CK: Yes, I just did a four-month R. Kelly tour. A good friend of mine named Steven Drymalski, a production manager who used to be the production coordinator at Alpine Valley, started getting out on the road. I was sitting home one day last summer, and he phoned my house and said that Aerosmith was looking for a lighting designer. Hed seen my work at Alpine and we had actually met beforeI didnt remember it too well, but we had met so we knew each otherand he just thought that Id be a perfect fit for Aerosmith, which was a very big deal for us. It was the call we were waiting for in our household, so when that call finally came from Aerosmith, it was an honor, a privilege, a challenge, and the direction that I wanted to go in.
Its funny because for years in the past six or seven years, my wife would always say, You knowyou should get Aerosmith. That would be a great band for you to do. It was a running joke in the house so when the phone rang and it was Aerosmith, it was kind ofkind of weird. (laughs) I thought, OHMIGOD.
Anyway, [Drymalski] got me Aerosmith, which is my bread-and-butter right now, you might say. That is on the horizon and always looming. Everything else that Im trying to do is find projects that I can fulfill and finish for the clientmake clients happy and definitely terminate them at the end and not walk out on anything and still be able to do that, at its fullest, when it comes.
I went and did Aerosmith with Steve there for about two, two-and-a-half months, and then I had a commitment right back with the Black Crowes when that ended, so I got on a plane and came back with them. I had started with the Black Crowes so I had been on tour for about four months straight when my phone rang again and it was Steve again and he asked, What are you doing after this Black Crowes tour? I said, Im going home, man. (laughs) I havent been home in four months. I have a four year old little girl; shes going to be 5 soon; Im going home. He just laughed and said, No, youre not. I asked him who the client is and he said, R. Kelly. I want you to do R. Kelly with me. Thats not who I expectedthe last thing I expected to hear was R. Kelly.
AgainI found myself evaluating my situation. For me, that was going to be very different and something that I hadnt even expected to be able to experiencea gigantic R&B tour like thatso I looked forward to the challenge and I went and did it. Let me tell you, it was a challenge and probably the toughest thing Ive ever done in my career. We had a 14-truck gigantic arena tour. We carried our own stage. We had two buses full of carpenters. It was a big deal.
RR: What are the challenges of lighting an R. Kelly show as opposed to Aerosmith?
CK: Phish, obviously, was the kind of band where I had to develop a strategy and a style based on lighting them on the fly. Over a 17-year period, I had developed and gotten very used to my style of how to light Phish. Im able to incorporate that style with Aerosmith, with the Black Crowes, and just do my own thing.
The R. Kelly show was very different. It was basically click-tracked to a sample tape. He followed this tape. Everything followed this tape. The show was exactly the same every night. I was also running video through my lighting desk, as well as the lights. It was all triggered and linked together; it was a very complicated cueing system. We had to write a show that was on a cue to cue basis. You write a gigantic writing cue list, constantly editing, changing and dialing it in, so it is perfect for the show. You have a button on the lighting desk, which I had never used before, called a GO button. (laughter)
Most lighting designers use this but Ive never incorporated the GO button. I would be all over my desk, looking, searching for the next cue that I wanted to find, hunting around through menus, constantly poking around, looking for the next thing, where with R. King, everything was all streamlined down to the GO button. Youd sit there running the show and you just had to learn to know when to hit the GO button for the next cue, and then the next cue. Theres always an order, always in the same order. That was something that I had never donea cue to cue show.
I had always ran them on the fly. The difference being that those shows are a lot easier to run because youre just sitting there pushing a button, but the pre-programming and pre-production time work was ten-fold because you really have to get everything perfectly dialed intheres no room for error; you have to think out the entire show cue-to-cue-to-cue. I think there were something like 750 lighting cues.
RR: And I would assume that Aerosmith is a little looser.
CK: Aerosmiths a little looser on how its done because I was specifically told when I was hired that they were looking for somebody that could roll on the fly with the band because the band had a reputation for deviating from the setlist, changing the songs up while live on stage. The current people that they had in place, I guess, were struggling with that concept, so when they brought me in, they specifically wanted to bring somebody in who was capable of rolling on the fly with the band. With Phish, I developed that reputation for myself a bit so thats why they called me.
RR: (laughs) That is the biggest understatement Ive heard from you. I am thrilled that people are recognizing the innovative lighting work you did with Phish. Obviously, there were other lighting directors rolling on the fly, as wellCandace Brightman [Grateful Dead] is up near the top of the list
RR: but it is interesting to see other acts, also, recognize that innovation and use you to light their shows in a very improvisatory way. How does it make you feel that your talents are used in different ways whereas before, like you said, it was always specifically on the fly with Phish?
CK: Its been a good learning experience and its definitely been a mind-broadening experience. The best part about R. Kelly was that I had the honor of working with probably the lighting designer that I admire most on the planet Earth. I got to work hand-in-hand with him. He was the production designer on that show and he was the go-to, the last stop on everythingnot necessarily audio but he had a lot to do with the scenic, he designed the stage, the concepts for the songs, he helped design the show itself with Rob (R. Kelly).
Having the opportunity to work with him, like I said, I just admire him as a person, as a lighting designer, and every facet of his life. That, to me, was almost more satisfying than actually [lighting] the band because working with people like that, I got to learn how he thinks, how he puts together a show, hes just one of those genius people that Ive always wanted to work with. Ive had a couple experiences with him but never actually got to be on a show with him, hand-in-hand, of that magnitude, and have the opportunity to get inside his brain and show me a bunch of things and see how he thinks. Working with people that are brilliant, that I admirethat was probably the best part of the R. Kelly tour. To simplify what I saidgetting out of my head and getting into somebody elses head to see how somebody else does it is always a great educational experience. Two heads are better than one.
I had the same experience with Phish, when in the early days, I was such a control freak about the lights where I wanted everything to be exactly where I wanted it, and it got to a point where I couldnt think of any new ideas after a while. Back then, I learned a lesson. I had these wonderful programmers who were programming everything I wanted them to program for me, but I was never getting into their creative side. I was dictating what I needed programmed and they would make it happen. When I finally learned to let them give me new ideasIm out of ideas. Do you guys have any new ideas?my programmers back in those Phish days would come up with ideas that I never would have thought of, yet were so blatantly obvious right in front of your face. Of course! The light does do that. The more people involved, the better. Everyones got great ideas. My ideas only go so far before I start to lean on other peoples ideas. With Phish, that was the great eye-opening experience there in the mid-90sto broaden out and let go of the reins a little bit and let my people get more involved on the creative end of things. It was incredibly positive back in those days.
The lighting designer Im talking about is Patrick Dierson. If you ever work with Patrick Dierson and get inside his head, see how he does things, which were very different than the way I do thingsIve already incorporated a lot of his ideas, his philosophies, into what I do today. Its been wonderful.
PART II The Garden of Live Flowers
RR: This is your twentieth year lighting gigs.
CK: I believe that is, yes.
RR: And you touched upon a subject based upon that fact that I wanted to coverand I think you covered it pretty wellhow has your philosophy changed and how have you loosened up over the years? You mentioned video linked with lighting. The other night we saw Rush and they had the films synched to lighting cues and I was sitting there thinking, I wonder what Chris Kuroda could do with this setup. Do you have any long-term plans to link video with your lighting design?
CK: For the upcoming Aerosmithif everything were to pan out like I believe it will because, like I said, I just dont know what they are going to do or when they are going to do itIve had several discussions with their production department about finding unique and new ways to use that kind of technology that hasnt been used before. There are a lot of bands out there doing a lot of video and video seems to be the wave of the future. There are big acts doing video in different ways, and coordinating it with the lighting. We are brainstorming about new ways to do that same type of thing. Its hard to be original because people are doing some original things right now. Tool does a lot with video projections that are really cool, unique and different.
With Aerosmith, were constantly brainstorming, talking about what gears available and what we can do with it, how we can do different effects, and weve come up with some really great ideas, which, I believe, in the next few months, some meetings will happen, to coordinate and decide if we want to do those things. As far as what they are, I cant really talk about them. Im really not in a position where Im allowed to give anything away.
RR: What is your daily plan while working with the Black Crowes?
CK: The Black Crowes are kind of a little bit of everything. There are some Black Crowes dates that we walk in and we use the house lighting system in a club. There are some Black Crowes dates that we design a big lighting system and have it brought in to our specifications. There are some Black Crowes gigs that are festival environments. There are some Black Crowes gigs that are theatre runs where we will design a lighting system and carry the system with us for more than one day, maybe a couple of weeks. It is a mish-mash. Their tour consists of a lot of different types of venues and a lot of different types of scenarios in which we need to think exactly what would be the best approach. Its a mixture. Their tours are well thought out and they do a really good job. The band themselves do a fantastic job of rolling with the punches and dealing with whatever the situation may becoming in and giving a strong performance every night. One thing Ill say about the Black Crowes is that they are consistently good.
RR: They are also more inclined to improvise, too.
CK. Yes, I get to use my Phish chops a lot with them and I really do enjoy that.
RR: Phish is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Jammy Awards, and I wanted to cover a few areas that havent been trod upon too much
CK: Yes, like wheres my Lifetime Achievement Award?
RR: (laughter) Exactly. Wheres the CK5 Award? How critical was Paul Languedoc [Phish sound engineer] to your own artistic presentation and how did that evolve? Im assuming that the dynamics changed over the years. How much is a part of your legacy linked with Pauls work?
CK: Artistically? (laughs) Paul didnt have very much artistic influence in the lights, at all. He was busy in the audio world.
CK: However, we had our looksbecause we are such good friendswe had our little jokes. I would do funny things on the lights at funny moments that we would both get a good laugh out of based on some joke that we had going on and off. He chose not to have any artistic input into the lights because he was trying to be artistic in his own world.
When it comes to Paul Languedoc, Paul had a huge influence on me maturing as a person. Paul taught me how to grow up from time to time. We were out there, we were young, I was in my 20s, we were on a rock tour, Phish was a very alternative and unique scene, and Paul played the older brother role with me. As the years went on, he helped me as a person more than as an artist, which developed as my life went along.
RR: Thats what I was trying to understand, instead of the idea that he was involved with the lightswhat your relationship was like with Paul. I guess that is probably what I should have initially asked you.
CK: Yes, we were good friends. Paul, unfortunately, had to tolerate me (laughter) for 16 years, and he did a good job of it. He was always very patient with me, he let me make mistakes as a person, and help me grow from them. Paul and I have had hundreds of incredibly valuable one-on-one talks that have influenced my life quite a bit.
RR: Like my own life and many others, the members of Phish have been dealing with the added dimension of family issues. How much has your family life over the last few years affected the way that you view your artistic process and your work?
CK: When Phish ended, it was a slap in the face. Everything became about my family life. I was out there living this Phish non-reality. Its hard to describe. Phish was kind of like a dream in many ways. When Phish ended, everything became very, very focused on my life around my family and still is and has remained that way. My family is my top priority and it has made touring very, very difficult. My little girl, Alexandra is about to turn 5, and in the process of her growing up, leaving home has become more and more difficult. She doesnt want me to leave, and, quite frankly, I dont want to leave. Ill often feel like Im missing her life. Ive missed two out of four birthdays, and Ive been very fortunate to be at the two that Ive been to. I havent missed a Christmas, yet, but almost this last year. Months and months at a time, away from my childI leave the house and I come home four months later and Im looking at a different person then when I left.
That wears on me pretty heavily because my father always traveled for a living, and I often felt that I lost out on having as close a relationship that I could have with him. I always said that when I had children that I was not going to do that. I was going to be home all the time, and there for them at every moment and Id be the kind of father who is always around. I find myself not being able to fulfill that because of my touring schedule. Im almost falling in line with the way I grew up and Im not very happy about it. My wifes not happy about it.
My wife is a fantastic woman and what she has to deal with and what she has to put up with in my absence from home is above and beyond the call of duty. She does it all very well, she handles it, and she takes care of business, but shes not very happy about it. Slowly, over the course of time, shes starting to crack, being a quote/unquote single parent, so it is funny you should ask because just in the last year or so come to this crossroads where we both realize that it just cant continue like this as human beings. My wife cannot just raise our daughter up to college years with me out on tour. It is a tough job and she isnt doing it by choice. Shes adapting her life to wrap around my life so shes just doing what she has to do. She doesnt want to be without me around, she doesnt want to be raising our child by herself, and taking care of everything that needs to happen at home.
We live in Vermont so its not easy living. You need wood and weve got snow and youve got weather situationstheres just a lot going on up there for one person to deal with, so the plan is, to be honest with you, our life plan is to be off the road, permanently, by 2011. Who knows if that is going to pan out? When I say off the road, I mean touring. That doesnt mean I wont still design, but, actually, doing hardcore touringobviously, I cant predict anythingbut in a perfect world, yes, were going to try to end this touring thing in the next three years.
RR: I can relate to a small degree. Weve got three boys now, and I end up working seven days a week sometimes just to get things done because I dont live in a 9-to-5 world. However, I cant possibly fathom being a road warrior for as long as you have been out there.
CK: Absolutely. Im in my 40s now. When I was doing this in my 20s, and even in my 30s, it was great fun and it was awesome to be out there on the road. It was very carefreenot really having too much to worry about back then. You hit your 40s, and, at least for me, it all of a sudden became very redundant. It almost seemed, all at once, I wasnt happy being on a tour bus, anymore. Id rather be home in my own bed. I wasnt happy being in hotel rooms because Ive been in 17 million of them in my life. It kind of lost its pizzazz, no matter who the act is. The act is whom you work for, but you live your life touring. I live my life in buses and hotels, traveling around in millionaire airplanes and that kind of thing. It has lost its luster with me; I have to be honest with you. The only thing I really truly enjoy about this whole thing is the lighting part of it. I dont really care for the lifestyle that surrounds it.
I should tell you right now to really slam the door home that Im here in West Palm Beach, Florida and, right now, as we speak, my daughter is at home with a 101-degree temperature. Its interesting because shes sick and Im not home to deal with her. There are a million days like that, whether shes sick or somethings going on or there is a problem or shes sadthere is just so much to miss on a daily basis, especially when they are that age. Theres your perfect example right there.
RR: The Show Must Go Onironically, in your own world, if you had a fever, you still have to do the lights. Its an old story but its still true.
CK: Yes, absolutely. The Show Must Go On in my own world, too. This is what I do. Unfortunately, it involves all of this traveling and sacrifices, but, how can I put this, the electric bill still must be paid.
PART III The Lion and the Unicorn
RR: Welllets do a strange segue and talk about some electricity back in the 90s. Last month marked the tenth anniversary of the four-date Phish Island Tour. That was a brief yet big tour for a lot of fans, the band, and, specifically, you were in your prime and it contained quite a few peak moments in your lighting design.
CK: Yes, that was a neat little run. It was special in the sense that it happened during a time of the year that we didnt normally tour, and it was just a little four-show run. For some reason, at that time, everyone was in a really happy place in their lives. Not only was it a peak time for me in lighting, I think it was a peak time for just about all of us in life, so the vibe out there was fantastic to start with. It is hard to recall any four specific shows because there were thousands that Ive done and they all blend together after a while, but I do remember that was a real special time and those shows were great. They were all magical, and all of our friends that attended were very pumped up for that, too. When your friends are pumped up, it tends to get you even more pumped up.
RR: And its hard to believe, but at the end of next year, itll be ten years since Big Cypress. That was also a peak moment for most fans and the band, but what are your recollections of that historic evening?
CK: I have mixed emotions about Big Cypress. It was great that it was the New Years that it wasfantasticand the event went off flawlessly. It was a beautiful time for everybody and a great concept on how they put that together. I had some pretty heavy-duty technical lighting issues that night. I had put a lot of work into doing some really special things that evening, and then, basically, my entire lighting system had crapped the bed, so I spent most of that night trying to fix things and working with half a lighting system. I struggled through that entire night. Something that should be, for me, a fantastic memory has a negative attached to it, so whenever I think of that night, I think about all of the problems that I had and not how great that night was or how beautiful. Thats just my personal experience and, unfortunately, Im stuck with that for the rest of my lifeto have to think of it like that but I do, and I cant see beyond that to know how magical that was for a lot of other people.
RR: Im sure you have your own share of magical moments that you can recall.
CK: For sure. Certainly. The entire experience, in a way, was magical. I can honestly say that I owe everything to those guys. They gave me an opportunity back in 1989 that I was able to run with, and turn into what has been a pretty promising and fun career. I have Phish to thank for that.
RR: Your relationship with everyone in Phish is still pretty solid, right?
CK: Yes, very solid. Absolutely. I often speak to those guys. Mike calls. Mike lives near my hometown so I see him out and about and around town. He grew up an Aerosmith fan, so he was very happy for me when I got that gig. Hes called me a few times to talk about that. I see Page around often enough. I saw him a week ago, and were still very close and we talk. Fish is doing his own thing. I just got off the phone with Trey, two days ago, talking about the future. Hes got some big plans. Hopefully, theyll all come to fruition and well be able to do some cool things out there.
Its kind of interesting having to look at my schedule to see if I can fit Trey in. (laughter) Thats been a really funny little joke. Luckily, I am able to fit him in, which is good. (laughter) That is a weird little Twilight Zone there. Im going to try to fit Trey in.
RR: Thats funny, also, because I wanted to ask how the changes youve gone through in your past relationships fit into your current work methods. In the end, I suppose your past good work has produced present new opportunities.
CK: Yes, its an interesting world. We were talking about the whole concept of family first. Nowadays, when I get work, I have to make a commitment. Nobody will hire me if I say, Hey, Ill work for you, but if Phish calls, I have to go. Nobody is going to hire anybody under those types of circumstances. In order for me to work, in order for me to maintain my household and get what I need out of my job, I need to commit to these organizations. The Black Crowes call and say, Were doing seven months, and I have to commit to seven months as a matter of honor more than anything else. Once you make a commitment, you stick to that commitment.
Like I said before, I was able to squeeze in Treys possible upcoming projectsIm not exactly sure what he is doingbut there is some kind of timeframe, I think. It happened to fit in, but if it didnt fit in, Ive already made my commitment to the Black Crowes. I would have had to tell my old friend, who I love, that I wasnt able to do it because of simple business commitments. Im definitely wiping my brow and saying, Phhheeeww! when it all worked out. (laughter) Id hate to have to call Trey and tell him, I cant.
RR: A unique problem based upon the demand for your skills. You brought up something about your father earlier and it made me think of the work habits I picked up from my own father. You appear to have a highly developed sense of concentration and focus when you are lighting a show. Is that a trait that you think you inherited from your father?
CK: Probably. My father probably has the best concentration span of any human being Ive ever met. I dont know. I never really thought of it that way. Ive always felt that I enjoy it so much and Im so into it that it has helped me stay focused. For yearsTrey has a very complicated mind. In order to get inside of that mind, and in order to know where hes going, or what hes thinking without actually speaking with him, is not an easy task, so it takes a lot of focus. In an effort to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish lighting him, there was no other way then to just tune the world out, and stay locked in on him for three hours a night. I dont really know how else to describe it. Ive always, just as a joke over the years, whenever anybody asks about it, Ive always said, We have a mental link. It is kind of a joke, but in a strange sort of way, we actually do have a mental link. I dont know exactly how to describe it in words, but I have a way of tuning in with Trey, understanding what hes doing without words being spoken.
PART IV – Waking
RR: I remember speaking with Richard Glasgow about various venues backstage at Treys shows at the Warfield in December 2006. In 2005 and 2006, on Treys tours, did you ever think that it was like you were back in the early-1990s, playing smaller locations as opposed to the venues Phish played in their final years? And did you enjoy lighting those smaller venues, again?
CK: Oh, absolutelyI thought about it. You look at your career and say, Wow, its come full circle. (laughter) Some of them are enjoyable. Theres definitely a nostalgia trip involved in going into some of those old places. As human nature would dictate, some of them were not as much a pleasure as others were. You walk in some places and say, This place is fantastic. I cant believe I havent been here in years. You walk into some other places and say, Yepsame old shithole that it was 15 years ago. (laughter)
RR: There is a piece of land that gets left out of the Phish equation on occasion, historically speaking. Youve been in Vermont since the 1980s. What are the changes youve seen over the last 20 years or so in your state?
CK: Yes, its interesting. Vermont reminds me of your old Wild West gold town. When the gold was flowing, Vermont was thriving. There was a lot of Phish-based income going into the state. There were tons of people around that were either related to Phish, working for Phish, or people who just wanted to be in the scene that Phish had created in Vermont. There were a lot of people who were moving up therecollege kids at UVM. Obviously, there was a whole lot going on besides that, but thats the world that I live in, so thats what I saw.
When Phish broke up, when the office closed down, and the whole operation came to a screeching halt, a lot of people moved on, left, and went their own way. There is very, very few of us left. My family, Kevin Shapiros still up there, a handful and smattering of peopleobviously, Page is still up there, but it feels like a ghost town. That thriving Wild West gold town has become a ghost town with tumbleweeds blowing through. I feel like Vermont lost something very important and very strong when Phish hung it up. It doesnt have the same magic that it once held. Its hard to describe. For me and my family, there just is nothing really going on anymore up there that we fit into. Theres no real scene for us. We have our close circle of friends, but theres just not much going on up there, anymore. A lot of people left and it is very quiet. Yes, its changed quite a bit. I definitely feel that Vermontwonderful state that it islost a little piece of its heart when Phish broke up. Phish were definitely part of the backbone of what was going on up there in the 80s and 90s, just as far as culture. They definitely played a role.
RR: I think that sense of loss is also shared by people or, to be more specific, fans of the band that never lived in Vermont. I still see quite a few sites, which have examples of your lighting workreally good photos of some classic Phish moments.
CK: Oh, really? I was not aware.
RR: Have you given some thought to organizing a books worth of Phish photos, which would showcase your lighting design?
CK: I would love to do that, as a matter of fact. Ive gone through Phish archive photos for days and days and days putting together portfolios. There is just a _massive _ database of stuff available. I would love to do something like that. Againlike we were talking beforewith the help of others, and somebody elses eyes, as well, because a photo that I would look at and say, I dont like that one, somebody else might look at it and say, I love it. I would definitely want to have some kind of team effort going into it, to do it right, and get a broad variety of tastes going, for a book, as far as what people would like to see in photos. Why wouldnt I want to do that? It sounds great. It would be another way of keeping Phish fresh in all of our minds.
One thing for sure, regardless of whats gone on, whats happening today and everything, I believe that for most people involvedwho were involvedwe miss it. We very much miss it, still. I miss lighting it very much. There is a certain satisfaction, a certain feeling that I have just never gotten since Coventry. Theres something about lighting Phisha fulfillment sensethat I have just not gotten anywhere else. I dream about having the opportunity to do it again, and, believe me, every day, at some point, every day in my life, I think of some lighting cue, or something that Ive never done on lights, and associate it to Phish, and say to myself: If we ever get back together, during this song, during this moment, Im going to try doing this cool thing. It always goes back to Phish.
RR: And that empathy towards people who were involved in Phish is reflected back. Obviously, there are many fans that are interested in your continuing lighting work.
CK: Thank you very much. It is warming that there are still people out there who care about what Im doing, and want to see new things that Im up to and can go beyond Phish and want to see the people who were behind all the desks, all the consoles, and all the light boards and soundboards. Were obviously doing different things and the fact that
there are still people who are interested in what were doing simply because its us is a rare treat in life. Not a day goes by where I dont feel honored about those things, as well.
RR: Do you have plans for lighting projects outside of the music world?
CK: Ive had some input in a couple of small feature films. Ive done some television in the past. My sister, Andee Kuroda, is a producer, and shes produced quite a few big T.V. shows and had me come and do some work. This was years and years ago back when I almost felt like that kind of stuff was out of my league. I was struggling to keep up with what was going on, and I lacked the confidence, too. You have to get a couple of those under your belt before you feel really good about doing them. You have to start somewhere. I did some of those and I did not really enjoy itnot that I would rule it out if the opportunities came again. It wasnt my favorite thing to do. I didnt really enjoy the
politics of T.V. and there are a lot of politics involved in T.V. Ive gotten a lot of theatre offers for plays, which Im dying to do and would be a great challenge, but I find myself getting booked up with the rock n roll. I dont seem to have time. I keep accepting these rock n roll dates, and they fill my year up completely. That is what I do and that is what pays my monthly nut, so to speak, so I cant say no to the rock n roll.
Right now, Im booked until December 20. Last year, I left my house on August 1, and didnt walk back in through the front door until January 16. I ended up doing three different bands where the timing all worked out perfectly where I could do the last Black Crowes gig and fly right to Aerosmith, do the last Aerosmith gig, and fly right back to the Black Crowes, do the last of those Black Crowes dates, and fly right to R Kelly.
At the time, when youre making those plans, you sit there and you say, This is great. I cant believe the stars are aligned and the dates are all working out so beautifully. I can just keep working with no overlaps. Then, at the same time, when youre out there for a long time, you think, What am I doing? Im killing myself, being out on the road for seven straight months. Its definitely a little bit of both. Yes, Id love to do those other things but my schedules just full of rock n roll.
RR: And yet, a life that appears to be so glamorous, rich and filled with exciting opportunity, at a certain point of your life, is not what it once was.
CK: No. Were all just people and at the end of the day we all go to sleep with ourselves, and we put all of our jobs and glory behind us. Were all just people trying to do our thing. For example, I know my daughter is going to be fine, but Im out here trying to get ready to do a show, and my head isnt fully dialed into doing the show. Im sitting here thinking, Is she O.K.? I hope shes alright. I better call home. I better talk to you. Its funny because Im out there at the lighting console or on stage surrounded by a bunch of gruff roadie types doing their gruff roadie work, and Im sitting there literally having a conversation out loud saying, Hi, honey_are you O.K. _? Its DADDA! Everyone is looking at me thinking, What the hell is up with this guy? Thats my life. Thats my reality. My reality is not trying to look cool in front of a bunch of gruff roadies. My reality is communicating on a level with my daughter where we can actually communicate, and she can know that Im concerned about her, and she knows shes getting love, even if its over the phone. Thats being human right there.
RR: I hope to see you on the road this year and my best thoughts and wishes to your family, especially your daughter who is sick today.
CK: Same to you and your three-pack! Ill be out in San Francisco with the Crowes in December. I think were doing seven nights at the Fillmore. Look forward to seeing you.
_- Randy Ray stores his work at www.rmrcompany.blogspot.com