Vince Herman Honors An Old Friend
On March 4, 2002, Leftover Salmon’s Mark Vann died at the age 39 after a struggle with cancer. Though it is has been almost seven years since the banjo player’s untimely passing, his memory lives on through both Leftover Salmon’s occasional reunion performances and the annual Mark Vann Holiday Benefit. This year the multi-band benefit will take place at the Boulder Theater on December 6, featuring performances by Vann’s friends in Great American Taxi and Emmitt-Nershi Band, as well as K.C. Groves, Greg Schochetis and Fat Rabbit, among others. While touring California with Great American Taxi, Vince Herman gives us a heads up on this year’s benefit, discusses his future recording plans and clues us in on the status of Leftover Salmon’s continuing reunion.
MG- Before we start talking about your various bands and the upcoming Mark Vann Holiday Benefit, I’d like to hear your thoughts of the recent Presidential Election. I know you are quite the political buff
VH- I’m delirious about it. Seriously happy, man. So proud of the country. Number one, it proves to the rest of the world that we have brains and it is symbolic that a well educated, well spoken man with brains is chosen over someone who is not. Just that alone is a good indicator that maybe we can end up being that shining light on the hill that we used to be.
MG- You have also been involved in HeadCount since shortly after its inception. Do you feel that voter registration drives and the youth vote in general have helped swing the country’s political climate left?
VH- Absolutely. You know, it is pretty cool. Obama has I think 69% of the youth vote, which is pretty cool. There is a feeling of momentum, and it involves a younger generation kind of stepping and realizing, “Hey we are in charge.” A smooth transition between generations is really important and the youth having a sense of ownership of their government is really important too. Now comes the real work: seeing if we can really bring about the change and make good things happenings. I don’t think there is going to be any serious swing to the left. I guess it will be compared to Bushy, but I am not thinking that the socialist state will be marching on, except for the bailout of the banks. Socialized finalized risk taking is about all we are going to get.
MG- Shifting back to music, you are currently on the road with Great American Taxi. Do you have any plans to enter the studio soon with that band?
VH- Yes, we are going in the studio right after the Mark Vann foundation benefit. We are going into the studio with Tim Carbone producing and playing fiddle and Barry Sless on pedal steel. He has been playing with Phil & Friends and I love his playing so much, man. Good shit. We also have Chris Sheldon from Phix playing drums with us now. He’s another Colorado Mountain guy and Jim Lewin on guitar.
MG- It has been a bit since Great American Taxi released Streets of Gold. Have you road tested much of the material from your forthcoming project?
VH- Yeah, some newer tunes we haven’t been doing live yet, but for the most part these are tunes we have been developing. We have been really, really psyched to use this new studio in Longwood, Colorado. We are going to lock ourselves in there for a week and a half and see what happens. We are psyched, really psyched.
MG- Great American Taxi started as something of a solo vehicle, but has really evolved into a true band. In you mind, how has the band evolved since its inception?
VH- Yeah, well it started as an eight-piece band I guess for a one-shot benefit in Boulder. It has kind of evolved over the years into a tourable ensemble. It is always interesting to throw together a band. There are all sorts of things to endure out there these days, man. Like this sunny days here in California where we are playing this week. It is a tough job but someone has got to do it! [laughter]. This is really good crew of people and I am so excited to get into the studio and make this record.
MG- In relation to Streets of Gold specifically, how are you going to approach the making of your next studio album?
VH- Well, you know, we are going to do the live sort of thing. That is how I like to do it. It is a live thing, this music stuff. You got to make you are comfortable and play. You don’t have to clean it up too much or play with it too much. Just play music. That has always been my approach.
MG- Let’s talk about the sixth annual Mark Vann Foundation Holiday Benefit. The show is taking place at the Boulder Theater on December 6. What can fans expect?
VH- Yeah man, we are really excited to have Emmitt-Nershi Band. That is going to be really fun. Andy Thorn on banjo—-he is just a really awesome guy. Then we have some of the Elephant Revival guys gonna sit in and Greg Schochetis going to be a little trio thing. K.C. Groves of Uncle Earl is also going to be a set with Jefferson Hamer, who was a former Taxi guy. Eric Derine is going to be on bass for that. It is just a ton of people from the Boulder and Denver scenes, like this great bluegrass band Oakhurst. Also, there is Pete Kartsounes Band and Fat Rabbit, which features some of the guys from of Shanti Groove.
Mark Vann is remembered so fondly that it is kind of easy to get people to do this thing. It is really great celebration of the local scene and kind of cool that Mark is still kind of the cause of it. It is a family holiday gathering.
MG- Looking back, does any Mark Vann Foundation Holiday Benefit stick out as particularly memorable?
VH- The power went out one year and we all kind of yelled real loud. That is a classic Colorado thing. Yeah, there are all kind of good things like that going on. There is always a list of good people who come unannounced. Two years ago we had Frederick "Shepp" Shepard. He is a great saxophonist from New Orleans who was displaced from Katrina and ended up in his apartment in Arizona wasting away.
But, this drummer Chris Lacinak found him and they did some recording and played a few tunes. Shepp went back to Arizona and passed away a few days later. I kept thinking that we just saw him onstage. It was incredible, man. You had the feeling that he was one the greats. Music has a way to take you there.
MG- I’ve also heard that your new producer Tim Carbone is going to sit in with Taxi at the benefit.
VH- Yes, I am really fired up for that. Tim is such a great player and has a great ear. That new Railroad Earth record Amen Corner is an absolute favorite of mine. I am excited to have someone with that ear steering us through it.
MG- When did you first play with Tim? Was that back in the Leftover Salmon days?
VH- Berkfest in Massachusetts is when I first ran into those guys. They had just been a band a few months at that point, I think, but they came out of the gates roaring. Blue Sparks from Hell and all that stuff. It is a pretty good cast we get to hang out with on the road and we have played with Tim a bunch at High Sierra.
MG- Leftover Salmon has performed a few reunion shows since the summer of 2007. Can you talk about the genesis of that reunion and where you see the band going?
VH- Well, yeah. It started off when the guys from Yonder Mountain String Band realized that we were all going to be at Telluride with different ensembles and they asked our manager if we’d get back together to play. We were all there and stuff, so we said, “Sure.” It was fun and we kept getting these damn offers and we say yes every once and a while. It is fun.
MG- Have you written any new material for Salmon recently?
VH- Not really much in the way of new material, nope. It is so fun step back into there and play all those tunes. There are so many. We had 400 or 500 tunes in a regular rotation in that band so it is fun to dip into those old setlists and dust one off. Yeah, it can be an occasional thing that does not eat up that space mentally or calendar wise.
MG- So, that being said, do you primarily write with Great American Taxi in mind these days?
VH- No, I just kind of write and see what comes out. Sometimes when I write for Taxi it goes in a certain direction. But usually I just see what comes out on paper. A lot of unrequited love songs. Love that part! I feel some poppier ones coming on about the end of The Bush Years. I am also about to go out for a few days on a tour with Todd Snider, Ben Kaufmann and Jeff Austin opening up for Robert Earl Keen. So I hope to go some late night writing on the bus. Yeah, Todd is so fucking good. One of my favorite writers, definitely.
It is a different thing to start writing songs about hope. But, I think we are going to see them popping up all over the place, you know? The whole uplifting of the national attitude. I am excited about it.
MG- Lastly, in many ways you are the festival king. Where do you see the festival circuit head next?
VH- The festival is redefined. You can have a one-day festival with two or three bands on a bill and call it a festival. You can have a pickin’ party at your house and take it in parade formation through your town you have pretty much been at a festival. We played last night at the Fernwood in California and there is a camp ground near by. A few guys in the band went down and scared families and, apparently, they felt like they were at a festival. So it is hard to tell what a festival is these days in the morning and night. My least favorite part is the non-festival part in the afternoon when we drive!
_Mike Greenhaus podcasts at www.relix.com/radio