Wheels A-Flying, Cloud Descending (The Jambands.com Reader Interview With Dave Schools)
I remember when I interviewed him soon after he began performing with Panic, Jimmy explained that on occasion, he’d learn the wrong parts and show up having prepared JB’s parts rather than Mikey’s, which to my mind is a credit to both of them and the richness of your sound as whole.
That’s one thing that he did, learning the wrong part but a couple of times he learned both parts. He’d show up at rehearsal and play this amalgamation of Mikey and JB, which just led to the band falling to the floor in both laugher and amazement, because if anyone can play two things at once, it’s Jimmy Herring.
He’s certainly brought an infusion of energy.
It’s an infusion of energy and an infusion of enthusiasm. The way he approached the music isn’t the same as those of us who have been playing it for over 20 years. He approaches it from a different angle and an academic standpoint and then he gets the spiritual thing behind it.
The all-inclusive free-for-all thing comes later and that’s really what we’re getting now and it’s coming more and more naturally, which is the way we like things to happen. It’s the closest we’ve gotten to us at our previous peak and it’s been happening more and more lately with improv jams and free-for-alls. I liken it to a stagecoach out of control where the rider’s lost the reins, the horses are galloping like mad and the wheels are about to fly off but somehow we get down the mountain.
“On different nights it seems that one band member will have more influence on the jams than others. The most dynamic seem to be when it is obviously a SCHOOLS night. When you are in the middle of improvisation, how does the band decide who is going to lead the jam? Eye contact, hand signals, just listening to each other and deciding what sounds best in the moment?” Stephen S.
The third option, the listening, is always key and the listening depends entirely on how well we’re hearing each other. On nights where everybody is hearing everybody really well, that’s a really good start towards having those kinds of moments.
I appreciate what the questioner has said about me. There’s a lot of things that JoJo and I worked on when Mikey was in the band that we did to elevate what the band was capable of doing, and they did involve some hand signals and some eye cueing. That’s e-y-e cueing because none of our IQs are that great (laughs). That way when we’re in the middle of the maelstrom we can connect and call a chordal change. And Jimmy has taken those kinds of elements into a larger arena because of his academic strengths as far as theory and modalities are concerned. We don’t have to call direct key changes with hand signals or anything. We can make a minor key jam and go to Lydian mode and sound real pretty and Beatles-esque. That’s his influence.
So really on the best nights everybody can hear and everybody feels really good and that X factor is going on, where the thing you can’t put your finger on is happening. It descends upon the band and the audience like a cloud and that’s what we all live for, that’s why people keep coming back and that’s why we try to leave a lot of loose ends lying around so that thing can happen.
“Has the crowd ever influenced your thunder…..brighten your day or ruined your day?” Daisy B.
All of those. Absolutely. Sometimes the crowd acts as one and it’s physics. You know how they say you should never march a platoon across a bridge because the cadence will makes the bridge collapse? Well that doesn’t happen in the live setting. If those guys out there are listening and they’re linked up then it really takes things to a whole new level on our end. It becomes this tennis match of energy back and forth and back and forth between the audience and the band and those are great nights.
And then there’s nights where I won’t say a crowd can ruin the night but one bad apple can sure as hell do it by throwing something up on stage or splashing a bunch of gear. We try not to take it personally because we’ve all been young and we’ve all been at rock shows and thrown things or done stupid things and we know that in most cases it’s done with enthusiasm but still, it can fuck things up.
“Do you guys still throw darts to pick songs?” Tim C.
That was a B roll prank we filmed. That was on a DVD from Austin, TX from ’03. We have a master list we work off and someone thought it would be funny if we had a huge one printed out at a poster shop, a six foot high master list and have band members throwing darts at it (laughs). It was probably our booking agent because the shoe is on the other foot sometimes and we wonder if they’re maybe sitting around their booking agent office with a giant map of the US throwing darts at it.
Speaking of which, any number of people from various parts of the country wanted to know when you guys would be playing their town but I thought one person did a good job of touching on the larger question: “I’d be very interested to learn how much input the band has in deciding the tour schedule?” Corey D.
Really, not much at all. If we do take a role, it’s because we’re extremely enthusiastic about something like where a big gig like Halloween, New Year’s or Thanksgiving might be. Or it’s because we’re extremely unenthusiastic about playing somewhere. I won’t name names, but maybe we played somewhere before and they didn’t have their shit together and it was a weird night.
We like to leave that stuff up to the people we’ve worked with for a long time who are professionals at doing it. They have their reasons for doing things or not doing things just like we have our reasons for playing songs or not playing songs.