"We’ve Got Our Best People On It": Bob Weir Directs Traffic with the Other Ones (Ten Years On)
DB- Will you bring any of your newer RatDog songs to the band?
BW- There is talk of it. My inclination is to keep them separate so that I start missing the other body of material. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we did one or two.
DB- So that is why a song like “Banyan Tree” was placed on the backburner and never surfaced with RatDog?
BW- Exactly. It was never quite put away. It’s on the front burners now. It took a couple years off, that’s all.
DB- So from the very start then you envisioned after the first tour that you’d come back out on the road with the Other Ones?
BW- Yeah, that was the plan all along.
DB- Who tapped Alphonso to join the group?
BW- We all sort of kicked that around. He was available, he knew the material and I had played with him in various ensembles in the past. I had a great time with him, he’s a great bass player.
DB- How did you first meet him way back in the Bobby and the Midnites days?
BW- He and I were both Ibanez endorsees. We met at a trade show. We played together a bit in that context and when a spot opened up in the Midnites, I gave him a buzz.
DB- Did you ever see him play in Jazz Is Dead?
BW- No, I never caught that.
DB- What has he brought to the band in terms of his approach?
BW- He’s a great groove bass player which is not something that Phil was real comfortable doing when he was working with us.
DB- So can we expect to see more funk-laced jams?
BW- There’s more of that happening to be sure.
DB- I’m curious about Bill. When was the decision made that he would join the band?
BW- The day that he announced he wanted to, basically (laughs).
DB- We interviewed him on the site a while back as well. At that time he said that the first incarnation of the Other Ones never opened up the songs enough for his own taste. Do you think that’s a valid criticism?
BW- Well, I think we opened up a whole lot of stuff the last time around. I would say though that we’re doing even more of that this time under his auspices. Under his aegis, shall I say, that’s getting done.
DB- Is that a conscious decision or is that something that has arisen through familiarity? I would imagine that it has helped to have a bit more rehearsal time this year as well.
BW- Well everybody’s just loosened up a bit. Although Alphonso has a pretty sizable slug of material that he hasn’t done, some of which he’s never heard, to choke down. So now we’re not in full race. But we’ll be changing things up and learning stuff all along.
DB- Let’s briefly jump to RatDog. You have an album on the way and a number of new songs in the band’s repertoire. This seems to be a particularly fertile songwriting period for you, what accounts for that? How has your approach changed over the years, if at all?
BW- Most of those songs are collaborations within the band. The way I prefer to write these days is to do it collaboratively. That way the guys in the band know what the song is supposed to sound like, because they helped make it up. Also there’s a little of them invested in each of those tunes so they’ll lean into them a little bit more than just interpreting someone else’s tunes. We just got busy and wrote over the last year. The band personnel stabilized so that we could do that finally, so we took advantage of the opportunity to write.
DB- Will the newer material appear on the disc?
BW- There’s only one older tune, that’s on there and that’s Corrina. The rest of it is pretty new, all written in the last year or two.
DB- Does Kenny Brooks play on it?
DB- A few more quick ones- the Gathering of the Vibes, I’m curious as to your thoughts on playing with Les Claypool?
BW- (Laughs) I wish we’d had a soundcheck so that we could have had it more together. I thought he fit in better with us than I did with him. He’s a lot of fun, I’ve played with him in the past.
DB- Did you know he was going to tear through “Tomorrow Never Knows?”
BW- About twenty minutes in front.
DB- And what’s the status on the Satchel Paige musical? I know a number of people are looking forward to that.
BW- We’re waiting for the theatrical company that we’re doing some development with to get done mounting a piece in New York. When they get done doing that then I think we’re next up.
DB- Have any of those songs seen the light of day with Ratdog?
BW- Nope. I suppose I could bring some of them around and I probably will for that matter. With RatDog though, we’ve been concentrating on working up our own stuff, and with the Other Ones it’s kind of the same deal. I would imagine that once that gets up and rolling if people come to me and say, “We’ve got to do this tune,” then hell yeah, we’ll do it but I’m not going to drop it on the group and say we’ve got to do these tunes.
DB- Are those songs blues-based?
BW- Some of them. Actually we tried to work within constraints of the periods. We’d go back and try to cop a Louis Jordan groove and feel for a given song. Or a Basie or an Ellington groove or feel for a given song, just letting the genre tell the story of his life and times.
DB- One final quick one. Since this is a Presidential election year and you’re such a vocal figure on political issues, I was wondering if you’re interesting in flagging one or two that you deem to be essential as November 7 approaches?
BW- My extreme bias is towards the environment. This is going to be a pivotal election, I think. If we don’t elect a candidate who will respect the environment then it may be too late four years later if the store is given away to environmentally insensitive politicians and interests. I don’t see how we’re going to get it back.
DB- Are you optimistic that this will happen?
BW- Relatively. I think people might come to realize that. I think more should be made of the issue.