Joe Russo: Many Chapters, Many Volumes
RR: Now when you do a Bustle in Your Hedgerow gig, I would think you’d be able to wake up at 4 in the morning, and just do the show.
JR: We could. We could. We try to get together once before each one that we do. Like if we’re doing tonight at the [Brooklyn] Bowl, we’ll try to get together once, and just dust it off. Again, only because, pretty much, we’ve all got so much other music going through our minds between the shows. Six months will go by and I’ve played a Furthur tour and Shpongle tour and whatever whatever and you almost need to give your brain a chance to fight (laughs)—give it a fighting shot. We get together, dust it off, and play a couple things down, and it’s amazing how—even if the four of us get together for an hour or two before a Bustle run, working through these songs we’ve heard, and we’ve played through them a million times—it just helps to run it once to know we know it. That has always been a big help, just to re-tune the old brain.
RR: I would also think in Furthur rehearsals, there are times when you don’t even cover some of the material. Do you have to recall those tunes from prior tours?
JR: Yeah, you know, we haven’t really rehearsed in quite some time. The coolest thing, my favorite thing about the state of that band right now, is the fact that we can come in and literally just start a tour without seeing each other in months, sometimes, and it just comes. I think that band, specifically, is almost helped by that—the idea of ‘less preparation, the better’, in a sense, in the good way, where we just come and we say, “All right, we know how this song goes,” and, luckily, that song could be completely different than it was last time. I think we just have a really great group mentality now and a way to function as a band to where it’s…yeah, I think it helps that we don’t overrun the stuff. We know how they go, we know where it could go, where it has gone, and I think we just take that and get on stage and have at it. And that is really getting into something that I’m super psyched about with seeing this band doing. It keeps that energy alive.
RR: You have a particular kinship with keyboard players. What is your relationship like with Furthur’s Jeff Chimenti, both personally and musically?
JR: I absolutely love him. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in my life. Any time you see him, or any time you going, there’s a big hug coming from Jeff. He floors me when I play. I noticed a bunch on this tour, I’ll just start laughing at the shit he does because he’s so awesome, and that’s such a great thing to have happen while you’re making music. I still think he’s a very…I don’t know, for some reason, whatever connection we have musically, it reminds me a lot of what I have with Marco [Benevento]. And I don’t know if it is through the instrumentation, or how they play their instruments, but I feel like I definitely have a direct conduit to Jeff, and I feel like he and I just find ourselves doing things together out of nowhere and we’ll just both end up on the same idea, and both not be afraid to continue with that idea. I don’t know; I think there’s just a very deep trust that he and I developed musically with each other very quickly, and it’s nice to always have that there. I feel like he’s just a guy that if maybe something isn’t completely jiving on stage, or we’re searching for something, I just listen to Jeff, and I definitely get a large amount of inspiration from Jeff on a nightly basis. I don’t know what the connection is, but I like it.
RR: Shows in the music, too. One of the things I love about improvisational music is that it does force one to lose the ego. With a band like Furthur with all all stars, no one really has that, and I think it is indicative in the music, too. You’re all coming on stage, supporting each other, and you’re listening.
JR: Absolutely. That’s the coolest thing, also. In the end, it is a group piece. What comes off that stage is comprised of every single person on that stage. It’s fun to find the inner workings that could mold things into a certain situation where everybody does grab on to it, and I think Jeff is an incredible leader in that way. He can really take the reins, and do something subtle that has a huge change on the group dynamic on any given moment.
It is definitely a huge attribute to have, and he certainly has it.
RR: And I’m sure Phil and Bob love looking back seeing and hearing you play with your unique skills, too.
JR: Oh, I hope so. I think we’re all having a really good time. As the life of this band continues, the trust factor, which I think is the biggest thing with something like this, also gets bigger and bigger, and then, once that trust is there, the fear goes away. Once the fear goes away, that’s when shit really gets happenin’.