Bill Kreutzmann: Fulfilling Jerry Garcia’s Promise
Was there a point in the past year when you really felt 7 Walkers took on an identity of its own?
Bill: Maybe around the album—it is all originals. We don’t do any Dead songs or Meters songs on the album. They are all original [Robert] Hunter songs except for one that is an original Papa Mali song. We got to mix it up more in the shows, though. You know what, it comes slowly and it comes in steps and suddenly it starts happening. We still have a lot of identity that we are going to gain that we don’t even know about yet. Hunter had 12 new songs for us and Papa has worked out 6 for the second record. I am really happy about that.
George, in terms of the Dead songs 7 Walkers plays, how did you approach learning this material? Did you listen to specific albums or studio records?
George: The majority of the songs we play I’ve learned at soundchecks or rehearsals. There were a few songs I went and checked out like “Eyes of the world.” That one I studied the phrasing of the words because one of the things I’ve noticed about Hunter’s writing is that he puts a lot of lyrics into a small piece of music [Laughter.]. You have to sing lines faster than the meter—so if anything that song was one of the hardest songs I have learned, lyrically. If I was just playing single notes it would be easier but I am playing melodic rhythm lines too.
You mentioned that Mike Gordon helped you get back into the music business after you took a few years off. How did you two first connect?
Bill: He used to come to lots of Grateful Dead and The Dead shows. Of all the Phish guys, he was the one who become almost a mainstay backstage so we got to know each other—and I am glad we did, so thank you Mike. He introduced me to Oteil and Scott. I sat in with Phish at Red Rocks a couple of years ago now [in 2009]—they brought in a drum set, and I played half a set. That worked out really fun—I have been a fan of those guys now for a while.
I heard you actually joked about naming your trio Mike Gordon Band, even though he wasn’t in the group.
Bill: That’s a good story. He and his wife Sue have a great sense of humor. For a wedding present they sent me a cuckoo clock. It didn’t work because in all the shipping the wires but got messed up so I had to sit there and figure out how to put it back together—and I managed to figure it out. It must be the German in me. I just saw Phish play Madison Square Garden on [12/29/11] and then 7 Walkers played Sullivan Hall in Manhattan, a really hot club, a great club, a nice club. The night before we went to see Mike play with Phish, and it was fun.
Have you seen any other shows that have inspired you recently?
Bill: For me it is like a permanent renaissance. It can be anything that I hear, from the rattle of a car to a band. Anything. [On Jam Cruise] we stopped here in Haiti, and I got off the boat and into the action. I listened to [Toubab Krewe] on the beach—I got in the hammock and had the best seat in the house. It was a really smart! I just saw George Porte Jr.’s Runnin’ Pardners. Oh man, he has the best drummer—he plays a great, arm strong, open style.