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The Dead Summer Getaway Diaries

Published: 2003/07/11

Bill Kreutzmann on Red Rocks, 7/6-8

We caught up with Bill Kreutzmann just prior to the fourth of the five Red Rocks shows. During the Red Rocks run some of Bill’s computer-generated art was being shown at the Walnut Street Gallery in Fort Collins.
Leg one of Dead tour is complete with the second portion to begin on July 29 in Sunrise, Florida with Bob Dylan.
So this all began when Jerry Garcia helped you use your laptop?
That’s how it started. I had an Apple PowerBook called a 540C and one night we were in LA playing. I didn’t know how to work it very well and I didn’t know how to work the PhotoShop 3 that somebody had kindly given me. Jerry showed me how to do it and that was all it took.
Is that still how you do it?
Yeah, I do it PhotoShop. Now we’re up to 7 of course. I start with a blank canvas and go in and start putting stuff in that I like.
How long does it typically take to complete a piece?
Some of them may take six or eight months and another piece will get done or I will do something else and bring it in. Others are done in one fell swoop. People will ask me that about individual pieces and I honestly don’t remember which ones took longer than others.
When I look at the gallery of images up on your site there is a range of moods and textures.
With some artists you see their stuff and you can tell that it’s all that artist’s. My art isn’t like that. I hope it’s more Grateful Deadish. We’re not just a rock band. I just work on whatever’s moving me at the moment.
Can you talk a bit about the process?
I start with something I want to see in my mind. A lot of times I’ll start with this really different space. I don’t want to start with normal reality. I want to start with something that’s out of the world a little bit and then I like to bring you into it, bring a window in, like you’re a voyeur looking into this non-reality. And in some of my pieces I do the opposite, you’re standing in non-reality looking back into reality.
Have you noticed an evolution in what you do?
It gets to the place where you can put onto the screen what you’re thinking about and that’s the full evolution. I still go through that. Now I’m into this place where I like my new stuff to look like oil paintings. People come up and touch them (laughs). I do this because when I’m not doing music I still have creative juices going and a lot of times you find yourself in the hotel room and you can bring your PowerBook with you or whatever it is nowadays. I’m contemplating one of those new Apple big screen Titanium laptops, Weir has one. I saw it today and my eyes fell out of my head. I didn’t know you could get such a large screen on a laptop. Who needs your G-5 anymore?
Some of your images are part of the light show. Your also have a MIDI trigger that allows you to control the lights during Drums. How has that been working out?
It’s a little keyboard. I don’t do that all the time. We did it at the first shows. We haven’t been doing that at Red Rocks because the screens aren’t near us, they’re way out in front of us.
I’m told that it is quite possible that no one has ever done this before.
Maybe so. That’s not important to me. It’s more important if it works good.
And does it?
Well it does but I’ve also decided that it takes away from my drumming. I’m looking at the screen thinking about the images and it’s hard for me to be really focussed on the drums. It’s kind of tricky, there are two aspects of your creativity you’re being asked to give up at the same time. In terms of your drumming, when you’re off the road do you tend to play or focus on other endeavors like your art?
I play quite a bit. I have one of these cool Roland electronic drums sets. They don’t make any sound at all but they have all these great sounds inside them. I have a CD player in it and I’ll put on some headphones so I can play along and listen to music. It’s real important to practice when you’re not playing because otherwise you’re just wasting your time because when you come back you have to go through a whole learning curve which is just not great.
Were you doing this while you were living in Hawaii?
I played over there quite a bit. I’d practice and I had guys I’d play with. I played with a pretty cool band over there called the House of Spirits Band.
What about the Trichromes? While you be doing a lot more with that group?
I might do it for fun around the Bay Area on a wild night or something but mostly no. We did that one.
Okay, let’s move on the current tour. What has surprised you the most?
Maybe just the happiness because the camaraderie in the band is excellent now. I wasn’t surprised exactly because I was hoping for this really.
What was your musical highlight from the first three Red Rocks gigs?
It was when Kitaro sat in with the drums on the second night of Drums and Space. That was very favorite part of the night and of those three.
In that context do you work out anything in advance?
No, we just trust each other that we’re going to come up with good ideas and somebody comes up with an idea and we just express that rhythm for a while. Then somebody else introduces an idea and we go there. It’s like having our conversation right now.
What was the oddest moment on stage over those three nights?
Umm…sometimes when Weir forgets words it’s pretty odd.
Who was the sweetest or most peculiar person you’ve met during these Colorado shows and what that person did to earn the title?
I met Rachel Donahue again she was great. She has a great new radio station it’s a take on KSAN. It’s going to be free radio again. It’s in this area and it’ll be real cool. Dead Heads should get turned on to that. They play songs to the end, they play twenty minute songs, all kind of good stuff.
What song that the band hasn’t performed recently do you most look forward to playing?
"Tennessee Jed." We only played it once at the very beginning of the tour.

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