Over this past weekend, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, and Trey Anastasio took part in a Q&A session with fans as part of SiriusXM Phish Radio‘s four-part “Ask Phish” special. Listen to all four segments here and read on for a recap of what was covered.
After getting started with a question about unusual pets, Bob Wischusen, radio voice of the New York Jets/self-proclaimed “huge fan of Phish,” called in to ask who might make the band members feel starstruck if they met them. Trey was certain in his answer. “The one person who I would be starstruck by, who I’m dying to meet,” he said, “[former Jets center] Nick Mangold, the greatest football player in the history of the game. You know you agree. The only person whose shirt I have.”
Page played it cool, saying he doesn’t often get overly excited to meet people he admires, but was surprised a few years back to be starstruck meeting Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason after a Saucerful of Secrets show. Mike gushed about wanting to witness the comedically “unhinged” Bill Murray.
Fishman laughed as he explained how he’s often been more oblivious than starstruck when meeting famous people: “I hit on Carole King once without knowing it was Carole King. And I knocked Prince flat on his ass by accident at Paisley Park, and I didn’t know it was Prince at the time, either. So, in neither of those situations did I have the opportunity to be starstruck, but I probably would’ve been.”
Page and Fish spoke about the wear and tear of going on tour, but both maintained that they feel better now after tours than they did when they are younger, having gotten used to the grind. “I love it so much, I don’t care. The parts are here to be worn out,” Jon said. “Eventually, I’ll lose my hearing, and eventually my hip will seize up on me and my wrists won’t work, and, whatever! I’m doing everything I can to keep it maintained … and play as long as I can.” Mike talked about the value of meditation, health, fresh air, and more in staying sane on the road. For Trey, his right shoulder is his most “worn and torn part, but theoretically, if you can learn to relax, you should be able to play forever and ever without wearing or tearing. But, uh, right shoulder.”
A German fan’s question about whether the band might ever return to Europe got the band members reflecting on the fun of their early-days experiences in Europe. Trey and Fishman shared some anecdotes about busking outside a church in Munich and, later, getting some advice for Lou Reed while opening for him there. All of this was in service of the general consensus about a return to Germany: “I would love to come back,” Trey said. “When do we come? Please have us. Yes.” The same sorts of rosy memories were spilled about tours of Japan later in the special.
The next question was about whether the band members had a “favorite song” to play live, and all four members had roughly the same answer: Any song could be their favorite song, depending on the day. Trey offered up TAB crossover “Plasma” as a pre-pandemic favorite, while Page really liked 10/31/21 set three, particularly “Lonely Trip”.
Other topics discussed included the joys of eating and laughing at band practice; small venues they wish they could play again (like The Stone Church in NH, where Trey hit his head on the ceiling while jumping on his trampoline during “YEM”, the “round room” at the Goddard College cafeteria, and more); and what gives the band’s music that “subliminally addictive” quality (Fish: “Processed white sugar turned into sound”; Mike: Something about dopamine drops and reaching nirvana; Page: “The connection that the four of us have”).
Answering a question about their children’s interest in playing music, Mike spoke about learning to play music with his daughter, Tessa; Page talked about his daughters’ varied instrumental abilities; and Trey explained how used to make up family musicals with his daughters.
The band also touched on whether or not they watched the Dinner and a Movie broadcasts, and which was their favorite. Page liked watching them as youngins in Northampton, MA (5/1/89). Fish didn’t tune in too much, but was told by Trey that it was an insightful exercise. Trey, for his part, watched almost all of them. “I can tell you this right now,” Anastasio explained, “I have never really seen much Phish before. This was really fascinating for me, ‘cus I had about 50 moments where I was like, ‘Okay, I get it now.’ Everything from guitar tone to knowing when to lay out to whatever. It was just amazing. And some of my favorites were ’93 Boston [Mansfield] and ’98 Providence. I think those may have been two of my favorites. I really like recent Phish, particularly the material. But ’93, what was interesting to me was this kind of ‘tight, tight, tight, bam, bam, bam, bam, song, song, song,’ and the depth of the composition, and the tightness of the band, and also the way some of the songs ended. I learned a lot from that. Ninety-eight, that Providence show, I thought there was a couple moments where it was coming unhinged but still maintained that sort of early-’90s tightness. There was some kind of moment there that interested me.”
The band members also touched on their favorite venues—Mike mentioned The Gorge, Red Rocks, and places where there’s no roof over the people; Trey likes any “rancid, crappy minor league hockey arena,” Madison Square Garden, Meriweather Post Pavillion, and any gig in a market that doesn’t get much live music; Page loves the feeling of playing outdoors in the summer and mentioned a bunch of this past summer’s stops; Jon digs his sunsets, but also the arenas.
Hard-hitting topics continued with tour breakfast routines (they really get into the nitty-gritty here), whatever happened to Page’s Lil Pumpkin mini Wurlitzer, their TV binging habits, and the items they can’t go on tour without (Trey, Page, and Fish all have special pillows that remind them of home, while Mike always travels with his acoustic practice guitar). The guys love their cats, too: Page’s tour pillows have pictures of his cats, Walter and Cosmo, and Trey wishes more than anything that he could bring his kitty, Joey, on the bus. Oh, and the ocean (it is love, after all).
A resident of Kill Devil Hills, NC asked Trey for the directions to “Kill Devil Falls”. Seeing as it’s not actually a real place but a metaphor for addiction, Trey wasn’t keen on giving her the roadmap: “You just have to find the most degenerate person you can meet, and ask them to introduce you to all their degenerate friends, and one of them will show you the directions to Kill Devil Falls. I hope you don’t find it. That’s a rough place.”
Ever wonder what Trey, Fish, Page, and Mike would be doing if they weren’t musicians? Mike would dabble more in filmmaking, Page could see himself as an architect, and Trey might open a home for elderly dogs or build something outdoors. But all of them are thankful they ended up with music because that’s the only real path they could have seen for themselves.
Fishman responded to that question, appropriately, by invoking the late Col. Bruce Hampton: “‘The only people that should try to make a living as musicians are the people… that don’t have a choice.’ I thought he made a great point, and then I looked around at my bandmates, and I thought, ‘Wow, I think we’re in pretty good shape. I don’t think any of us have a choice’ [laughs].”
The four Phish members also talked about the random melodies that get stuck in their head (Fish: The intro to Frank Zappa‘s “Zomby Woof”; Page: Whatever his daughter is practicing on piano; Mike: “Zinia”, a song he and his daughter wrote her best friend, Zinia; Trey: An almost-fully realized song he heard in a recent scary dream about how it’s easy now and there are monsters in his head).
The band finally talked about the moment they “got” that Phish shows were something more special than a regular concert. Page had the feeling the second time he heard the band play (he found his way into the group soon after). Mike remembers a (very) poorly attended Goddard show in 1985 as a formative moment. Trey could feel a “scene” forming from the first few shows at Doolan’s in Burlington, then Nectar’s, and the late-night hangs after the gigs.
“People would yell stuff out from the audience, and we knew who they were, it was weird. ” Trey remembered. “And it’s always felt like that. Felt like that the last time we played at Dick’s, and it felt like that the first time we ever played at Nectar’s. I feel utterly outside of the normal mainstream of music. I still feel like a complete outsider in the world of popular music. We just have nothing to do with it whatsoever, but I feel more like we’re having this big family reunion every night with all these weird characters and stuff. It was always like that. That’s my memory, from the first day.”
ICYMI: Catch all 4 parts of Ask Phish! airing today at 6pm ET. Or listen any time on the @SIRIUSXM app in the “Phish Radio Interviews” tab.
— Phish Radio SXM 🎧 (@PhishRadioSXM) November 29, 2021