David Gans has spent the last 40 years evangelizing the Grateful Dead as host of the nationally syndicated Grateful Dead Hour. Prior to that, Gans worked as a music journalist who found his way from fan to friend of the San Francisco psychedelic forefathers. For roughly a decade in the 1970s and ’80s, Gans enjoyed a unique level of access that went beyond that of the average fan. In his new photo book, Improvised Lives: Grateful Dead 1972–1985, Gans shares that rare look at the band’s inner workings with the world.

The book, available now, documents David Gans’ transition from the audience to backstage. In addition to being a gifted storyteller on the radio, as well as a wordsmith on the page, David fostered his talent long ago as a photographer. The book begins shortly after Gans’ first concert in 1972 and follows him down the rabbit hole of becoming an avid Deadhead.

While the photos tell the story of the Dead’s rise to cult phenomenon status, Improvised Lives also chronicles Gans’ journey as an aspiring songwriter and his path as a music journalist writing for magazines like BAM and Musicians. No matter how many photos you’ve seen of the Grateful Dead, you haven’t seen these; they come from Gans’ personal collection, which he is sharing publicly for the first time.

David recently caught up with Live For Live Music to discuss the book. The video interview flips the script from Gans’ popular Dead Air segments, which he co-hosted during set breaks of Dead & Company livestreams alongside Gary Lambert: Whereas the two Dead scholars would bring in guests like photographer Jay Blakesberg (who penned a thoughtful forward to Improvised Lives), Dead archivist David Lemieux, author and co-host of The Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast Jesse Jarnow, and all six members of Dead & Co for titillating conversations on the band’s legacy, this time it is David in the hot seat.

Live For Live Music staff writer and editor Michael Broerman and frequent contributor Andrew Carter co-host the interview, which dives deep into David and the Dead’s history alike just like the book. They touch on flashpoints from throughout Gans’ working relationship with the Dead, starting with a pair of interviews with Phil Lesh and including high-profile assignments including Us Festival to the Jamaica World Music Festival.

They dive into Gans’ move behind the mic in 1985 to host the nationally syndicated Grateful Dead Hour, a position he’s held ever since. While David admits that he, like so many other Deadheads, assumed the long, strange trip would end following Jerry Garcia‘s death in 1995, he has only seen the band’s influence grow over the years. Now a half-century into his Grateful Dead journey, Gans continues to tell the story in his own voice as he chronicles the history of the Band Beyond Description.

Watch David Gans’ interview with Live For Live Music on his new photo book, Improvised Lives: Grateful Dead 1972–1985, available here for purchase.

David Gans Talks His New Photo Book ‘Improvised Lives’, Grateful Dead History, & More