On Saturday evening, Phish drummer and standing Lincolnville, ME selectman Jon Fishman made an appearance on Bangor, Maine-based late-night talk show, The Nite Show with Danny Cashman. After being introduced by the show’s host, Danny Cashman, Fishman strolled out to the desk as the house band played an instrumental snippet of Phish’s “Bouncing Around The Room”.
The interview began with a discussion of Phish’s connection to Maine, from small club shows years ago to large festivals like The Great Went, Lemonwheel, and It. As Fishman explained, “It’s my home now. And the memories from the festivals are incredible. It’s been funny, since moving here, I realize that the whole state knows our band probably more than our home state of Vermont, because people would say ‘oh you’re that band…we couldn’t get beer for a week!’ It’s funny, most of the people I’ve met who know of us, it’s not because they listen to the music. They know about it from that situation.”
Fishman also discussed what his role is like as a town selectman.”It’s like you’re a parent for a town…and everyone’s a teenager.” he laughed. “But I do love it. It’s a great way to get to know your town, it’s truly public service, and it’s humbling in that way. It’s good.” Cashman then asked about Fishman’s previous political experience, leading into the topic of his outspoken support of Bernie Sanders for president in 2016:
As you might know, and as probably people have criticized me for [laughs], I was a huge supporter of Bernie Sanders in the last election. I was asked by the Sanders people to participate in getting people signed up to vote, so I got out there and did that as much as I could.
Fishman also spoke about his busy schedule of music-based campaign events for Sanders. As he noted, “I had this one great day, I sat in with, I think, 9 bands in 12 hours from Portland to Fort Kent. It was a whole big sit-in, and to get people to sign up. I met a lot of musicians in Maine that day.” When Cashman commented on the potentially fraught relationship between the divisive nature of politics and the unifying nature of music, Fishman explained:
That is exactly the reason that the band I’m in [Phish] doesn’t get into the political arena. Amongst my bandmates, there’s always been a debate about this. I’m kind of the activist in the group, although everybody is pretty active in their own, private ways. … I really wanted to do a Bernie Sanders benefit, but the band [said] exactly what you said: ‘Politics are divisive, and music is supposed to bring people together.’ There has to be a place for art for the sake of art. And I agree with that as well. And so, as a little mini-democracy that the band is, I’m the odd man out there [laughs]. But it’s okay because I do agree with that sentiment at its heart.
Diving further into Phish, Cashman asked if Jon still felt excitement at toward their upcoming tour, even after all these years. “Yea, now more than ever,” Fish responded. “I’m 53 years old and I feel like I’m actually starting to get good.” He continued, after pausing for laughs:
No, seriously, I’m starting to really break ground into areas of drumming that I haven’t heard from other people yet. And the band, I think, is starting to… We broke up from ’04–’09, and it took us some years to get back [to] where we left off. And I feel like we’re starting to get into new levels of listening and improvisational abilities and stuff that surpass where we left off in ’04, and it’s very exciting.
When asked about his favorite style of music to play, he responded, as he has previously, by quoting James “Blood” Ulmer—”Jazz is the teacher, funk is the preacher, and one without the other you have nothing but the blues.”
Finally, Fishman got to the political meat of his appearance, campaigning for public support of ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank their candidates in the order in which they would want them. The people of Maine have voted “yes” on the issue of keeping ranked-choice voting permanently multiple times, but the legislature continues to impede its implementation, calling new ballot referenda. As Fishman explains ranked-choice, “Rather than going and voting out of fear against the thing you’re scared of, you can vote for what you want and not be afraid that if that person doesn’t get elected, they will be a pariah or a vote-splitter…that you voting for someone you want causes something you don’t want.”
You can watch all three released clips from Jon Fishman’s appearance on The Nite Show below via TheNiteShowMaine on YouTube:
Opening Segment, Jon Fishman on Being in Maine
Nite Show Highlight: Jon Fishman on Phish Upcoming Tour
Jon Fishman On Ranked Choice Voting