Last spring, Bob Weir sat down with veteran producer Rick Rubin at his Shangri La Studio in Malibu, CA to talk music, songwriting, and the Grateful Dead machine for an episode of the Broken Record Podcast. The episode is now available to enjoy, as many fans now have plenty of time to take in audio content due to the nationwide cancellation of tours and concerts for the rest of the month thanks to COVID-19.
The unique experience of hearing Weir talk about his long journey in music and life as a member of the Grateful Dead with an industry pioneer like Rubin makes for fascinating content, as the guitarist takes listeners back through the years with stories that Deadheads will love to hear.
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The 55-minute conversation covers a wide range of ground as the talking points begin with how the Grateful Dead really came to form out a makeshift jug band, Weir’s current approach to writing songs now that his longtime lyricist in John Perry Barlow is dead, and a recent dream where Jerry Garcia brought a new song to him. Weir continues in talking about how he and Garcia built the sets and song selections with each show, the band’s reaction to the sudden surge of tapers in the 1970s, and his preference for chasing the music with a free and open approach rather than relying on their studio recordings.
“If we were to try to do stuff, ya know, the way it was on the record tonight again for the 400th time, I’d be up in a bell tour with a sniper’s rifle in no time at all,” Weir says at one point in terms of how he and Dead refused to perform their songs the same way over and over. “I can’t do that, I’m not cut out for that.”
Weir continued in talking about the band’s format when asked about how the concept of two drummers came about in adding, “I’m not sure I was ever really all-together sold on the two drummers business because it started to take it more to the direction of playing and less into the direction of songs for me.”
One of the more serious parts of the conversation was when Weir addressed how the massive success of 1987’s “Touch of Grey” changed things for the Grateful Dead universe in the 1980s, mostly pertaining to the death of Brent Mydland via heroin overdose by the end of the decade.
“The predictable thing happened too, it took one of us out,” Weir said with a sigh. “It took Brent out, too much too soon. Invariably, it doesn’t work out. Now we, so gradually, so slowly became famous that we were able to remain ourselves but the too-much-too-soon phenomenon hit Brent because he hadn’t been through that developmental phase, and it took him out.”
Listen to the conversation below.
Broken Record Podcast – Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead