Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke will release Noon, their third collaborative album and their first in 15 years, on August 28th, the duo announced on Tuesday via American Songwriter.
The new collaboration follows 2005’s Sixty Six Steps and comes 18 years after Clone first paired the Phish bassist with the legendary solo guitarist. Along with the album announcement, the pair shared two singles, “Ants” and “I Am Random”.
The first of two tracks, “I Am Random”, finds Gordon on vocals and providing a funky acoustic bass line with accompaniment from Kottke. The song starts with a line familiar to many Phish fans, “Almost couldn’t get into this show.” Yet Gordon revealed in the American Songwriter piece that “I Am Random”, which he co-wrote with solo bandmate Scott Murawski and has played live sporadically at solo shows, is actually fairly autobiographical.
I am Mr. Random all the time [laughs]. I used to be Mr. Awkward. Now I’ve graduated to Mr. Random. I’m the one at the party who won’t say anything for a long time and then suddenly I’ll say something like, ‘Oh, well your swimming pool can’t get Xeroxed.’ And everybody will say, ‘What? I don’t know what that guy is talking about.’ My family has learned that as well, that I’m the one to come up with a non-sequitur. I have about five of them that I like to use at home. I like to say, ‘The moral of the story is’ and I cap it off at that. I was just thinking about being this random person, who always is either the black sheep or the life of the party, but is never quite understood.
The second track, “Ants”, provides the Kottke yin to Gordon’s yang and balances out the playful lyricism of “I Am Random” with the methodical acoustic guitar work for which Leo is known. The instrumental tune finds Gordon’s bass following Kottke’s guitar up and down the scales as the two engage in the musical dance that keeps drawing them back to one another. While Gordon’s “I Am Random” finds the bassist looking inward, “Ants” came to Kottke in a less direct way.
This has been happening to me in the last ten years, that a tune will appear in my head but I know nothing about it. Which leads me to think, ‘What the hell do I think I’m hearing if I call it a tune, but I don’t know the key, the tempo, the meter, the melody or the rhythm?’ That’s where it starts. As always, I just slap the guitar around every day and sometimes something happens. If it fits what’s in my head, all I know is it fits there, but I don’t know if I just found the beginning, the middle or the end. You go from there. And it’s torture.
The 11-track Noon also features a pair of unexpected covers, including The Byrds‘ “Eight Miles High” and “Alphabet St.” by Prince. It turns out that the duo had originally planned on putting “Alphabet St.” on Sixty Six Steps, but got gunshy in the recording process.
We dabbled in ‘Alphabet Street’ when we were figuring out material for our last album 15 years ago. We were in Costa Rica and stayed there for about a week getting our songs together and then we recorded in the Bahamas. When we were in Costa Rica, I said I know this Prince song that has this really great groove to it. Then we get to the Bahamas and our producer is David Z. The only caveat there is that David Z discovered Prince. So we thought that was a little close for comfort. When we were in Vermont making this album, and David Z wasn’t there anymore, we said we gotta try this song again.
The album will also feature a studio rendition of Gordon’s “How Many People Are You”, which he first debuted with his solo outfit back in 2015. Additionally, Phish drummer Jon Fishman is also featured on five tracks.
“Leo was really intrigued to get us together,” Gordon said. “We have 2,000 concerts, etc., of telepathy. Fish is really a unique drummer. He has all these grooves that he’s working on constantly, that have all these patterns from all these different genres. I just said, ‘We want you to do your thing.'”
“The vibe is very different from the other two albums,” continued Gordon. “I was hearing a darkness in the material Leo was bringing, and some of the material that I wanted to bring, that I thought just reflected going through 10 more years of life. There are overdubs, but it’s still more like you’re in a cafe or a living room with these two guys. And even when we had drums, we wanted to maintain that feeling.”
“I just knew there was a shape and that we were following it,” noted Kottke. “We were trying to get to that place that we get to in a little room, just chasing each other. We’ve found that at soundchecks, and at my place, or his place, or some motel room. We wanted to get that late night feel. It’s a more intimate record than the others are, I think there are depths to it.”
Pre-order now: Noon. The new studio album from Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon. A Limited Edition pressing (the clear vinyl with red & gold splatter colorway) will be available only at Dry Goods or Mike’s Store, along with t-shirts and slipmats. Order now: https://t.co/CaNlZnRgrK pic.twitter.com/BFvJu9yXIc
— Phish Dry Goods (@phishdrygoods) August 18, 2020
Listen to “I Am Random” and “Ants”, the first two singles from Noon, the new collaborative album between Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke, below. The album is available digitally on August 28th, visit the Phish Dry Goods website to pre-order vinyl and CDs, out November 20th.
Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon – “I Am Random”
Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon – “Ants”
Noon Track List
1 Flat Top
2 Eight Miles High
3 I Am Random
4 Noon To Noon
5 From The Cradle To The Grave
6 How Many People Are You
9 Alphabet St.
11 The Only One