Yesterday, The New York Times published an interview between Trey Anastasio and Jesse Jarnow about Phish’s recently ended thirteen-night run at Madison Square Garden dubbed the Baker’s Dozen. In the interview, Trey spoke about the rehearsal process for their MSG residency, as well as how they kept track of avoiding repeats, their penchant for covers, and night 13’s walk-out music to Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind.” Today, Jarnow posted additional excerpts from his interview with Trey on his Twitter. The additional excerpts are clearly more geared toward long-time Phish fans, with the additional responses from Trey giving more in-depth insight into select moments from the Baker’s Dozen run.
In these newly shared interview clips, most notably, Trey continually emphasizes his love of his bandmates and both the mental and personal connection among them, with the guitarist barely able to contain his words of gratitude and admiration for Fish, Page, and Mike. The new excerpts also sees Anastasio speak on night 11’s cover of Radiohead, his love of the band Talking Heads, and a handful of unplanned musical surprises during their MSG residency. Check out the interview excerpts for yourself below.
On the connection among his bandmates:
How did it feel actually getting up there and playing 13 nights in that same room? And in Madison Square Garden at that?
Any time you’re in one place like that, it gets very loose and you’re not moving your gear in and out every night, and you’re not readjusting. Like, when you’re on tour in the summer one night, there’s a metal roof and the next night, you’re inside. There’s no adjustment period. So, the interplay between the four band members becomes heightened based on the fact that that’s the only place changes are made.
There was this moment where we started we started “Lizards” (on night 12) and I’m playing this very quiet thing on the guitar. And just as we started, I wanted to be really quiet and I could feel that Fish couldn’t quite hear my guitar, because he’s just down on the high-hat, and I just immediately know that. He’s behind me and I’m not looking at him. This is as I was singing. And so turned on my Leslie speaker, because my guitar cabinet faces forward and the Leslie speaker faces Fish’s earl was like, “Oh, he needs a little bit more.” I could feel him reaching out to me.
And what went through my mind in that moment was that there were ten thousand adjustments like that happening like every minute. And the reason that it all seems to work is that everybody in the band cares about each other so much. I kind of teared up when this moment happened, when it dawned on me that that was really what this was all about. And then that extends out into the friends and family and the audience.
On covering Radiohead:
Obviously, we love them. Who doesn’t? We admire them. But I kind of wondered if, like, you weren’t a fan of Phish, would you understand the glory of the Jon Fishman vocal? Like, if Thom Yorke and those guys hear that…? [Yorke’s] got such a great voice. And it’s kind of hard to sing. And other people (in Phish) could have sang it. But having Fish sing it was great. He’s Fish. We love him. But he has some character to his voice. How do you explain (to outsiders) that the guy who sang it… “well, he’s like the heart and soul of the band, he’s not normally the singer.” Like, a few years ago, he didn’t think of himself as a singer at all. But it’s so perfect. We all hope that if they do hear it, they know it was done with absolute love and honor.
On jamming during Baker’s Dozen:
You were adding jams to songs that don’t usually have them, like “My Friend, My Friend” on the Jam-Filled Night. How did you choose which ones?
Did we jam on that one?
You sure did.
I don’t even remember. The whole thing became such a blur. I remember getting in the car on the way home one night and somebody said, “Oh, great version of ‘Possum’.” And I didn’t even remember playing “Possum”.
More on jamming:
What suddenly started happening this year is that it feels like all of that shared experience is sort of in those jams. It’s not that playing the covers is a big deal. You can kind of say “why do you play so many covers?” But you learn something from that experience and you learn it together.
So when we’re up there just playing, it’s something that feels like I know what they’re thinking. It’s crazy and it’s so intimate, and I know what Mike is thinking. I was there, and I know that when you learn “Helter, Skelter” and then you learn [sings beginning of “New Age”], you have to have a discussion when you learn that song, like “Oh, what are you doing on the bass?” “No, no, he’s staying on the one chord, there is no five.” And those kind of conversations take hours and days and weeks, like “You know, hey, Charlie Watts keeps the kick drum on one and three his whole career.” So all this information after all these years is sort of not information anymore, it’s like feeling. And I can feel it, I can feel where they’re going.
This kind of thing happens: Page is playing the piano and he’ll move to the Rhodes, and I’m just playing and all I’m doing is listening. Like, Mike, Page, Fish. What’s Page doing? What’s Mike doing? In a circle. Page moves to the Rhodes and he plays a riff on the Rhodes, and I might give him just two notes of a little copy or a harmony. And basically what I’m saying is “hear you that you’re on the Rhodes, I’m with you.” That’s it! It’s just the littlest hint, and I know he heard me and know he knows I’m listening. There’s a combination of that and all of that music that we’ve learned together.
It’s like “I get it, I’m not fighting you, I’m with you.” And then the floodgates just open. We haven’t had a tempo battle in 15 years. And every band has tempo battles. We had so many of those. “Why are you going so fast? Or so slow?”. That doesn’t happen anymore. It’s just incredible. Just patience. I’m so lucky to be in a band with three such… I don’t even know how to express the amount of gratitude that I have. All three of them are so good and so smart and so funny. That’s how I feel the whole time I’m up there. How did I get so lucky to meet such great people? And for them to, like, put up with my bullshit over the years? I feel like I don’t deserve this or something.
Were there any completely surprising things that happened when you were up there?
Lots. Right out of the gate, there were some ambient kind of moments that started happening on day two that were new.
Some of the musicologist Phishheads were freaking out because the ambient jams moved away from a tonal center in a way that you don’t usually.
I love that! I didn’t know if anybody else noticed. Somehow that just sort of happened that night and that became a thing.
On surprises during Baker’s Dozen:
That “Joy” encore was a complete surprise. We walked on stage and we were going to do “Loving Cup”, which is a common encore tune, and we’re just standing there and just kind of like “Oh, let’s just play ‘Joy'”. And it felt so good. And it was completely unplanned. The way that Lemon theme was coming back was a surprise. But I think the biggest surprises were musical. There was some playing that was really clean. One night there was some jam that was happening, I wish I could remember what it was. Maybe it was “Scents and Subtle Sounds” or something like that? It got so jazzy.
On his love of bands, the Talking Heads, and the importance of drummers:
Billy [Joel] has a band, but he’s a great solo artist. So much of what we do and the way we think… I love bands. Bands are fascinating to me. I’m lucky enough to be in a band where the other three guys just are endlessly fascinating to me, and everybody’s shared impact on this thing. I always thought that when I was a kid, I wanted to be in a band.
My favorite band, probably one of my one or two favorite bands of all time… I wish they would get together and appreciate what they had, and that it would be the four of them. I’m saying this with all due respect: it was fun when my favorite band started adding new band members, but I never liked it as much as when it was just the four of them. I’m talking about Talking Heads. The fucking band was so good. Tina’s bass playing SO unique. Yeah, she’s not Bootsy Collins, but that’s why I liked her. I was lucky enough as a high school student to stand in front of her and watch her play. David Byrne and Peter Gabriel when was growing up were as good as it gets, for our generation. I would be scared to be in a room with them. But I love Jerry Harrison’s guitar playing. Oh my god, that guy was just so good. It’s like little teeny little parts that were so so special. And Chris Frantz.
And that’s… [one of the things] about bands to me. I always say and I have said for many many years: Replace your drummer at your peril, band. *Any* drummer. I don’t care if it’s R.E.M. or anybody… there is no replacing Jon Fishman. That goes without saying, but I don’t think there’s any replacing any drummer ever in a band. Ever.
Bands are weird. I don’t know what it is about bands. That’s what this whole Baker’s Dozen thing makes me feel, more than anything, is that I just stand up there and just can’t believe how much I love those guys.
[Photo: CJ Stewart]