Phish‘s Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell sat down for an in-depth discussion of their new duo album, January, on SiriusXM‘s Phish Radio. The conversation focused on the pair’s 40-year friendship and how it manifested in the process of making the album, their second as a duo following 2020’s December.
“The tracks are live on both albums,” said Trey. “There’s no click tracks or anything. … When we went in, we didn’t know what was going on or how long each section was, and we were kind of still doing a lot of improvising. And when I hear the album now, the lifetime of friendship is what I hear.”
He went on to express appreciation for their relationship and the casual, spontaneous nature of the recording process: “The fact that the basic tracks are still you and I in a room together—one, two, three, go—is something that I really love to hear because I think it’s a precious thing to me at this point in life. I’m old enough now to know that I’m never gonna meet anybody ever—ever—it’s not possible to meet anyone that you’re gonna be able to play with like that. I mean, other than the two guys in the band, the other guys. But I mean, we’ve been playing together for so long, and even though this album sounds really unique and fresh to me and new, it still has that one quality to it. That’s what really moves me on an emotional level. I’m so glad we didn’t construct this music.”
Trey and Page took listeners behind the scenes throughout the discussion, detailing how individual tracks came together, highlighting their favorite parts of the album, and sharing the meanings behind songs with each other—in some cases, for the first time. For example, when discussing the single “Life Saving Gun”, Trey said he was horrified to learn that someone thought it was about concealed carry firearms, while Page added that he himself didn’t know what the song’s lyrics were about. Trey went on to explain that the song is actually about something like a speaker that emits healing vibrations. “I like that,” Page said after learning the song’s intended meaning.
The best parts of the discussion, though, were when the two musicians reflected back on their forty years in Phish, offering rare insight and perspective.
“If I had to point to a favorite part of the 40 years, it might be band practice,” Trey reflects. “I mean, I like it all, and I certainly love playing at Madison Square Garden, and I love watching people dance, and I love it all, but when I think about the memories of stopping band practice because Trek is on, old Trek, you know, original Trek is on at noon and we stop for Trek. … Those times to me are more precious, and what I’ve seen with a lot of bands is that they get, the horrific word—’famous’—and then they start chasing something. This project encompassed all the things I love about being in a band—my friendship with you, that we’re laughing, and we’re making stuff up, and we’re just seeing where it goes.”
Trey also took the time to acknowledge the role that producer Bryce Goggin played in the making of January. “It was just the three of us, for those of you at home,” he said. “There was nobody else involved, it was just the two of us and Bryce.” He went on to praise Goggin for helping produce the album without imposing too many of his own ideas. “He’s not trying to change us. Where [working with producers] has failed in the past, I might suggest, would be when it’s like, ‘Well, I’m gonna take Phish and fix them.’ You know what i mean? ‘Well, I’ll show you how to make a great record,’ or whatever it is.”
“I’ll be the producer that breaks Phish,” Page offered. “Yes!” Trey agreed, adding, “We were broken to begin with.”
Another interesting Phish fact mentioned in the conversation was that the beloved instrumental song “What’s the Use” briefly had lyrics. Trey explained what happened to them as he described his preference for instrumental music over songs with lyrics.
“I go the Philharmoninc a lot for pleasure and then I go to the [Metropolitan Opera House] sometimes … and you know, one has lyrics and one doesn’t, obviously. The great operas have great lyrics, but the contrast is so huge that I do prefer my nights at the Philharmonic. It’s like a mystery, too, the powerful melody without lyrics. I guess a great lyric can kind of focus your emotion in a certain direction, but sometimes the beauty is not having it focused in a certain direction. … When I listen to January, I love the instrumental tracks. You have a song with a lyric, and then you have this pause where you can just take it all in and the next song you’re still thinking about the previous song a little bit. It’s all part of one little journey, but the pacing of it, it’s like a glacial pace.”
Page went on to praised Trey’s drumming on the album as “solid and grooving, but not drawing attention to itself in any kind of negative way.” Trey responded, “I love playing the drums. What a thrill! I probably drum like a songwriter.”
The pair then joked about their next duo album: “I cannot wait for February,” said Trey. “It could be April. April could be the third installment.”
“See you in September!” Page replied.
Listen to Trey and Page’s discussion in its entirety via SiriusXM’s Phish Radio here. The conversation will also be rebroadcast at the times listed below.
PAGE + TREY: IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Fri 3/24 @ 4pm ET
Sat 3/25 @ 6pm ET
Sun 3/26 @ 8am ET
Today at 5pm ET: @treyanastasio and @pagemcconnell will be on air together discussing ‘January: in their own words’. Hear about their songwriting process, the odd tunings Trey used, and their sonic approach in the studio.
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— Phish Radio SXM (@PhishRadioSXM) March 22, 2023