Mickey Hart held a small press conference in his trailer backstage at the Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival, In Bridgeport Connecticut, on July 23, 2011. Several reporters were present, and this interview features questions from Deadheadland and our friends: Glide Magazine, Stu Levitan Books and Beats, The Aquarian , and Hearst Connecticut.
Photos are by happycat!>^.^< and DHLmonte!
Deadheadland: Hi this is happycat! from Deadheadland, here with Mickey Hart..
Mickey Hart: Is there really a Deadheadland? I’ve always known there to be one, but I didn’t know there to be a physical face on it (laughs), I was always hoping there would be a Deadheadland in the afterlife, but now I am seeing it here in actual form, there is a Deadheadland… well go ahead Deadheadland!
So tell us about the new Mickey Hart Band?
MH: this band was built to perform the music’s I am creating using cosmic sounds, radiation radio waves… I’ve been collecting these light waves coming from the big bang 13.7 billion years ago, from black holes to stars to the planets, sun, the moon, the earth to us. I’ve been toying with these, not really toying, but changing the light waves in the sound waves and having a conversation with them. So this has been a 2 ½ year, almost 3 year project – I’ve been collecting these and working with the scientists at Lawrence Livermore and gathering this information from radio telescopes from around the world, so this is the true history with sonic, it’s called Sonification – I’ve been “sonicfying” the universe basically… and that’s what this band has been made for, to play those, to play with those rhythms, to play with those sounds and to create them on stage in a live situation.
Rather than indigenous music from a couple hundred years back, you had to go back thousands or millions of years years…
MH: …billions, billions, 13.7 billion years ago, to where time and space came from, the beginning of creation the moment that blew our universe up, the blank plate when the blank page of our universe exploded creating stars and planets, us… so, all m books go back to beat one., y’know, the great moment of creation, the downbeat.. But now, until recently, they haven’t been enough instruments, or the instruments haven’t been created, nor did we know exactly when the big bang was, or how far away it was.
Until 2006, when George Smoot, he won the Nobel for it… a Nobel laureate discovered the arch at the beginning of the universe.. and now all my books… I can find out what it sounded like, it’s not just words, I’m bringing the universe into the domain of sound…which it seems like a logical conclusion, y’know, because if there is a vibration, there is a sound and there is a light, because vibration is just either light or sound, it’s a wave form – and once you have the data you can take it wherever you want.
Can you perform using these vibrations of light and sound?
MH:…it’s done through my sound droid, RAMU – Random Access Musical Universe – so RAMU, takes these waves… I program RAMU, it’s just a robot, a droid and it, when I call these sounds up it spits them out, just like any computer, it’s a computer, with a memory bank, light and sound… it’s binary code, zero’s and ones, it’s digital domain stuff, I just bring it in… it’s programmable, I put it into the computer, it’s just a very sophisticated computer.
After the Bay area shows in August, and the other scheduled shows in August, will there be a tour, will there be more shows with this band?
MH: Well this is like a preliminary run, to see what it does do and what it doesn’t do. So we didn’t want to book a tour… we got to see how it works, a work in progress, and then we are going to tour next year, because the CD will be out by then, and that is what I have been involved in doing, is making these cosmic sounds, bringing these cosmic sounds into the world of entertainment, cause you know listening to the raw sound of the universe is not always really entertaining because it’s really in-harmonic sounds out there, there are a lot of collisions, there is a lot of noise out there.
The idea is to bring it out of the noise domain and into the musical domain, so when I get these Sonifications, from Saturn for instance I have to seriously sound design them, make them into what we know as music, because like I said it’s really dense, it’s really in-harmonic of course, and for most people it’s probably as interesting as watching paint dry.
Y’know there are a lot of things that whirl out there, lots of things that chirp, lots of things go boom, and there are a lot of things that hum, and you can only listen to that for so long. So, the art form it’s really more interpretive, I take these sounds, using them as a source material, and bring them into our musical domain into our menu, what we consider as humans, music. I’m in a dance band, we play music that people will enjoy and dance to. So all these sounds and such will be incorporated into what you know as music.
Will there be more Rhythm Devils shows beyond this one at Gathering of the Vibes?
MH: It’s possible, it’s certainly possible. Absolutely.
Do you miss the simplicity of just being at a festival?
MH: I don’t miss it ‘cause I do it… if you mean just hanging out with people,… I do miss that, it’s been years since I’ve been able to just be there, be myself, pick my nose and nobody sees me and all that… yeah, [people] just ask for autographs or they want pictures taken, they’re all nice folks, yeah, I just can’t hang out for long periods of time before someone comes up and tells me how great it all is, and I appreciate that… it’s a little unnerving, but it comes with the turf. I know, I would do the same thing when I saw people I admire; if I ever saw Buddy Rich, or Gene Krupa… or, y’know, I’d go up to them, and they’re trying to enjoy the music or whatever, and I’d go up to them and try and be as unobtrusive as possible, just like most of my fans. Y’know, I just can’t spend long periods of time in one place, but when I want to enjoy myself I just sit down, people don’t really care.
You’re a veteran of the Gathering of the Vibes Festival here in Bridgeport every year, is it something you look forward too, or is it just another calendar date?
MH: No! of course, it’s kind of like – you know, you birthed this, I feel this is very personal, because here are the people who’ve turned onto your greatest creations, and they’re taking it to a new place, beyond, they’re recreating it in their own way. I feel very humbled by it. And I am very gratified to see that the music has resonance and people are embracing it, young folks are embracing it. That is the greatest testament of music, that it lasts, as the song goes it was Built To Last. That’s really one of the greatest compliments you can get. Because there’s nothing like this, and we’re not orchestrating this, people are doing it on their own, for their own good reasons.
And that’s another part of it, it’s for good reasons, they’re chasing the feeling, just like we chased the feeling and that’s what this world and life is all about, chasing the feeling, finding the good feelings and going towards them is the good feeling thing, so, if this , I would say elevates the consciousness, uplifts the consciousness - and anything that does that is high on my list. So it’s not just another night.
But y’know, I don’t really have just another night. Y’know when I do something, I’ll do it with everything I have and I treat it as special as the next night. Because you don’t get to play that much, really, when you consider how many hours you take to rehearse, get ready for something, and then you’re just on the stage for a few hours; so if you look at it in those terms, you take advantage of those times as precious time, that’s how I feel about all shows.
But this, what is particularly gratifying is because of the nature of the history of this event it was spawned, after… after Jerry passed, y’know, by Deadheads that we’re grieving, and they needed a place to go to deal with their emotions. And they found this. And it’s grown, beautifully into something that has great flowers… It’s like your children in a way, they might not be perfect, but it’s certainly a seed you have planted that has come full circle, that is growing and alive, it takes your life’s work, and it continues into the future, and it’s alive, it lives, the music lives.
What is it about sailing…
MH: Sailing? You mean the America’s Cup? Well that’s a rhythm machine. It’s not sailing per se, but it’s any team. I’m a groupist, and I like to see rhythm masters at work whether it’s a basketball team, football team, or America’s Cup team, I like to see the best of the best doing what they do best and exceling at it, taking it to the highest level. Sailing is not necessarily one of my favorite things to do; it’s certainly very enjoyable. I like the water, and it’s certainly a clean sport, there’s no motors in it, so we’re not dirtying up the waters so that’s a good side of it, and also it’s all about rhythm, the wind the sails, the team work it takes to be able to navigate at 40 mph on a pontoon high up in the air, and that’s really… it’s thrilling, it accesses a new domain, a very special domain, it heightens the senses, so in that respect I like sailing, that kind of sailing.
What do you feel about others interpretations of Grateful Dead music, by your former band mates, and others, 7 Walkers, Dark Star Orchestra, etc.?
MH: It’s all good. If anyone has the feeling to make Grateful Dead music, they should make it, and it’s to my benefit, and it’s to everyone’s benefit, and that’s all that’s really important. Hopefully the people that are playing Grateful Dead music play it as it should be played, and that’s all my request would be, y’know, to play it with your heart and soul. So, y’know, I wish all of them good fortune and good luck in their journey playing Grateful Dead music.
Are you going to include any Grateful Dead in the new Mickey Hart Band? What about Mystery Box?
MH: Oh of course! We’ll have some Grateful Dead music in it, because that’s part of me! I wouldn’t want to lose that on the short, because I like the songs – I’ll bring some them with me. Absolutely! And there are a few great Mystery Box songs, "Where Love Goes", "Full Steam Ahead", there’s a few of them we’re going to do, we’re going to select from my whole catalog.
Regarding your work with Smithsonian Folkway’s, can you recommend something?
MH: Funny you should mention that, my collection is coming out on Smithsonian Folkways in a few months, (October 11th) – And so, this is really a rare moment, because I am releasing 25 of the best of my recordings from around the world. And these are recording at the highest resolution, and great liner notes, and it tells of my journey around the world. And also of the indigenous cultures that created this music filled with their stories and hopes and dreams, and thousands of years of evolution that are contained within these talking books.
Do you think discovering this music, the way people at this festival discover music through listening to you, has this has fed your creative aspiration to keep going in this direction?
MH: Absolutely! Well said, because as a song catcher, and there are song catchers out here, the ones that record called tapers, that’s what they are is song catchers, when I go out into the field I learn the riches of the people that I am recording, and that enriches me first, then secondly, when going into these indigenous cultures, them knowing I have taken the time to learn their music, and give some of their music back to them like long lost relatives, or repatriating music.
Some of these musics I have recorded was ripped from them, some by the missonization of music by the Church, taking their music – and giving them a new Bible no extra charge, or by World War II, or by the slave trade… and by recognizing their music, this is really important. They take me in like a member of their family, and then I get to appreciate the best of the best of their music, while being able to curate at the Library of Congress and The Smithsonian those musics that were ripped away from them, and give it back to them – and they are so appreciative of this. Because it’s like a great handshake, that America is giving them, giving them back the things they love the most, their culture, their art, their music.
Mickey Hart had a final question for me:
Deadheadland! Is it a physical place, or more like a state of mind?
Thank you to Mickey and his crew!
Stay tuned to Deadheadland for the happeningest news on earth!
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