Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Interview with Keith Olsen 8/9/77

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Bob Weir, Keith Olsen, and Davd Gans

Photo by Ed Perlstein

Producer Keith Olsen has died.

Here is a partial transcript of the interview I did with him on August 9, 1977 at Sound City in Van Nuys CA, while he and Bob Weir were working on Heaven Help the Fool.

[Talking about interview with San Francisco Chronicle’s Joel Selvin, which took place just as KO returned from England with the Terrapin Station orchestrations.] I had just gotten back from England, and here I was with a whole bunch of stuff that the band had never heard: a 58-page score of strings and horns and a 32-voice choir…

The Grateful Dead were overwhelmed: “Oh my god, we’ve lost the band.” I [had done] a mix at Abbey Road… wanting to hear every note that everybody played. The strings and the horns were excruciatingly loud in the mix compared to where they should be. They’d never heard a string mix before… It’s quite a shock, especially when you have no idea what this short weirdo from Los Angeles, California is going to do to your song. All I could do with Jerry was sing him a bunch of parts that I heard, and say, “This is what I’m going to be writing with Paul Buckmaster.” Then you get over there, and Paul Buckmaster being Paul Buckmaster – what a mind!

Those lines are very much Jerry’s melody lines. The woodwinds and reeds are just a counterpoint to it. When he first heard it, we didn’t have the melody yet; the melody was his guitar, and we just had the strings. I said, “Don’t worry.”

We learned a lot in section rehearsals up at Front Street. They were learning a song, but something seemed weird about it. When everybody went off to get a bite to eat, I asked the drummers and Phil to come back. I sez “Okay, let’s run down the tune.”

“What? No guitars? No voices?”

“Sure. You all know where you are.” All of a sudden they had to start thinking… Billy’s going [whispers] “Mickey, how many bars til the bridge?”

I said, “Don’t worry about it – don’t count the bars – it’s got to be a unit.” In the section rehearsal, it just clicked. Without anything else happening in the room, Phil was the instrument that had to play the chord changes.

Phil is a very inventive bass player, and he’s also a super-intelligent person. Duty called! “My god, it’s me! I’m now the rhythm guitar player; I’m holding down the bottom of this tune; I’m also setting any internal rhythm of this tune – any focus on where the chord change is going is all focused on me” – and it clicked. He just fell right into it. To switch into a focused space, he was the easiest one of all. It was amazing.

It allows Weir to do a more inventive rhythm guitar part, where he doesn’t have to be down there at the bottom coppin’ the bass note, the low E string all the time, to make sure there’s a good fundamental; the fundamental’s there, or it’s passed through in a passing tone, always leading to what the next chord is, without any doubt in the listener’s ear. Phil got right into it, and Bob just said, “Great! Here I go.”

Working with two drummers took a long time at first. Being able to translate from live performance, when you can get away with a lot, to the studio – and these little extensions of our ears called microphones, that are a quarter of an inch off a snare drum, quarter of an inch off each bass drum head. Here you have two snare drums, two bass drums, eight tom-toms, 15 cymbals. That’s a pretty giant set! Where is the beat? The feel was inconsistent, depending on who hit first and hardest. I’m talking about milliseconds. The difference of feel between an upbeat and a backbeat… When you have a drummer that is naturally on the back side of the beat, and one on top of the beat… That’s the two colors of the drummers. Something’s got to give. You have to pick the person who’s right for the feel of the tune – which drummer’s doing to be the most solid, have that drummer be the pulse and let the other drummer be the color. That’s really the stuff that Mickey does the best: the color. I used Billy for snare drum and bass drum and pulse, pretty much on the entire album,.

On preparing to work with the Grateful Dead

I remembered what they sounded like when I heard them play live once, several years ago, and they blew me away they were so good. I always wondered why they couldn’t get that on record.

I listened through Blues for Allah once, and I think I gave it away to a friend. It wasn’t very well done, I told them. It seemed like they rushed through it, and then I found out afterwards that they spent five months recording that album.

Five months, really? Then Garcia said, “Let me rephrase that: we spent four and a half months trying to figure out what we should do first, and then the last two weeks recording.” Garcia’a so great. [laughs]

Production by committee is really hard; record-making by committee is really hard. It can work, but the instances of it working are very few and far between.

I’m really pleased with [Terrapin Station]. There were some trying moments, when we really had to grind away to figure out if what we were doing was right. It was a fine line. I didn’t want to dictate to the Dead, ’cause I would destroy a rapport. I didn’t want to let them dictate to me what was going to on the record. I wanted every performance to come out of them, but be open to ideas like… Tom Scott doing a solo on “Estimated Prophet.”

Jerry had never really done any harmony solos, and he got off doin’ ’em. “This is fun!” And he knows his electronics so well. He paid a bunch of money for that Slave Driver 360, which is a function generator that gave us that [sings line from the end of “Lady with a Fan”]. He had it sitting in here for three hours, idling, with signs that said, “Do not touch!” To let it get stable. That thing was crazy: when you play a note, you trigger a bunch of little ICs that say, “He’s playing an E and he’s wiggling it, so I’m going to give a control voltage to the oscillator in something down the line, and I will tell it to play an E and wiggle it.” It’s a most amazing piece of gear; it’s a frequency-to-voltage converter.

[discussion of Les Paul technique of playing a solo over the tape at half speed, used in “Terrapin Flyer”]

“Terrapin Transit” is there to destroy any thought you had about constant tempo – even though it was written and conducted in exactly the same tempo as the tune that preceded it. The violins were on, I think, an 8-beat cycle, the violas on a 7-beat cycle, the cellos in 6, and the second violins in 5… You can click your fingers right through that whole thing.

Weir is an accomplished rhythm guitar player. It’s an art that has been forgotten by too many people in this industry. Rhythm guitar is hard to play! It’s an integral part of making music….

Making the Grateful Dead accessible to people throughout the country in different walks of life and different musical tastes… Garcia has been such an underrated guitarist – he’s so melodic, and the ease of playing… I’ve seen that for years in the band, and I’ve just always wished that band could make a record that I could enjoy.

Dino English on the Grateful Dead’s drummers

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

Last week on Tales from the Golden Road we had a caller asking about drumming – a topic about which this guitarist isn’t nearly as well-informed as I’d like. Later in the program we got a call from Dino English, one of Dark Star Orchestra‘s drummers, adding lots of useful information to the topic. And this week, Dino sent me some more info by email to share with the world.

Here’s Dino:

David,

Just to continue the drum discussion… listening to Betty Board of 10-2-77 off archive…

So this Betty board has Billy snare, kick and toms mostly on left while Mickey snare and toms Mostly on right. Betty [Cantor-Jackson], as well as Dan [Healy], would place stuff as if you were looking at the stage for the most part except Jerry and Bass generally up middle with keys on one side and Bob guitar on the opposite. In this case the keys are hard left, Bob fairly hard right.

First song, Casey Jones, if you put the phones on, you can clearly hear both drummers hitting the back beat at the same time. Both of them hitting the backbeat at the same time happened quite a bit … especially in the 70’s before Mickey started going more world beatish in the 80’s where he would hit a back beat on the toms more. He did do it in the 70’s as well but it was especially prominent after Mickey moved his big Tom to left and right above his snare is the later 80’s

On Jack Straw on this recording you can hear Mickey play backbeats on the toms as well and some snare back beats here and there.

Brown Eyed, on this recording, you have them both hitting back beats on snare.

Even though they are playing similar parts, it still adds to the over depth of the texture.

And of course in general, Mickey was the primary tom fill guy, while Billy driving the groove. Quite often they would trade up who is on hi hats and the other would play ride. But there was certainly times when they both played hi hat or ride at the same time.

They would sometimes fill at the same time as well with a similar rhythm (such as 16th note theme) or quite often Mickey would start and Billy would finish.

But yes, it was all in the purpose of serving whatever song it was they were currently playing. And giving each other space. They were clearly playing together rather than what quite often happens when you get two drummers together where one or both of the them wants to turn it into a drum battle while shitting all over the music.

*

And I should also throw in that on occasion, the channels accidentally got switched by the tapers if they got a board feed and mixed up right and left inputs. Then you’d have Billy on the right and Mickey on the left. But that’s clearly a mistake, as you can hear it if you dial into the same show with an audience recording where the right and left is clear.

And also you can tell it’s wrong by just knowing how they mixed. Both Dan and Betty have told me they mix as if looking at the stage. They both have their differences of how extreme things are panned. Dan tended to go extreme hard left and right with snare kick and hats and the overheads would work as a unifier of sorts with Billy’s right overhead and Mickeys left overhead being almost center (from the perspective of looking at the stage).  … while Betty would not quite pan the snare that extreme. 

I’ve tried to point this out to Charlie Miller at times (with varying results).

On a side note, Dan would make some exceptions. He would hard pan Mickey’s floor toms hard right when if looking at the stage they would be center. He said he did this because the floor toms took up too much sonic space.  

One thing that often seems to be true as well with all this stuff… there are always exceptions to the case. These are all things that developed over time and as with the music, very rarely would things stay the same. 

(added later)
I should mention the cowbell since it can be a pretty predominant part. On many tunes Mickey would often play the cowbell and toms as a textual thing while Billy held down the beat with a kick, snare, hi hat thing. That would be a classic example of them playing very different parts. Examples of this would be Let It Grow or Scarlet > Fire. 

Honoring Stu at KPFA: update

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

Our campaign to raise $10,000 for KPFA in Stu Steinhardt’s name is coming along nicely. As of this afternoon, our total is $7,490.00!

Please add your contribution. Any amount is appreciated! Here’s a link to the story.

You can make a check payable to KPFA and send it to me –

David Gans
484 Lake Park Ave #102
Oakland CA 94610-2730

Or you can contribute via PayPal to david@trufun.com – make sure you mark it FRIENDS AND FAMILY so we don’t have to pay a fee – and include a note stating that it is a contribution to Stuart’s memorial fund.

We’re gonna “pay it forward” and give KPFA several years’ worth of the donations that Stu is no longer able to make. Nothing will replace the hours he gave to the station, nor the PIE he so generously baked for our music jocks. But this plaque will keep his memory alive at the station forever.

And please tune in for the KPFA Grateful Dead Marathon on Saturday, February 15, 9am to 1am pacific time.

Honoring Stu: current total!

Sunday, February 2nd, 2020

As of this morning, we have raised $6,205.00 toward our goal of $10,000. Here is the original post with all the info! Please read it, and please contribute!

Honoring Stu: update

Friday, January 24th, 2020

We’re hoping to raise $10,000 or more for KPFA in Stu Steinhardt’s honor (see the original post for all the details). As of this morning we have collected $2115.

Please read the original post and make a contribution if you can. It’s tax-deductible!

Here is Stuart wearing a KPFA GD Marathon t-shirt (as he often did).

Stuart Steinhardt in a KPFA Marathon t-shirt

Art auction for KPFA/Stu Steinhardt memorial

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020


SPRING, BRIONES by Rita Hurault
Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, ready to hang

We’re raising $10,000 or more for a memorial to Stuart Steinhardt at our beloved KPFA in Berkeley. Here is the announcement of the fund drive.

Rita has offered this painting for auction. Please place your bids in the comments section of this post.

Starting bid is $500.

Fragile Thunder at Lockn’

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

I am thrilled to announce that FRAGILE THUNDER will be at Lockn’ this summer!

Have you heard our CD, One Afternoon Long Ago?

All-Star salute to Dylan/Dead in Cincinnati

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Friday, April 17 at Stanley’s Pub in Cincinnati: Joe Marcinek, David Gans, Lee Owen, Scott Carnder, and Dino English play favorites from the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.

More info and more gigs here.

Honoring Stu: update

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

We’re raising $10,000+ to honor our late friend at KPFA, where Stu was a devoted listener and a frequent donor and volunteer.

Here’s a link to the original post, and I’m here with an update: as of today’s mail we’ve collected $1215. Please click through, read the story, and contribute if you can. No amount is too small.

Stu and Sandy in Utah, 2004.

Book signing in Oakland Jan 31

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

Friday, January 31, at Open Mind Music, 5521 College Ave, Oakland CA (half a block from the Rockridge BART station).

Blair and David will talk and sign books; David will play a few songs.

Honoring Stu at KPFA

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Everybody should have a friend who brings you pie.

Stuart Steinhardt was that friend, to many of us. He loved to bake, and he was wise enough not to consume his entire output – so he SHARED.

Among the beneficiaries of his sweet largesse were the hosts of Stu’s favorite music programs on KPFA, Berkeley’s pioneering listener-sponsored free speech radio station. He brought pies to many of us on countless occasions.

In addition to copious carbs, Stuart also gave generously to KPFA in both time and cash. I co-host a 16-hour Grateful Dead fund-raiser every winter, and Stu was a godsend on that day, year after year. He’d hang out for all or most of the day and night, helping out by answering phones, picking up food, etc. And he invariably wrote a check before leaving the building.

A group of us who were the beneficiaries of Stu’s kindness have come up with a plan to honor his memory at the station: we’d like to raise $10,000 by February 15, the day of the 2020 KPFA Grateful Dead marathon. KPFA has agreed to put up a plaque over the door of the phone room, honoring our dear friend’s lifetime of support.

To that end, we’d like to ask you to contribute. You can make a check payable to KPFA and send it to me –

David Gans
484 Lake Park Ave #102
Oakland CA 94610-2730

Or you can contribute via PayPal to david@trufun.com – make sure you mark it FRIENDS AND FAMILY so we don’t have to pay a fee – and include a note stating that it is a contribution to Stuart’s memorial fund.

We’re gonna “pay it forward” and give KPFA several years’ worth of the donations that Stu is no longer able to make. Nothing will replace the hours he gave to the station, nor the PIE he so generously baked for our music jocks. But this plaque will keep his memory alive at the station forever.

NOTE FROM SANDY SONNENFELT:

Stuart and I had a love of radio in common. He was a fervent supporter of public radio and especially of KPFA. I am deeply moved that a group of his favorite volunteer music jocks have arranged to name the phone room after him.

KPFA depends on our donations to survive as one of the very few truly independent listener- supported radio stations. In honor of Stuart, I hope you will join us in donating to the station. No amount is too small. Thanks in advance for your generosity.

P.S. Stuart is wearing KPFA Marathon t-shirts in both of these photos!

Gans gig update

Friday, January 10th, 2020

I’m too lazy to hand-code all the links for this post, so please go to dgans.com for more info.

Saturday, January 11, 3pm: Scott Guberman and DG at Pt San Pablo Harbor Club, 1900 Stenmark Drive, Richmond CA

Saturday, January 25, 1-4pm: SoL Cannabis, New Washoe City NV. Free!

Wednesday, January 29, 7:30pm: DG opens for Craig & McGregor Band at The Marsh, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley CA

Sunday, February 9: DG opens for Grateful Shred at SLO Brew Rock, 855 Aerovista Place, San Luis Obispo CA

Wednesday, February 19: Orpheum Theater Lounge, Flagstaff AZ
Thursday, February 20: DG and Let It Grow at Moonlight Lounge, 120 Central Ave SW, Albuquerque NM
Friday, February 21: DG and Let It Grow at Tumbleroot Brewing, 2791 Agua Fria St, Santa Fe NM
Sunday, February 23: DG and Let It Grow at Taos Mesa Brewing, 20 ABC Mesa Rd, El Prado NM

Wednesday, February 26: Yerba Buena Orchestra at Iron Springs Pub and Brewery, Fairfax CA

Thursday, March 26: “Salute to Dylan and the Dead” – Joe Marcinek, DG, Adam Perry, Edwin Hurwitz et al. Fox Theater, Boulder CO. Advance tickets available

Sunday, March 29: Ten-Mile Ride: A Deadhead Ski Excursion, Frisco CO. DG & Joe Marcinek do a “Salute to Dylan and the Dead.” Advance tickets available.

April 3-4: Skull & Roses Festival, Ventura CA

Wednesday, April 15: Farnam Manor, 4223 Brecksville Rd, Richfield OH
Thursday, April 16: The Winchester, Lakewood OH
Friday, April 17: “All-Star Salute to Dylan and the Dead” at Stanley’s Pub, Cincinnati OH. DG, Joe Marcinek, Lee Owen, Scott Carnder, Dino English
Saturday, April 18: Plain Folk Cafe, 10177 State Route 132, Pleasant Plain OH. Free show! FB event
Sunday, April 19: Rumba Cafe, Columbus OH
Monday, April 20: DG and Joe Bellanti at 9th Ward at Babeville, 341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo NY
Tuesday, April 21: DG and Into the Now at Abilene Bar and Lounge, 153 Liberty Pole Way, Rochester NY
Wednesday, April 22, 8pm: DG and Randy Miritello at the B-Side Ballroom, 1 Clinton Plz, Oneonta NY
Friday, April 24: DG and the Deadbeats at Skyloft, Albany NY
Monday, April 27: DG and Pearly Baker’s Best at Funk’n’Waffles, Syracuse NY

Friday, May 1: Yerba Buena Orchestra at Murphy’s Irish Pub, Sonoma CA. Free!

A Heyday Hootenanny in Berkeley July 28

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

A HEYDAY HOOTENANNY
Sunday, July 28, 6pm
Heyday Books, 1808-A San Pablo Ave, Berkeley

It was Steve Wasserman who introduced me to Jim Page‘s music back in the 1970s. I was a young singer-songwriter out to change the world by persuasion, and there was Steve, out to change the world by more direct means. And here’s Jim Page, who embodies both our approaches. He’s been persuading and inspiring for decades, and also putting his ass on the line in the streets.

Jim and I met at the High Sierra Music festival around 20 years ago, in a late-night songwriters circle. We’ve played gigs together occasionally in the intervening years. I adapted his wonderful lyric to “Down to Eugene” to fit a fingerpicking tune of mine (which earned me a compliment from Jorma Kaukonen that I will treasure to my dying day); it’s on my album The Ones That Look the Weirdest Taste the Best and it’s one of the most popular numbers in my solo repertoire.

When Heyday Books moved into its current location in January of 2019, Steve posted a photo of his new conference room and made a crack about having me christen it with a song. That planted a seed in my mind that took a few months to bear fruit: why not do a ‘house concert’ in that room, for the benefit of Heyday as well as for the musicians?

Songwriters are always looking for venues that are interested in original music and/or ‘listening rooms’ as opposed to dance halls. I thought, a book publisher would be a great setting for an evening of conversation and original song. And given Heyday’s focus on California, I thought a series featuring California-based songwriters would make sense.

I sent a note to Steve outlining the idea, and he responded enthusiastically; we made a date to meet.

The night before our meeting I got an email from Jim Page, asking about the possibility of playing a show together the last week of July. ‘Your timing is perfect,’ I replied. ‘I am going to see Steve Wasserman tomorrow to talk about doing a ‘house concert’ at Heyday. How about you and I do that?

California-born, Seattle-based Jim Page has recorded 22 albums and toured in 14 countries. His songs have been covered by Christy Moore, Dick Gaughan, Roy Bailey, The Doobie Brothers, The Moving Hearts, Michael Hedges, Leftover Salmon, and many others. “The political and social awareness of those times was a part of all artistic expression,” he says, and it has stayed that way in Jim’s music ever since.

Page moved to Seattle in 1971 and performed in the streets an in the folk clubs. According to his web site, “In 1974, after being threatened with arrest for singing on the street without a permit, Jim took on the Seattle city government to… legalize street performing. He sang his testimony to a packed council hearing, and the streets were opened by unanimous decision. It was a landmark case and Seattle is now an internationally famous city for buskers of all styles.”

Utah Phillips, quoted in Page’s bio: “Jim Page’s songs get right to the point. He looks at the world clearly and reports what he sees with compassion, humor and a biting sense of irony. And boy! can he sing and play.”

Although I am best known for my work as a historian and curator of Grateful Dead music (four books, two national radio shows, and producer of several boxed sets and compilation albums), I have been writing and performing my own songs for fifty years. The first thing I ever played on the guitar was a song I wrote with my brother, who taught me the chords and set me on the path I’ve been on ever since.

I came up in that time when music was the primary cultural currency of the youth movement, and I have never stopped believing that music can and does change the world. I prefer inspiration and information over coercion.

Opening the show will be a performance by folk legend Barbara Dane and her son, Pablo Menendez. Oakland-based Dane, 92, has been a musician and activist for more than 60 years. Her son Pablo, born in 1952 and a resident of Cuba since 1966, has been an indelible part of many Cuban music scenes for more than fifty years. He is the subject of the 2017 documentary So Near…So Far.”

The evening will be hosted by Steve Wasserman.

All of the participants in this evening are committed humanitarians who have organized our lives around a desire to preserve, protect, and improve this planet and its population for the good of all.

RSVP to emmerich@heydaybooks.com

Here’s a link to the Facebook event

My complete performance schedule is here.

New album: HOME SWEET HOME

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

David Gans, Home Sweet Home – Solo loop improvisations, Spring 2019

Available only on Bandcamp – free, or pay what you want.

Gans on tour this week

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia!

  • Tuesday, May 14, 7:30pm: The Pour House Music Hall, Raleigh NC, opening for The Sweet Lilies
  • Wednesday, May 15: Charleston Pour House, 1977 May Bank Hwy, Charleston SC. With Reckoning and Tenth Mountain Division. Advance tickets here
  • Thursday, May 16: Smokey Joe’s Cafe, 510 Briar Creek Road, Charlotte NC
  • Friday, May 17: MadLife Stage & Studios, Woodstock GA with Frankly Scarlet
  • Saturday, May 18: Local Motive Brewing Company, 123 N Dargan St, Florence SC
  • Sunday, May 19, 12:30-3:30pm: Wicked Weed Brewing Co., Asheville NC. Free show!
  • And Illinois in June!