|Cubensis guitarist Craig Marshall speaks with Bob Weir in a wide-ranging interview on 6/11/04.|
Bob Weir : Hello?
Craig Marshall : Good Morning! Iím looking for Bob.
BW : Yeah!
CM : Hey, itís Craig Marshall with Cubensis in L.A. Whatís happenin, man? Are you ready for this interview?
BW : You bet.
CM : Okay. Let me see if Iíve got my tape recorder going and all that good stuff. Howís things out there?
BW : Well, itís kind of a rainy day here in D.C.
CM : I see. And I guess all the pomp and circumstance of the Reagan funeral is going on as well.
BW : Yeah!
CM : Yeah. Well, to get this started, let me just do a little introduction if I may, so weíll get it on tape.
BW : Yeah, sure.
CM : OK.......My name is Craig Marshall. Iím the lead guitarist for Cubensis, the Grateful Dead tribute band out of Los Angeles. And obviously, Iím also a big fan, after seeing my first Dead show in 1967 at the Shrine Exposition Hall. Now, Cubensis has been performing as a Dead tribute since 1986. Itís been a real great lifestyle and a privilege to play Grateful Dead music! So the premise of this conversation is that Iím a tribute artist, and Iím talking with Bob Weir today, who of course is the ďreal dealĒ and so, good afternoon to you, Bob!
BW : Hiya!
CM : First, I want to thank you for all the years of wonderful music..
BW : The pleasureís mine. Thanks!
CM : ...and all the experiences that went along with that. So I guess my first question is, ďWhy donít you get rid of those other two jokers that you have now and hire me as your lead guitarist?Ē (Laughing) I had to throw that in, sorry.
BW : (Laughs) Weíll bring it up before the Committee.
CM : Very good! What brings you to D.C. today?
BW : Iím here, Iím actually here to play on a Satellite Radio Station and on Public Radio.
CM : Oh, I see. As a solo act?
BW : Yeah!
CM : That sounds good. As a Californian, do you have any thoughts about President Reaganís passing?
BW : You know, itís a merciful thing. A guy who is that wasted by Alzheimerís, people should be rejoicing that he finally got a break.
CM : What about his significance in history? Any thoughts?
BW : Well, I canít speak too kindly of him with regards to his legacy. Iíd rather not say.
CM : Understood. Okay, you guys are about to start a summer tour, and of course youíll be at the Verizon Amphitheatre in Irvine on June 24th.
BW : Ah-hah!
CM : What do you guys have in store for us this time around?
BW : You know, its impossible for us to tell what weíre gonna be playing. We rehearsed I think some 160-plus songs, some of them even twice! So, I just canít tell you right now. But, you know, it will be fun!
CM : I have no doubt! Any new original tunes?
BW : Yeah!
CM : Whoís writing those?
BW : Mickey, myself, Warren, and Phil is even involved in some of them, and Jeff. Weíve been writing by committee.
CM : And that seems to be working?
BW : Yeah!
CM : Thatís kind of a departure from the old days where Hunter and Garcia might write something, or you and Barlow.
BW : You know, Iíve kind of "had it" with holing up and writing stuff, and then bringing it to the band because really, it almost ALWAYS suffers in the translation. You know... ďLook what theyíve done to my song!Ē So instead of doing that, I like to work on the tune with the guys who are going to be playing it. And that seems to work pretty well.
CM : Just get it over with, huh?
BW : Well, you know what youíre going to get.
CM : Exactly. So for the record, who is in the current line-up of the Dead?
BW : Okay, lets start from the left. Jimmy Herring on guitar. Warren Haynes on guitar & vocals and me on guitar & vocals. Phil on bass & vocals and Jeff Chimenti on keyboards & vocals. And in the back we have Billy Kreutzmann on drums and Mickey Hart on drums & some vocals.
CM : So, Warren Haynes is being billed as a special guest, and you just said heíll also be on stage with the Dead, but heíll be opening as well? Is that correct?
BW : Well, we may be opening by committee. Heís doing a solo acoustic thing, and I might do a little of that, too. And if I do that, youíll probably see other people creeping out, so...
CM : Wonderful!. Its got to have been great for you to have made music with so many world-class lead guitar players - from Garcia and then you know, with everybody else. How is it, say, playing with Mark Karan in Ratdog? Can you describe the experience as compared to Jerry, or is there any comparison there?
BW : Well, Markís technically more proficient than Jerry was, for what itís worth.
CM : His playing has grown by leaps and bounds since he joined Ratdog.
BW : Heís opening up like a flower. But, Jerry was kind of special in his way.
CM : Yeah, totally unique. I understand that Marc Ford was on stage with you in Japan. Can you describe that?
BW : Well, heís an old friend of ours, of mine. You know, we toured together when he was in the Black Crowes. I donít know who heís playing with, do you know who heís playing with now?
CM : I do, and his name escapes me...oh, itís Ben Harper.
BW : Great. I really love his playing. Heís a great guy as well.
CM : Yeah. Both "Marks" have sat in with Cubensis from time to time and weíve really enjoyed that. Theyíre inspiring.
BW : At first, actually when we went out as the Other Ones, we had Steve Kimock. And at that time, Steveís playing was quite reminiscent of Jerryís. I like Steve, heís a wonderful guy and I love playing with him, but it didnít seem to me to be the right choice, although we did it anyway. And then we started looking for people who were unlike Jerry.
CM : Okay, so this was deliberate and...
BW : You know, we were just looking for good players.
CM : Sure. I always thought that the fellow from Dire Straits, Iíd like to have heard him play with you folks.
BW : Yeah, Iím having a senior moment here. I canít remember his name but heís a great player as well. (Mark Knopfler, of course)
CM : Indeed. So, talking about Warren Haynes, weíve been lucky enough to have him sit in with Cubensis as well. Until I met him, I thought he was a rough ďbikerĒ kind of guy, but actually heís very mellow, isnít he?
BW : Yeah. A real sweet guy.
CM : Does Warren ever remind you of Jerry as far as his temperament, or his sense of humor, or anything?
BW : Ah, Warrenís Warren for me. And thatís just fine!
CM : Great. Say, how do you feel about cover bands? Any opinions there? Or any advice you can give a fledgling band, or a tribute band?
BW : Well, yeah...just love what you do. And of course, you do. So thereís no assignment there, thereís no homework there. Aside from that, I donít know what to say.
CM : Okay!
BW : Have fun!
CM : Oh, definitely. Tell me, how was touring with Joan Osborne?
BW : I loved working with her and hope to work with her again at some point.
CM : Was there a certain reason sheís not on board this time around?
BW : Iíll have to pass on that question because I wasnít around when that decision was made.
CM : Okay, fair enough. Garcia passed away in 1995. How often, if ever, do you feel his presence, and can you tell me about any supernatural contact you might have felt when you "knew" he was there?
BW : Well, okay. The morning he died, I was in New Hampshire, and he came to me in a dream. He was dressed elegantly, in Castilian splendor.
CM : Wow!
BW : And he had a long velour cape and all that kind of stuff. In the dream, I was backstage at some gig in a club and I discovered a big old can of invisible paint, and me and the guys in the band that I was touring with, it was Ratdog at that time, we were all, you know, having great fun with the invisible paint, and Jerry came by, you know, popped in. And I said, ďHey, check this out! Invisible paint!Ē And he didnít seem interested, which kind of surprised me. He seemed really preoccupied.
CM : Whoa...
BW : Then I woke up and I think it was 6:15 and you know, I had to go hit the bathroom and then I went back to sleep, so I know what time it was. And thatís probably right around the time he checked out. So, you know, as they say, when somebody checks out, they make some rounds Ďcause time and space no longer exists for them.
CM : Iíve got chills hearing that story...thatís amazing.
BW : And aside from that, you know, heís "there." Every time I pick up a guitar, heís almost there playing. You know, I can hear him. I can hear him coaxing me, saying "Go here, go there... no, donít go there." And Iím my usual headstrong self, so I can feel him lightening up, or getting pissed off at me, or whatever, just like always!
CM : That is great. I mean, youíve got to appreciate that.
BW : They say, in the Japanese culture, in their belief system, when you speak somebodyís name whoís departed, theyíre there, they exist. And any time weíre playing one of Jerryís songs, weíre basically saying his name, so he exists.
CM : I like that a lot. That is awesome. Any thoughts about the passing of Ray Charles? Did you know him?
BW : I never met him. But he was way influential. I was a big fan of his all along. Especially when I was a kid, though.
CM : I just saw a TV special with him and Travis Tritt, I believe, like an hour-long special. That was a nice experience.
BW : Cool.
CM : Music-wise, who are you listening to these days?
BW : You know, I listen to anything but current popular music. I like modern classical, and jazz. Good old fashioned, mean, "street" jazz.
CM : Anybody come to mind, jazz-wise?
BW : Well actually, John Coltrane. Miles Davis. That era really was packing Ďem in for me.
CM : Anybody youíd like to perform with that you havenít had a chance to yet?
BW : Ah, the list is too long.
CM : Let me ask you this. I hope that this is not an uncomfortable question, but there are a lot of people that say that "The Dead," as opposed to "the Grateful Dead," is a reunion of sorts, and they feel that Vince Welnick is conspicuously absent. Was he invited, or did anything happen to prevent that?
BW : Well, what happened was that both Phil and I took up with different keyboard players that we preferred playing with, basically. And we took both of them along on tour last year.
CM : Right.
BW : And then that got whittled down to just Jeff this year. Now, Vince is a good keyboard player and a great guy, you know, and a good singer for that matter, but Iíve got a hotter hand going right now with Jeff.
CM : Well, thatís legitimate.
BW : I mean, he takes us to way cool places.
CM : Exactly...which is what your intent is. No, thatís beautiful. Vince has joined us for a number of shows and itís inspiring for us. It sounds like a 90ís-era Dead show, so itís pretty cool.
BW : You bet.
CM : Have you learned the words to Truckiní yet? (Laughing)
BW : Well, Iíll tell ya. (Laughs). You can know the words as well as you possibly can, but if youíre not having the best of days, itís all just a series of tongue twisters. Itís diabolical when those words come. I know Ďem, but its tough to get them out sometimes.
CM : Thatís a beautiful explanation. I have no idea how you do it, all those lyrics, and all those songs, but you manage.
BW : Yep. Itís a crippled alien spacecraft, I think.
CM : Okay. You know thereís a band in Pasadena thatís called "Bobís Dog Otis"?
BW : Are they any good?
CM : Actually, we love them. They join us from time to time. A good band.
BW : Yes. Once in a while it has happened. You donít see it though. Sometimes when itís dark and you try to walk off the stage and you donít see the edge, you walk off. Iíve done it myself a couple of times.
CM : No major injuries though?
BW : Nah.
CM : Regarding the leadership of the band, who would you say is in charge now, if anybody, or is there a democratic process?
BW : You know, itís a.....well, they say camels are racehorses, designed by a committee, but thatís pretty much what weíve got, a committee rule.
CM : Any plans to tour Europe, either with the Dead or Ratdog?
BW : Iím trying to get Europe on the map for both bands really. Weíve been there with Ratdog a couple of times. But this year, I donít know if weíll have time to do that because itís awfully far away.
CM : Okay. Two more questions then Iíll let you go. Normally Iíd never ask anything like this but my editor said I needed to ask, ďWhy go out as ďThe DeadĒ and potentially run the risk of tarnishing the legacy of the Grateful Dead,Ē if you understand my question? Some people have voiced that criticism.
BW : You know, the hell with the people who feel that way. Let them feel that way. The fact is, we have, you know, almost 40 years of musical conversation that weíve built up, a bag of tricks which is, you know, 40 years in the making. And itís absurd not to use that. These people...I donít know where they get off, having those kind of thoughts or those kind of opinions. You know, who are they? The hell with them!
CM : They obviously didnít "get it" in the first place.
BW : Yeah!
CM : Thatís been my opinion.
BW : Well, you know, they have their own notion what the Grateful Dead amounted to. First off, weíre not calling ourselves, ďThe Grateful DeadĒ. Weíre calling ourselves, ďThe Dead.Ē Secondly, I have an obligation to play with these guys, to continue to further the music. And, boy, you know...those people are serious cranks!
CM : Couldnít agree more!
BW : Not really. You know, if Iím down your way, Iíd love to.
CM : Okay, great! Well Bob, its been great talking to you, and I want to wish you good luck at Bonnaroo and all the other events and weíll be seeing you at as many shows as I can possibly make.
BW : Okay, great!
CM : Good talking with you.
BW : And you!
CM : Take care.
BW : ĎBye.