Grateful Dead Music Forum

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Is one of the drummers over playing?

The one on the right's out of control.
The one on the left is out of control.
No votes
Both are just exactly perfect.
 #99195  by ugly rumor
 Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:01 am
ok...I'm going to say it again...those who wish may close their ears. So long as each of them bring their perception to the music, they are contributing, and neither is overplaying. It seems that you guys are trying to control the other musicians, if you feel you have to glare at one of them to make him play what is in your head, instead of playing his immediate interpretation of the song. My advice is to play off of each other, and let aech one play according to his immediate feel of the song. You may not sound like the Dead ever did, but the music will be alive, vibrant, unboxed, and you will open up incredible possibilities of where the music can go. Sometimes it may suck, for a while, but that's just a risk you take. If you are good enough, and listen, you will play into new horizons. When I first heard John Coltrane I didn't understand why people thought he was so great. And the live album with Pharoah Sanders seemed to me to be solid noise, no musical value. I had a lot to learn (still do; trying hard not to die dumb, but way behind schedule).

That said, I liked what each one contributed. no such thing as overplaying or underplaying. There is only playing. My greatest three influences on bass are Phil lesh, who taught me to think, Ernie Williams, who taught me to feel, and John Cage, who taught me that the band is the floor for each instrument. Cage's composition "Four Walls" has moments of pure silence for a minute or two at a time. I don't consider that underplaying, but pure mastery of time and place, which to me is what music is. Also his experimentation with random sounds taught me that to control every aspect of music is to kill it.

That will be two cents, please.
 #99197  by Rusty the Scoob
 Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:23 am
I'm not a believer in this theory. There are plenty of crappy musicians out there that may play their heart out and believe fully in what they are doing, but the end product is still crap.

Jerry, Phil, Trey, McCartney/Lennon, John Cage, Coltrane, all of them worked their asses off for years and years to improve the quality of their musicianship so they could spread their musical message properly.

Nobody is completely born with it, and no musician is at a level where they can't improve.
 #99201  by playingdead
 Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:59 am
That's all well and good, in a musical sense, but Playing Dead has a specific goal, and that is to play Grateful Dead music as authentically as possible. It's not to "interpret" the Dead's music through our own musical filters -- there's nothing wrong with that, but it is not this band's approach. The improvisation and creativity involved in our approach comes within the existing structures of the Dead's music and instrumentation, much as a good jazz combo interprets jazz standards by being faithful to the original charts as written, and then being expressive during the solos. You can cover a Duke Ellington tune by playing a bassoon through a distortion box, and that's music, but it's not going to sound like a Duke Ellington arrangement. We could set "Shakedown Street" to a West African rhythm, but it won't sound like the Dead if we do. Playing a Les Paul into a Marshall stack with a lot of gain is a lot of fun, but it's not fitting with the presentation of Grateful Dead music that we have dedicated this band to. And I'm sure my bandmates would be glaring at me onstage if I did it. We are not as rigid as DSO is in the interpretation, but we make an effort to stay in the late 70s mid 80s side of the Dead's sound.

I write my own material, and it doesn't really sound anything like Grateful Dead music, and that's why PD doesn't play any of it. This band has a different mission. Try not to pass judgment on what you perceive as horizons being limited when there is a musical agreement within the band (who are all very adept at their instruments and most of whom play in other settings that have nothing to do with Dead music) to try to be faithful to the sound of the original.
 #99210  by ugly rumor
 Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:07 am
I agree with both of you, to a point. First, we are all crappy musicians in comparison to someone, and we are mostly better than some. And you are right, the room for improvement is the biggest room in the world. However, "crap" is subjective, so I'm not willing to give that label to anyone's level of achievement or ability to express himself through the language of music. Mozart would not think that any of us were accomplished, I'm sure.

If what you are trying to do is give the impression that the audience has heard the Grateful Dead, I understand that. There are songs that get covered that sound different when covered by different people. "My Favorite Things" by John Coltrane is nothing like the same song sung by Judy Garland. And if there were only one way to play "Autumn Leaves", it wouldn't be covered by so many different people. But I highly doubt that Phil felt like he had to play the exact same notes in the exact same way to be a member of the Grateful Dead. He brought himself to the table each time, and it was seldom the same. I also don't think that Jerry limited any member of the band to playing what was in his head. I guess the fundamental difference in our approaches is that you are trying to be someone else, and I want the music to be open and expressive; alive. Yes, you have to have a structure, an understanding of where the music is going to go, but how you get there should be an expression of how you want to interpret the music, with a musical vocabulary that allows communication and creativity. I'm not saying anyone should be speaking French when the conversation is in English. But if the language is sufficiently understood by everyone, there should be no problem using words to express yourself, and sentence structure, that is creative and interesting.

"Shakedown Street" to west African...sounds interesting!
 #99219  by Rusty the Scoob
 Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:04 am
Jerry threw Phil down a flight of stairs once because he didn't like something he played (or didn't play IIRC). And the band briefly fired Pig and Bobby because they weren't keeping up with complexity of the music that Phil and Jerry were writing early on. There are hundreds of anecdotes of strife among famous jazz bands. Bands that never discuss the quality of the music out of fear of stepping on each other's toes are doomed to be mediocre.

You have to understand your place in the food chain. If you're the strongest member of the band, than feel free to give pointers to the other members, tactfully, and as egolessly as possible. If you're the weakest member of the band and the other members give you pointers, it would serve both you and the band well to listen to what they have to say.

Regarding doing a tribute vs. an original interpretation, there's room in life for both avenues but you have to follow the stated goal of the band or you're not a good bandmember.

And finally, don't dismiss anyone going for the authentic sound as just a copycat - I for one am fully capable of expressing myself while still also doing a reasonably accurate Phil impression. It takes a lot more work and dedication than simply learning the chord changes to songs and playing your own interpretation, but it can be done. You just have to break all of your own musical habits and replace them with Phil's, and learn to think about music the way that he thinks about it. It's like learning a language - once you learn it fluently enough it becomes a communication tool that you can use to say whatever you like.
 #99224  by playingdead
 Fri Jun 10, 2011 1:35 pm
That recording I posted was only drums, you're only hearing the rest of the band through the drum mics.

Here's the whole band, same show: ... hnnydsset2
 #99225  by hippieguy1954
 Fri Jun 10, 2011 2:08 pm
playingdead wrote:That recording I posted was only drums, you're only hearing the rest of the band through the drum mics.

Here's the whole band, same show: ... hnnydsset2
Ok, well that explains that, and now after listening to both recordings of Jackstraw again I think the drums and the whole band together sound fuckin awesome!
 #99226  by NWPines
 Fri Jun 10, 2011 2:42 pm
hippieguy1954 wrote:...I think the drums and the whole band together sound fuckin awesome!

I'm alone in the office today so I've had music on most of the day (I love these days!). Just listened to a bulk of the show you posted on the archive, and yeah, you guys really have it dialed in. Sounds terrific, all the way around!
 #99243  by jester536
 Sat Jun 11, 2011 6:45 am
I totally understand Vic's take on this...the idea is to recreate a moment. Any knucklehead that has played air-guitar understands the desire to actually create some of the music that we all love so much. The kicker is that the guys in Playing Dead have the ability to pull it off...and at such a high level. I'm sure they can all play lots of different styles of music...I for one am very interested in hearing Vic's original stuff...but I appreciate that they take the time...and considerable effort to recreate some fantastic Grateful Dead music...and I hope they continue to do it...without changing one, goddamn thing.