Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke: Happiness and All That Fizz
photo credit: Jared Slomoff
Sometime in the 1980s, Jon Fishman saw Leo Kottke perform for the first time at the tiny Burlington, Vt., club Hunt’s. The drummer—who had recently co-founded Phish with Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon and Jeff Holdsworth—had been listening to the lauded acoustic guitarist’s music since high school and was particularly mesmerized by his reading of The Byrds’ classic “Eight Miles High.” But the nascent Phish member still left that seminal performance with an unexpected realization.
“I came away from that concert saying to myself, ‘Man, Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke should never meet—if they ever met, that might be the end of the world,’” Fishman says between cackles a few decades later, checking in from his home in Maine, months into the novel coronavirus pandemic. “I remember reading in Miles Davis’ autobiography that he had had an appointment to meet with Jimi Hendrix that never happened and I thought, ‘If they ever met, then that might be the end of the world. It would be so good, it’d be illegal.’ I had the same thought about Mike and Leo. After that show—especially after hearing Leo speak between songs—I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe there’s another person on earth that’s got the same sense of humor as Mike.’”
Of course, Gordon and Kottke eventually did connect and, for going on 20 years, they have been at the heart of one of the most beloved side-projects in the Phish orbit. The duo—with an assist from Fishman on a few songs—released Noon, their third full-length album and first in 15 years, in late August on Megaplum/ATO. The 11-track set not only marks their long-awaited return to the studio, but also Kottke’s first album since their previous collaboration, 2005’s Sixty Six Steps. A welcome mix of Kottke originals, Gordon staples and covers, including another take on “Eight Miles High,” Noon’s roots actually date back to the pair’s last tour together a decade-and-ahalf ago. While on the road supporting Sixty Six Steps—driving from gig to gig in a car, as is Kottke’s preferred method of transportation—the guitarist played Gordon a few songs that the bassist remembers thinking were a bit more subdued and melancholy than their previous albums. Then, a few years later, Gordon attended a Kottke performance and was so struck with the song “Ants” that he recorded it on his phone.
“I remember thinking, ‘That could be a new kind of thing for us to go really crazy with,’ something that’s both intricate and also kind of dark sounding,” Gordon says, calling from his home in Vermont, on a beautiful fall day just before he’s scheduled to participate in a bass webinar for the Berklee College of Music. “So these ideas were brewing for about 10 years, between 2005 and 2015, and the idea to work with a drummer ebbed and flowed. It’s helpful because we’re both liberal with our stretching and pushing and pulling of time and rhythm; it’s good to anchor that with a drummer, some of the time. On the other hand, we started getting into this sound of just the two of us and getting much more dialed in and thoughtful about how that’s handled.”
The 75-year-old, Oklahoma-bred Kottke—who is riding out the global pandemic at home in Minneapolis—has long been revered for his acoustic-guitar skills, helping inspire the recent American primitive revival. A student of John Fahey’s fingerpicking approach, he’s forged a singular career over the past five-and-a-half decades through his often instrumental fusion of blues, jazz and folk music, as well as his flair for syncopation. Though he has a knack for longwinded, humorous stories—much like Gordon—he’s also a straight shooter. And he sees the low-key nature of Noon’s genesis as simply an outgrowth of their friendship.
“Inevitably, you’re going to wind up playing together,” he says, in his deep, NPR-like cadence, making sure to note that this early afternoon interview was the first talking he’d done all day. “This time around, Mike had more of a focus toward something he wanted, and I was happy to be there. We didn’t set any dates or anything; it was much more scattered than that, and it always has been. If Mike weren’t the other half of this, then none of it would get done, except maybe the very first record because we were both curious. This time, I was kind of the ‘no-guy,’ though Mike gives a good ‘no’ as well.”
The guitarist says that he and Gordon started fooling around in the bassist’s now-defunct home studio a few years ago. They hit a speedbump at one point when, as Kottke recalls, “the system wasn’t working—it was hollering up,” but they continued to dabble together. While Gordon quickly honed in on the darker sounds he heard in the music they were both bringing to the table, Kottke believes that those melancholy tones have actually been a key part of their joint venture from the start.
“Happiness is just a bunch of fizz, but joy contains a lot of sorrow,” he says. “When you hear something beautiful enough, you’re gonna cry. When you hear something sad, you’ll be moved, but you don’t necessarily break. Charles Lott, who’s one of the best actors we’ve ever had, always had something silly in his most complicated or sad or tragic scenes, and we’ve got that in all the records we’ve made.”
In addition to their work in Vermont, Gordon and Kottke also decamped to New Orleans to lay down tracks in early 2019. The sessions took place right before Gordon and his solo band headlined a big show at The Joy Theater timed with Jazz Fest—in the midst of an action packed week that found the bassist checking out different late-night jams and sitting in with the likes of The Claypool Lennon Delirium and numerous projects involving his keyboardist Robert Walter. In contrast to that marathon, while working with Kottke, Gordon mostly prepped for their sessions at his hotel, despite the flurry of activity outside his door.
“I liked bouncing around between different kinds of experiences in the same city,” says Gordon, whose musical identity was tied to his numerous guest appearances for many years, though he’s chosen to focus more on long-term projects since Phish’s 2009 reunion. “Having personal time, recording time and doing a gig in one of the most inspiring cities on the planet made for two of the best weeks of my life.”
Throughout their slow-burn process, Gordon worked alongside one of his closest confidants, producer/engineer Jared Slomoff, to massage their songs, while still maintaining the live, in-the-room feel of their raw performances. The Barr Brothers pedal-steel accompanist Brett Lanier and cellist Zoë Keating of Imogen Heap, who has collaborated with Amanda Palmer, Tears For Fears and Dan Hicks, were eventually brought in to flesh out Noon’s tracks and Fishman laid down drums on four tunes remotely.
Gordon admits that they only seriously considered two drummers for Noon—the other being Brian Blade—but that Kottke lobbied hard to bring his Phish bandmate into the fold. “I’ve wanted to get Mike and I together with Fish for a long time,” he says. “Clearly those two guys are joined at the hip, but Mike always thought that we needed to find the two of us and, by bringing in the Phish voice, it would get in the way of that. But, maybe three quarters of the way through recording in New Orleans, we finally got to where we are when we play face to face in a little room. And once that was there, I think it was congenial for Mike to work with Fishman.”
Outside of his partnership with Gordon, Kottke has also maintained a deep friendship with Fishman for years. He believes they first met when the drummer and his then-girlfriend approached him after a show in upstate New York. And even before he saw Phish live, Kottke checked out Fishman’s bar band Pork Tornado at Minneapolis’ First Avenue, on a night that Gordon also sat in, during the fall of 2002.
“I went down to see Fishman first and secondarily to hear the band,” the guitarist says. “I figured, ‘I’m not gonna get much of a listen to Fishman because it’s one of those bands that’s gonna be too goddamn loud.’ But I was mesmerized by what Fishman was doing—a real, strong metal thing. And the band was hilarious. As I was watching Fish, he had the lightest touch with those drums in a very loud place. It takes a kind of magic to be heard and make a difference, both in your head and in your viscera—to do some good and still have your voice.”
For Fishman, who is used to recording in a group setting, adding his parts so late in the process was a bit of a learning curve, but he quickly found his place. “The way that you get to know Leo and Mike’s music is almost like getting to know their personalities,” he says. “Instead of finding a groove, I had to listen and find these little nooks and crannies. When you’re adding drums to the top of these already prerecorded tracks, time really does turn elastic, like in that song Trey wrote.” [Laughs.]
The drummer is also quick to add that Kottke meets his “six-hour-radius” rule, alongside the likes of Sun Ra, The Residents and Cattle Decapitation.
“If I like something enough, I’ll travel as far as six hours by car for it,” he says. “And Leo Kottke is one of those people that I would probably travel the full six-hour limit to see. Since the day that he and Mike first hooked up, I’ve been pitching myself. In 10th or 11th grade, Leo was just in my regular rotation alongside Frank Zappa’s Sheik Yerbouti and David Bowie’s Hunky Dory. But Leo would always say, ‘Well, I really hate all drummers. [Laughs.] Drums are too loud. It starts out quiet and all, but it just gets louder and louder.’ So I said, ‘Leo, I will be the quietest drummer that you will ever hear. I’ll start the gig quiet, and I’ll get quieter.’ Maybe it was just an unavoidable combination. Eventually, these two stars had to collide—these gravitational forces were going to suck each other into the same vortex. There may have been no way to avoid it.”
The arc of Gordon and Kottke’s musical partnership has had a mythological quality from the start. In the late ‘90s, Gordon handed Kottke a copy of Phish’s recent album The Story of the Ghost, an issue of Bass Player he appeared on the cover of, a recording of the guitarist’s song “The Driving of the Year Nail” with his parts dubbed in and his book Mike’s Corner—a compilation of his offbeat columns from Phish’s The Doniac Schvice newsletter—after a show in Vermont. Kottke famously prefers to do things on his own terms and took a while to get back to Gordon before agreeing to try and work together. (He’s said that it was Mike’s Corner that ultimately persuaded him to give it a shot.)
“I love what I don’t understand,” Gordon says. “With Leo, these rhythms and patterns and different genres that come together—these melodies that he does—are just so inspiring. No other acoustic guitar player does that for me. I always put him in this category of individuals that I tell people they have to see. Gillian Welch is on that list and Toots and the Maytals were on that list, too. And the Grateful Dead were, of course, in that upper echelon.”
Their first meeting got off on the wrong foot when Kottke flew to Vermont instead of New York, where Gordon was based at the time, but they eventually connected and laid the seeds for their future endeavors.
“When we first met, we certainly clicked, but to build up the trust and the understanding—and not just in the music, but in the way we talk about the other things in our life and the way that the humor works and the way that just being there for each other in hard times works—certainly has grown over time,” Gordon says. “[That’s true in terms of ] our lives, our individual tastes and our tastes together.”
Fishman remembers being in longtime Phish manager John Paluska’s office in the early ‘00s when he heard about the union and thinking, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! This is actually happening? I thought I was in a dream,” he says before trailing off into laughter. “I mean, it’s just such a weirdly serendipitous world. They are so much alike. They’re both really prodigious in their work, they’re both constantly creating and constantly playing and making. Trey’s a lot like that, too—this sort of endless flow of ideas.”
In 2002, the duo released Clone, Gordon’s first full-length album outside Phish, during his band’s two-year hiatus. The LP was critically acclaimed, thanks to its delicate harmonies and intricately layered mix of guitar and bass. It also helped introduce Gordon to a new, refined audience, thanks to their appearances on A Prairie Home Companion and Mountain Stage.
“When we first met, we thought we could play but we couldn’t, and then, we found one little window and that first record was basically done in a garage that’s actually a good studio,” Kottke says. “We used what we had at hand. We did our own percussion and were just farting around to see what we would get. We were more than half done when we realized we had to get somebody to pay for it. And it hasn’t changed in that way.”
While their wry humor, quirky personalities and mutual admiration for American roots music made their newfound partnership feel like a natural fit, the Phish bassist also noticed just as many differences in their personalities off the stage.
“On tour or at home, he likes to spend time alone,” Gordon says. “He’ll practice, he’ll read books, he’ll test out direct boxes, which is pretty much his only piece of gear other than the guitar. He’ll walk to the local vegetarian market, or he’ll spend some time with Kevin Muiderman, who’s the great luthier who is now building all of his guitars. And I just like to be around people. Sometimes I’m awkward and I’m not very sociable, but then in other ways, I’m just a people person. When I’m on tour, I’ll walk through a town, find the coffee houses, find some music. Sometimes I’ll Uber if it’s a big town, but I’ll often walk around on a day off for eight or 10 hours. I’ll take my laptop and sit at a coffee shop. So we’re kind of opposite in that way.”
The Clone support run segued right into Phish’s high-profile 2002 reunion and the launch of Gordon’s Inside In solo project, which kept him busy for a while. Gordon has said that changes in his life come in waves and, after Phish broke up in 2004, his cat passed away and he decided to return back to Vermont full time. However, Gordon and Kottke eventually regrouped in the Bahamas to work with Prince producer and fellow Minneapolis staple David Z on what became Sixty Six Steps.
“Mike heard some calypso in what I was doing. He reminded me that when I first picked up a guitar, I heard a glimmer of that in my head,” Kottke says. “I couldn’t tell you where it came from because those records were rare back then, especially in the little town in Oklahoma where I lived, but he was right about that.”
Gordon, who had an early peak musical experience hearing The Mustangs’ “Ya Mar” while swimming on vacation in the Caribbean, used the opportunity to bring a drummer into the mix, too.
“I had my entry to music in the Bahamas when I was 12,” he says. “And it was that bouncy rhythm. I was just trying to put one and one together, and we found the greatest drummer-percussionist down there to play on all the tracks. As hard as I try to step away from it, I just love drums that are playing loud, funky grooves that you’ve never heard before.” He pauses to mention the life-changing nights he’s spent watching Gillian Welch and David Rawlings—who are able to strike a different heartstring with their Appalachian mountain sound and down-home vibe without any added percussion—and share a conversation he had with Norah Jones at the Beacon Theatre a number of years ago.
“Phish had just played ‘All of These Dreams’ on David Letterman, and I said, ‘Norah, you’ll never guess what Phish did. We played a ballad-y song on national TV, isn’t that crazy?’ and she was like, ‘My whole career is based on ballads.’ But I just love it when the drums are the loudest instrument in the mix.
“Gillian can be so melancholy so much of the time, and it still just sounds perfect to me,” he continues. “It’s rhythmic, but there’s no drummer. [Leo’s also] got a chugging sound with his playing that’s very rhythmic—it sounds like a drummer in some ways and it’s the train beat some of the time. But then he can also play ballad-y.”
After releasing their sophomore album, which included their take on “Ya Mar,” Gordon and Kottke toured for a bit, but have not played a proper set together since 2005. In that time, Gordon got married, welcomed a daughter, formed a solo band in 2008, reunited with Phish the next year and fired up a longstanding songwriting partnership with Max Creek guitarist Scott Murawski, who is also a member of his combo.
Meanwhile, Kottke asked his label to release him from his contract and, while he continued to work on new music and tour, decided to temporarily retire from the studio.
“The first thing I do is pick up a guitar every day, but it’s not to write,” he says. “You hope something happens and, if it does, you chase that, and that can become a tune. The only thing I chose to do was quit my label [while] owing them two records. That was a while ago now and everything was in flux, including the label.”
He meditates on the shift from physical records to streaming and social media before simply saying, “I don’t know— recording is never my first choice for a good time.”
Gordon and Kottke remained close, checking in with each other and on each others’ projects, but the prospect of another album seemed to fade as the years rolled by. (Kottke says that he did eventually see Phish for the first time at Madison Square Garden and has since dug into their catalog a bit.)
“Mike and these guys have all changed, and it’s by way of the music they’re making,” Kottke explains. “They take it seriously, and they have done what they needed to do to make that work by making themselves work. It’s the way we can all live. I’m starting to embarrass myself here. They now travel with their families, they know how to get around—how to keep the music fresh and still keep a life. You can get lost, obviously, and that has happened, but it’s impressive what they’ve been able to do.”
Encouraged by the messages fans would leave him on his hotline, Gordon always kept the prospect of a third album with Kottke in the back of his mind and arrived with a ton of ideas as they eased in. Most of Gordon’s originals had already been adopted by his other projects—he played “How Many People Are You” with both Phish and his group, “I Am Random” and “Noon to Noon” with his quintet and had even released “Peel” on his 2014 set Overstep with Murawski on lead vocals. Gordon also brought his cover of Prince’s “Alphabet Street” from his solo set; Kottke, who ran in some Minneapolis circles with Prince and his brother, says they first considered covering the Purple One on Sixty Six Steps, but felt it was too on the nose with David Z behind the board. Yet, as strong-minded individuals, the sessions were at times tense.
“Sometimes we’ll argue with each other,” Gordon says. “He wanted to take ‘Sheets’ off and I begged. He wanted to take ‘Ants’ off several times, and I begged. He wanted to take ‘Peel’ off but it was an earlier version where it didn’t sound as good. Some of my songs were longer because they were a little bit more jammed when we played them, so we just kinda went long.”
From the start, though, Kottke zeroed in on “I Am Random,” which he felt marked a turning point in Gordon’s songwriting. “I noticed a change in his lyrics and I really like where he’s going there,” he says. “I thought that was the signal track on the record—everything, for me, comes from that tune. There’s a real spooky thing that I love playing on.”
Gordon sees the tune as a sign of his growth, too, and the latest benchmark in a series of songwriting victories. “Maybe that song was a mini ‘turning point,’ and it does feel particularly ‘me,’ but in reality, I’ve been pushing more and more in the direction of speaking from experience over the last few years,” he says. “Leonard Cohen said that, for a song to be real, the singer has to have lived it all, and I have come to agree. But that doesn’t mean that songs need to depict the actual life experiences in literal terms. Abstractions and metaphors often seem to tell stories better than facts.”
Though the free-flowing tune kicks off with a fictional story about getting left off the list for a show, Gordon notes that it’s actually not referring to a specific experience. “It is autobiographical in the sense of often feeling like an outcast—in my family growing up, in my schools, in other situations,” he says. “I’ve had many anxiety dreams in which I’m trapped somewhere backstage and the band is already playing. Maybe it’s Phish and maybe it’s New Year’s Eve and maybe it’s midnight, and I’m sitting there in a dressing room, and there’s no clothes to put on except a pink tutu and clown shoes, and I hear the band start ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and I decide to try to get to the stage in the weird clothes and the security person says my pass is no good, so I can’t get there. And there probably have been examples of that in my real life, but more likely I’m referring to a general feeling—all the times I felt I should be somewhere, in a place, in a situation, and other people thought I shouldn’t be there, or vice versa. My favorite songs, including my own, are the ones that I don’t understand in literal terms but they resonate closely anyway.”
And the embrace of those darker, deeper themes, balanced with a more lighthearted, quirky approach, has brought the bassist’s music to new heights in recent years. “I had to grow to have an appreciation of that—maybe watching movies that have sad endings,” Gordon says. “I’m sort of a positive, bubbly guy. I just like making dance grooves, but, in the last 20 years, one thing that would have changed a lot is wanting that darkness and that subtlety. But, when Leo is writing, there is also a playfulness in there as well. Trey does that, too. If he’s composing a symphonic piece, he does it in the context of playfulness. And, traditionally, I’ve been the guy who has lists of goals and lists of little musical moments that I want to work with, try out and push around. It’s kinda my personality. In the past, that’s gotten in the way of the creativity because it was much more like housekeeping and bureaucracy than being creative. But I feel like I’ve reached a good point. Leo was one of those inspirations, Trey was another inspiration and my friend, Loudon Stearns—who taught me how to use Logic and Ableton live—was an inspiration as well.”
Recently, Gordon has tried to ground himself in a number of different ways— through Transcendental Meditation, various workout routines, and Marie Kondo-ing his CD collection. And, perhaps unintentionally, he’s also looked to Kottke while trying to simplify his life.
“He has a focus of intention in his life across the board,” Gordon says. “Choosing to practice guitar when there were other instruments that were alluring for him, and thinking that those other pursuits would take his attention away from the guitar. It’s the same with going on tour—he doesn’t bring a crew, a sound person, a tour manager to settle up the money at the end of the night. He doesn’t bring any gear, except two guitars and enough clothing to get him through to the next laundry time. He doesn’t have a tour bus—he’s driving himself in an economy car with two guitars in the trunk, and listening to the radio. It’s an economical and a focused way of living, which is so inspiring. But, I’m the opposite. I went on tour with my band, and, a few years into it, I started designing expensive, confusing, complicated sets, light-up guitars and interactive pieces.”
Noon, like any album released since March, arrives as most of the live-music world remains on pause. Kottke says that the industry shifts caused by COVID-19 didn’t impact their decision to drop the album when they did, but the crisis has certainly changed how they’ve promoted their product. While there was initially some concern over his hearing, Kottke planned to tour with Gordon and is hopeful that they will be able to be on the road together when concerts resume. Along with Gordon and Fishman, he’s made some “remote” promotional appearances, with the three musicians recording their parts separately and then splicing them together.
Fishman—who has spent a good portion of his energy this fall tracking the presidential election and recently took part in Anastasio’s Ghosts of the Forest show during The Beacon Jams—says he’s relished being outside as much as possible lately. He points to a clever device they used of passing a water bottle between frames, recorded individually in the same location, as one way they’ve been able to keep the virtual performances engaging. More than anything, he’s just pumped to be involved.
“[Playing those] interweaving, melodic lines, as opposed to a little bit more of a traditional groove-type bass mode, is a strength of Mike’s. And it’s made him a unique bass player in the world of rock in general,” he says. “One of the things that makes Phish unique is that we have a bass player that, harmonically and melodically, can move around, the way a guitar player or piano player can. And he does that even more so when he plays with Leo; he digs into the more melodic bass playing that he’s so good at.”
Kottke estimates that the past few months have been the biggest stretch he’s been off the road since 1969 “by a long shot.”
“Since then, the longest time I’ve been off has been two months and, during any one of those two-month periods, I’d go out overnight for a handful of jobs,” he says. “So this is an amazing change for me. I like being in place, but I have all of the other complaints that we all have.”
Earlier in the fall, Kottke did appear at a rare socially distanced benefit in Minneapolis for the Center for Victims of Torture. And, even though he says he was playing for “about four people in masks widely set apart,” the show was also streamed to a 150 places around the globe. “It was very confirming really,” he says. “I don’t think it goes away—that feeling of playing for people.”
After enjoying the experience of making music with Gordon—who he credits singlehandedly for getting him back into the studio—he did some home recording; although, in his own circuitous way, he warns that fans shouldn’t hold their breath for a solo album anytime soon. “Just recently, I seem to have lost the engineer and the studio,” he says. “I don’t know where they’ve gone but I had given up on that part of it anyway. But this record sort of reminded me that it can be fruitful. With Mike and I, the most fun we have is sitting in a room face to face. And recording is different from that, and you have to deal with it. These things sort of happen by accretion—an event here, a circumstance there.”
Gordon has stayed busy creatively during the pandemic as well and has also used the opportunity to embrace his domestic life. In April, Phish surprise released a full-length studio album, Sigma Oasis, which they recorded at the tail end of 2019. And they’ve helped keep their fanbase together through their Dinner and a Movie archival streams.
The bassist has also stayed active on Instagram and is currently working on a new solo project. Every weekday, he’ll hunker down in a farmhouse with Slomoff from 1-6 p.m.; the bassist says that he probably has enough songs for two albums and that Fishman and members of his solo outfit have all laid down their parts remotely. Indie-rock producer Shawn Everett, who worked with Gordon on his 2017 set OGOGO, is involved too.
“It’s pure magic to me—we have our goals, but that thing about just playing is happening,” Gordon says. “It’s a dream come true. I get horribly depressed if I don’t have a regular creative thing going. Even if I’m between projects for a month, I’m pulling my hair out. I’m not the guy that can just have leisure time.” (Around the turn of the millennium, Gordon, who studied film in college, released two fulllength movie projects; he is currently inching toward another original narrative idea that’s been gestating for years.)
While they don’t convene on Skype every Wednesday like they once did, Gordon says he and Murawski do sometimes still have their midweek songwriting sessions, which lean more toward revisions than new idea kernels due to their backlog of material. But, most of all, he’s enjoying having so much time with his family. He had a magical Father’s Day riding a WaveRunner to Burlington and continues to bond with his daughter Tessa over music. Last year, he brought her to see Toots Hibbert, who passed away due to complications related to COVID-19 on Sept. 11, telling her the Maytals were “the funkiest dance band ever.”
“Of course, I love being on tour with either band, but I haven’t missed it too much during the pandemic,” he admits. “It’s sad that none of us can be in the places we are used to being or around as many people as we’d like to and, of course, the worst thing is that we are losing people. We should still have a Toots—we shouldn’t have to deal with that. Shouldn’t isn’t even an allowable word in Gestalt speaking. But I just feel like making the most of it.”
For the past two years, and especially during the quarantine, Gordon has been singing with his daughter at home almost every single night, fine-tuning their harmonies and building a country-leaning repertoire inspired by local musician Brett Hughes’ Honky Tonk Tuesdays—including tunes made famous by Welch, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Field Report, The Secret Sisters, Rhonda Vincent, Sara Evans and Kasey Chambers, as well as pop songs from both their childhoods.
“Tonight we worked on a Billie Eilish song and one by Alessia Cara. We also have a couple that Tessa wrote, and a few that friends wrote,” he says. “It’s been one of the sweetest nightly rituals ever.”
And, despite releasing Noon at a time of great uncertainty, Gordon’s cautiously optimistic that it won’t be another 15 years before they work on another LP together. They’ve thought about writing all the music for an album together, while still taking on the lyrics individually in order to get personal, or possibly working with an outside producer, a drummer and a tuba player.
“There’s a path with these creative projects and also with these relationships,” he says. “You reach a juncture and then you can see that there’s new horizons. The way our relationship would grow—both of us growing [individually] and growing together—became a pretty powerful feeling that I can’t really put it into words. I think there’s something that happens from long-term relationships. It’s been 37 years for Phish and, even though my band’s only been [around for] 11 years, with Scott it’s been almost 30 years of doing stuff together. And different things grow over time—this telepathy. There’s an understanding of each other’s goals and the way everybody’s gonna live their lives. [You understand] when they’re gonna be available, what they’re gonna talk about, what’s gonna get them so frustrated that they can’t work—whether it’s something emotional, physical or logistical.”