Jay Lane Interview

Jay was kind enough to sit down with Dave & Allison Rosenberg in Stamford, Connecticut, on August 22, 2006 to discuss his music and career. A complete transcript follows. Photos by and copyright (in order of appearance) ??, Terry Rogers, Gregg Nixon, Terry Rogers, Gregg Nixon, ??, Gregg Nixon, ??, ??, Bud Fulginiti, ??, Butch Worrell, Dave Clark, Gregg Nixon, Butch Worrell, Bleu Grijalva,??, Mike Scotellaro, Jonathan Rabhan, ??, Dave Clark, and Bud Fulginiti.

Part 1: Getting Started

Let's start with where you grew up and how you started drumming.

Growing in the SF bay area I had a lot of exposure to different cultures. When I was 16, a friend of my mom... she played harpsichord. Old thing, Olden days music. She went up to this baroque music camp called Cazadero Music Camp. It was run by the city of Berkeley. She found out they were going to have some youth sessions and jazz sessions, and she recommended to my mom that she send me to this music camp, so she did and when I went up there I met all these kids from Berkeley.

Actually that's not actually how I started. Let's start over here.

When I was nine my mom—as you can see it's my mother who's really the proponent of me doing something creative, which is really cool. So when I was nine, she offered to get me some music lessons, and she took me around to a few different places. One was a Yamaha piano school; I didn't like it. Ya know, it was like another thing or like some group lesson thing or something. Then we went to this one guy's house, a private drum lesson guy and I liked him. Just liked his personality and I decided, "Okay, I'll play the drums." So I took drum lessons for about two years from this guy, and then I started taking drum lessons from another guy at this Blue Bear School of Music, this thing in San Francisco where they teach kids and stuff at Fort Mason. And so then it was like, "Okay, I know how to play the drums" or "I play the drums"—I was a kid who played the drums.

My mom bought me a practice kit, and then I ended up buying my first drum set from that first drum teacher I had, so I had a drum set so from the time I was ten years old or whatever til I was 15 or 16. I had my drums in my room, so I played my drums in my room, and I took lessons for the first few years of that, nine til twelve or whatever, but from the time I was 12 to 15, I just had my drums in my room. Oh, and I did take some other drum lessons with a woman who played percussion with the San Francisco Symphony, a woman named Peggy Lucchesi, who was a really nice lady, man, and she was a really good percussionist. And she has a son named Alan Lucchesi that was a rock drummer in the area.

Anyway fast forward to this music camp my mom sent me to. So I go up there and meet all the other kids who are like 15 or 16 who have been playing for like five years or whatever and I bonded with these few kids. I bonded with Dave Ellis right away. I bonded with Dave Shul, who's now the guitar player in Spearhead. I met all these kids. I met this guy Eric Dinwiddie, who was in The Uptones, and they'd been starting their band right about that time in high school, and so I met all these kids. Then after—I'm just kinda going through the whole thing here.

I went to that summer camp for like three summers, and the first summer I was a camper, then the second summer I went up there for the jazz session. The jazz session had people like Bobby McFerrin and Whoopi Goldberg up there, man—like before they made it and shit—Pete Escovedo, Eddie Marshall, who's a famous jazz drummer who played with Bobby Hutchinson. I ended up bonding really well with Eddie's three sons, Al, Andre, and Drew, and they're all really talented guys. So anyway these bonds that I made, I made these friendships that I still have to this day, most of them. So I went to Cazadero for like three years, so there I am like 18 or whatever.

What happened was I graduated from high school, and my mom decided that if I wanted to go to a music college that I could go to whatever one I choose or whatever, so I wanted to go to music college, so I chose Berklee College of Music in Boston. So there I am at the Berklee College of Music until the Christmas break. Came home for the Christmas break—I did not go back. I did not want to go back, man. It was just Boston wasn't my thing. I met some really good friends there. My roommate was Mark Whitfield, who's now like a jazz guitar player. He's in the jazz scene or whatever, kinda made it. My other roommate was this guy from South Africa named Gary. I always wonder what happened to that guy. But anyway so I come home from Berklee College of Music, and I really missed my friends at home. I'd taken acid with my friend Dave Shul one day and we were playing and we had a band called Ice Age where his dad wrote the lyrics and we had this lead singer named Dan Cassidy, who was an older guy. Ya know, we're kids and the lead singer was the age of Dave Shul's dad. Anyway, we were in this band, and we had this bass player named Johnny Atra, and the three of us took acid and we jammed out and recorded on my boombox, and I recorded like three full cassette tapes, both sides, of us jamming. So I took those cassette tapes with me to Berklee College of Music, and I always listened to them and ya know there were always these moments of genius music—and I wish I still had those tapes—that I really connected to and I missed that. So when I came back home and I saw my friends again, I was like I'm not going back there. I need to be here.

So coincidentally at the same time these guys had this band The Uptones, and their drummer, Tommy White, was just—ya know these kids were in high school and they were starting to graduate and folks were saying "enough with the music, time to go to college" or whatever. So their drummer was the first to go, so they needed an drummer. Dave Ellis actually was playing sax at the time in the band and played drums with them for a few months and he didn't sound bad, he sounded pretty good too, and then Kenny Brooks was playing saxophone in that band. Kenny Brooks went to college in New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and Dave Ellis took over the saxophone chair and called me up to see if I wanted to come play drums with that band, so I did. I played with The Uptones for about two years. We recorded an album, we had some radio play. We opened up for like Madness, ya know, "Our house in the middle of the street." And we opened up for The Go-Go's. Who else. The English Beat. Remember the English Beat? Remember General Public, skanking ska shit? Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling? Anyway, so I played in that band for a couple years, then I was in the scene, the Bay area music scene or whatever. There was another band called the Freaky Executives. It was a band with guys that were older. The Uptones were like my age and younger and the Freaky Executives were all at least four or five years older than me. Anyway so I ended up kind of skipping over to that band you know. We played a lot of shows together and I ended up quitting The Uptones to play with the Freaky Executives pretty much like that. And Freaky Executives, it was a long strange trip in that band.

We used to rehearse at this place in Emeryville, California, a big warehouse where a lot of bands rehearsed. And there was this guy, Les, who used to rehearse around the corner from our practice space. I just knew him as "Les," ya know, this guy Les. I didn't know his last name for years, man. So Les asked me if I wanted to jam with him and his buddy Todd. They kinda reminded me of these two guys that I used to jam with at Berklee College of Music, these brilliant guys. There was a guitar and bass player, Stan and I can't remember the other guy's name. But Les and Todd just had this thing that they did. They had all these songs that they made up. It was guitar and bass but it was fully made up—all these songs went all these places. Full on epic songs; all I had to do was learn it and then I was jamming with it. So it was kinda like that when I met Todd and Les. And I would go in their room and I would jam with them and you know it reminded me a lot of King Crimson kind of stuff and I really dug it, you know, but I was in the Freaky Executives at the time, so I played with them when I could.

Les really liked my drumming and you know, I appreciated that man because I didn't really know about the style that they were playing. But he really liked the way I played with him or whatever so we did a few gigs, little clubs n stuff, and I played with them for about eight months, and the band was called Primus. And then Les wanted to take the show on the road, but Todd had a kid and I was in the Freaky Executives and we were doing our big record deal thing, so Todd and I both did our last show with Les and said "thank you" and he was like—actually you can find it on Youtube. Somebody sent me the link. There's a videotape of "Jay and Todd's last gig" on Youtube. If you search you can find it. Anyway so you see Les right there going "So this is Jay's last gig. This is Todd's last gig. I don't know what the hell I'm gonna do." It's a trip man cause I remember that day. But what he did was he got another guitar player, Larry, and another drummer, Herb, Tim, and you know they started touring around and paying their dues, man. They did it for like two years, going around the country in a van sleeping on people's floors and just doin' it. And they hit. And right about the time they hit was right about the time the Freaky Executives totally broke up and I started working construction. But it was cool though because you know, who knows what kinda stuff is gonna happen. If I stayed in Primus it might not have even made it. You squash a butterfly and years later the next guy's president. You never know.

So anyway I was going to college and working construction and stuff for about four years 'til about '92-'93 or whatever and then Dave Ellis called me up and Charlie Hunter, childhood friend of his who I'd met years before, was back from New York and wanted to get a band. So he was like "let's get a little band," so we started jamming at Dave's house, and we started doing gigs and we were like, "What should we call the band?" And I was like, "You got the gimmick, dude, why don't we call it the Charlie Hunter Trio." I actually said that. So we played a few gigs right about the same time we started Alphabet Soup.

Kenny called me up. His roommate Gary was friends with a lot of these club owners who were all of a sudden hot about getting a band in their club. I think the way the club scene goes—every few years they get tired of the DJs and they need live music just to have something in there but then you get the onslaught of live bands which you know 70-80% of them probably suck or don't make people dance, so you get a scene of live bands where people don't go out any more 'cause they want to dance, so clubs slowly get rid of that and get DJs back. You know I think it goes through waves. I've seen it go back and forth a couple times. So this was a time when they were getting live bands. "Oh it's really hip to get a little acid jazz trio in the corner." This is like when they were starting to have a lot of clubs with different levels. You know, the acid lounge, the techno, different levels of the clubs, early '90s kinda thing, whatever. So we started playing gigs, so I'm playing with Charlie Hunter and Alphabet Soup, then Les calls me up and wants to do this thing called Sausage with me and Todd, so now I have three gigs going all at once.

And then all of a sudden Les calls me up one day and says, "Hey there's this guy, Rob Wasserman, who's doing this radio ad for Levi's and he wants me to bring down somebody, so I want to bring you." I was like "alright" so I came down to Hyde Street Studios, met Rob Wasserman, recorded this thing for Levi's 501 Jeans, and we jammed for like 15 minutes. They said "that's cool," then they were like "Anybody want to do a voiceover on this thing?" And Les didn't want to do it 'cause he'd be recognized and Rob didn't want to do it so I ended up doing it, getting on the mic and talking about 501 jeans.

Is that on Youtube?

I don't know. It exists somewhere. It might be under "Three Guys Named Schmo" or something like that 'cause, then we did a gig at the Bammies and called ourselves that, me and Les and Rob. So anyway then Rob calls me up to go up to Bob Weir's house....

Part 2: RatDog and The Grateful Dead

So anyway then Rob calls me up to go up to Bob Weir's house to do this Satchel Paige thing that they were working on that I still think they're working on.

Yeah how's that going?

Yeah ya know. Let's see, like I said I got called up to Bob's house to work on the Satchel Paige thing and I believe they were almost done with it at this time and now it's like 13 years later? So anyway, yeah man, I met Bob and there you have it, I had like four gigs at once. And I was able to do a couple, three rehearsals and gigs here and there, but it wasn't long before everybody wanted to do a tour at the same time so you know it's like here I went and started juggling it. And you know what, I'm really glad that everything turned out the way it did because if you think about it, I had four gigs I coulda chosen from and I coulda just said "I'm just gonna do this" or "I'll do all of them but I'm gonna primarily do this one." For some reason I was just like "I'll do all of them," but when it came to push and shove there was something about this, even though I knew it was like the big frontier I was like looking at. I look at it, so I go play with Charlie Hunter and I could see Charlie Hunter was really about to be Charlie Hunter and he would play with me for a few albums and been like, "Alright, now I want to play with these other guys," 'cause if you look at Charlie Hunter, it's Charlie Hunter's name and he gets different guys all the time so that's what that woulda been.

Alphabet Soup is really my—the kind of music that I really come from, the kind of music I really play, you know from my upbringing or whatever—hip-hop, funk, jazz, whatever—and it's a lot of Bay area guys that I come up with or whatever, but we never took it seriously, all of us. You know we never took it out of the clubs. "Okay we got a gig on Tuesday night, cool man" and we all show up Tuesday night and play the gig, get paid our 60 bucks each and "see you at the next gig." Nobody was really like, "Hey man, we gotta get this on the road" or anything like that. But we have still been doing Alphabet Soup to this day, and the rappers from Alphabet Soup have actually—a couple original ones who had the real magic spark have gotten back together recording under the name right now of the Band of Brothers, even though we might do a gig called Alphabet Soup. Who knows, we just still don't know. But we're still playing, though, so that's cool but.

Or I could've decided I was gonna devote my time to Les where that woulda been like one tour one time, that Sausage tour we did, then he did Primus after that. He didn't do Sausage again after that. But there was also that was all music with my peers and guys I knew and it was kinda like music that I already knew. I knew jazz and funk and R&B and all that stuff; it was what I grew up with. I didn't know anything about the Grateful Dead. You know, I mean I remember seeing the video with the skeletons in the 80s, you know, "I will get by." I mean that's all I knew. That's really all I knew. Or actually my friend Tom Pope who came and played drums with us a couple times in New York—I met him also at Cazadero. Let me put his name back in the Cazadero thing. And when I would come hang out in Berkeley those years I was living in Berkeley I would go hang out at Tom Pope's house, and he turned me onto the Grateful Dead. "Check this out." We sat around, smoked pot, looked at the album covers n stuff and he'd show me, "Look at The Beast." He was telling me about The Beast, the thing Billy n Mickey n drums n all that shit. "Wow cool." We were kids so it was like, "drums... oooh." You know all excited n shit, then we'd listen to a little Grateful Dead, then take that off and King Crimson and "oooh," then put on Peter Gabriel. You know sitting around. So anyway so let's see Tom Pope, alright, where was I gettin off to?

Getting into the Grateful Dead...

Yes, so, thank you, yes. So I knew that there was something there that I really dug man. I really dug the whole idea of hippieness n all that shit. I grew up up the hill from, like five blocks from Ashbury and Haight, that's where I lived at that time when all those guys were doing their thing down there from—I was born in '64 and I think the first couple years I lived in San Mateo, then we moved to San Francisco like five blocks from Haight and Ashbury.


It was up the hill in Ashbury Terrace. It was these really nice houses up at the top of a hill there, man. This house today that I lived in, I'm sure it's worth like 3 million dollars, and I remember my mom, I remember the price she got it for—300,000 dollars, that's how much she paid for it. But she didn't pay it off, she's a teacher, you know, an educator, so she was paying on it then we moved. So but anyway, oh god I lost my train of thought again.

You were talking about loving the hippies.

Yeah, you know I just, there was something there. It was like the big frontier, but I knew it felt like home. There was something there that felt like—You know what it was? It was that, now I love Charlie and I love Les, but their music is more about, "Look at me. Check out this amazing shit," rather than "Okay, we all know this is amazing. Now let's all get down together and dance among yourselves and we're gonna do this all together."

Here's an example. Billy Kreutzmann is not a household name, right? And it's because he's a hypnotist. It's because when he sits down behind the drums, you don't think about who's playing the drums. You instantly start dancing. He's playing only for you to dance, and the way he plays it's not a flashy show-offy, "look at me" kinda thing. It's like almost like as soon as he starts playing, he starts dangling that little watch in front of your face and you're dancing. You know, he turns your dance thing on, and you couldn't give a fuck who's playing drums, as it's supposed to be. Of course when you're a kid and you're taking drums lessons and you want to see the guy with the eight toms and you want to see the guy who can play the fastest and that's exciting when you're young. But to see a guy who's mastered the subliminal part of it, the part that gets you on the deeper level, you know....

I'm convinced the greatest drummers are the guys like Charlie Watts or something where you're not even thinking about the drums when they play, you're only thinking about the music and the song. It's not like, "Wow, oh yeah, hold up, wait, this drummer, whoa look at that," you know. It's like "Oh yeah, the music's starting," and then you're partying with your friends.

So I was really attracted to that because I think that's what I want. I mean, the hip-hop thing and all the things I was doing with Alphabet Soup are very similar to that actually too. We never rehearsed. Alphabet Soup never rehearsed. It was made up of rappers who had their rap thing down whether they were doing a thing they worked out together or whether they were freestyling. Kenny Brooks and Dred Scott, who were the jazz portion of the band, had their little jazz heads and their melodies worked out and their chords and they would do that, and Sam the bass player would pick up on whatever key they were playing, and he and I would full on reggae out with the hip hop and reggae kinda bass and drums, so everything was set up. We didn't have to rehearse, we'd just kick it off, ya know. It was great.

But it was very much like, I don't know, I was playing beats. I believe when I'm playing the drums I get the most enjoyment out of other people enjoying themselves. I cannot stand people sitting and watching. I guess that's what I'm trying to get at, and that's what it was like playing with Charlie and that's what it's like playing with Les. People stand and watch. Really, you go to a show, that's what you'll see. Maybe they're bouncing up and down a little bit at a Les show or surfing the crowd a little, but for the most part they're watching and I'm all about—the best gigs I've played are where the whole front row is turned around facing the other way 'cause the party's on the dance floor, and the band, we're just facilitating the whole thing. It's easier—people aren't looking at you. Maybe it's 'cause I've never been like a show-off. I don't like the attention, If there's a whole bunch of people looking at me, I don't like the attention. I'd rather be part of the joke or part of the thing, we're all laughing together here, not everyone's laughing at me.

You can't look at it like that....

Right right right, not people laughing. Now that sounded like I'm totally paranoid man. No, you know what I mean, right? If you could imagine yourself up there and everyone's looking at you it's like, "Alright, that's cool but isn't it better if we're all together on this shit?" I don't know man. If you look at the most successful bands of all time, they're the ones with the most audience participation, they're the ones where the audience is up and they're dancing and singing and clapping, fully participating. Look at the weakest selling music—the ones where the people are not doing shit but sitting there probably. I mean look at the biggest bands, the Dead, the Rolling Stones, the biggest selling bands of all time, even all that shit you see where it's some band you've never heard of in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, little pop thing where everybody knows the song, a fuckin gigantic crowd that is just singing along this song that everybody knows, dancing, singing. So I think, you know, it's the greater thing. I knew that the Grateful Dead was that kinda thing. I didn't know anything about it, but I knew that was what was going on there. And I could tell by the way I met Bob the kinda guy he is, the kinda musician he is, ya know. So yeah. Alright. How's that.

That about sums it up.

Question number one... what's question number two. How many questions you got there.

I don't know but we just went through like two thirds of them.


Well, not really. So when you're drumming you got four different things going on with your limbs and often singing at the same time. How much of it are you conscious? Are spaced and just doing what you do?

Yeah well that's a trip too, 'cause sometimes you do get really locked into patterns, man. And it's like once you learn how to pat your belly and rub or whatever the fuck it is—rub your belly and pat your head, once you learn to do that, it's easy to do. But now can you improvise with it? Can you all of a sudden turn it around backwards or all of a sudden on the fly be able to change it up, so that's the challenge. Like it's easy to learn to ride a bike, it's easy to learn to drive a stick shift car, all these things that take multiple limbs and looking, and you're using more parts of your body. We can learn to do all that stuff, but a lot of times when you learn something it's like you learn how to do it and then you just—

It's like you always have to keep learning, like I saw "The Grateful Dead Movie" where Billy Kreutzmann was being interviewed or something and he said he was working on getting all his limbs to be dancing together, did you see that? He was saying something like that where it's like he said he thinks he had it down where his limbs were all dancing, like each one's dancing. And that's like when I watch him play. The other night I was watching him play at the Gathering and he's got—that's like 40 years of him mastering that, and it's beautiful to watch man, 'cause Billy can do anything he wants at any time and it's like he's not thinking about it, he's just kinda—He's not playing a pattern, he's just playing the pulse and just like riffing like a jazz guy would. "Something just happened so I'll answer that now," and coming from the kind of music I come from where I was really locked into. And coming up in the '80s, too, man I came up really influenced by Prince and when drum machines started coming in, I loved drum machines and recreating beats that were programmed on drum machines and I loved that a lot. But I came up in the world of patterns, so there were two-bar patterns, four-bar patterns, eight-bar patterns, but they were all patterns. So I really have to continue to try to relearn and break out of the mold. I'll give you an example.

You learn one of these Bob Weir tunes, well now every time we play it, you're gonna play it that same way? It's like, "Lemme think of a new way to play this song," or if I find myself doing what I always do on this song, isn't that limiting? It seems like the spirit of this kind of music is to really like be loose enough where you can just do anything 'cause it's almost like Weir does that in a way. Like he has his little things he does, but it's not always the same. I mean he always plays the songs pretty much the same, like KC Moan. I always wonder if you took every KC Moan and you put them on the tape at the same time, I wonder if there's two over time that would link up, like lock. Like the entire five minutes or ten minutes or however long the song is, note for note it would lock up. I bet out of all the ones he's played I bet you could get two that fuckin match up perfectly. But I guess I'm getting off point here.

The point is that instead of feeling like you're playing something that was premade for you to play, like this is the beat to Brown-Eyed Women, that's the beat, I should be able to make it different every time, so yes, it is hard to get all your limbs going and the singing and all that.

For three hours a night

For three hours but it's the kind of thing where, the other thing is the practicing really helps man cause the times, I'm just thinking now, the times I've had a hard time with what you're talking about, when I have actually struggled with like, "Oh my god I can't physically fuckin do this," that's the times where I got frustrated enough where I needed to go practice stuff so I'd sit there and I'd work it out....

Part 3: On Stage with RatDog

So how do you go, when you're learning a new song, how do you take it and learn it?

A new RatDog or a new Grateful Dead?

Whichever, Grateful Dead

Okay, so say it again, when we're...

When you're starting a new song, where do you start?

Well, when we were listening around, I heard Terrapin Station, well I think we all listened to it. "We should do that. Okay." Well when I heard the second half of Terrapin, I was like, "Well man, Jeff could do that kinda shit, Kenny could do that shit, these guys are fuckin note masters," you know. I know a lot of that stuff was meticulously worked out in the studio, whatever, that orchestrated shit. But we could figure that out. We could learn that. So I was like, "Let's learn that man." So when we were in Europe we had the tape and we sat there and listened to it over and over and over but I kinda pushed it on the guys—but without Bob being in the room—on Jeff and Mark and Kenny. "Let's learn this thing, c'mon." Or there've been times where I've come in and I've been like, "Hey Bob man, we gotta do this Syd Barrett." A few years ago I just discovered Syd Barrett. I didn't know anything about Pink Floyd before The Wall or the Animals or all that stuff, and I discovered that first album, and I was listening to it all the time, and I was like man we gotta do one of these tunes. We gotta do this tune, so I came into rehearsal and I was like, "We gotta do this tune," and we learned the tune, Matilda Mother. We learned it.

You know, guys suggest stuff and sit around and listen to it. I think it's the kinda thing where if you ever see Bob go play with the Waybacks or any other band that knows all the fuckin Grateful Dead shit, he just sits right up there and flows right in. 'Cause they already know it, and since they already know it, it triggers it all and he remembers it all, so as soon as I saw that I was like, "All we need to do is know the shit." We can't just be sitting around and expect to jam with Bob and not know anything. We gotta fuckin know this shit, the more the better, and now I'm actually, my thing I'm working on now is I'm trying to learn the lyrics. I wanna learn all the fuckin lyrics so when he forgets a lyric I can jump right in and remind him 'cause sometimes he forgets a little too much, it's like everybody claps now and then but sometimes it's like, "Alright man."

And when you're working up these tunes it seems you're pretty meticulous about it, is there a difference between 58 beats a minute and 60 beats a minute?

To Bob, yes, there actually is. 57 beats pm, 57 for example is Truckin, 60 Tomorrow Never Knows, okay that's 60, that's 57, there's 60, you know it's when you think of it in terms of the song that it represents that tempo it makes more sense, but yeah it gets kooky. But hey, you know what? Bob's been really a nazi about that shit but it's made me better. He had me play with a click track for a lot of years to get that motherfucker down.

So when Rob left the band and you start playing with Robin, bass and drums are of course very tight, how did you make the transition from playing with someone who you were so familiar with?

It was hard man. I still miss Rob. There are times when I really miss Rob. He had a real mastery of the acoustic bass like nobody, and I honestly miss him a lot sometimes, you know. But I fuckin really miss him. To be honest I'm sorry what happened happened. But I think in the long run, it's probably something that had to happen, and you know all I can say is I still want to play with Rob and I try to any chance I get, and I really miss him and I wanna play with him again, and we will. We played a couple trio gigs with Bob but Robin, you know, he plays the electric bass. It's more appropriate for the six-piece band. I think it was just up to Robin to learn all the shit. It was a lot of material for him to learn in a short period of time so I just let him learn all the stuff and tried to help him out, you know, but for me it's weird 'cause there's times I miss Rob and then there's times where Robin does stuff that Rob never did.

What happened to the headphones you were braggin on last spring? You don't have them.


You've been wearing something else.


They look different.

Which headphones?

They were big, you got them at an airport or something and all of a sudden you could hear yourself.

Those were actually the same ones I'm using now but they're, Shure makes makes three different in-ear things. They're not molded, they're in-ear things and I bought them in the fuckin airport. I bought the most expensive pair, a 500-dollar pair because the drivers are so—these things will make you deaf before they'll blow up, and they're only this big, and they'll fuckin blow your ears off man before they even crap out which is great, I love it. So there's a 500-dollar and a 300-dollar and a 100-dollar one or something like that, and so I bought the expensive ones and I brought them out in spring but left them at home just now. And Charucki has a pair, I'm not even sure if it's the 300 dollar one or the 100 dollar one. I think it's the 300 dollar one. That's what I'm using now, so I pretty much use the same thing but yeah it's nice.

It's helped out a lot man; that's been hard with the whole headphone thing. You know the Grateful Dead invented monitors, then they invented earphone monitors, and by the time we come along in RatDog, Bob's already 30 years in evolution so he's already in the ears and we're like "Ears, what the fuck? We've barely been in a band before and now we gotta be in headphones? " It's like "Hello hello"?

Gotta be a little strange

It's like we were all having headphones on now it'd be like "Hey Allison, Hey." You talk a lot louder you know.

So where you are on stage now versus where you were in spring, it's all the same because you're hearing the monitors?

Yeah, I've found for me it's the best way to do it man, because that way no matter where I'm at on the stage, no matter big club, small club, being an outdoor gig, fuckin giant place where it's all boomy, it sounds crisp, perfect. I think the thing is for me to get it sounding as much like a record, sounding good like it's coming from the speakers and sounding all perfect, crispy, then it sounds great. There's been times I was trying to wear some kind of headphones where I could hear around 'em a little bit so I would like listen to some trebly thing, so I'm like suffering in the mix so I could try to hear other things. And I think that's what some of the guys in the band are still doing, like they'll wear one in and one out, stuff like that. That works but it in a way for me it doesn't. I mean, Mark does that 'cause he needs to hear his amp right there and he wants to hear the band also. I'm not sure actually what he does, but the thing is for me, that will drive me crazy, wearing one earphone. It doesn't sound good, it's just so you can hear the shit but it doesn't sound good, you know what I mean? It doesn't sound like if you were listening and sitting in here with the nice stereo, you know you wouldn't do like this with one ear out the window, you know what I mean, so....

I wanna play you guys something real quick. This is something.

{ Zacariah Rose, "Let My People Go" }

Pretty cool huh? That's Zac, the guy who, the rapper for Alphabet Soup and Band of Brothers and he came and sat in with RatDog a couple times actually on the west coast there. He's the one who started, he was on tape saying "I'd rather be a RatDog than a fat cat who never had a rat," you hear people saying that? He's the one who said that.

So that was...

That was something he did at home but I'm trying to get that shit out there, man. He did some other shit that's really good. This guy is like the most—I've only, playing the drums you know you're backing up great vocalists. I've only played behind three people I think of, three or four that I can think of that have that thing where they grab a group of people with their voice. He's one, Bob of course is another but just that thing, just grab people with his voice.

Who are the others?

Well I was gonna say this guy Piero who used to be in the Freaky Executives. He was just like a Robin Williams kind of person. He'd just start talking and people come around, you know. Les and Bob and Zac I'd prolly say.

What makes a perfect show, what kind of venue or crowd or music or environment for you?

Makes a perfect show is if I had a good show.

What's a good show?

Okay, here it is. If I get crowd feedback, 'cause sometimes I feel like I played really good and I'm like, "What happened to the crowd man?" Or you can't hear 'em or something. If I can hear the crowd feedback, the more crowd little rises you know of {crowd noise}, the more of those the better during the show, you know the reciprocal crowd feedback kinda stuff makes the better show I'd say. That's prolly the biggest one. The other one is how I felt about my performance, you know? That's pretty much it man. It doesn't matter what the songs are.

Fast, slow, all the same?

Doesn't matter. Sometimes, and we've all agreed on this, we're like, "We're playing this big fat show tonight and look what Weir put on the setlist, oh no!" And we get up there and it's the greatest show ever. "Look at all these slow songs," and it's a great show.

How about Stuff, anything worked out ahead of time?

All whatever. It's all whatever.

Who's gonna be out there, all that?

Yeah, one of these nights I'm just gonna walk off. Problem is though when I do that, what do you think Weir says? "Get back out there and give em a beat. We're gonna lose em."

He might be right.

He might be right but the other guys can go {beat} on their instruments too, they don't have to be all {melody}.

Do you need to run?

Yeah in a minute.

What do you have coming up? Fall Ratdog....

Fall RatDog, we're gonna get this Band of Brothers or Alphabet Soup thing happening. Couple gigs in the city. We've got one gig now in East Bay. Solano Stroll, a little festival in Berkeley that's happening. That's it. But we're trying to get more stuff happening for that.

Les was going to go to Europe in September, now he's not, so I was gonna be able to do that but not now.

So when you're not doing RatDog, are you always Les' go-to?

Yeah, the thing is with Les he always wants me, which I'm really grateful about but, now he's got another drummer or two that can make it when I can't or when RatDog's got something going on so he—What's happened is this guy Paulo Baldi, he's a great drummer, plays with Cake also, has been playing with Les. Played with him this summer and he knows all the material. I think it's for Les it's like you know now he, they just learned a bunch of these tunes too that he's got on his album that I'm not on—thanks Les—so they got a new set now so he's comfortable. They've rehearsed a bunch so even if I could make it, he might want to use the other guy now, who knows, you know, but he's always doing different stuff.

Actually he's doing a bunch of Primus stuff but I've been fortunate that for the most part Les always likes to play with me, so I'm really fortunate for that.

Oh, you know they're doing a movie about Johnnie Johnson? Because what I think's going on is they're trying to take Chuck Berry to court or getting him paid for songs he wrote, but too much time had passed, statute of limitations. So I think what happened is the community there in St. Louis, one of the TV personalities in the local scene there, this guy Art Holliday, really nice guy, when we were in St Louis last time he invited us to his house. He had a little luncheon thing and Johnnie's wife was there and his daughters, and we had to leave early but he ended up showing his trailer for his movie premiere. Anyway he's got a website, johnniebegood.net, so they're making a movie about him to debate should he have been paid or whatever.

Johnnie Johnson, I still can't believe that—the fact that we got to get that close to that guy, of all people in the world. He's like, he's the man who gave birth to all this. Just imagine if he didn't exist, we might be playing Russian music or something like that, I mean really. He hired Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry might never have made it. Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn't have. There would never have been a song called Johnny B. Goode....