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Jerry Garcia

people make so much stuff out of this and on another level, I believe it’s their right to do that, because in a way the music belongs to them. When we’re done with it, we don’t care what happens to it. If people choose to mythologize it, it certainly doesn’t hurt us.

Rebecca: How do you feel about the fact that you enjoy such a divine-like status in the eyes of so many of your fans?

Jerry: These things are all illusions. Fame is an illusion. I know what I do and I know about how well I do it, and I know what I wish I could do. Those things don’t enter my life, I don’t buy into any of that stuff. I can’t imagine who would. Look at David Koresh. If you start believing any of that kind of stuff about yourself, where does it leave you?

David: What about the subjective experience a lot of people talk about that there’s a group-mind experience that occurs at your shows?

Jerry: That’s been frequently reported to me. In fact, even more specifically of direct telepathic connection of some kind.

Rebecca: Do you experience that yourself?

Jerry: I can’t say that I do, because I’m in a position of causality. So, I don’t look at the audience and think, I’m making them do what I want them to do.

Rebecca: I’m thinking of it more as a spontaneous non-causal experience which is being mediated by something greater than either yourself or the audience.

Jerry: You might think of it as a kind of channeling. At the highest level, I’m letting something happen – I’m not causing it to happen. We all understand that mechanism in theGrateful Dead and we also know that fundamentally we’re not responsible.

We’re opening a door, but we’re not responsible for what comes through it. So in that sense, I can’t take credit for it. We’re like a utility, like a conduit for life-energy, psychic energy – whatever it is. It’s not up to us to define it or to describe it or to enclose it in any way.

Rebecca: It’s rumored that the Grateful Dead can control the weather, can you shed any light on this? (laughter)

Jerry: (laughter) No. We do not control the weather.

Rebecca: You’ve heard those rumors though ?

Jerry: I’ve heard them, of course. Sometimes it seems as though we’re controlling the weather.

Rebecca: But that is synchronicity?

Jerry: It’s synchronicity, exactly.

Rebecca: So what is the relationship dynamic like between you and the audience when you’re on stage?

Jerry: When things are working right, you gain levels – it’s like bardos. The first level is simply your fundamental relationship to your instrument. When that starts to get comfortable the next level is your relationship to the other musicians. When you’re hearing what you want to and things seem to be working the way you want it to, then it includes the audience. When it gets to that level, it’s seamless. It’s no longer an effort, it flows and it’s wide open.

Sometimes however, when I feel that that’s happening, that music is really boring. It’s too perfect. What I like most is to be playing with total access, where anything that I try to play or want to happen, I can execute flawlessly – for me that’s the high-water mark. But perfection is always boring.

Rebecca: I’ve heard that musicians using computer synthesizers are complaining that the sound produced is so perfect that it’s uninteresting, and that manufacturers are now looking to program in human error.

Jerry: Right. I think the audience enjoys it more when it’s a little more of a struggle.

David: What is it that you feel is missing in that case?

Jerry: Tension.

David: Tension between what and what?

Jerry: The tension between trying to create something and creating something, between succeeding and failing. Tension is a part of what makes music work – tension and release, or if you prefer, dissonance and resonance, or suspension and completion.

David: Joseph Campbell, the renowned mythologist, attended a number of your shows. What was his take?

Jerry: He loved it. For him it was the bliss he’d been looking for. “This is the antidote to the atom bomb,” he said at one time.

David: He also described it as a modern-day shamanic ritual, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are about the association between music, consciousness and shamanism.

Jerry: If you can call drumming music, music has always been a part of it. It’s one of the things that music can do – it can transport. That’s what music should do at it’s best – it should be a transforming experience. The finest, the highest, the best music has that quality of transporting you to other levels of consciousness.

David: Do you feel sometimes at your shows that you’re guiding people or taking people on a journey through those levels?

Jerry: In a way, but I don’t feel like I’m guiding anybody. I feel like I’m sort of stumbling along and a lot of people are watching me or stumbling with me or allowing me to stumble for them. I don’t feel like, here we are, I’m the guide and come one you guys, follow me. I do that, but I don’t feel that I’m particularly better at it than anybody else.

For example, here’s something that used to happen all the time. The band would check into a hotel. We’d get our room-key and then we’d go to the elevator. Well, a lot of times we didn’t have a clue where the elevator was. So, what used to happen was that everybody would follow me, thinking that I would know. I’d be walking around thinking why the fuck is everybody following me? (laughter) So, if nobody else does it, I’ll start something – it’s a knack.

David: A lot of people are looking for someone to follow.

Jerry: Yeah. I don’t mind being that person, but it doesn’t mean that I’m good at it or that I know where I’m going or anything else. It doesn’t require competence, it only requires the gesture.

David: Is there any planning involved about choosing songs in a certain sequence to take people on a journey?

Jerry: Sometimes we plan, but more often than not we find that when we do, we change our plans. Sometimes we talk down a skeleton of the second set, to give ourselves some form – but it depends. The important thing is that it not be dull and that the experience of playing doesn’t get boring. Being stale is death. So we do whatever we can to keep it spontaneous and amusing for us.

Rebecca: You play more live shows than any other band I know of. How do you manage to keep that spontaneity? Is this a natural talent you’ve always had or is it something you’ve had to work to achieve?

Jerry: Part of it is that we’re just constitutionally unable to repeat anything exactly. Everyone in the band is so pathologically anti-authoritarian, that the idea of doing something exactly the same way is anathema – it will never happen. (laughter) So that’s our strong suit – the fact that we aren’t consistent. It used to be that sometimes we reached wonderful levels or else we played really horribly, terribly badly. Now we’ve got to be competent at our worst. (laughter)

Rebecca: How do you compare a Grateful Dead show to a rave? There seem to be strong similarities between them.

Jerry: Well, if we would let people get up out of the audience and add their two-cents worth then it would be kind of similar. The acid-test was like a rave, the same sort of idea.

David: Do you see the acid-tests or Grateful Dead shows as being an inspiration for the raves or do you think it goes back to something more ancient, more tribal?

Jerry: Back in the fifties there was a place in North Beach called The Place. They used to have blabber-mouth night and everybody could get up that wanted to and rave for ten minutes. I don’t believe it’s something new, but I think the modern version of it is a spill-off from the stand-up comedy explosion. Plus there’s been a resurgence of poetry-readings and performance art.

David: I’m curious about how psychedelics influenced not only your music but your whole philosophy of life.

Jerry: Psychedelics were probably the single most significant experience in my life. Otherwise I think I would be going along believing that this visible reality here is all that there is. Psychedelics didn’t give me any answers. What I have are a lot of questions. One thing I’m certain of; the mind is an incredible thing and there are levels of organizations of consciousness that are way beyond what people are fooling with in day to day reality.

David: How did psychedelics influence your music before and after?

Jerry: Phew! I can’t answer that. There was a me before psychedelics and a me after psychedelics, that’s the best I can say. I can’t say that it affected the music

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