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Jerry Garcia

Rebecca: Why do you think that?

Jerry: I don’t know why. Remember, I don’t know what the Grateful Dead are like, I’ve never seen the Grateful Dead, so I don’t know what it is that the people in the audience experience which they value so highly.

Rebecca: You facilitate the potential for an experience. People have full-on religious experiences at your shows; they pass-out, speak in tongues and are even picked up by flying saucers. Are you aware of the impact you have on people’s minds?

Jerry: Not like that. I’ve made an effort to not be aware of it because it’s perilously close to fascism. If I started to think about controlling that power or somehow trying to fiddle around with it then it would become fascism.

Rebecca: Have you ever been tempted to dabble in the power?

Jerry: Oh yeah. For the first eighteen years or so, I had a lot of doubts about the Grateful Dead. I thought that maybe this is a bad thing to be doing, because I was aware of the power. So I did a lot of things to sabotage it, I thought fuck this! I won’t be a part of this. I dragged my feet as much as possible but it still kept happening! So, in that way I was able to filter myself out of it and think well, it’s not me. Phew! What a relief!

Rebecca: When you said before that you weren’t responsible, you were saying it in a very modest way – I’m not responsible for the wonderful experiences people are having – but at the same time you’re also shedding responsibility for the negative experiences.

Jerry: Absolutely. It’s a cop-out. I don’t want to be responsible. But this is also something I learned from my psychedelic experiences, you don’t want to be the king, you don’t want to be the president because then you’re responsible for everybody!

Rebecca: Have you heard of the Spinners? They wear long dresses and do this whirling dervish dance at Dead shows.

Jerry: They’re kind of like our Sufis. I think it’s really neat that there’s a place where they can be comfortable enough to do something with such abandon. It’s nice to provide that. That’s one of the things I’m really proud of the Grateful Dead for, because it’s kind of like free turf.

Rebecca: It doesn’t bother you that they use you as their religious focus?

Jerry: Well, I’ll put up with it until they come to me with the cross and nails.(laughter)

Rebecca: What are your priorities now? Are they very different to what they were twenty years ago?

Jerry: Not very. Basically, I’m trying to stay out of trouble. I’m trying to play well. For me, playing music is a learning experience and it’s satisfying to me to still be learning stuff. Also, my object is to have as much fun as I possibly can. That’s a key ingredient.

Rebecca: Some people believe that this is a pivotal time in history. Do you feel there is a New Age or to use Terence McKenna’s term, an Archaic Revival coming about?

Jerry: Sure, I’ll go along with that – I love that stuff. I’m a Terence McKenna fan. I prefer to believe that we’re winding up rather than winding down. And this idea of the 2012 when everything tops out, well, I would love to be here for it. I’ll buy into that belief – I don’t want to miss it! It’s like the millennium. At this point it’s a matter of personal pride. We have to survive. The band has to be able to play to at least the turn of the millennium.

Rebecca: What do you think that the future of the human race depends upon?

Jerry: Getting off this lame fucking trip, this egocentric bullshit. There’s entirely too many monkeys on this mudball and that’s going to be a real problem. People have to get smart. I’ve always thought that the thing to do is something really chaotic and crazy like head off into space. That’s something that would keep everyone real busy and would also distribute more bodies out there.

Otherwise, we end up staying here and kill each other and damage thti planet. I’ve gotten into scuba diving, so I’ve developed a great affection foi the ocean. Ijust don’t want to see it get worse than it is. I’d like to think we could get smart enough sometime soon to make things better than they are instead of worse.

Rebecca: When people say they’re optimistic about the future, they usually mean the future of the human race. But you can be optimistic about life and perhaps pessimistic about the future of the human race.

Jerry: I think the earth doesn’t have any real problems, in the long run. I think we’re just another disturbance. I don’t think even we can really fuck up the earth.

Rebecca: Do you think it’s arrogant to think that we have the ability to save the earth? And even if it is, do you think it’s a healthy attitude to develop anyway?

Jerry: It’s arrogant, but I think we should develop it anyway.

David: How did you get involved in helping to save the rainforest?

Jerry: Well, I remember we started hearing about these things twenty-five to thirty years ago. The clock kept ticking by, and nothing was really happening. So we thought maybe we should call attention to this. Then there was the matter of finding out who the true players were, because there are a lot of bullshitters in the environmental movement. There are a lot of frauds.

You have to really go into it to find out who’s really doing stuff and who has the right perspective. So for us it was about a two-year process of finding the players and then getting them to agree to work together so we could do something that would matter. I think everybody wants to do stuff about these problems. We didn’t want to just call attention to how powerless everybody is. Instead, we wanted to do some things that were really hands-on, using direct action, and it’s worked out quite well.

Rebecca: Can you tell us about any current projects that you’re involved in?

Jerry: I’m involved in an interesting project with a little symphony orchestra down the peninsula called the Redwood Symphony. I’m getting about five or six musicians to write pieces for me and this orchestra. Danny Elfman is one. David Byrne seems to want to do one, and also my friends John Kahn, Bob Bralove, and David Grisman. The interesting part about it for me is that my oldest daughter plays first violin with this orchestra. So it’ll be kind of fun to be involved in a project where she and I play together.

Rebecca: That sounds wonderful. What are some of the basic messages in your music?

Jerry: We’ve always avoided putting any kind of message in there. But, as life goes on, I find myself more comfortable with committing to emotional truths. I’m not an actor, so I can’t get on stage and sing a song that doesn’t have some emotional reality for me. Sometimes it’s only something about the sound of the lyrics–it may not be the sense of it at all but there has to be something in there that’s real for me. Robert Hunter’s really good about writing into my beliefs. He understands the way I think, and he knows me well enough to know what I’11 do and what I won’t do. He knows that I’m always going to be battling with my intelligence about whether I can sing this lyric or whether I’m going to feel like an idiot singing it. It has to resonate in some way.

Rebecca: I’ve been impressed throughout this interview by your modesty. How have you managed to remain so unaffected by your fame?

Jerry: If you were me you’d be modest, too. (laughter) Deadheads are very kind. When they enter my private life, they almost always say, “I just want to thank you for the music, I don’t want to bother you.” When I feel that I really don’t want to know about it, I just tell them. I treat everybody who speaks to me with respect. I’ve never been hurt by anybody or threatened in any way, so I have no cause to be afraid of this kind of stuff. It just isn’t part of my life most of the time.

Besides, I’m kind of like a good ol’ celebrity. People think they know me. It’s not like “Oh gosh! Look who it is.” It’s more like, “Hi, how ya doin’ ?” I’m a comfortable celebrity. It’s very hard to take the fame seriously, and I don’t think anybody wants me to. What’s it good for? The best thing about it is that you get to meet famous people and you get to play with wonderful musicians.

Rebecca: If you hadn’t been a musician, what might you have been?

Jerry: I’d be an artist. I was an art student, and that was where I was going in my life before music sort of seduced me.

David: What inspired you to design a line of ties?

Jerry: I don’t really have any control over them; they’re just extracted from my artwork. I don’t design ties, for God’s sake! (laughter)

Rebecca: You

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