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Dave Matthews looks ahead as band takes its time in the studio

October 31st, 2008

Reflecting on death of sax player LeRoi Moore, he says: 'that will change everything'

By MELISSA RUGGIERIMUSIC CRITIC

Last week, Dave Matthews was passionately engaged talking about politics and his reason for hosting Sunday's "Last Chance for Change" concert at VCU's Siegel Center.

But, while his political convictions are the timely topic, Matthews hasn't forgotten his day job as a musician. (If you missed our exclusive interview with Matthews over the weekend, visit www.inrich.com and search for 'Dave Matthews.')

As the frontman for the band that bears his name, Matthews often has the spotlight directed on him, despite being one of the most unassuming characters in one of the industry's most consistent bands.

But this summer, the resolve of the Dave Matthews Band was tested with LeRoi Moore's ATV accident that, two months after it occurred, led to his shocking death.

Considering Moore was not only a founding member of the band, but one whose jazzy saxophone sound and style of playing contributed tremendously to DMB's unique music, it's natural to wonder how his absence will affect the band's future.

"LeRoi was a founding member, but time changes us," Matthews said. "Hopefully, we don't imitate ourselves. Our detractors would probably say we haven't changed, but more than that thing [LeRoi] left musically, his absence as it pertains to the relationship and dynamic of the band, that will change the chemistry, that will change everything."

The follow-up release to 2005's "Stand Up" has gone through what Matthews calls "different phases" during the past year; while he hopes the group will have something relatively finished in early 2009, he's adamant about not rushing the process, both in tribute to Moore and to the integrity of DMB's music.

"We've always tended toward pushing the [recording] process in the past so we could get back on the road," Matthews said last week from his studio in Seattle. "But because of different elements, we should really put our efforts into making something that would be the culmination of our years together."

The DMB crew has also worked on the new album at its Charlottesville studio and has been huddling with super producer Rob Cavallo, best known for his work with Green Day, the Goo Goo Dolls and My Chemical Romance's commercial breakthrough, "The Black Parade."

Matthews was reluctant to pigeonhole the "sound" of this new release, noting that there was something different about all of the band's previous seven studio albums.

One definite, though, is that Moore's musical legacy will have at least one more forum.

"We were very fortunate that some of the music that we have features him, and certainly the songs and the writing of the songs, he was a central part of much of it and the spirit of it," Matthews said. "We're doing our best to have his participation."

After Moore's death in August, the band completed the last few weeks of its marathon summer tour -- a typically successful outing that, according to concert trade Pollstar, grossed an average of just over $1 million per show.

But, now that the distractions of the road are gone and DMB returns to the creative side of being musicians, Matthews and bandmates Carter Beauford (drums), Boyd Tinsley (fiddle) and Stefan Lessard (bass) will feel their way for the first time as a quartet.

"We have to see how everything moves and be open to one another," Matthews said about how the guys are dealing with the loss of Moore. "We expect there to be obstacles that will arise that will come from [LeRoi's] absence. Maybe in some ways, the tragedy will allow things to happen more easily. Certainly, the finality of death, in my experience, causes one to assess one's blessings"

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