Nancies.org.uk interview with Dave Matthews
May 10th, 2006
First of all, thank you very much, it’s good of you to find the time, your schedule is probably far more busy than mine.
I just came in today, this morning, I’m very happy to be here but I am a little wacky. The sleeping pills worked on the flight over but I’m a little delirious today. I went and had a fantastic massage, in a hotel, from Marin, and it even made things worse for me. I mean I feel great but I could very easily be sleeping rather than talking to you.
First things first; why did you decide first of all to play the small King’s College show that you did a couple of months ago and then this UK tour, especially after so long?
Well, I think we had a difficult time in our relationship with BMG over here before and it wasn’t, I don’t want to be a pussy about it, they just didn’t know what the hell to do with us and we didn’t know what the hell to do with them so it was always sort of disappointing, hyped and over hyped. Every time we landed over here we felt uncomfortable, so we just stopped. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to come over to the UK, it had just left a bad taste. So now that we’re working with V2 I feel there’s an opportunity here, it adds something to the adventure, try and see if we can turn anybody on with what we do over here. The way we grew in the states was going from place to place and doing it quietly, on our terms, and even though we have a recording deal over there we still kind of do it on our own and it’s kind of the same thing we’re just not a little band now. But I think the only way our music might get across to people is if we do it a similar way over here, start small. So that’s why after all this time we’re coming over here on our terms. I have this feeling with audiences, I think what happens often, if you tell people this is what they should be listening to it’ll turn people off and this is what BMG was trying to do with us, give people reasons to listen to us and so people wouldn’t have even noticed us or if anything they’d dislike us, so I think if you let people discover it for themselves, if they like it they can listen to more if they don’t they don’t really give a crap, rather than having a strong anti-feeling.
Do you have any plans to expand this touring and return with the band?
That’s sort of the whole focus out here, we have an album that’s been out in the states for a while, that’s been released over here and it’s doing alright and they’re going to release a compilation of some of our music from the states for another album and then maybe we’ll release another one. I think the whole idea is I’ll make a couple of trips over here by myself and then bring the band over. I think that’s the long term plan. I’m enjoying coming over by myself though because I don’t get that many opportunities to play solo and I like doing it a lot. I can ramble on like a moron on stage, I feel free, got all these people trapped and it’s just me, I gotta talk cuz I’m nervous but I enjoy it thoroughly. And if I screw up nobody knows, nobody scowls at me.
What expectations do you have of a show audience in the UK? A couple of the shows in the past, over the last 10 years have been made up of...
99% yanks? That was the nice thing about the last show at King’s College was that there was some yanks there but really they were in the minority, we tried this emailing technique where we tried to get the word out working with V2 without alerting the yanks. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the fans from America but I don’t want to come all the way to London to see a bunch of yanks, what’s the fucking point of that? I feel like it’s going to the Bahamas and staying at the Four Seasons, what’s the point in that? I’m going to deepest, darkest Africa and I’m gonna stay at this fancy spa, well why? Why don’t you just go up the hill asshole? So that’s the way I feel about coming here, I don’t wanna just have screaming yanks. We’re trying to take that approach, local families. If you do get an opportunity with a local person, and you go into a room and it’s you and 900 Americans, you might be curious I suppose but you don’t want to do it again, I don’t wanna come over here and play to a bunch of yanks.
Stand Up is quite a political record in comparison to the previous albums, and a lot of the charity work over the past year or so has been more focused - like the Vote for Change tour and the Katrina benefit, for example - on messages toward the Government. Are you looking to promote a similar message over here in the UK?
It’s not really intentional, as much as I suppose in the States, especially right now, where people are real sensitive. It’s quite a polarised political environment right now. People get real upset about things so I get upset. So it makes everyone want to stand up and get up and scream. With the Vote for Change thing, some of the guys in the band, and I think Springsteen and Michael Stipe thought maybe we might be able to get a different President. I did like the idea of everyone getting together. I didn’t really think John Kerry was the bee’s knees, quite the contrary but more than anything for me it was letting people loudly know George W was a twat. I think now maybe it’s just the result of that, I don’t think my politics have changed, but maybe the result of that people ask me more now what I think of certain situations. I think in the Katrina situation everyone was failure pointing, but it is a responsibility of the authorities to take care of people, but for a local and federal and state government that was just pathetic. We were there just the other day playing the Jazzfest and we went down to where they were building these 350 houses and this music resource centre named after Marsalis’ father, Ellis and a school, education and performance centre with the money that we and a bunch of other people also helped raise. That’s in a poorish area called the Upper 9th Ward, but the Lower 9th Ward is the part that really was crushed, and nothing has happened, you go there and the only thing’s that missing is the water. The houses are still in the middle of the street, there’s cars on top of houses, there’s houses on top of cars and nothing’s changed in the last 10 months and it’s 6 weeks away from hurricane season. It’s pathetic. W came down, our President, to New Orleans for a photo op’ and he went to the place where we’re building houses and had his photo taken carrying 2x4’s around the worksite there because the government hasn’t done anything. It’s a bad show, the emperor has no clothes.
It’s believed the band will be going back into the studio to record with Mark Batson again, is there anything in particular that the band likes about his style or the way he works in the studio?
We’ve only done one record with him obviously, but he’s a musician and so I think he has an ability to change, I think the fact that he’s a musician and the fact that at the end of the last record we were still all getting along pretty well, I think has a lot to do with it. I think also we didn’t tap very deeply, even though we were all very happy with how Stand Up came out, it was sort of like we were in the shallow end and so there’s so much more. So we’re already in the studio writing with him and we’ve been having a blast, just time off, and the summer after I go [back] out to the states we’ll go on the road and play a bunch of the music. Try and mix it up. He’s a very unique producer, the way he participates with the band. We’re essentially in many ways a very live band, we’re all spontaneous, but then we go in the studio and we’ve played music that seems to be spontaneous and we have a word with someone that’s more involved with hip-hop. I can’t pick up a guitar really or sit down at the piano, any member of the band, and start doing something without him. Grabbing hold of it is an interesting way to work, you end up with a lot more, the process is trying to figure out what to take from it.
It’s well known that several tracks were recorded for Stand Up that didn’t appear on the record, with regard to the new songs that will appear on the record and that you’re touring, are you revisiting those songs or are you starting with a clean slate?
We’ve talked about it, some of the songs that were my favourites, maybe they’ll end up on a solo record or something. Some of my favourite music was left off the record, it didn’t quite fit, maybe had a more electronic vibe to it, a little more demented, a little more drugged soaked, maybe not everybody in the band was in the same headspace. You sort of find stuff that fits for everybody, I certainly think there’s a wealth of stuff to work with beyond that. Maybe if I got hit by a truck and squished my brains they could make another record after I was squished if anyone’s interested, out of the leftovers.
Do you have any plans to do more solo or Dave and Friends work?
I think so. I think probably after 2 more band recordings after this, I think that seems like a good time. I would do it now, I’m always writing, I’m always recording when I get the opportunity, so I have a lot of stuff, again it’s the head squishing thing. It’s a lot of fun, working with other musicians. I don’t have to say what do you think. It’s very enjoyable being confined, or at least restrained by other people rather than just by yourself, but it was a fun working alone. I’d like to do that, it was two very different things for me. Just the experience, and how different they might appear on the outside, but I can’t imagine as there’s a certain way the band sounds, and when I do things by myself it doesn’t have that, hopefully it has something else.
The decision was made last year to bring back #34 after quite a long hiatus, this has come about after the band, especially with the release of Stand Up, has grown and matured musically and suddenly there was this link back to this past, was it an entire band decision to bring back this song after such a long time?
We brought back another one we had never recorded that we hadn’t played in years at Jazzfast, but one of the things that happened with the recording of Stand Up and then taking it on the road, it kind of took a burden off our shoulders, we had so much fun making it. We have to be happy being in this band, we’re so fortunate, but then Stand Up got that obligation and also for me doing the solo record, gave me a little freedom too. So I think going on to the road opened up everything for the band musically so we just started pulling things out, and that was the thing we hadn’t played the longest. We stopped playing that once we put it on an album which is strange, seems like you should do it the opposite way round.
Do you plan on visiting more songs that maybe you haven’t visited in quite a few years?
We keep talking about which ones, there’s a list, we actually talk about going through the things we haven’t done in a while, see which ones people wanna hear the most, and then deciding if we wanna play any of them, which is the bottom line. I don’t wanna fucking play that anymore! The fun thing is when you’re playing them, when you get new music, a lot of the old stuff started to become a little more like work, that’s one of the reasons we started visiting older stuff, having all this new music gives the old stuff a new life as well. Makes it not seem so samey