Mike Gordon has returned to the road, with a Fall Tour stretching from the Midwest to the east coast. Having just wrapped up Phish’s Fall Tour in Las Vegas with a performance of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, NYS Music talked to Mike about his favorite moment from the instant classic set, the goals of improvisation, and what he loves about The Egg so much.
Mike Gordon will be in Pittsburgh on Tuesday November 22 at Stage AE, Town Ballroom in Buffalo on Wednesday November 23, Higher Ground in Burlington on Friday November 25 and The Egg in Albany on Saturday, November 26.
Pete Mason: This is your third show at The Egg in Albany. Your show from 2011 was even released as a live show. What is the appeal of the venue to you?
Mike Gordon: The acoustics are pretty incredible, I don’t know what it is about eggs, part of how they built it I guess. I had been in the past to see Jerry Douglas. I remember liking the weird shape and it sounds good. The first time, you could hear a pin drop, and when it got loud it was a good kind of loud. And it’s nice how it’s just nestled there in Albany. I love that word. Nestling.
PM: Is there a moment you hope to reach in improvisation? A certain goal in mind?
MG: Not so specifically as a specific goal. There are different kinds of goals in there, set personally or with bandmates, different feelings. I’ve had different unique experiences, some are high energy, some are about a lot of sweat. All moments have to be unique, not just rehashing to feel special. There are kinda high energy ones, some more dreamy – in that department, what I used to say, is that my goal in music is to bridge the gap between being awake and asleep – there really is, in the middle of a jam that feels like it’s playing itself, this kind of opening in my soul or somewhere in my mind that accesses a neural network or feelings that I can usually only sort of traverse in night dreams. That’s why I’ll remember certain night dreams, the feeling, the location, the people, some aspect of it. That’s the biggest goal.
Being 100% in the moment is the true catharsis of what people have or are overcoming problems. In an experience it doesn’t mean you can’t keep track. When it’s not happening and it’s sort of a road trip to another song, then I forget how deep these experiences can be. Then I’m reminded, and I don’t need to be anywhere else in the world and I can be in a cozy living room or somewhere else.
I’ve been in a philosophical mode – my answers are veering this way for interviews lately. There are so many other feelings and metaphors. A complicated answer and definitely something I think about a lot.
PM: Why do you feel that is?
MG: Switching projects, my album, my daughter – so much going on at once. That allows for some cross referencing and applying one inspiration to another to go back and forth to blend all the experiences together and have it come out either way.
PM: What compels you to have improvisation as such a large aspect of your music?
MG: I have one band that jams a lot, maybe not enough for fans who want every song jammed out. But enough that St. Vincent made fun of it (the jamming). I think I have that (with Phish), so (with Mike Gordon Band) I can rock and work with catchy hooks in fun ways, or ask “How can we experiment with new sounds?,” but what happens for me, even if it’s not what I’ve been writing about in my journals compared to 30 years ago, these little peak experiences remind me that there is a deeper well to be tapped into than what the surface level of what music can provide. There is something that if you believe in it and allow it to go deep into your soul, it’s deeper than one can remember. Anything they try to read and watch later isn’t going to be the same, when the experience becomes irreplaceable. For me, I just keep getting reminded of total spontaneity and what you can plan for, but there is some planning that is necessary and good. Sometimes I think about how my favorite Radiohead show was really deep and dreamy and all the songs were 3 minutes long. If something feels really good, I don’t want it to end, I want to bask in it. Like when you get a new video game, you want to keep playing it. I don’t want things to end at 3 minutes, but if it does that’s OK.