Jerry Garcia Interview

November 12, 1987

Part 4 of 4


By Mary Eisenhart

Garcia: I don't talk to journalists, I talk to people.

I'm talking to you, I'm not talking to your readers. And it's your problem whether they understand me or not. I don't care whether they do.

Nah, it's their problem. I'm just going to write it down. . .

(laughs) Well, that's okay. There was a time when I was concerned about trying to keep things distortion-free, but it really is—you can't do it. And language—

It passes through so many filters by the time it gets to a page anyway.

Even getting out of my mouth. Ever since the hospital, I don't have quite the facility with language that I used to. I used to be much quicker. And now I find myself hunting for words, and things that I know that I know, but I don't—they're not readily available.

They're on a different sector of the disk.

That's right, so I have to poke around a little more. And I feel I'm not quite as quick as I once was, so I verbally. . .

But just the fact that I do interviews is already—it's not what I do. Playing music is what I do. And my playing is fine. So I'm not worried about whether I'm communicating accurately. As long as I can play, I'm okay.

Talk has always been cheap, and I can sit here and say anything, really, and it's just not what I'm getting paid to do. So I consider it like a freebie, so I feel less inhibited about just—I don't care. (laughs)

Like I say, I have this knack of being sort of reflexively able to answer any question. Whether it's true or not, or relevant or not, is totally beside the point. But it's just one of those things I can do—it's like a knack, you know what I mean? And I've never been able to cash in on it, it hasn't helped me in this life—except for doing interviews.

It's one of those things I didn't discover until I had to start doing interviews. So it's another one of those things up and above and beyond and outside of my realm of expectation. So it's like--I don't care. . .(laughs) You know what I mean? It's another kind of fun.

I mean, I don't even talk like this.

It's not like talking functionally, do this, do that. . .

Yes, or else riffing, you know what I mean. When you're with musicians or friends or stuff and you're just playing with language. And there's no point, it's not going anywhere. (laughs) It's not a conversation.

And that's more what I'm used to. It's actually what I'm better at than this. But this is one of those things that there's a need for it somewhere. There was a time when I was concerned about, gee, I hope I'm not misleading anybody, you know. It got to be that kind of concern.

Also, it gets filtered through so many layers of editorial process anyway. So much ambiguity can creep in that in a way you're not responsible--you said it the best you could.

Right. And I figure, my communication is with you. And I figure if you leave with some understanding of me above and beyond what you already know about me, then we've had some successful communication. If I have some sense of you, you know, then this doesn't represent a waste of time.

And because my ability to meet people in a spontaneous way has been curtailed by the insertion of—celebrityhood makes it—I can't go into a bar, you know, "Heey, what the fuck's happening?" You know what I mean. Fool with myself and get in trouble and do all the things I used to be able to do.

Now it's more often I meet people—this is the way I meet them. And in some situations it's controlled like this. But it still works for me, it satisfies that desire to bump into somebody that you don't know and just talk.

See what their world is.

Yeah, right.

How did you happen to cross paths with Joseph Campbell?

I met Joseph Campbell through Bobby. I don't know how Bobby met him. All of a sudden he turned up one day at Bob's house, you know? (laughs) You'll have to ask Weir how that happened. I have no idea how Joseph Campbell fell into his life. But then Mickey of course had lots to talk to Joseph about--

Being a mythic kind of guy. . .

That's right, and also Mickey is a sort of ethnomusician, and that's up Joseph Campbell's alley. I was a Joseph Campbell fan back in the early '60s when I read the Skeleton Key to Finnegan's Wake. Which I was fascinated by, and Finnegan's Wake—I was fascinated by James Joyce in the early '60s.

And so I--"JOSEPH CAMPBELL?" You know, ho-ly cow. I'd known about him for some time, and also of course his Heroes and all that stuff, his famous stuff.

Weir had no idea who he was, he was just this nice old guy. . . That's how I met him, through Bob. Like I say, you'll have to find out how Bob met him. But Bob has this kind of door to many—I think he probably met him through Betsy Cohen, who is one of our double-PhD crazy people friends that steers people to us occasionally. And every once in a while somebody really incredible pops through—"ooh, what happened?" Boom—there they are in Grateful Dead reality, you know.

Joe Campbell was real fun for a while—he was one of those guys it was great to do an interview with. That panel thing that we did [Ritual & Rapture]—it was great because we could defer to Joe. As soon as it got too dense--(snaps fingers) Joe! And he would say, well, ah. . .He would step right in there and talk about the invisible and the unutterable and the—you know, the stuff that I don't like to talk about, frankly.

That's his turf.

That's his turf, right. It was perfect. It worked out to be perfect, 'cause I'll take it all the way up to there, but when it comes to actually talking about the mechanics of the invisible, it takes a guy with 80 years on him.

So it was really a drag to have him die on us, you know, just as we. . .

On the one hand, he was 83 and entitled, and on the other hand. . .

On the other hand he was an ally that was really good. We could've used him for another year or so. (laughs)

But--he was a fine man. I really feel privileged to have met him, and to have experienced a little of the joy of life with him. That, I think, is a tremendous gift for me, and I'm an old admirer of his.

I was amazed because I was expecting one of these academics who wrote a book 30 years ago and have been coasting ever since. And then he was so--

Right. Far from it. Boy, what a live wire this guy is. This guy's really snappin'.

Yeah, he was fun. He was fun.

That Place of Fine Arts thing was great.

Terrific. I loved it. I thought it was fun. It's the kind of stuff I wish there was more of. And I wish there were more of those kind of open forums in which you could, you know, drag out some of this—some of the arcana.

Right, because there's all this knowledge walking around in people's heads.

Oh, incredible. And that's also part of the thing of sharing the psychedelic experience. The thing of, well, my experience was, blah-blah-blah, this-this-this, you know what I mean? This is valuable reportage that we really need, we need to know.

It's like mapping out the subconscious. "My experience there was, well, I saw a phoenix-headed giraffe walking around"—you know what I mean? It's just, you know, what about it, where do these images come from, where do these ideas—where does this stuff arise from? What are we really holding? Are there places? Are there names for them? Or locations? What are they, states of mind?states of being?

You know, all this stuff is part of the human experience, and some large amount of it is being actively suppressed. So it's like, that's not good, we'll never find out anything if we keep doing like that. So the more things that have to do with opening up and getting it out, getting the stories out, getting the experiences out, that gives us a larger vision of what a human being is so we can start to build on that.

I think we've gone a long way on a kind of the Judaeo-Christian Graeco-Mediterranean model of what a human being must be. ..

We tried this out. . .

Right, here's Pythagoras's version of it, now, you know, let's check it out from the point of view of the twentieth century experiential--let's try it from this end. And we need a new measure. We need a new start--okay, this is the basic human. The basic human contains all of these contradictions, all of these possibilities, let's build out from there.

Now let's talk about what we need for laws, how to govern behavior, how to govern each other, how to talk to each other, how to communicate, what structures we need—you know what I mean? Build out from a better model of the basic human. And we're lacking the model. We're lacking a good—we're lacking a modern version of what it is to be human.

Somewhere along the line maybe somebody will start to do it, but it's another one of those kinds of ideas I've had that's not a musical idea, it's just some kind of sociological political religio kind of idea.

-- [discussion on the subject of HyperCard, then a new product]

...The thing is it opens programming up to people like me who only write English.

Yeah, well, I don't even write English. I mean, I'm a terrible typist, but I'm a real great mouser.

I use—MacTablet is my favorite accessory. It's easier than writing with a bar of soap. You can really—I use mostly draw stuff. I mostly use it for graphics. Actually most of my computer stuff has been graphics and animation and fooling around with that kind of stuff. 3D stuff, and I'm fascinated by spatialities, and that kind of thing.

I haven't had much use for the verbal side of the computer world. But just anything actually—for me, it's something I play around with. I don't use it in any kind of direct way. I have a couple of music programs which I sometimes fool around with, and they're fun for doing—just weird things, you know.

I would never use them seriously for music, though. I just—I don't find an application there. For me music has to do with—it's too caught up in my thing of having chops as a guitarist. I don't really have a desire to cross that river, you know what I mean?

And so far the MIDI guitar thing with the computer is very stiff. Not much fun. And eventually maybe that'll smooth out, but meanwhile as an artist, as a draftsman, you know, I get a lot of use out of the Macintosh for that kind of stuff, and it really is wonderfully organic, considering what it is. I wish it was in color, that's the only. . .

The II is in color.

The Mac II?

But it's a big sucker. SuperMac has a 19" Trinitron monitor that's gorgeous.

Ooh! Right. Well, I may have to get one of those. I'm ready for an update, actually, 'cause my Mac's pretty old. I'm ready for an update.

[talking about Adobe Illustrator, then new...]

. . .and you can scan in photos and have a digitized image on disk. . .

I've been having a hard—I need to update all that stuff.

The digitizer thing—I had one digitizer that was really terrible.

A Thunderscan!

Yeah. Terrible. Oh, God, it was awful. It took forever to put anything in there, and it used up all the capacity of a disk. And you got one not-very-good-looking grey tone all out of registration, and . . .you know, Jesus. What a pain in the ass.

Well, I'd go for something. I'm ready for a whole complete update. My stuff is all funky, it's. . .

Well, they've got 300 dpi scanners now.


And the other thing is that you can output things on PostScript devices like typesetting machines and get the best resolution the machine can do.

Wow. That's great.

There's 2100 dpi scanners.

Shit, that's pretty damn good.

That's good enough for any human eye.

Yeah, it sure is. (laughs)

There's just all these cool toys out there.

Yeah, I love it. I love that stuff.

The music industry's getting into it a whole lot. A lot of studios aren't even using tape anymore.

Yeah, definitely. A lot of them are using that.

How do you feel about that?

I don't mind it. It's just another tool. I mean, tape is cumbersome. I'd like to see tape be gotten rid of. It's cumbersome. Tape is like our version of the Edison cylinder. We can do without it.

I'd like to see records gone too. Records are—

Since CDs came out they seem to be on their way out.

Yeah, they definitely will be. All of those things that basically—that are physical in nature, are getting to be more and more pointless.

But so far digital audio is still—it doesn't represent an industry standard. So it's quirky. So at this point, there are places that have a lot of in-house digital stuff, especially the Fairlights and the computers they use to program instrument sounds and so forth, and the things called sequencers. They're a great aid to arrangers and writers and they're especially handy for things like doing one-man scores of movies.

That's where they're mostly used nowadays, in fact. That's where they get the greatest use, because it's real cheap for one person now to make the score of a movie, where you used to have to hire orchestras, fundamentally, plus copyists and writers and all the rest of the stuff that, now, one person can do it—n arranger can do it all by himself. And that kind of stuff is where it's finding its use.

But it works both ways—it produces non-surprise music because it lacks the chemistry that you get when real musicians are playing with each other, so it's never going to replace that, but on the other hand it represents another—like, the language where every musician has every instrument at their fingertips all the time.

So potentially there's like hypersymphony stuff that's going to start popping up somewhere along the line, where you get three or four guys playing these instruments and it's going to sound like a world of music.

Like Phil's piece for four orchestras.

That's right. The whole—the orchestra is really just designed to overcome the quietness of instruments, and really sort of the ultimate musical organization is the quartet or the quintet, where you have just a few voices playing, but it's not loud. The orchestra is really designed to make the quartet loud. So it's replacing the orchestra with electronic versions of it—it's what music has been doing all along. Trying to get louder.

What do you think about this DAT protectionism stuff?

That's real bad. That's real stupid. It's the record companies trying to make it so people can't make tapes. That's all. Their theory is that the people are making tapes, and therefore they're not buying records, but I don't think that's true. It has never been very true. People make records and tapes. I mean, people buy records and also make tapes.

Once you've bought the record you're entitled to make a tape of it.

Absolutely. You bought it, it's yours. You can do whatever you want with it. I don't have any problem with it.

The worst thing about it is the way they're proposing, the notion that they have about how to protect, how to make non-copyable copies, which is to filter out one frequency. Unfortunately the frequency is right—is a musically valuable frequency, you know what I mean? So it means that you've got a little notch in your music at 8K, which contains a lot of musical information.

Is that on the first generation or the second generation?

That's on the first generation—well, it's on whatever copy they're selling. Whatever they're selling.

The commercial product?

The commercial product would have a hole in it, essentially.

Well, that's nuts.

(laughs) Yeah. It's stupid. It's--

Who would buy something like that?

That's the point. They're assuming that people won't miss one frequency. But--I mean, if we were in an audio studio I could show you right now what it sounds like, and you'd hear it. You'd hear it, no problem. It's really stupid.

People have been making tapes for 20 years, and record companies are still there.

Yeah, that's right. No, they're being silly. They're just being silly.

Not only that, but—it's just—it's a bad idea and it shouldn't be encouraged.

Congress has been talking about it, though why it's their business I'll never know. It's one of those things that fall under federal copyright—it's copyright violations, so it falls under the copyright acts, I believe is where really all this stuff comes into it. 'Cause that's where the mechanical licensing and all that fits in. It fits into the copyright laws.

So that's the body of legislation which covers this, which is regular US Congress-type legislation, federal legislation.

You know, it's just a stupid--it's just stupid. I mean, it's like taking all your records and putting a filter at 8K straight across and dumping everything at 8K out. It's just (laughs)—I don't know who thought it was a good idea, or why they thought it was a good idea, or what—I can think of better ways to do it that would be frequency-additive, I mean, you know, you could put an ultra-low frequency that no loudspeaker on earth could reproduce but that would be easily detectable by some detection device and everything. The problem can be solved in more than one way, is what I'm saying, even if they really insisted on it.

Personally, I think it's dumb. The whole protectionism thing is--they're going too far.

Well, the computer industry's gone the same way, with standards and with copy protection. They decided they needed industry standards, and they also seem to have decided that copy protection's more trouble than it's worth. After years of hiring expensive programmers to write nasty protection schemes, finally the big guys like Lotus and Microsoft decided. ..

Fuck it.

Sure, they're getting ripped off, and people copy stuff and pass it around.

Sure. So what?

Those guys are all still there.

Yeah. So what?

And Bill Gates already has more money than he'll ever know what to do with.

Right. That's the point.

So it's gotten to the point where it's a legitimate cause for complaint if the software's copy protected. To me this is a good development, and the record companies ought to look at it.

Yeah, well, if the music companies have any sense at all, they'll take a hint from the computer guys. I mean, what they're doing is not even self-serving, it's just stupid. It isn't going to do what they want, it isn't going to solve any problems, and all it's going to do is make it so that people are paying good money to get a bad product.

That's the worst of it. And the fact that they don't even seem to care about that is appalling to me, but it's not surprising either, because in all my years of dealing with record companies I've never yet found record company guys who've actually been to a pressing plant, who've actually dealt with the manufacturing of their product, you know what I mean?

So the manufacturing of the product gets short shrift—it's the thing that they are least concerned with. The marketing, yes. Advertising, yes. Manufacture, no. So, you know, at this late date to jump on the manufacture bandwagon and try to protect music. . .

The whole idea of music as product is a little problematical anyway.

That's right, it is. Once it goes on the radio, anybody can copy it anyway. And radio is where it gets exposed, so, you know what I mean. . .

It all comes around.

Absolutely. That's right. There's plenty for everybody. I don't see the problem.

I don't know of any spectacular cases of people losing their livelihood.

I don't think that the music business—hopefully—the problem is that this is out in that protectionism world, so that in the zeal to protect what they view as the capitalist system, legislators, who don't know anything about the dynamics of the music business might be tempted to put this kind of stuff into place.

I hope everybody who hears about it—everybody who hears about it should write their congressman, or if they hear about it coming up, to make their wishes known, that they don't want this stuff in place, and this stuff is not—it's only a burn for the consumer.


To Beginning Of Interview

Copyright 1987, 1998 by Mary Eisenhart. All rights reserved.