Page McConnell: From Studio(s) to Stage(s)
PM: It was like that. I had heard that about him. And he was especially good on that track, so we tried, whenever possible, to get that to happen. So we did that song "Rules I Don't Know, which is a fairly straightforward arrangement that as a session player you would expect him to be able to play and after that We started recording "Back in the Basement ; I taught it to those guys and it just sort of took off and the version that's on the album is actually take two. Take one was released on an indie bundle, and it's about thirteen minutes and we started playing. I really like especially the second half of take one, but take two had a certain energy from top to bottom that was really undeniable, so that's the one I went with.
When we started improvising and playing like that, I really had no idea that was something he did: we started pushing each other and obviously Mike and I had the rapport of knowing each other's style. Jim Keltner really enjoyed playing with Mike. It was just great: the tapes rolling and we're just improvising...I couldn't believe it.
AAJ: It must be great to be literally surprised by what you can do with a certain collection of musicians no matter who they are. To be surprised by your own music must be really fulfilling.
PM: It was, and not only that but it was at that point an element that the album just didn't really have at all.
AAJ: The album would've been far different without that song and "Heavy Rotation:" on it.
PM: All three songs really added to the album and it was a nice finishing touch. I did a little bit of overdubbing at Bryce's, but almost everything was recorded in Vermont except those three songs, and even those, all the keyboards overdubs and vocals were done up here.
AAJ: Let me ask you one more thing about the material itself: was it new material that you composed as you began to work on this or did you draw from notebooks and tapes from days, months and years prior to give yourself a spark?
PM: I started with "Beauty of a Broken Heart and that was a song I'd actually written sometime before. I had started it awhile back, in fact we attempted to track it for the last Phish record Undermind (Elektra, 2004), but it wasn't really done at that point. I was already working on it then and that was where I started and just sort of finished that song and started on the next one. Then I did the next song, and then at some point I was able to work on two songs: it's hard for me to focus on more than one thing at a time...that's the way my mind works. "Maid Marian I was working on for three months at the beginning and then I did a lot of stuff over at the end on that too.
Some of the songs were really worked on throughout the process: "Beauty of a Broken Heart I re-sang the vocals at the very end of the process...some songs I was really working on for years in the studio.
AAJ: To your credit, there's nothing on the album that sound overworked. I've heard and listened to a lot of music over the years where it's clear that the life had been played and arranged and recorded right out of the material itself, but there's something breathing on every track here.
PM: Thank you...It's very raw. Even though I did go back, and if I thought something was a little flat, I would re-sing this or that. I tried to keep as much of the first takes of the stuff that I did and some of it is really raw and some of it is recorded on what some would consider less than hi-fi equipment which may add to the ambiance, but it's also that's how it was.
That's what I found after I had been working on this stuff over a year and then went down to Bryce's. Somehow it still held up f r me. Each day I would decide what song I was going to work on, which one of seven songs and just kind of going around in circles trying to find ways to improve. Or do things differently. "Heavy Rotation was one that I worked on for a long time, then ended up re-tracking with Keltner, and it ended up being completely different than what it was in its demo phase. Apart for that, it was pretty much chronological in how it went.
AAJ: That's interesting, and explains why "Beauty of a Broken Heart is the first cut then: like a bridge from the past to the future.
PM: It's sort of where I started and that's why it ended up there. But I really liked the beginning of "Heavy Rotation. I thought it would've been a cool way to start the album, the sound of the tape spinning backwards, but it ended up second.
AAJ: Well, there's a start, there's a false start, then there's a real beginning. So you can have it all or have it both ways in making the CD.
I wanted to talk with you a little bit about playing live because I'm looking forward to seeing you at Higher Ground (South Burlington, Vermont venue) when you start the tour at the end of May. I don't know if you've begun preparing with the band for the tour and how you are going to devise your set lists and your material. Can you talk to me a little bit about what songs you're going to choose, and if you've got covers going? More specifically I'm really interested inapart from "Heavy Rotation and "Back in the Basement if you are going to set songs that everybody in the band is going to know that you're going to "go with.