Sharing In The Groove

Phish’s Mike Gordon continues to develop solo identity

Mike Gordon? Yeah, you know him as the bass master for jam legends Phish. But Gordon has made a name for himself outside the Vermont-based quartet with a host of collaborations (notably with Leo Kottke, Mickey Hart, The Benevento-Russo Duo), an award winning filmmaking career (his film Rising Low won Best Documentary at the 2002 Newport International Film Festival) and as an author. On the heels of a much talked about Halloween run of Phish shows, Gordon will tour the country behind the release of his third solo effort, Moss, out now on Rounder. Touring as a member of Phish and playing large coliseum/amphitheater-type venues has certain rock star perks and privileges: loaded down dressing rooms, big comfy busses, generous ticket and merch sales. But the Sudbury, Mass. native also enjoys playing smaller venues on his solo tours and connecting with people in a different way. “There [are] lots of differences besides just the size of the venues when talking about touring with Phish or going solo,” Gordon says, making his way toward Portland, Ore. “The size of the venue doesn’t always determine the level of intimacy by any means. There’ve been nights where Phish is playing to thousands of people and there’s a great sensitivity there despite the size. On the other side of that I’ve played smaller rooms where that intimacy was missing.” “Adjusting to playing theaters and clubs is work, especially in regards to acoustics and getting the sound right,” Gordon continues. “But I get to hang out with people more, be at the merch table meeting people. I also like having the people right in front of me when I’m playing; it makes me feel like I’m part of the crowd. So really, I’m kind of building a new career. Ultimately, what Phish fans care about is Phish and only some of them will come out for these shows. But there is stuff I can do that I could never achieve with Phish. I love the creative aspect of it. It’s liberating because I get to sing a lot, write a lot of songs. I love sharing too, but Phish is ultimately playing Trey’s [Anastasio] material and I don’t mind doing that either because I’ve had some amazingly deep experiences on Phish tour. It’s great to be able to wear both hats.” Time is precious for Gordon, who also juggles fatherhood alongside his musical endeavors. Following Phish’s Halloween run he had a measly three days to rehearse with his solo band before getting back on the road. His act tours as a five-piece that he’s had in place for two-and-a-half years. “It’s been great to keep something solid going outside of Phish,” Gordon says. “There’s not always time enough to get together and I used to be worried that we’d be starting back at square one every tour with new players. On this tour so far though there has clearly been something happening between us because of that sticking to it. We were able to grow some telepathy.” Moss is definitely a different record from either of Gordon’s previous solo outings, 2003’s Inside In and 2008’s Green Sparrow. The new record is first and foremost more accessible with stronger melodies and memorable hooks. One of his main goals for the new batch of songs was to put in more time writing and editing them, to hone his songwriting craft. The extra attention to detail is evident. Gordon handles vocals, bass, electric and acoustic guitar and piano duties on Moss but wisely decided to enlist the help of some well-versed friends, including organist Marco Benevento and Phish bandmates Page McConnell and Jon Fishman. While the album has characteristic Phish playfulness, most cuts would not be found on a Phish record. “The new record really does have a kind of bass-centric approach to it,” he says. “Because I had started some of the song ideas from ribbons of music or from bass and drum jams, there [are] some spaces where the bass is unique. There’s not too much layering either, so that really allows the bass to be in those unique spaces. I like it when the bass lines aren’t too obvious with the groove, but still internalize for people. So in that respect the bass lines are tweaked a little.” An Evening with Mike Gordon is Sunday, Nov. 14, at 9 p.m. at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $22. For more info or to purchase tickets visit radkadillac.com.

posted at 10:03 pm
on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

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