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From [email protected]ell Mon Apr 29 21:45:18 EDT 1991
Article: 43136 of rec.music.gdead:
Path: [email protected]ell
From: [email protected] (David Gans)
Newsgroups: rec.music.gdead
Subject: Dan Healy interview 2/27/91 transcript
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
Date: 29 Apr 91 19:27:30 GMT
Sender: [email protected]
Organization: Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link, Sausalito, CA
Lines: 566

Here is the transcript of the Dan Healy interview that was broadcast live
on KPFA February 27 and distributed as Grateful Dead Hour #130.....


DAN HEALY at KPFA 2/27/91

[the program opens with 2/19/91 New Speedway Boogie]

Gans:  Dan Healy's with me here in the studio, and if you don't know
who he is you haven't been to enough Dead concerts yet.  He's the guy
who makes all the sound come out the speakers out front...

Healy:  So, how about it?  New Speedway Boogie, huh?  Why don't you ask
me what it was like being there?

Gans:  What was it like being there?

Healy:  Ah, I don't want to talk about it.  [Laughter]
        It was an interesting show.  First of all, it was really a flash 
to pull into a place where they had just completed an auto destruction
derby,  so there were hulks of cars laying everywhere...

Gans:  Are you talking about Altamont Speedway in 1969?

Healy:  Yeah.  That was the beginning, and at the end the bonfire of the PA
cabinets was about it.

Gans:  [Laughs]  And in between?

Healy:  In between was a lot of interesting stuff, and I think the song
probably runs it down.

Gans:  Well, you guys never actually played [at Altamont], right?

Healy:  No, but it was our sound system, so some of us were there...

Gans:  So you were working all day?

Healy:  Actually, from the day before.  You see, it was originally going to
happen at Sears Point, and at the last second, for whatever various reasons,
that washed out and so it wound up being Altamont and... what can I say?

Gans:  There's a movie about it, that Rolling Stones movie "Gimme Shelter"...

Healy:  In my opinion that doesn't necessarily reflect the reality of what went
on,  but... I think this song reflects more realistically what went on.

Gans:  Do you have any idea why it was revived 20 years after its last
performance?

Healy:  Basically two reasons: One is that since Vince has joined us
(by the way, I really enjoyed Vince the other night; he kicked
mmm-mmm-mmm real good), we were going through tunes, digging stuff up,
teaching Vince stuff; and at the same time there's been -- and this has
been going on not just since Vince,  but also in the last year -- [a
sense] of "Hey, you know there's a lot of stuff that's gone on in the
past that warrants looking back into."  So I think it's a combination
of Vince joining us -- it's a juncture point, it's an opportunity to go
back through everything and pull stuff out -- and I know for sure that
there's more to come along those lines.

Gans:  I notice he's obviously listened to records as well as live tapes. On
"Estimated Prophet" he's playing a line that's reminiscent of that Tom Scott
line that's on the record.  It's interesting to hear.

Healy:  You have to have a place to start and you have to come up with
something that is cogent with respect to the arrangements of the songs
and stuff like that, so I think what he chosen to do is wise and really
reflects good musicianship in the sense of: "OK, get it together; when
you get a handle on it and you get to know more about it then you can,
of course, move off on to your own spaces."

Gans:   We're going to take some calls from the listening audience.
        Do you have a question for Dan?

Listener:  I was just wondering how come the boys don't give a little
back to the people and have a free concert, say a benefit in the park
or something like that?

Healy:  Do you want a straight answer or a baloney answer?

Listener:  How about a straight answer?

Healy:  OK.  A straight answer is (and this isn't even recently; this
goes back as far as ten years ago): the very concept of pulling a
quick, free shot in the park, as we used to do back in the late sixties
and early seventies, comes down to monumental amounts of problems to
work out.  For one thing, there's no such thing as showing up and
playing in the park for us.  We've planned shows like that in the past,
and actually what has happened is that somehow, mysteriously from
inside of our scene or from wherever, it gets out and it's not even
actually a secret hit-and-run kind of a thing.  The alternative is to
go through the Parks and Recreation Commission and to do that would
give so much lead time, because of the time it takes for bureaucracies
to move through all of that licensing stuff, it's enough time that
there would be a million people there and it would turn into something
else.  So the answer is it's not as easy to do as you might imagine.

Listener: I understand.  Thanks a lot.

Gans:  Hello.  You're on the air.

Listener:  You mentioned the Dead are rehearsing some new songs....

Gans:  We don't want to blow the surprise, though...

Listener:  I understand that -- I don't want to know what the songs are
-- but they also were rehearsing some last spring and they seem to play
more of them on the East Coast, is that correct?

Healy:  Actually, I have to tell you that if that seems to be a
reality, it's a coincidence, because believe me, there is actually no
truth to that in terms of what we plan to do.

Listener:  Oh, really?

Healy:  Yeah

Listener:  Do they enjoy playing more on the East Coast?

Healy:  It comes down to this: When we're on the East Coast we're on
the road and we do a much larger, longer, denser, concentrated set of
shows, and so what that comes down to is that after you play a bunch of
nights, within the scope of a larger tour it opens up the possibility
of trying new ideas and stuff.

Listener:  Right, that's what I figured.

Gans:  Is there more working up stuff in soundchecks and hanging out in the
hotel thinking of new things?

Healy:  That kind of thing, yeah.  That's a product of the mechanics of
being on the road, and beyond that there is no philosophical or ideal
or whatever-you-want-to-say difference.

Listener:  You don't think the Dead are comfortable coming from their
homes and a little more laid back...

Healy:  ...it's because we don't dig all of you guys out here...

Gans:  That's it.  It's hometown paranoia, man...  [Laughter]

Healy:  No, the reality is is that it's a product of being together and a
number of nights of shows consecutively.

Listener:  It'd be nice if they could get some of that energy at Oakland...

Healy:  Actually, if you look back here's what really happens:  we go
back in a dense, concentrated gig kind of a space; we come up with
these ideas, but you know what we do?  We always bring them home and
play them here.  You may not be the first ones to hear them, but you
may very well hear the best versions of them.

Listener:  Well, that's good to know.  I'll look forward to that.

Healy:  Right on, man.  Thanks for calling.

Gans:  You're on the air.

Listener: I'm calling to ask Dan a question about New Speedway
[Boogie], and I want to know if it would be presumptuous of me to say
"Hey, that was a war song!"  I was totally thinking  "Wow, this is
about the war!"

Healy:  Well, I think war really exists on a lot of different levels.
There's the organizational war based on the output of our country's
attitudes, but then there are a lot of different wars at a lot of
different levels and I think you have to read that for yourself. Let me
say this:  none of us are intentionally making any particularly pointed
messages about any given, particular war.  I think it's more of a
general context.

Gans:  I remember when they started doing "The Last Time," people
considered that that might be a message to the audience about the scene
at gigs and stuff like that...

Healy:  I'll tell you something, it's really a product of "New Speedway
Boogie," it really came from that, but it came from that whole concept of
dominating the rap.

Gans:  So if there is some relevance to it, it's for the listener to
deduce, right?

Healy:  So be it if there is.  It's really up to you guys to read what
you read in it.

Gans:  Hello.  You're on the air.

Listener:  Hello.  I'm a student at Stanford University and I'm calling
to ask what is the band doing to increase it's acoustical qualities
right now? Have you guys sort of stagnated or are you growing more
acoustically?

Healy:  Wow, man, I could consider that a dirty crack.  [Laughter]  It
amounts to this:  I hate to sound like Johnny-on-the-spot but in
reality the truth, point-blank, put straight to you, is it's a
relentless endeavor to develop the best and highest technology, and
offer you, as the audience, the best trip going.  And that's the bottom
line and the truth of it.

Listener:  Are you trying out new sound ideas a lot at shows or...

Healy:  Yeah.  There is never a time when we consider that everything
has been achieved and accomplished. So what happens is that we
continuously review -- and this includes Donny Pearson and all of our
sound guys and the band and everybody.  And I can assure you that
there's never been any backing off, or even levelling off, of attention
paid to upholding the latest state-of-the-art stuff. So the answer in
short is yes, we're going for it all the time.

Gans:  Nobody gets to coast for very long in that scene

Listener: No, definitely not.

Gans:  All right.  Thank you.  Hello.  You're on the air.

Listener: Yeah, hi you guys.  Great listening to you.  Hi, Dan.

Healy:  Hiya.

Listener:  Listen, I'm glad to hear that Jerry's playing more of the
MIDI. It sounds great.

Healy:  Well, you know what happened, was that when he first got it, it
was such a huge step to take that for a while he would step on a button
and the thing would be exploding and stuff.  But in his perfect Jerry
style, he's actually been getting down on it and working with it and he
spends a lot of time -- I think more than people imagine -- working and
hanging out at the shop and hanging out at the rehearsal studio and
working out bugs and flaws in the system.  All of you guys who really
pay attention to that stuff may have noticed that at the last shows in
Oakland, when he'd step into his MIDI stuff it didn't just go ape....I
can't say that word.... The upshot of what I'm trying to say is that as
far as I'm concerned, hooray for Jer, because he's not a slouch and
he's on the case.

Listener:  Yeah, I mean that and the combination of Candace's work, I
just have to say something, it's been incredible just to watch that
component. And then all you guys, there's like seven or eight people
there now...

Healy:  Absolutely!  Absolutely.  Candace [Brightman], in my opinion,
is the greatest lighting director walking the face of this earth
today.

Listener: Oh, yeah.  It's just liquid, the colors and the arrangements.
Is there any connection other than with her doing the programming with
the music itself?  I mean is there any connection, are the instruments
actually...

Gans:  Oooh, what a concept!

Healy:  Any connection is symbiotic.  It is actually not...although she
has been experimenting with actually direct-connecting equipment and
stuff like that.

Listener:  One other quick thing:  is Branford [Marsalis] at all going
to come back in the neighborhood?

Healy:  Absolutely!  There's no real set dates, and that's not the kind
of thing that's formally organized, but in truth scenes like that come
and go and certainly we're open to it.

Listener:  He seemed to be having a good time on New Year's.  It was great.

Healy:  Yeah, it sounded great.

Listener:  OK.  Onward.

Gans:  Thanks.  You're on the air.

Listener:  Hello, three quick questions.  Number one, who was the drummer who
sat in on the second set Thursday night?

Gans:  Olatunji and Sikiru and one other guy whose name I didn't catch.

Healy:  Thank you, David

Gans:  Don't ask him that; he's ninety feet away...

Listener:  Kind of a dumb questions, but....

Healy:  No, but let me elaborate a little bit.  You have to understand
that Mickey doesn't always tell you what he's planning to spring on
you.  That night what happened was at set break Cameron, our road
manager and manager, came to me and said "ten minutes" and then about a
minute after that Robbie [Taylor, stage manager] came to me and said
"Mickey wants you on the stage."  I went up there and Mickey said "By
the way, I'm planning to have this and I need these microphones and
stuff."  So that's about all the warning I get, so often I'm not
necessarily privy to what's being planned unless it's happening.

Gans:  So you had vocal mikes for [Olatunji] and percussion mikes and extra
stuff...

Healy:  I had six extra microphones that I sort of had to manifest in
five minutes, which is OK and I love doing it, but don't expect me to
be accurate about names and all that at the same time.  Although I
don't mean any disrespect.  Question two...

Listener:  What are the computer monitors for in the mixing booth?

Healy:  There are two sets.  Are you referring to Candace's light booth
or are you referring to my booth?

Listener:  The booth in the center of the floor.

Healy:  OK, there's two tiers to that: there's a forward and rear half.
The big ones that you see that are real bright, that's the lighting
system, that's Candace's action.

Listener:  There's printers running off the top of them.

Healy:  Alright, that's my booth, and what that's doing is registering
print-outs of equalization curves during the show that we now have the
ability to do, that gives us a chance to define what's going on with
our interface to the room versus us and our equipment.

Listener:  Oh, that's cool.

Healy:  Yeah, and question three?

Listener:  Question three:  why are the ushers at the Coliseum such jerks?

Healy:  They're not jerks.  If you had jerks standing in the way all
the time that you had to deal with, then there would be a serious
discussion over who's the real jerks.

Listener:  They seem to get a little out of hand...

Gans:  They come and they go....

Healy:  They don't.  I have to tell you something; let me set the
record straight:  my security guys are really right on people and they
will not hassle with anybody anytime...

Gans:  Oh, I don't think he's talking about the booth security; it's
the redcoats up in the Coliseum.  But I don't think that's really a
question for Healy...

Healy:  I don't think that you should really think they're part of the
show. I mean, I think that's one of those things like other things that
happen to you while walking down the street;  they're not necessarily
germaine to what's going on there.  In essence, you can't expect them
to be tuned in.

Listener:  No, but they detract from what's going on there....

Healy:  They definitely do, but that's a mutual problem. But I think
that we're sort of stuck with them because, for one thing, fire laws
and all of that mandate that there has to be people who are aware of
where all the exits are, so I think that's just one of the things that
we just have to deal with and I can only tell you what I do:  I do the
best I can to just not hassle with them or not notice them that much.

Gans:  Hello, you're on the air.

Listener:  Hey Dan, talking about the upfront tapers, I wondered what
is the scoop?  Because it seems like things are getting pretty tough on
that.

Healy:  Let me just talk a little bit about that, because that's a big
rub.  First of all, it really presents a hassle.  Back before there was
a taping section, it got to be such a hassle that I got a mandate from
the band and this is what they said -- and I, by the way, am still
peeved about this -- "Dan, _your_ tapers are causing trouble."  And
what I mean by that kind of trouble is people pushing other people
around, because here's what happened:  there'd be like a little
fourteen-year-old and his girlfriend come back to me with tears in
their eyes saying "I just got beat up and thrown out of the way because
somebody said they had my seat."  Now, this is more specifically
designed towards assigned seat places, saying "I got the right to be
here and they threw me out."  To make a long story short, there became
a rub about it.  So what happened is that the band came to me and said:
"You're gonna have to deal with this, man."  And so it looked for a
while like no more tapers.  So somebody, and I can't remember who it
was now -- it wasn't me, but I wish it was -- but somebody flashed: "I
know, let's create a tapers' section."  And under the new rules of the
tapers' section, tapers actually would have rights, where prior to that
they didn't have rights.  And so I said that sounds like a good idea,
let's create the tapers' section.  So what that means is if you're in
the tapers' section, you actually have a right to be there, but if you
migrate up towards the front, which I know some people do, you're doing
two things wrong.  One is you're trashing a fairly cool trip that's
permitted only in our shows and nowhere else; two, you're making a
scene that's creating the jeopardy of the tapers' section, because
you're taking it more back into the space of "There will be no taping
at all." All the tapers have to do is they have to decide what they
want to do. If they want to risk it, then they're going to have the
wrath of all the security people and all of doomsday on them, or
they're going to have to comply with hanging out in the tape section.

Listener:  Well, thanks for giving up that tape section...

Healy:  Well, I think so, and I think the really hip thing to do
is...let me just tell you, and this is going to be a big piece of news
(and this is with respect to the Oakland Coliseum only):  most of the
time you're right behind me at the mix board.  Other people besides
myself, for their own convenience -- basically the volleyball game --
(grumble, grumble) have put pressure on me, unbearable pressure on me,
to move the tapers up to the back in the seating back there...

Gans:  An audio hell, you mean?

Healy:  Well, I don't think that, I wouldn't say that, but the point is
that I think that what might be expected at Oakland in the future is
that the tapers might have equal rights to the volleyball game.

Listener:  That sounds good.  How about a big set of patches that we
can just patch into the board?

Healy:  Maybe someday in heaven, man.

Gans:  Hello, you're on the air.

Listener:  Hi, I was curious if you know if Vince is planning to ever use a
Hammond B-3?

Healy:  Actually, it isn't a question of Vince, it's a question of the
mechanics of having a Hammond organ there and getting isolation on the
sound of the speakers and so on and so forth.  And while I personally
really miss the sound of the B-3, I am looking towards.... I'm waiting
for Vince to have an opportunity to get familiar enough with all the
material. In other words, in my mind he still has slack and space to
get into the groove, which, by the way, I mean to say he's doing
extremely well.  I think that what will happen is that myself, with the
help of Bob Bralove -- who is probably the MIDI wizard of the universe
-- there will be MIDI'd, synthetic versions of Hammond that actually
won't let us down, and I think that we're going to probably move into
that space.  The truth of the matter is that that's an archaic device
and it's mechanically unfeasible on a rock and roll stage.  But at the
same time, musically all of us appreciate it because of the sound that
it makes, so the obvious answer is that the endeavor is to create
something synthetically that won't be a letdown.

Listener:  I'd like to just say, also, that I think Vince's playing at this
last show was just incredible.

Healy:  Well, I have to second that with you.

Gans:  Absolutely.

Listener:  I hope things are going to work out.  Oh, one other question: is
Bruce Hornsby going to play with the band anymore?

Healy:  Oh yeah.  He had his own commitments for these last shows. And
let me just run that down:  the structure is that Vince is the regular
keyboard player.  If and when Bruce has opportunities to do stuff, he
will be with us because he has his own schedule and his own life and
his own touring scene.  And so whenever it can fit together it will,
and when it can't, it's OK that it doesn't.

Listener:  He is still interested in playing with the band?

Healy:  Absolutely, it's not anything like that, it's purely a matter of the
mechanics of putting it all together.

Listener:  Well, that's great.

Gans:  Thanks for calling.  You know, in all the calls we've gotten we
have not gotten the one question that I was expecting that was our
in-cue to the next thing we've got up there.

Healy:  David, I can't even begin to...oh OK, I'm only a little bit thick.
[laughter]  Why doesn't somebody ask about "One From The Vault"?

Gans:  That's correct.  Well, we'll just have to bring it up.

Healy:  Here's what it is:  we have decided, or I have decided,  to
play the first amalgam if you will -- I always think of the dentist
when I hear the word "amalgam" [laughter] -- of "One From The Vault."
There will subsequently be, hopefully, Two From The Vault, Three From
The Vault, etc.  We picked one of the juiciest parts of "One From The
Vault," which is also the lead-off two tunes.

Gans:  This is a one-off concert from 1975 when the band wasn't
perfoming very much and it was in a very tiny venue, the Great American
Music Hall.

Healy:  When we completed "Blues for Allah," which -- this is in the
liner notes, by the way -- [was] in the days of Round Records, which
was the Grateful Dead's record company, and we had a
celebration/release party at the Great American Music Hall of "Blues
for Allah."  And what we decided to do to celebrate the release of the
album was to pick up lock, stock and barrel, go to the Great American
Music Hall, and perform the album "Blues for Allah" live.  And so we
recorded those tapes multi-track, we also broadcast it live, and it's
probably one of the most collected tapes of our tapes; or I'm told
that's true.

Gans:  The hardcore tapers out there are going "so why are you
releasing this when we already have it, man?"

Healy:  Because it kicks butt.

[Help on the Way->Slipknot!]

Gans:  I want you to talk about this thing you're doing for H.E.A.R.,
Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers.  A bunch of you old deaf
guys, you and Fred Catero and....

Healy:  Well, I think that you can have fun and listen to music and not
trash your ears, too.  But I also think that...I'll tell you what
happened to me. One of the things that you read a lot is that earphones
are a lot more detrimental than anything else...

Gans:  I'm taking 'em off now...

Healy:  They really are.  Here in this studio you wouldn't have to
worry about that because there's nothing below 200 cycles or above 5000
cycles and only about a tenth of a billionth of a watt. [laughter]  I
personally feel that the majority of my hearing damage -- let me tell
you something, you guys, every night when I go to sleep, I take my FM
radio and I put it where there's no station and I listen to [what] guys
in the biz call "random noise".  And I'll tell you why, because my ears
ring really loud, and I personally feel that it came mostly from
earphones.  But I've also played, in all the years of the Healy-Treece
Band and all of that, in front of loud amplifiers and stuff.  And one
of the things I'm hoping to do is tell the most accurate version of the
story that I can, but it comes down to this: there's no question about
it, you can trash your ears.  Which is something that doesn't come
back.  You cut off a finger, it's gone.  You trash your ears, they're
gone.  And it doesn't happen like cutting off your fingers, it happens
in the sense of the return is an horrendously high ambient noise level
in your mind, if you will...

Gans:  It's a gradual process, too, isn't it?

Healy:  Well, actually, I claim to feel that I know when I did it to
myself, and it was administered through earphones.

Gans:  For me it was Neil Young at Keystone Palo Alto and it was just
the right side and it took about a week.

Healy:  Well, I got a beef on my left side about Keith Godchaux in the
Healy-Treece Band, but it comes down to this:  if it hurts or if it
feels good but seems strange, there's a definite reality that you may
be injuring your ears.

Gans:  We've got about five minutes; should we do the Nordine thing?

Healy:  I think so.  Can we spend a minute here?  This is a treat and a
treasure...

Gans:  Absolutely...

Healy:  ...the idea of which I got from David initially.... We were
planning the New Year's broadcast and he said: "By the way, Ken
Nordine, I just got [the] re-release on CD of his original stuff."  Ken
Nordine.  You either know or you don't know who he is.  Anyway, we had
an opportunity to invite him to come to do the New Year's Eve broadcast
with us. And in between the broadcast this is a little something we did
on tape, whereby we drug Garcia, Mickey, Hamza and myself and David and
Ken Nordine and we did some of his poetry behind the music of those
guys and we want to play a little taste of this.  It will blow your
socks right off; if it doesn't, you got something wrong with you.

Gans:  This was something we did in the back room of the Coliseum
before New Year's, but you guys had so much fun doing this.... that
Monday [February 25] Dan engineered and produced a session with Ken.
He came out and did another reading of his great stuff in front of the
Garcia/Grisman organization...

Healy:  ...yeah, through the good graces of those guys, and that'll
blow you away.  We're gonna play the Coliseum version before
that....but there's some good stuff comin'.