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Mark Karan, Re: Phish


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Exerpt from:

Back Home At Last

An Interview with Mark Karan

By Valerie Stevenson August 2002

full interview

VS: Well that’s pretty much it, unless you have anything else you want to cover.

MK: Not really. I hear Phish is going back out on the road this year….

VS: …I’ve heard that too. Do you think that will impact you?

MK: I think it’s bound to, however, I don’t have anything against Phish at all and I want to go on record as saying that. By the same token, I do have some problems with some what happened to the tour scene and the lot scene during Phish’s heyday… where the drugs and the party seemed to shift around to where that took precedence over the music and the experience and the community of touring… to where you started seeing people staying out in the parking lot, getting loaded on Heroin and Nitrous and leaving saying they had this fabulous time at this show… that they don’t even remember… that they couldn’t possibly have heard what music they were listening to because it was so garbled up in their brain with everything else that was going on….it seems to me that it used to be that drugs on tour were more…..

VS: ….an accent…

MK: …they were the spice, not the meal…

VS: …right…

MK: …..and I think that the kids that were going to see Phish got more into the party and the drugs than the music itself, possibly because, and this is just my opinion, but I don’t think that Phish’s songs had the same….

VS: ….depth…

MK: …yeah, depth, the same sort of bard characteristic… the story telling of a generation… the way the Grateful Dead’s songs were. If the Phish experience was supposed to be the Grateful Dead experience of the millennium, I think they missed the boat in their song writing. I think the vibe is cool, it’s great having kids out on tour, that’s awesome and I’m sure all the Phish guys are great and their songs are fun…I don’t get that there’s a whole lot of depth and I think some of that depth and story telling is what created the community that surrounded the Grateful Dead. So Phish coming back on the road, I think will have an impact…a lot of those kids to whom the party is what’s most important will go jump back on Phish tour. To be perfectly honest, while it may impact us in terms of lesser ticket sales, I think that it will impact us in a positive way in terms of the kind of parking lot and the kind of scene that will in turn be following Ratdog because a lot of the kids that don’t like the darkness on the Phish lot will turn to String Cheese and Ratdog for a lighter, more playful and perhaps more spiritual venue.

VS: Well in the end, certainly the last five years of Dead tour for a lot of people it was the same as the Phish tour where the drug thing became and the parking lot scene became…..

MK: Absolutely… and part of that is the bigness of it and I’m sure I’m speaking predominantly for myself in Ratdog-land, but it’s one of the reasons that I, personally, don’t particularly like the idea of Ratdog getting more popular and thereby playing bigger venues. There’s less money to be made and more hassle, but frankly I would rather stay in the 1,500-3,000 seat venues and do multiple nights where necessary to keep the crowd sort of mellower, artier, friendlier and smaller. I think it’s the numbers…once the Grateful Dead started drawing 100,000 kids….

VS: ….you can’t control the scene….

MK: …you can’t control the scene and there were probably only 20,000 of those kids, if that, that really got it .... my Dead Head years were from 1966 to about 1975… so I truthfully don’t have much idea what went on between 1975 to 1995 when “Papa” died.

VS: When Phish got big, Dead Heads went on Phish tour and when Jerry died a lot of them went to Phish tour. Part of it was all those people that hung out in the parking lot and never even went into the shows......

MK: .....that’s the thing… and frankly one of the things that has always frustrated me about Dead Heads in general is their lack of ability to be as inclusive and embracing of all things… and of the bigger picture… as their heroes, The Grateful Dead, actually were. Nothing frustrates me more than to talk to a Dead Head who can flat out say something like: “I hate country music.” [laughs] I scratch my head… so, Mama Tried, Bertha, Big Iron, Me & My Uncle, Cumberland and the list goes on and on and on of stuff that’s absolutely pure and simple nothing but country music that this same person adores because the Grateful Dead played it… yet the version by the original artist that the Dead loved enough to cover in the first place… sucks?

VS: …I know….

MK: Mama Tried is a Merle Haggard song, Big Iron is a Marty Robbins song, El Paso is a Marty Robbins song….these are not Grateful Dead songs, these are country songs that the Grateful Dead loved so much that they wanted to do them. What those Dead Heads need to realize is that there’s real value in saying “I love the Grateful Dead’s version, can I learn anything by going back and listening to what inspired them to do it?"

VS: We’ll keep working on that one….[laughs]

MK: Hey Dead Heads… psychedelics are supposed to open your mind, not close it [big Laughs]

VS: Well that’s a good closing point…

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I just read this post to Jessica and my brother Ken. What a great interview....

Do you have the whole article? I'd love to see what else he said.

His ideas are right on. And Dead Head's worldwide should be reading this article AND understand what is being said.

I travel across the U.S., I've met alot of people who claim to be Heads but really don't get IT!

This is the type of article that may knock the ideas into their brain.

If they only understood, what a better world this could be.....

Oh yeah, Hello!

Robb

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