:: Mike Gordon :: :: Fox Theatre :: August 28 :: :: Mishawaka Amphitheatre :: August 30 ::
By Timothy Dwenger
Known as Cactus to some, and Gordo to others, Mike Gordon made a name for himself as one-quarter of Vermont’s Phinest, Phish.
Today, however, with Phish four years behind him, Gordon seems to have his plate full as ever. “There are so many musical possibilities in my life right now that it is out of control,” the bassist said in a recent interview with The Marquee from his wife’s law office in Burlington. He’s got a new band, a new record, tons of new songs, several jam sessions he participates in regularly and, of course, there are all those rumors about his old band getting back together.
Currently, Gordon is attempting to focus on the upcoming tour he has scheduled with his new band and he seems to be very excited about it. “The band was very carefully picked after much deliberation and jamming,” Gordon said. The line-up that he finally settled on consists of Max Creek guitarist and long-time collaborator Scott Murawski, fellow Vermonters Tom Cleary on keys and Craig Myers on percussion, and Todd Isler on drums.
“This new band feels so good and I hope that will continue to develop for years,” said Gordon. “During our rehearsals we really started to feel like there was a magical connection and if the first few gigs can feel as high energy and as adventurous musically, I can only imagine what can happen as we play together more.”
While Gordon did mention the possibility of writing and recording in the future with the band, his current record, which hits shelves early this month, was written alone. Gordon decided in 2006 that, after a pair of projects with Leo Kottke and a solo record, it was time to concentrate on really writing songs. “For me, I knew that I needed to start out with a year of ‘no gigs allowed’ and just focus on songwriting all year,” he said. “Getting to write a lot was the thing that I wanted to do and I feel so much better now that I have so many more songs to work with.”
The 10 tracks that make up The Green Sparrow were painstakingly selected from the 62 that Gordon stockpiled over his year of writing. “I wanted the music to be sophisticated yet accessible. I also wanted the lyrics to be personally meaningful, to make sure I was getting out what was in my heart.”
Writing wasn’t Gordon’s only focus over the course of the year, as he spent countless hours working on the arrangements and recording on different instruments. “There are a few tracks on the album where I play all the instruments. On ‘Andelmans’ Yard’ and ‘Another Door’ I play pretty much everything,” he said. “I play guitar, keyboard and banjo with some degree of comfort and in one sense I am not going to be as comfortable as someone who plays these instruments all the time, but on the other hand I think you get a fresh dose of beginner’s luck when you don’t do something and then you pick it up again. By doing something different and by challenging your fingers to move in different ways it kind of twists your brain around in a way that helps your original instrument when you go back to it. Even though it is a different finger motion there is something about the sensibility that gets infused.”
While the album is strong and the playing excellent, it isn’t surprising that the stand-out song “Traveled To Far” was fleshed out in the studio with the help of some very familiar faces. His long-time partners in crime, Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell contributed on guitar and keyboards, respectively, and the song takes on a decidedly Phishy feel as the chemistry of the old friends bubbles to the surface.
That chemistry and what they might do with it has been the subject of much debate over the last several years and has come to a head recently as band members have finally broken the silence about their relationship. While Gordon didn’t reveal anything monumental and prefaced his comments by saying, “We’ve told people everything at this point,” he did go on to elaborate a bit. “There is inspiration and great friendliness between the band members and we are all feeling like there is a very good possibility that something is going to happen, but we don’t know what or when,” he said. “It’s nice that we are at a phase in our lives where we could get back together and do the Phish thing and still have time to do other things. It would be nice to have one experience inform the other. Having a new band on my own and the fact that Page did as well, develops our personalities to bring something more to the table when we are back with Phish. On the other hand, I am always so inspired by Trey and his songwriting and the chemistry that the four of us have that I only learn from that when I go back and do my own thing. Each experience is complete by itself and wouldn’t need the other, but by being at a phase in life when it is possible to do many things because Phish isn’t touring nine months out of the year anymore is exciting.”
Whatever happens when, and if, the legendary Vermont foursome decides to regroup remains to be seen, but for now Gordon seems very content concentrating on his solo material. Though he occasionally throws back to the Phish days by adding a song like “Meat” to his setlist, it is clear that his own material is cathartic for him and he enjoys exploring the possibilities of a solo career.
:: Mike Gordon ::
:: Fox Theatre :: August 28 ::
:: Mishawaka Amphitheatre :: August 30 ::
Recommended if you like:
• Leo Kottke
• Max Creek