Bill Kreutzmann & Bob Bralove
10/31/91 at the Oakland Coliseum

(broadcast on Grateful Dead Hour #169)

Kreutzmann: It's Halloween here from the Oakland Coliseum. This is Bob Bralove, and this is Bill Kreutzmann speaking...and we're being interviewed by David Gans ("Hi!") about Infrared Roses.

Bralove: So originally I had talked to Billy - this is a long time ago, I don't even know if you remember this, ("About two years, I bet"). Yeah - about making just a drum album. We were talking about it, and as I started to define what the drum section was about, I started to be really interested in more than just the drum section, where the drums interacted with the space section - how it moved along - and so at that point we discussed opening up to the whole full drums and space. Billy was instrumental in just saying, "keep goin', that sounds like a good idea, keep goin'." He really gave artistic support in strategic times and places.

Kreutzmann: Gentle shoves and pushes, you know - "Don't stop, keep going, don't stop, don't let people influence you to not do it - go ahead and do the project." And bottom line, I would say stuff like "well, no matter what, it's a good project, it lives for itself, it doesn't have to live for anybody else, it lives for you and me." 'Cause I heard rough tapes of it, and the first time I heard it I was really fortunate, I had just got some Meyer speakers at home, which I think most people out there know are the sound system we use. It just kicked my ass, I loved it. It was easy to keep pushing ont he deal.

Gans: How did you begin choosing material, given the immense amount of stuff that was available to begin with?

Bralove: Spent a lot of time listening - I would say at least a year's worth of effort of just listening and taking notes. And I found basically that the stuff jumped out at me - things that I wanted, that I ended up using, would just speak. When you listen to five or six years of drums, and I used Dan Healy's tapes to get a mix of what went down on any given night. When Billy and Mickey got into some...into that BIG FAT groove, the speakers just jumped out, the music just said "Okay, here it is, this night's different."

Kreutzmann: And other players came on too. As people read in the credits, I hope they will notice that there's Willie Green from the Neville Brothers on one, Branford Marsalis is on a track, and of course, Bruce [Hornsby]. And God bless, Brent is on there on one - so it's real varied, it's not just drums, that's why doin' the project this way, instead of... I've never been one for the so-called "drum albums," as drum set albums, not like what Mickey does with all kinds of world drums. Playing the sets, that's not enough, there's not enough music there for me. So when we got to bring in all the other stuff, that really worked out great. It's a real departure from traditional 'songs' - there are tracks on the sides, but they're not traditional songs, they don't have any words or anything. And that's something I really like - it's 'drifting music' -you can listen to it in the comfort of your home and just drift with it - it doesn't TELL you things, it lets you come up with your own stuff, your own fantasies get to be seen there, which I really like. I like playing around that area.

Gans: That's a lot of people's favorite part of the Grateful Dead set, too, is the place where it's not a song - it's its own kind of music - that totally undefined thing.

Kreutzmann: And Bob took this a bunch of steps further. Not only did he take actual - 'events,' we called these things -he rearranged the events.

Gans: Yeah, let's talk about that a little bit. You worked some things from multi-track?

Bralove: Well the bulk of the material came from multi-track.

Gans: So you could re-mix it and...

Bralove: Re-mix it, and I did some editing too. Depending on the piece, some sections come from more than one night, and some sections come from continuously one night's performance. Others come from - well 'Little Nemo in Night Land' comes from anywhere from 12 to 18 shows.

Gans: And if you don't know how many...

Kreutzmann: Twelve to Eighteen, that's a good round number.

Bralove: Well, once the tracks and the parts were chosen, I tried to really focus on making the piece out of what was there, not remember where they came from. It was the energy that is the piece that is important to me in this, and I hope gets conveyed, 'cause it is the energy of the performances that work. The decisions for me were to follow the energy on any given night. And see if it would sustain. Sometimes I'd feel like, you know, "Gee, that's the perfect energy, but it only lasts for 30 seconds!" And sometimes it would be two minutes of really close to the energy that I wanted, but didn't quite hit it.

Gans: So you left that out?

Bralove: I'd leave that out if it didn't hit it.

Kreutzmann: Better to have 30 seconds of "hit it" than 2 minutes of...

Bralove: It's all for that big energy - it's all in the nuance of the performance. All the subtleties, I think, are there.

Kreutzmann: And for me, this place in the night in the second set - in the "free music part" I call it -it's always been one of my favorite parts. I don't know if I've talked about this before, but it's the time when there aren't any rules. And I don't know if it was Coltrane or somebody who said "damn the rules. I love that, 'cause you're playing and it's just whatever you can create, and it's fine. If you feel it to be good music, to be some real emotion - that's the key, coming from a real emotion! Then it's great, and Bob had to listen to hours of this stuff and sorted it out.

Gans: I remember talking to Mickey at some length about Grateful Dead music through the ages and stuff like that, and he would point me at stuff from like '68 when you guys would go out... he'd go off on seven and you'd go off on six, things like that. You'd go all the way out to multiple of that many beats, and end up together again someplace, and things like that. Are things that worked out like that?

Kreutzmann: We don't do it that rigidly anymore, not even close to that. What we do now is, I improvise time signatures. If were in a four I'll start taking sixes off the four, or take 12/8s out of the four and then play sixes in them. Or play 8/4, as opposed to 4/4. Just start lengthening the phrases and play a lot of three-feeling in there so it feels like it rolls more, it doesn't have to end like two-bar patterns. You have more of a flow that way. And stay away from the ones. (Laughter)

Gans: Boy, that's Grateful Dead Music in a nutshell: the one is implied.

Kreutzmann: No, the one is where you think it is.

Gans: I love it.

Kreutzmann: No, no, the one is where it seems to be. That's รก la Lesh. (Laughter)

Gans: Well, also, another thing that's thrown a wild card into the formula, is the advent of these triggers and samples and stuff. How has that changed... obviously it's expanded the range of sounds available to you...

Kreutzmann: That's the biggest one - it's just a whole new soundscape - it's an endless soundscape.

Gans: How do you guys interact on that?

Bralove: We yell at each other.

Kreutzmann: I say "louder." (laughter)

Gans: Let me re-phrase that...

Bralove: And then after he says "louder," I reach up and I grab the fader...

Kreutzmann: His hand doesn't move, but he grabs the fader so I think it's louder - no. He just gives me a myriad of sounds to use, lots of different sounds.

Gans: You turn him loose to throw things at you.

Kreutzmann: Yeah, and once in a while, I say "exactly right" I'm on the Octapad and I just say "go for it".

Gans: Do you try and surprise him or startle him with the sounds you throw at him?

Bralove: I try to startle him by making it sound good. I'm going for making it sound as rich and deep and exciting as possible. I don't aim to startle. That seems arbitrary. If the groove is goin' someplace and we're letting loose...

Kreutzmann: Some things just seem to be right, you know - certain sounds seem to be right. It might be the mood you're in that night, and those sounds will come around. The nice thing, again, about that area of the music is that it's never even close to being the same. And it gives you the freedom to make it different every time. You can just play with it.

Gans: Do you have names for certain sounds that you'll call out for, ask for ?

Kreutzmann: Well there's instrument sounds on there. A lot of the sounds have names that don't really relate to the sounds, particularly in my mind. They're there, but they're not like archetypal in that instrument.

Gans: Can you give me an example or two?

Kreutzmann: Well, I have some trumpet sounds, it sounds like a trumpet, you know, but still it's a recorded trumpet sound; you don't have the lip, you don't have the breathing and everything. But it still sounds like a trumpet.

Gans: So you get to play the trumpet.

Kreutzmann: Once in a while Jerry lets me. (laughter) Jerry hates when I get hung up on a note, just a single note - that drives him nuts, without a melody laced in there with it.It's crazy. It's still 'drummers tryin' to be musicians time'. (laughter) It is, it's really true, I'm not lying, it's a fact. We're percussionists, and we're out there involved in sounds and neither Mickey or I have learned the 12 scales perfectly - we don't know how to be free in all the scales. So when you put all the stuff in front of us it's still, god forbid me for saying this, it's still the monkeys on the keyboard goin' at it. (laughter) I don't care, I mean that's what we do, and it works out cool some nights. That's probably why [Bralove] had to listen to a year of it to get the real fine stuff.

Bralove: Five years, about five years...

Kreutzmann: That's also the way the Grateful Dead works, man. You know, if I was to say that we planned everything, and everything was just exactly perfect, and yes Mickey was playing six and I was playing seven, I'd be lying.

Gans: I appreciate your candor.

Bralove: It's also, I mean, especially in the free sections of the show, it's also the biggest risk.

Kreutzmann: Exactly!

Bralove: You've got nothing to grab onto. The musicians are out there naked, saying "Okay, I think this is music." It has no pre-set form, you don't know where it's going, the keys are not pre-determined, the harmonic motion's not pre-determined, and so they're just going out there and pushing it. So you can't plan that out - you can't plan out that much risk and say I'm gonna hit there, I'm aiming for this. It's the...

Kreutzmann: It wouldn't be risk if you had an aim, almost. For me, risk is without aim; it just is out there.

Gans: Well, that's the thing that has always attracted me to the Grateful Dead: you guys go out there and walk the wire every time.

Kreutzmann: Sure do attempt to.

Gans: Especially, I mean, even as the parts of the set get more rigid and formalized, we know that at a certain point when it's just you and Mickey out there...

Kreutzmann: No law in court...

Gans: ...anything can happen, and it does. I remember there's moments that jump out in my mind. I remember one night at the San Francisco Civic when the drum section started and you just got on your horse and started just, I don't know...usually it's like Mickey is more visually domineering and is very often hitting the bigger, louder stuff, you know, and I'm listening to you for drumming more, like trap drumming and stuff. And this is one particular night when, I don't know what it was, you just took off and took charge, and it was an amazing thing.

Kreutzmann: I wish I could remember that night. I can remember the second night here, Monday night here in Oakland: Bruce [Hornsby] and I got wailed on, and we played some far-out stuff. And I felt like I had six arms. And I was wondering; "Where's all this coming from?" And it was because Bruce was just kicking my fanny just playing this real hard stuff. So that was fun. That's my recent memory.

Gans: Every time a person changes in the band, it changes the whole thing.

Kreutzmann: Yeah, it takes a long time to settle in. As a matter if fact I was just thinking about that a day or so ago. I've just really settled in with Bruce and Vince. It takes a while for me to get in, you can hear their playing and stuff but it doesn't become part of you for that long. For me it seems like it's been at least a year.

Gans: There's that line in that Paul Simon song, "you can sing from the beat, you can hang from the bottom of the beat, you can lean on the back of the beat". I hear that definitely with Vince - his relationship to the beat is different from Brent's by a long shot.

Kreutzmann: Nobody's the same as Brent, everybody's different in their own way, and that's neat.

Gans: And it seems like Bruce kicks the whole band's butt, in a major way, in a positive way. It's like he's a Deadhead who gets to play with the band, he's been listening for a long time.

Kreutzmann: Yeah, right, he used to be in Dead cover bands and stuff. It a thing, too, with the piano being a percussion instrument - is it really throws that in, it really communicates to me playing the drums.

Gans: So, is there going to be another Infrared Roses?

Kreutzmann: No, but there's a video coming out soon...

Bralove: Yes, there is...

Kreutzmann: A far-out video that Justin [Kreutzmann, Billy's son]'s involved with. And I guess it's gonna be, I would describe it as 'animated.' Frame to frame, three and one half minutes of madness.... I hope it's what people see, the kinds of stuff people see when they're out there in wherever they're at, wherever they're hallucinating, wherever they're mind-expanding, wherever they're having fun, and wherever they're seeing the colors they're seeing that we're providing the music for. I hope the video will come close to that, and I'm sure it will.

Gans: I'm looking forward to seeing that too, that's great.

Bralove: It'll look just like this ...

Kreutzmann: It's Halloween, remember.

Gans: Anything else we need to cover on Infrared Roses?

Bralove: Umm, I'm not sure...

Kreutzmann: Just go out and buy lots of 'em, I would.

Bralove: In the context of the discussion of the keyboard players, I think it's nice to note that it's Brent, Vince and Bruce play on this. So it's...

Kreutzmann: Give it a listen, that's what I like about it, I always have felt weird about talking about music, it's a hard thing to talk about. So the best thing is to listen to it.