Genetic Strands Presents a Talk with Mickey Hart

Take a trip into the infinite field of deep space with Grateful Dead drummer and musical visionary Mickey Hart.

I’d like to start this blog with a confession, I’m a Deadhead—and as such, I have very strong opinions on all things related to the Dead, that may, or may not, have any basis in anyone’s reality except mine. That said, my experience was that behind Jerry Garcia, pushing constantly into new space, was Mickey Hart.

Infamous for being one of the two drummers of the Grateful Dead—Hart tapped into something in the late 1970s—while he was playing the infamous Beam—that propelled the Dead into even further corners of deep space for the next twenty years. At a time when the drums sequence of a show meant that the legion of fans stepped to the hallways to take a bathroom break—Hart reenergized that segment of the show with talking drums, master percussionists and an impassioned playing. Something was taking place, and it was if, Hart had dialed up the universe on the drums and was having a public conversation in which everybody who was still listening could add their two bits.

Hart is, and always has been a pioneer in sound, championing the rarely heard music of indigenous cultures, and synthesizing his own weird mix of tribal fusion. On the phone, Hart comes across as a renegade from another dimension, interspersing his language with statements that sound as if Spock said them. Take for example, “I’m trying to fill in the timeline from the beginning of creation—sonically speaking.” What this means to us journeymen is that Hart has something very special planned for us on this tour.

From his treks across the globe that were preserved in a 25 disc release by Smithsonian Folklife (an imprint of the Smithsonian Institute), to his recent recordings of the Golden Gate Bridge that will be played during the 75th anniversary on May 26th and 27th, 2012, Hart is a man in motion. The new band is eclectic and electric combing members of the Bay Area music scene and the sounds of Pulsars, Quasars, and the seminal big bang into an alchemical version of musica universalis.

Kicking off the tour in Santa Cruz at the Rio Theatre this Thursday—it’s going to get weird!


DNA: Howya doing, man?

HART: Hi DNA, Mickey Hart here. Great, great, how you doing?

Things are awesome and thank you for the phone call.

My pleasure.

I’m excited about the new band and that you’re starting off the tour in Santa Cruz. It’s the best band you’ve put together.

I think so. I know so.

What a score to get Dave Schools from Widespread Panic on bass.

He wouldn’t take no, I kept discouraging him. I kept saying, “I don’t know Dave. I don’t know if this job is for you.” And Dave, he just wouldn’t go. I mean, I had to physically try to kick him out of the studio. I had to call some of my more eccentric friends to get him to leave the studio. And he was a big haul—getting rid of bass mountain wasn’t easy. So then I gave up. Dave intimidated me so I finally gave in. Dave is an amazing asset. Nobody can anchor the bottom end like him—and he totally gets the project.

This tour is in support of your newest album Mysterium Tremendum---

This is not for everyone. We’re going into new space here. Literally, new space—it’s a new musical topography. Dancing with epic events from our ancestory—what makes this show really special is dancing with the sounds of deep space. Not a science fiction version, not some Twilight Zone—interacting with sounds that emanate from the beginning of space, some 13.7 billion years ago. Those are the seed sounds that blew us into creation.

You’ve become a scientist.

I use science in my art—we all do with computers, and so forth. Musicians in the last twenty years have started to use science. Music itself can be looked at as science being made up of vibrations. And music and vibrations all come down to math and mathematical formulas. The light and radiation that comes to us from these incredibly distant celestial objects that is picked up on radio telescopes on earth. The radio telescopes read it as light waves and then I change that into sound—it’s called sonification. I take that and sound design it and make it into art and music that we can share with whole earth music. That’s the kind of music we play on this planet—whole earth music. Anything heard between us and the moon, or sub-lunar, I call whole earth music. This project has little to do with sub-lunar sounds. I do sample the radiation coming from the earth and use that in composition as well. I’m trying to fill in the timeline from the beginning of creation—sonically speaking. The history of the sound of the universe—sonically. I’m taking different events in the universe not a full chronology.

You’re doing an abbreviated version of the universe.

I don’t have enough time to play the infinite universe. But you know, I’m eternal, right?

Catch Mickey Hart at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz on March 1st at 8 p.m. 423-8209. Find tickets online at www.riotheatre.com

And, download 10 free tracks from Mickey Harts Smithsonian release here : http://www.folkways.si.edu/find_recordings/mickey-hart-collection.aspx

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