Wally: Brian, I don't know if you're computer literate or not. Are you familiar with the web site?
Brian: I've heard of the web site but, unfortunately, I haven't actually visited because I don't have a computer.
Wally: Well, I've been hearing a great deal about you the last couple of years and I'm excited to talk to you, especially about the making of Joni's new album,Taming the Tiger. But I want to start back just a bit. Tell me about your musical background. Were drums your first instrument?
Brian: Violin was my first instrument. From when I was in elementary into junior high. But I have an older brother, Brady Jr., who played drums, so I sort of followed in his footsteps. My father's a minister. My mother's a kindergarten teacher. Well, she was for over twenty-five years and then she retired and now she's teaching as a part of our church where my father's a minister. And so my brother played drums in church and then when he went away to college, I moved into the chair. That was kind of how I started playing. In hindsight, it was an amazing lesson learned being in that environment so regularly with such a great community of folk.
Brian: I think so many great singers, you know, Aretha, Donny Hathaway, you know, those voices, they resonate of sort of a church family. So, being in that situation I think taught me so much about how I approach every musical situation today. So that's how I started playing.
Wally: I would think the style of drums that you played in church were not very rock 'n roll or pop, though.
Brian: Well, it's difficult to say. I think the beats, they're rooted -- I think the evolution of pop or rock music also came from that. Gospel music roots and sort of blues roots and all, I think it all evolved into, no matter whether you like most of what you hear today, it all has to come from something. So maybe we're kind of far away from it at this point, but I definitely think it comes from that.
Wally: So you continued to play drums in the church until you were 18?
Brian: Exactly, until I moved from my hometown of Shreveport to New Orleans to go to college.
Wally: When you were growing up, who were your musical likes and influences?
Brian: Definitely I liked Earth, Wind and Fire --
Wally: Oh yeah.
Brian: Stevie Wonder's music.
Wally: Stevie's a genius.
Brian: Oh man, no question. You know, just before I left I had started buying a lot of records. Friends, and people in Shreveport, you know, great musicians, were turning me on to John Coltrane's music and Miles Davis' music, and I started buying a lot of records. And a friend gave me Hejira when I was 16 and I was listening to that every day on my way to school in my Bug. It just seeped, seeped, inside, so far beneath the skin. That record was a beginning for me.
Wally: It's my favorite Joni record. It's difficult to pick just one, but that would be the one if I had to choose.
Brian: Yeah. I mean, it's funny that it was the first one that I heard. Then I went on to sort of buy all the others.
Wally: The ones before Hejira?
Wally: What year were you born?
Wally: Oh! So you didn't get into Hejira until the mid 1980s then?
Wally: So you had the albums before and after Hejira to catch up on?
Brian: Yeah, exactly.
Wally: Lucky you.
Brian: It's bizarre. But, man, I think I'm caught up now. They're still teaching me so much.
Wally: Now wasn't it Bobbye Hall who played percussion on Hejira?
Brian: John Guerin, as well.
Wally: Were you introduced to Don Juan's Reckless Daughter after that?
Brian: No, actually. Just after "Hejira," the same friend gave me "Mingus."
Wally: Since you're more of a jazz guy, I think, than a pop or rock guy, that must have been an important album for you to hear.
Brian: Yeah. I don't know. On Hejira, the story telling is so great. "The Wolf that Lives in Lindsey" from Mingus struck me the most from that album.
Wally: The guitar on that track is so weird. I have a friend who I introduced to Joni recently with Hits and Misses. And he said, "I love the Misses album, except for that wolf song, I have to skip that every time."
Brian: Because it's scary? (Laughs)
Wally: Yeah, well, you know, considering what the story is about, it makes sense that the guitars would be so jarring and everything.
Brian: No kidding. Boy, certain songs like that they should re-release on the public. They're relevant in so many ways. I hear you, so heavy. It's kind of like the first time I heard Blind Willie. You know, I think I bought it one night late in New Orleans at Tower just before they closed and I got home and put it on. Boy, it scared the hell out of me, I had to turn it off. It was too heavy, man. I can relate.
Wally: So who were your musical influences after 18? Did you get into mostly jazz?
Brian: Well, yeah, definitely moving to New Orleans, I didn't go to study music there, per se, at Loyola, the school that I attended, but just moving to that town, you're going to study music in a way, you know what I mean? The environment is so rich and the jazz musicians that were there whom I admired and revered, they were the reason that I moved there- Bill Huntington, and so on, they played all kinds of music, you know. New Orleans is such a mixed up soup.
Wally: A hodgepodge of styles, yeah.
Brian: The whole street culture, the cross and mixture is amazing. So I was getting into everything, you know, R&B, etc. Well, I had played that music growing up, obviously, in Shreveport. I had been in a punk band. For me it all blended together even from my earliest experiences, like the little festival in my hometown- the Annual Red River Revel. I was hearing Chuck Rainey there and all these gospel choirs, and Asleep at the Wheel, the Neville Brothers. I guess they were all my influences, you know, the New Orleans music.
Wally: You said you were in a punk band when you were, I guess, a teenager?
Wally: So you played in the church but you also played in outside bands?
Brian: Yeah, I played in all kinds of groups. My teacher, Dorsey Summerfield Jr., who taught at the high school I went to, my brother played in his band. He'd had a professional band for over 20 years, but he invited me to play in the band and they were professionals, you know, just amazing singers. He was a saxophonist, too. We played just R&B. And then, of course, just being the age that I was, we had a lot of energy, so we had this band of just two guitars and a singer and we were playing like Bad Brain songs, you know, just like having fun. It was ridiculous. Butchering Everly Brothers' songs, doing thrash versions, so there were no sacred cows. It was some fun.
Wally: So after you went to Loyola U., did you get into a band there?
Brian: It was more so the meeting of one particular friend, a friend of mine named John Coward who plays piano in a group that we've now just started.
Wally: The Brian Blade Fellowship?
Brian: Exactly. Hopefully my name will get dropped off of it eventually. It will just be Fellowship. That's my aim. I guess there's two worlds. There's the business and then there's the music making. When it comes to the business, if I have to be, Brian Blade of the Fellowship, the leader, then that's cool. But then when it comes to the music and performing it and making it, it's just one thing. So John and I, we started playing together all the time, just the two of us most times even if there wasn't a bass player or anyone else who wanted to play. Then I met Chris Thomas a year later. I had a great group of peers who were just amazing musicians. You need that reflection, I think. You know, no matter what you do, it helps to have someone who understands and can kind of get in on it with you.
Wally: Was it after college that you hooked up with Joshua Redman?
Brian: No, it was during college. He was in a band with a trombonist named Delfeayo Marsalis. Chris and I were playing with Victor Atkins, this other pianist, and Joshua was the saxophonist in that band. He was in school in Boston at the time. The band only stayed together for maybe a year or two and then we all went our separate ways. And then I guess when things sort of started for him, he kept in touch with me and we started going on the road quite a bit. But I think before that I started playing with this guy, this alto-saxophonist named Kenny Garrett, who played with Miles' band up until he passed. So, there were a lot of experiences then. Ellis Marsalis, who is my teacher there in New Orleans, I also started playing with him. Chris and I did.
Wally: Have you ever had any other type of job or have you always been able to make a living at music?
Brian: I worked at a record store in Shreveport. Yeah.
Wally: Great gig. Discount records for yourself.
Brian: Yeah! Old records. And then, briefly, while I was in college I worked at this little cafe on Decatur Street, you know, just bussing tables. More so to watch the band who was playing. It was like, you know, traditional jazz, New Orleans jazz, so it was so great. To be in the room, you know, six hours a night. We also played coffee shops for tips. Fortunately, the living was pretty easy. We didn't need much, so it was great, you know. I can't say that we were poor. I felt rich because every day was so full of stuff.
Wally: Was Joshua Redman the first recording that you did?
Brian: No, it would have been with one of my friends and teachers in New Orleans named Victor Goynes. A record called "Genesis," which would have been in 1991 or so. And I think I did the Kenny Garrett record a year later, 1992, maybe?
Wally: And then Joshua came along?
Brian: Yeah. He was making records already. I've been on three or four records now with Josh.
Wally: When did you hook up with Daniel Lanois?
Brian: That was while I was in New Orleans. Mark Howard, this amazing engineer friend, knew Dan. I guess he saw me at one of the coffee shops that we used to play at, and during that time "For the Beauty of Wynona," Dan's second record was just about to come out. And he was rehearsing to go on the road across the river in Algiers at a theater there and Mark invited me to come over and jam. So I met him and the bassist, Darryl Johnson, and we started jamming. And then we went on the road for four months. You know, we got to know each other on buses and vans across Europe, Canada and the States. So that's how I met Dan.
Wally: So you haven't actually recorded on any of his albums yet?
Brian: We've recorded quite a bit of music that has not been released. We're still working on a lot of his music.
Wally: I don't think he's had an album out since "Wynona," has he? A solo album, I mean?
Brian: The next one, hopefully, is around the corner. There's so much on tape. But I think he's making decisions and that sort of thing.
Wally: Well, he's riding high with Dylan's Time Out of Mind album winning all those Grammy's this year.
Brian: Oh yeah. It's great, you know.
Wally: What about Emmy Lou Harris? Where did you work with her?
Brian: Actually that was at the studio in New Orleans, Dan's place there. Dan got me in on that. I wish I'd have been able to be around for more of it, you know, but...
Wally: Was that for the "Wrecking Ball" album?
Wally: That is the best album. Such a wonderful record.
Brian: Yeah. She's so great, man. God, it was great to watch it all happen and to be around and watch the recording process. Because with jazz, it's quite different. It usually happens in one or two days, or three days at the most. It's funny, you rarely see things change so much as you do within other types of music.
Wally: I guess recording pop music consists of a lot of over dubbing and doing sort of the same thing over and over until they have it right.
Wally: Less spontaneous, maybe.
Brian: Yeah. I wish I could relate them both to some visual arts, you know, maybe like jazz kind of comes off as a sand painting, maybe, you know, you sort of, okay, that was it, we improvised and we don't want to alter it. But then, with Dan, it was almost like sculpting, you know. So it was a lot of chipping away and getting the right curve. So it was great.
Wally: So would you say that you play not just jazz drums, but you bring in funk, rhythm and blues and pop, and all the varied influences which you picked up during your youth?
Brian: It just kind of all boiled down to making music for me. I've been asked that a couple of times, like, "How do I approach things differently, you know, say with Joni or with, you know, playing instrumental music," -- I don't know, for me, I'm trying to serve the song, whatever the song might be.
Wally: Right. I've noticed you don't push your drums way up front like some drummers do. You don't try to take over. It's like sometimes you almost disappear. You're there, but it's so subtle.
Brian: Thank you. Thanks very much.
Wally: Now I've read that you met Joni at the 1995 New Orleans Jazz Fest?
Brian: Well, not really. We were talking on the phone for maybe six months to a year by that time. I was in LA, I think Dan and I were, recording. Dan knew I was in a band and I think he was going to go over and visit her and he took a tape of some things that we had been recording, you know, some of his music, over to her place as sort of a show and tell, like she'd play some things for him and she liked the tone of it, you know. But I had to go back to New Orleans. I couldn't stay. I was so mad. But I got back to New Orleans and then she called. I spoke to her on the phone for the first time and it was amazing, what was I going to say? I feel like I owed her this debt. But, anyway, we talked on the phone for like a year and then that New Orleans Jazz Fest came up and she was calling it her swan song at the time. And I thought "God, are you kidding?" But I couldn't be there for her, unfortunately. I was going on the road. But then she finally had me out to LA and we started recording. I think the first night I got there we put "Harlem in Havana" on tape. At that time it didn't have a name.
Wally: "Zulu Tango," I think she was calling it then.
Brian: Yeah. "Zulu Tango." It was just an instrumental. So it was great just to play.
Wally: So you actually started recording very quickly then. Do you see it as a collaborative thing?
Brian: Not in my eyes. I'm glad that she let me in on it, you know, because realistically she didn't -- it's kind of like her paintings, she doesn't need anyone to paint with her. I'm glad that she wanted me to be a part of it. Kind of part of the orchestration. That's the way I see it. Yeah, I still owe her. She's given to me and I hope I can give back something, maybe just playing for as long as she'll have me.
Wally: The first I became aware of you working with Joni was in November of 1995 when you went with her on a promotional trip to New York City?
Brian: Oh right. It was for a benefit.
Wally: The Gary Trudeau salute. Is that the one, at the Waldorf Astoria? A benefit for People for the American Way?
Wally: Do you have any memories of the event?
Brian: Well, I met Norman Lear there. I think he may have been the man who got Joni to be a part of it. I'm not sure. And Maya Angelou was there.
Wally: Oh, wonderful.
Brian: Yeah. I remember after the performance I was going up in the elevator and Chevy Chase was asking me questions about Elvin Jones. It was funny, you know. It was great that all these people, you know, were probably fans of Joni and music listeners. Because I've seen Chevy Chase in so many films.
Wally: And, of course, Saturday Night Live.
Brian: Yeah. The fact that he started talking about Elvin Jones to me was great. I was like, oh yeah, sure.
Wally: That was a short set, wasn't it? Just a few songs?
Brian: Yeah. I think we played "Hejira." We played "Three Great Stimulants." We maybe played "Moon At the Window." And "Just Like This Train." And the next day was her birthday...
Wally: And you played at the Fez.
Brian: Exactly. They invited Joni. They said if she wanted to play, she could. So we did it and it was so much fun. We played just song after song.
Wally: You know there's been a much-reported incident in the audience between Chrissie Hynde and Carly Simon. Were you aware of that?
Brian: Well, you know, I definitely could distinguish Chrissie's voice. She was saying things to Joni, you know, like "Rock, Joni!" But I didn't know there was some turbulent stuff happening between her and Carly.
Wally: I don't know if you've heard this story, but a few nights before the Fez show, Joni went to see The Pretenders show in NYC, and Chrissie, who was in a bad mood and complaining because all these women in her audience that night and the show before that in LA, were screaming out to her. And she said it was distracting. Yet there she was, a couple nights later, doing the same thing at Joni's show.
Brian: That's funny. Wow. I've become what I hate, you know. I don't know. It was all kind of going over my head. I was just so concerned with, okay, wow, okay, "Just Like This Train," okay, you know, I'm ready. What are we going to play next?
Wally: How much rehearsal did you have?
Brian: Well, we rehearsed up a few songs for the benefit that we had played the day before. But that was it. It wasn't a lot. We were just winging it. And she was going through her songs and I knew them all. But it was good to try and reinterpret what I thought I knew. I say I knew them all, but only because I have the records and I listen to all of them. What am I going to do if I have to play them live? That's another story. That never crossed my mind until that incident. It was so much fun, though.
Wally: I have the set list from that show, and one of the songs is referred to as "A Rocking Instrumental Work in Progress." Was that "Harlem in Havana?"
Brian: No, that was the roots of "Lead Balloon."
Wally: Oh. The song about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Wally: I haven't heard that one yet.
Brian: She launched into it, then she just stopped and laughed. I think we played it for like, maybe, thirty seconds. It was still just an instrumental sketch. She didn't have any words or story to it yet.
Wally: It's so interesting when I hear that. Because Joni's words are so wonderful, better than anybody's in my opinion, I would think the words come first.
Brian: Well, in some instances they do. Like "Stay in Touch," for instance. Have you heard that off the record?
Wally: No, haven't heard that one yet.
Brian: Well, that's probably something that she wrote on paper first.
Wally: Then in early December you and Joni did some T.V.- CBS This Morning and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Do you remember those two shows?
Brian: Yeah. On CBS This Morning we played, I think, it was "Happiness is the Best Face Lift." You know, it was great because the audience, they were such great fans of Joni and it was a good feeling in the room. Especially for something that happened in the morning, because that's usually kind of a strange time for everyone.
Wally: I heard that they moved the taping ahead for Joni, so it was like at noon or something, wasn't it?
Brian: That was still early. (Laughs)
Wally: For Joni, yeah, that's true.
Brian: But it was good, you know. And the Leno show, I guess we only played one song.
Wally: Yeah, and I haven't heard that one since, "Love Has Many Faces."
Brian: Yeah, yeah. Just one song but I guess you know, every chance, every opportunity to play, is great.
Wally: And you all reached a big audience by appearing on the tube, of course.
Brian: Oh yeah. Hopefully, people were watching. It was nice just to be playing anytime we could, you know, for me.
Wally: I guess during all this time you were playing with her at home and recording?
Brian: We did it in chunks of time over a year, whenever she was able to because she's busy with just life. Just so much happening in her life. When I could come out to L.A., she'd schedule time. So it was great to not really be too rushed, so that new songs could come up.
Wally: Did you work together on creating any of the songs on the album?
Brian: No, no.
Wally: She had the basic tracks first?
Brian: Yeah, sure. The songs on my first trip there were "Zulu Tango," and I think we were playing "No Apologies." I can't remember if that had words already or not. But I think it was just an instrumental at the time as well.
Wally: And I guess she had "Love's Cries," or as she calls it now, "The Crazy Cries of Love."
Brian: Right. Don Freed. I think that's his words.
Wally: Yeah. He wrote all the verses and she did the chorus. That's a great track, by the way. I've heard five or six of the tracks because Joni appeared on Chris Douridas' "Morning Becomes Eclectic" radio show a couple of weeks ago and previewed some of the songs from the album.
Brian: Oh, yeah
Wally: You went with Joni to Stockholm where she received the Polar Music Prize. I understand you were on tour with Joshua at the time but you had the day off, so you flew in just for the day?
Brian: Absolutely, yeah.
Wally: How was that? I've seen some of it on video and it looks like it was a really wonderful tribute.
Brian: Yeah, it was a great day and I think just the whole idea of kingship, you know, the protocol and all that. She had to go through it, I didn't. I just sort of tooled in through the back door. I just wanted to be there for her. Stockholm was a beautiful city. One of the most enjoyable things, aside from the playing we did, was when we went over to Stig Anderson's place. He's an amazing songwriter. Are you familiar with him?
Wally: Oh, sure. ABBA and all that. He's dead now, I guess you know?
Wally: Yeah. He died within the last year.
Brian: That's right.
Wally: I think it was in September.
Brian: Wow, man, it was so bizarre, because I talk about me coming in the back door but they treated me beautifully. It was like because it was the music award, and the whole country was sort of acknowledging it. So I didn't even need a passport to come in. It was beautiful. They met me there and sort of made me feel special and just to know that I was going to see Joni was so great. But afterwards there was a party at Stigs. Everybody was all gussied up, tuxedos and the whole bit. And he was in the kitchen with me in his slippers. It was funny, you know, it was like, man, he didn't care. All these people in his house eating hotdogs or whatever and dressed up and he was just, like, chilled, you know. So it was fun. It was beautiful. Everybody was really open. And Pierre Boulez, he was honored as well. So I met some nice folk there on that trip.
Wally: And you and Joni performed two songs?
Brian: That was during the honorarium. I forget what songs we played. I think we played "The Train" and I can't remember what else. Maybe you remember better.
Wally: Yeah, I do. I have it written here. You did "The Magdalene Laundries" and "Just Like This Train."
Brian: Got heavy. Yeah, "Magdalene Laundries."
Wally: Joni always wants to do those light ones, right? (Laughs)
Brian: (Laughs) I love it, don't pull any punches. Great, you know. It was fun.
Wally: So Joni refers to you as her musical partner on "Taming the Tiger."
Wally: She told me recently that you recorded your drums on all ten of the tracks, but in her final mixes she cut out the drums on five cuts.
Wally: I guess you've heard the final mixes by now?
Brian: Yeah, definitely. Mostly, the only one I was sort of upset about was "Stay in Touch." Ooh, I wanted to be on that one so bad. Because I felt great about what was happening. And usually I don't, usually I'm sort of, oh, man, am I even serving the song right here? But that was cool. You know, I totally trust her judgment on every level. And orchestral choices that she made, like the way the record flows -- and I love when she comes out so clearly, like alone, just a guitar and her voice. It's beautiful.
Wally: Oh, absolutely.
Brian: And I thought even if she took me off the whole thing, the experience would have still happened.
Wally: Joni told me that on "My Best to You," the old Sons of the Pioneers song, she took your drums off on at least the first part of the song. She said that they were played excellently, but they were too jazzy and took away from the emotion she wanted on that last tune.
Wally: As a matter of fact, she said, with the drums off, a few of her men friends have cried during the song.
Brian: Right, well, jeez, hopefully, if you're in on something, you don't eclipse it. So if that's what she felt, it's definitely important that it be taken off. I mean, that song "My Best to You," is definitely that sentiment. And it's needed so much now.
Wally: She said that people were coming up to her and saying, you know, "What are you writing?" and she'd tell them, "Well, I'm kind of blocked now. What can I write about?" And they usually told her, "Well, we want you to write about something hopeful." And she's like, "Well, you know, they shoot people who give hope."
Brian: Yeah, right. Well, somebody's got to be the messenger. I think she's definitely that.
Wally: So what do you think of the final mix for Taming the Tiger?
Brian: I love it. It's tightly banded, so the record moves. It's just a very little time between songs, and the story unfolds and you're at the end, and wanting to go back to the beginning. It's a beautiful and, I think, hopeful record. Of course, there are some heavy moments, too. "No Apologies" and things that are sad in reality, but then, also in reality there's a lot of joy.
Wally: And there's beauty in sadness, too.
Brian: Right. Exactly.
Wally: Or as Joni says, "There's comfort in melancholy."
Brian: Yeah, totally. But there's also a lot of laughing on there and, gosh, it's great.
Wally: I want to go through the ten tracks on TTT and have you tell me what your memories or impressions are of each of them. Let's start with "Lead Balloon."
Brian: "Lead Balloon." Wow. Joni's guitar playing on that one is really different from what people are accustomed to. And just the way it comes in, the first words are "Kiss my ass." So it's like, whew, it's going to be great to hear people's response to that song. Yeah, it was fun making that. We were sweating in the studio playing that song. It's funny. She was up dancing.
Wally: And how about "Crazy Cries of Love?"
Brian: Well, I was sort of the last element to come into that song. I think it was an older piece of music that she had maybe cut a year or so ago.
Wally: Yeah. I think she said she first cut it in 1994 with Wayne Shorter and Larry Klein.
Brian: Right. Well, Wayne's still on it, of course. And Klein. And she redid the vocal, I think. And then she wanted me to play on it. So, it was a little strange. I'd prefer to do things the way we did for "Harlem in Havana," just playing it live off the floor, just together. It helps me to feed from her energy, be right in the present, you know. But it came off okay. I love the story. You definitely get the image of lovers, so I love that.
Wally: It's a really great track. I think it's because of your drum work, actually, which makes it chug along.
Brian: I put the Union Pacific on it.
Wally: I think it could actually be a single. I mean, not that Joni needs a single, but...
Brian: I hear you.
Wally: Well she does need one, but, you know.
Brian: It would be nice for as many people as possible to get in on a lot or all of the songs. I know what you mean. Absolutely.
Wally: How about the song "Love Has Many Faces?"
Brian: That's killer, too, because we played that just live off the floor but, unfortunately, my drums aren't on that now. But it's so beautiful.
Wally: And of course there's always the live version from Jay Leno with you playing drums on it.
Brian: Oh, yeah, right. (Laughs) I think that's a hopeful song. Definitely makes you think.
Wally: It's amazing. "Happiness is the Best Facelift," or I guess she just calls it "Facelift" now. How about that one?
Brian: Oh, "Facelift." Well, I guess we all go through stuff with our parents. There's going to be tough times, you know. You're going to be butting heads sometimes, but it's heavy to document it as some piece of history. Wow, it's a great song. Probably a huge hurdle to overcome, I would think. In terms of a relationship with her mom. I think they're so tight now because Joni's like, you know, she's a mom. And a granny. So, it's like you get some of your own medicine there, kid. It's interesting.
Wally: How has finding her daughter, Kilauren and the extra gift of a grandson, changed Joni, do you think?
Brian: I don't know. It just definitely confirms the circle that we're in, you know, like this life. I mean, 30 years, that's a long time.
Wally: Yeah, it really is.
Brian: So I think it's given her quite a bit of light. I don't know how it has necessarily changed her, aside from the fact that it's definitely made her happy.
Wally: So maybe it's like a second facelift?
Brian: (Laughs) Yeah, exactly. Totally. Just, like happy.
Wally: Have you met Kilauren and Marlin?
Brian: Yeah, they're beautiful.
Wally: The next song is "Taming the Tiger." I don't think you're on that mix, are you?
Brian: On the song, "Taming the Tiger," unfortunately, I'm not.
Wally: That's a wonderful and witty song.
Brian: Yeah. I love that. For me, that sums up the record.
Wally: I like the way she kind of gently takes on the tiger, which represents, I guess, show business. And she goes, "be nice, kitty, kitty."
Brian: Yeah, terrific. "You can't tame the tiger." It's such a beautiful piece. I hope a lot of people get to hear that song.
Wally: That one and "Harlem in Havana" are my two favorites of the tracks I've heard. "Harlem in Havana," I mean, my God, it's got all those magical carnival sounds. It's so cinematic, it's almost like you're coming in in a helicopter and you get closer and closer, and first you hear the wooden planks with the roller coaster running over, then you hear the calliope, then you hear the crowds screaming.
Brian: Yeah. Well, man, when I arrived to play on that one, you know, Joni's kind of a night owl. I was fading when we were making that. When we were putting it on tape, I was like unconscious practically. Of all the things that she kept my drums on, I can't believe she's going to keep me on that. But once it was done, once she had orchestrated the whole thing, then the picture was clear to me. It wasn't before, but obviously her foresight is much more intense than mine, so she could see what was happening. Or maybe she didn't. Maybe she was discovering, too. But something in her gut told her that the drummer was okay on it. So, yeah, what a great story.
Wally: And it's jazzy again, for her.
Brian: That might be some of the best singing I've ever heard.
Wally: It is, you're right. The way she sings that line, "It's Harlem in Havana time."
Brian: Wow, man, there's so much swaying and, ooh, yeah, give on those lines. It's amazing. I love hearing that. And the curve of the range that she's covering. She comes in so high and she dips down so low. "Step right up," but then it's like, whew, it's so beautiful, man.
Wally: How about the song "No Apologies?"
Brian: We were talking about, I forget the tribe, they have like a whispering tradition, I forget what African group this is, but that song almost comes off as a whisper. As it should, in a way, because it's such heavy subject matter. You don't want to rub anybody the wrong way, just tell the story.
Wally: Now are you on that final mix?
Brian: Yeah, and, boy, that was so much fun to play. Wow. Yeah. It seems like my memory of it is almost as if it went down in like one time. I guess she did work on the vocal, but I think we did it all at one time. I don't know what else was put on to it in the final mix. Maybe Greg Leisz on petal steel. It went down so effortlessly.
Wally: I haven't had a chance to hear that one yet.
Brian: It's really kind of slow, you know, and languid. It's a beautiful piece of music.
Wally: How about "Stay in Touch?"
Brian: I love that piece of music, too. That was the one where the words came first.
Wally: That's the one where your drums were taken off and you wish they hadn't been, right?
Brian: Yeah. But, you know, I can understand that.
Wally: How about "Man from Mars?" Are you involved on that one?
Brian: Wow. Yeah, yeah. That's amazing because, well, maybe I should leave off the history for Joni to tell you herself, about how certain songs are born or written.
Wally: Well, she mentioned that it was written because her cat Nietzsche ran away.
Brian: Yeah. That's so heavy, you know, the things that she can put into words. That's what amazes me. And it means so much on a human level just hopefully, another aide for us, another helping hand to try and understand things. But, yeah, that was great. That's the one song she played piano on. It's not a guitar song. It was fun to put down to tape, too. She played it for me. Oh, man, talk about wishing I had a tape player in my sleeve or something. It was used in the film "Grace of My Heart." She wrote it for that. But, man, when she initially played it for me, she had a little Wurlitzer in her room and I think I had just gotten there. I forget, this was just another period of recording, and she played it for me, almost rubato, not really in time, just as it went down. Whew. It's like, okay, that's it, you know. It should have been on the record just like that. It was so heavy. So I wish I had taped that.
Wally: And the final mix on "Man From Mars" is so dense, I mean, there's so much happening on it.
Brian: Yeah. I think it's still got that float though, that I heard that first time that she played it for me by herself. The version on the record is great.
Wally: And the last song on the album is the old Sons the Pioneer Song, "My Best to You." Were you familiar with the Sons of the Pioneers?
Brian: Well, not really. She kind of introduced me to them. I know I'd heard them maybe in some movies or things like that. A cowboy song that makes you feel like there's still some moral code, you know. Hopefully, we haven't lost all of that wanting to wish people good.
Wally: Yeah, it's a nice song. I guess Joni's always thinking that maybe an album's going to be her last album, you know. If this one's going to be her last release, that song would be a very hopeful place to leave it, I think.
Brian: Wow, yeah.
Wally: Now, you're going to be accompanying Joni on her seven-date west coast tour this coming May. What are you thinking about that?
Brian: Well, it's going to be great. I'm totally excited. We're going to start rehearsing soon. We've been talking about songs. I'll throw in my two cents, "Ooh, let's do that." You know, I think she's doing a lot of practicing at home, now, by herself, and then once we all get together, it'll be so much fun.
Wally: Now, who from the Fellowship is going to be coming with you?
Brian: Well, unfortunately, some wrench fell in the machine, so only me, you know. I think Greg Leisz is playing pedal steel and guitar. And Larry Klein's going (Bass). It'll just be the four of us. Maybe it was more feasible for this short time, because there's seven members in the Fellowship. And, you know, it's a missed opportunity for me. I'd love to hear us interpret her music because we're our own little orchestra, that's the way I see it. And I think that's the way she hears things, the thick and thin of music, you know. We're capable of building quite a bit of texture and then also if need be, there's just me and her. It can be as sparse or thick as need be. But, maybe some shows with the Fellowship could happen in the not-so-distant future.
Wally: Well, if Joni has a picnic on these seven dates, maybe she'll want to do some more.
Brian: Yeah, I hope so, man. Hopefully, it will be okay traveling, you know.
Wally: I'm concerned, because she, you know, she's always talking about how her health can be affected by things like this and I hope she can handle it.
Brian: I don't think it'll be too strenuous.
Wally: Yeah, it's only ten days or so.
Brian: Yeah. I think it will be fine. Plus it'll be nice to see Bob and Van Morrison. Those two bands.
Wally: Joni will be sandwiched in the middle.
Brian: Yeah, rolling. So it will be fun.
Wally: So she'll be playing her VG-8, then?
Brian: Yeah. As far as I can tell at this point.
Wally: When do you start rehearsals?
Brian: Towards the end of this month.
Wally: Well, you know, I'm going to be following the tour in my role as web site reporter.
Brian: Alright! I'll talk to you anytime, if I can help you with any details.
Wally: Oh, thank you.
Brian: But it sounds like you've got it all covered.
Wally: Well, you know, I do have lots of contacts and I try to keep up on things. That's my job. Not my paid job, but my self-appointed job, you know, to get information to the fans. There's like 30,000 Joni fans who come to the site each month. So I feel like my job is to keep them informed on what's happening as quick as possible, you know, with her career and stuff. So I'll be there at every show. I've also invited Joni to talk to me during the tour if she'd like to give any reports to her fans.
Brian: Alright, Wally. On stage, here -- Wally!
Wally: This is going to be real exciting for me, Brian. This is like a dream come true.
Brian: Me, too, man. I'm with you, totally.
Wally: I really appreciate your talking with me today and we'll speak again soon.
Brian: Yeah. Thanks for calling. Bye.
My thanks to Beverly Wolfe, David Sholemson and Brian Blade.
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