Peter Shapiro & Dean Budnick talked with Joe about the origins of JRAD, how they communicate onstage, Joe’s introduction to the Dead’s repertoire and playing with Phil and Bobby in Furthur, and more!
“I still don’t think our strong suit is playing Grateful Dead songs. Our strong suit is playing as a five person collective and trying to get from A to B, in a different way than we have before—all while having that mindset of hoping that it’s going to be something different.”
Originally published in 2017:
There will be some stuff that we would work out in soundcheck, like when we first played “Help”> “Slip”> “Throwing Stones.” You want to practice that. But I’d say most things that have that feeling are in the moment, just reacting and listening. That’s the thing about this band—it’s comprised of really great listeners. You don’t have to be great players, but you have to be great listeners. We’re all always listening. That’s why we laugh so much at each other because people will sneak in little things, almost like inside jokes, musically. Tommy will be playing something and he’ll play a little line from the end of “Rubin and Cherise,” and we all hit the hits. We’re not playing “Rubin and Cherise,” but if you’re all listening, you’re available to hear every bit of information. It’s a game. You’re waiting there to hit the ball back, or to take the assist. That’s another thing that we do well as a band—we set the other guy up for the kill shot. It really just comes down to listening and being open to going truly anywhere.
I’ve been in improvising situations where the intent is to go anywhere, but maybe if it goes somewhere, you might get a little tug on the neck to come back. [For us], nobody is worried about where it ends up, as long as it ends up somewhere cool. If you have complete reckless abandon, then there is a purity, and that’s something I like about us. There is an honesty to what we do when we do it, that might not be for everybody. I know some people hate the way we play. And I get it. It can be really jagged or loud or fast. It can also be very pretty and very quiet. The beauty of it is that we’re happy in all those places, but we’re also relaxed and confident in going to any of those places, and I think that connects to the audience, where it’s a true feeling of “We’re all in this together and we’re just all cool to see where this goes.”