Kevin Shewan 
The Phish interview with Bob

Phish appeared on the Bob Harris show on London's local BBC station GLR on
11th February 1997 two days before their appearance at the Shepherds Bush
Empire. Bob
Harris is a legend in the UK, he came to fame as the presenter of "The Old
Grey Whistle
Test" - one of the best television rock shows ever. Lately he worked on
Radio 1 until being
removed to make way for someone younger and now he presents his show 3
nights a week
on GLR. 

Bob:  Nine minutes past 9 o'clock,Greater London Radio from the BBC, the
Bob Harris
show on 94.9 FM through to 10 o'clock we're here on 0171-224-2000 that's
the telephone
number particularly if you have a question to ask of Phish, the four guys
from the band will
be in, in a couple of seconds time...........But certainly for the next
half hour we're
concentrating on a band who suddenly seem to have broken through in this
country, we're
hearing so much about them these days, their new album "Billy Breathes" is
just released,
we'll be hearing a track or two from it in a moment or two but firstly let
me play something
from a collection of theirs called Stash, this is Phish and 

"Sample in a jar" 

Bob:  Absolutely superb, it's called "Sample in a jar" it's from the
collection Stash which
came out, last year actually in this country, it's released on the Electra
record label and
Jon and Mike from Phish are with me in the studio on GLR tonight , welcome
along it's
really nice to meet you both. When did you arrive?, you got in this
morning to London. 

Mike: Yeah we did, actually we were in Newark and our guitar player
realised he forgot
his passport so he's still over there. 

Jon: He was supposed to be here instead of Mike 

Bob: Are you going to be all right for the gig?Will he be here in time. 

Mike: we know plenty of guitar chords between the three of us! 

Bob: It's an incredible story you're story in many ways I mean
particularly the extent to
which in this country you have been something of a well kept secret
through the years
considering that the band began, what? fourteen years ago now 

Mike: Yeah something like that 

Bob: Tell us something about the growth of the band because I obviously
realise that
weight of support that you've got has come a lot through the constant
touring that you've
done during those years. 

Mike: yeah, I mean even in the US where we have crowds that are a lot
bigger - to a lot of
people we're still a secret and the reason is that we've just built up our
following and our
career in a very different way than probably most have done, we
toured a lot and
we never never really made a album until our sixth year or
something like that
and... er even then we then we really had a following and it was just word
of mouth and
playing a lot and playing long shows and trying to put ourselves into that 

Bob: Because word of mouth is an incredibly powerful thing isn't it when
you're talking to
somebody you trust and they're recommending a band or they're recommending
a single or
whatever it is that they've heard and you trust that person and you think
yeah, right okay
and follow through and it's a solid base that kind of communication builds
up isn't it? 

Jon: Yeah...definitely, much more so than I would think that any.... media
and stuff can
push things but people have to you can expose things through media
but then people
will, you know some people will grasp on to it that's sort of like ..erm
advertising and stuff
you know is, you know you see an commercial on TV and people.. er some
would buy the
product and some wouldn't where as if it's a friend of yours comes up to
you and says "use
this thing or check this out - this is the best, this is the best thing to
clean windows with, or
this is the best, this is my favourite band I've heard in a while" or
whatever, I don't know I
think it establishes it more in someone's mind . - It's a slower process
and it like it takes
years and years and it's like, you know, but it sticks more I think. 

Bob: It does, I entirely agree with that....and there's a moment when it
all seems to click in
because if one tells one that makes two, two tell two,four.... 

Jon: Yeah you do get critical mass at some point.... 

Bob: and suddenly you break through, that certainly in this country to
have happened now,
because you've also managed to do it pretty much out of the glare of the
and the MTV regime.... 

Jon: Yeah well we sort of fell right between the crack as it were, we're
the MTV
generation as it were, I mean when we started MTV was really just starting
too. kind of
and it just that time no one took it seriously and no one
thought it would be that
big a deal and so I don't think that... ourselves and many other bands in
the same boat,
with us in the same peer group were really aiming at the MTV thing and by
the time MTV
really caught on, we were already 8 years old or something and it was
kinda past the point
for us, we'd been concentrating so much on live shows for so many years
that it took us
until recently to get a clue about albums...(laughs) well see I'm calling
them albums .. CD's
you know but you know I mean 'cos even CD's themselves were only
documenting our
songs as we were going along. 

Bob: Well they're sort of snapshots of a moment in time but certainly with
the new album
you've concentrated probably more time and focus on this album than you
had done albums

Mike: Yeah we spent more time in the studio and we really wanted to have
the same kind
of.....well not the same kind but a variation of just experimenting and
allowing ourselves to
be loose and free as we do on stage .. with this album rather than other
albums and we just

Jon: Also I think we understood the context of the separation between the
world of a live
show and the world of an album. For years and years we tried to get what
we do on stage,
the energy of what we do on stage on to an album and it was sort of know beating
your head against the wall and you can't do it so then we eventually put
out a live album
and then we just decided okay so now we've done that so now let's just
look at the world of
recording as an entirely separate entity from the world of the stage and
now it's twice the
fun...'cos now you've got two whole different worlds to er... 

Bob: ...because rumours and reports abound about your live
particular I mean
you know there's been all along this direct comparison with the Grateful
Dead and the fact
that you do very, very long sets probably is as much the point of
comparison as anything
else but there's a freedom about you on stage which people say is
absolutely extraordinary
particularly the idea of taking an album, somebody else's album and say
playing through
The Beatles; "White Album" in sequence and just playing it
through...because you did that
did you do that? 

Mike: Yeah we did that, that was actually three years ago and then we did
the year after...actually I met Pete Townsend and I told him that we'd
done it... 

Jon: and he didn't care! 

Mike: ..he didn't care too much but then he went and did it (Jon:  in the
same city!)...yeah
we did it, our Halloween show was in Chicago 18,000 people and the next
year the Who
played Quadrophoenia in Chicago on Halloween so they copied the idea but
we copied the
album and this year we did "Remain in Light" , the Talking Heads album...
yeah that
whole concept is just.. it's kinda like one idea in this big basket of
ideas we have floating
around..and we like to try to do things that bands don't usually do... 

Jon:  That in particular was the Halloween concept of you know people
dress up in
costumes on Halloween and so..we've been trying ..if you dress up in
costumes on stage
you can only keep them on for about 3 seconds before you get too hot so we
decided why
not take on a musical costume? and so that was the start of the Halloween
..that was the
concept of doing those other albums... for one set we will actually try
and be another band
and even down to the point of... not even doing...the emphasis was really
to try to recreate
that album as much as possible.. you know when most bands cover another
song.. and
usually when we cover another artist you try to do your own thing with it,
you try to take it
in your own direction, make the song yours and...the point of this was
more to actually have
it be a musical costume.... 

Mike:   but the other thing is takes a lot of work to learn
someone else's album as
and what ends up happening is we just learn a lot...we're kind of ..erm
four people who are
really eager to learn from a load of musical styles and...erm so that's
really a way to get
inside another groups thing.... 

Bob:  Did you not do the same as Queen and yourselves have called
it "Bo
Rap"...Bohemian Rapsody....that was part of your New Years Eve show which
in itself
appeared to me to be an absolutely spectacular event...(Mike:  oh you may
have seen that
in Q magazine).. that's right..with 60,000 balloons..... 

Mike:  yeah erm we had a 30 piece choir which you can see, oh there you
are, in the

Bob:  ..and these aren't small balloon either are they... 

Mike:  ..they were actually covering the stage and all of our electronics
..we had to have a
guy with a jack knife ..I think it was Brad.. bursting balloons so we
could see our effects
pedals and all that.. 

Jon:  They should have just let us get completely buried... 

Bob:  ...and the front row fans were just pushing them up on to the

Mike:  yeah.. I guess that's what happened... 

Bob:  Let's just break off for music for a second because I want to play
the opening track
from  Billy Breathes  if we may...just tell us a little bit about the song

Mike:  Free, this erm.... what can we say about free, actually it was a
song we were playing
before it was on album, it was a live show thing, and then it morphed a
few times and we
went in to the studio and we had some different version of it and er... I
don't know... 

Jon:  Live it's more of an excursion, a textural excursion, the point is
it has a steady rock
beat and then we kinda change textures and Mike randomly changes bass
notes and
Trey's kinda doing textural things and Page tries to follow the chords..
you're sort of the
melodic leader there... and that's what that is live and on the album it a
much tighter

Mike:  I think we really liked the album version enough so that we started
doing the album
version live too..... 


Bob:  That's the one I've been playing so much just lately, It's called
"Free" it's opening
track from the new album "Billy Breathes" and Jon and Mike from Phish are
here with me
in the studio at GLR tonight, it's just coming up to half past nine, if
you want to get a
question asked, if you want me to ask a question of the band on your
behalf while they're
here, 0171-224-2000 of course is the number to dial. I remember talking
with the late John
Campbell three or four years ago, John was signed to Electra actually, a
great blues player
who had been travelling America for pretty constantly for twenty, twenty
five years, always
on the road.. and er I was talking about a home base to him and he was
saying, well for like
twenty years I didn't have a home, I was basically, you know, someone
would invite me to
stay at their place or I'd sleep on somebody's couch or stop in a hotel
around the corner
from the gig and then do the same the following night....and of course
you've been on the
road, as we've been saying, pretty constantly through a long period of
time, how does that,
you know, connect with home base and having a 

Mike:  I think we're probably more...oh I'm sorry I cut you off
there...(Bob:  I was trailing
into a dot,dot,dot...)I sensed the dots! I think we're probably a pretty
homey band as far as
bands go because we've toured a lot but we've kept the Burlington Vermont
as a base for a
long time, the whole time and we never had any interest in leaving, maybe
there was one
night in '88 when one of us said "Maybe we should move to Boston" and
someone else
said "No" (Jon:  (laughs) and that was about how long it lasted...)
because we really like
where we live and we've settled a lot there, so we go on the road, and our
tours aren't as
long as they used to be..erm but we do go on the road and there's is this
feeling of a
different hotel every night and there's something exciting about that to
me it just sort
of...(Jon:  It's like the tree growing at both ends, like the roots
definitely grow....)for us it's
real balanced that way. 

Bob:  Yeah but the chemistry of the band must be right, mustn't it because
touring throws
you in to situations that test you constantly... 

Mike:  Just being together with the same people for maybe 16 hours a day
for 13 years...
erm you'd have to be tested at some point (laughs) and also the chemistry
would have to be
right I would think (Bob:  Well clearly it is...) 

Jon:  Yeah, it's been amazing, there's been discussions among us where
we've thought the
only thing standing between us and the destiny of being the rock band
that's had the same
line up for the most number of years is just getting along now because we
know musically
we could probably do it(Mike:  ..and staying alive...)staying alive and
continuing to get
along, continuing good relations. I think that's the number one reason
that bands either
make it or don't, really I don't think has as much to do with music as it
does with
perseverance of a good relationship amongst the band members... 

Bob:  Yeah, it is true and also not blowing you're brains out with off
distractions...helps ultimately doesn't it because you need super human
stamina to run
through any length of time..doing that as well 

Jon:   Luckily we didn't get flooded with that ..... non of us became drug
addicts or
alcoholics along the way. 

Bob:  Yeah quite, there seems to be and I'm picking this up from the
article in Q magazine,
a very kinda of er organic feeling about the growth of popularity of the
band, relating back
to what we were saying before, but you've never gone for the quick hit of
big promotion or
hype and all that, it has been a very gradual process so does this mean
that at this
particular moment you can sell out huge auditoriums in America, you are
now making front
pages of magazines.. Rolling Stone, there's a big article in Q this time
and the
breakthrough is now, from our perception this side of the Atlantic
beginning to happen now,
does that increase the pressure? 

Mike:  Well it could but I don't think it is in our case because what
happened to us...erm
there was never one moment when we broke through in our minds....there
were times when
we said this is a landmark gig in some way, the first time we sold out
Madison Square
Gardens, the first time we played there, was kinda like that we felt we
don't need to play
anywhere bigger than this, this was the kind of a gig people strive for
and that was when we
released our live album and the first time we were on network TV in the US
and this was
kind of all in the same season. And the way we felt about it was not there
would be more
pressure but there was a lot more relief, I mean if we ever had anything
to prove, we don't
now and we could do things on our own terms more than ever and if our next
album sound
like ducks squawking for an hour then so be it, although that's not what
happened because
we like songs and we wrote an album full of songs (Jon:  It could happen!)
... but you never

Bob:  Do Electra give you that amount of freedom? 

Jon:  Yeah, with them it's always been like if it's not broken don't fix
it kinda thing 

Mike:  It's a real good situation.....there has been pressure along the
years especially
when we're more open to it like with hoist we said we want to do what's
right to promote an
album so we invited them in more, erm but mostly over the years they've
just respected
that we want to do things our own way, they've been really good like that. 

Bob:   We've had a number of callers with questions.. a number of them are
how you feel
about this constant comparison with the Grateful Dead 

Mike:  That' you want to do that? 

Jon:  I guess it's just one of those things it's either...I don't know, I
guess every band gets
stuck with some comparison early in their career and... I don't know it
just sort of part of
being in a band..... 

Mike:  There's definitely er.. people like to categorise and it's not erm
It's based on some
truths like we jam a lot and like you said we play long shows and we
change the set list
from night to night and The Grateful Dead were doing some of those things
and er..... 

Bob:   ....because people say they can see you three or four night running
and never hear
the same song twice.... 

Jon:  There are structural similarities but musically.... 

Mike:  There are musical differences too, there are similarities and
differences and it's
kinda one comparison that we just sorta lived with over the years and just
listing the
comparisons and differences usually. 

Bob:  ..and er Kevin in Rochester says how do you feel about a lot of your
audience in the
UK being Ex-Pat Americans?.. cause er I don't know I ... every time I go
and see Jimmy
Barnes it's absolutely packed with Australians you see ... do you think
you are having
problems breaking through to the European audience? is the question from

Mike:  I wonder if he means Americans that have settled here or Americans
that have
flown over in the same week as we did?.. yeah that's erm..... 

Bob:  Do you have American fans jetting around the world after you? 

Mike:  Some!....probably we're thinking there were more in the summer when
we came
than in the winter... 

Bob:  weather's a lot better!!!) 

Jon:  You see when you were saying from your side of the fence this big
breakthrough is
happening in Europe but from our side of the fence there's still a lot of
Americans at our
gigs still in Europe. I don't know, that's kind know
that's kind of the
same..maybe that perception is coming from the Americans coming to our
gig's here so it
appears the Europeans you know...maybe that'll get more Europeans to come
to the gig....I
guess that's a good thing I guess anyone coming to your gig is a good

At this point Bob does a competition with 5 sets of T-shirt and album to
win. The question
was name the first tracks from both "The white album" and "Remain in

Bob:  So you're over this time to do the Shepherds Bush Empire ... what
other gigs are you
doing in the UK while you're here? 

Mike:  (To Jon)Do you know what we're doing? 

Jon:  I think that's the only one we're doing in the UK this time.... 

Bob:  But then you're back in the summer, June 16th, and that's the big
one at the Albert
Hall and presumably tickets for the gig tomorrow night at Shepherds Bush
are I'm sure
they are actually........So final, sort of, ambitions for the band and the
way you would like to
see things develop from here.... 

Jon:  I would like to be the first band in the history of Rock and Roll
that people when our
careers over people say "Yeah their early stuff was pretty good but their
later stuff was
really good... that was the best their later stuff was the best...cos you
never hear that about
anybody you know really....well actually well The Beatles, a lot of people
said their later
stuff was better but... but their whole career was only eight
years.....but like you know most
of the time you hear people say "Their early stuff was good but then they
sold out or
whatever... you know but for me that's a personal goal, I'd like to keep
getting better and
changing as a band.. 

Mike:  Yeah....that's what it would come down to, it's always been our
philosophy to keep
trying to play in different ways and sometimes we feel like we're
stagnating a little more
and we talk about it, why don't we jam in this way and .....we've actually
been switching
instruments (Jon:   you know Walk a mile in another guys shoes's
that old saying) and
just trying to think of things like that, that would push us in different
directions and to do
that indefinitely as long as we're a band. 

Bob:   It's been really good to meet you, I've enjoyed it thoroughly,
thanks very much for
coming in, good luck with the gig tomorrow night I shall be there myself
at the Royal Albert
Hall on June 16th and I'll round off now with the title song from the new
album Billy

"Billy Breathes" 

Since the Interview was broadcast I was lucky enough to meet the band and
the story of
this can be found with reviews of the three gigs I went to on my Phish
1997 Spring
European Tour page. Mike, obviously paranoid , from my question above
unprovoked, If we had felt there had been many Americans at the gig in
Brussels. I also
got the chance to ask Jon about his impression of Bob Harris and he
replied "The old Guy,
yeah he was really nice", when I pointed out that Bob was pretty much a
legend in the UK
he replied "Yeah, I heard that afterwards"