SB: Once you settled on releasing Colorado ’88, what role did you have from the approval of the idea until its Halloween debut?
KS: All the releases are a team effort by the band, our business management, and four of us employees (plus an intern or two). That team handles every aspect of production and marketing for Phish, JEMP records and livephish.com. We use some outside contractors for specialized production matters and P.R., which is standard, but just about everything for a non-major label release like Colorado ’88 is done in-house.
The process for Colorado ’88 began with transferring the cassette masters to digital soon after we got them, followed by sporadic listening until 2004. After a lot more listening in 2005 as we rebuilt our office, it looked like there might be a slot in 2006. I started making more and more concise compilations and eventually proposed one to the band and management. Once the concept was approved, there was more listening with the band to hone it down to the 3 CD’s released at Dry Goods and 7 bonus tracks at livephish.com.
When the sequence was set, I worked with Fred Kevorkian while he mastered the CD’s and bonus tracks, which were basically prepared with the same approach and care. Photo guru Jen and I also prepared historical content and text for the packaging and web sites, which the band was also directly involved in creating. Both Mikes (Gordon and Lynch) contributed photos along with Mike’s notes and the original cassette covers. I also got to unveil the first 5 bonus tracks at Sirius Jam-On. Since then we put two more bonus tracks up on the web for a total of more than 40 songs. It’s an exciting and historical project.
SB: Recently the Grateful Dead signed a groundbreaking licensing deal with Rhino Records. Do you think a deal like that benefits the fans as well as the band? Could you see Phish going in this direction?
KS: I can’t speak to whether Phish would consider such a deal. It seems pretty drastic, but I’ll support the band whatever they do. There are advantages to prolific artists with loyal fans handling matters independently without answering to anyone except each other. Grateful Dead founded that approach, and Phish has continued it. The goals for a band with such a rich legacy are to preserve their history and maintain creative control so they can share the best material with fans. That’s the guiding principle for whoever runs it whether it’s the band or their licensees.
I’ve enjoyed working with Rhino on Phish projects, and they’ve done a great job with the Grateful Dead (and other bands) thus far. That, and the fact that David Lemieux will be working on their releases going forward make me confident they’ll do the right thing by Deadheads.
SB: Can you name for us some Phish shows that fly under the radar is terms of quality of the band’s performance?
KS: Two disclaimers: 1) I never list favorites because they change all the time, and 2) “under the radar” is hard to define, depending on where you are and who you know. Here are seven modern-era shows I don’t hear much about:
SB: What Live Phish releases are next on the horizon?
KS: We never discuss the specifics of releases we’re working on, so we don’t jinx them.
SB: Which up and coming bands do you listen to these days?
KS: I keep up with the Phish band member projects, which account for a lot of great music. Col. Bruce Hampton and ARU aren’t exactly new, but I saw them play an amazing show in Atlanta last month and they are back on the road some and on fire as always. James Carter will forever be up and coming – a living saxophone great who must be heard in so many diverse projects. Others I catch whenever I can include local friends RAQ, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Spam Allstars, Banyan and anything from New Orleans’ extended family. I also enjoy the Rondo Brothers who record, remix and produce killer music out of the Bay Area.
SB: Can we expect any new editions of This Month in Phish History?
KS: Yes, as soon as I get around to doing some writing.
SB: Do you ever get sick of listening to Phish?
Related Links: Check out this old Mockingbird Foundation interview for more about Kevin and his work.