One of the scene's most visible bands has a certain void, now that word's out
that John Kadlecik will exit Dark Star Orchestra early next month. But in an exclusive interview with Glide
, DSO drummer Rob Koritz reminds us not to worry -- Jeff Mattson's aboard (at least for now) and Dark Star has big things ahead in 2010. Monday marks a big transition for the band...
Yeah, it's a kind of day I'm not looking forward to, but it's also going to be exciting. There are a lot of unknowns right now. I'm sure we're going to be fine, and we always have that to fall back on. It's a bit of an uneasy thing. But I have to remind myself, we've been through stuff like this before. We spent so long trying to get a rhythm guitar player -- Rob [Eaton] was in and out. We went through a bunch of guys. Then, we dealt with it again, more unfortunately, with the Scott [Larned] situation. We can do this.Can you take me through the process through which "John is going to play with Furthur became "John has to leave Dark Star Orchestra"?
Well, it all started when we heard about it and he got the call. He wasn't sure then if he'd be departing. He was presented the opportunity to play with Furthur with Bob and Phil. Every single man's reaction in the band was, oh my god, congratulations, fantastic. Let me be clear that no one has any ill will. Any one of us would have taken this opportunity. I mean, you get to do this job with The Guys! How cool is that? We are all totally thrilled for him.
For whatever reasons, though, it turned out that John...well, they needed John to be available, and with our touring schedule, that's just not possible. We tour hard, as you know. It turned out that John decided to resign and that needed to be the best move. We've known this for a while so it's been hard. No one could come out and say it right away because we had certain days of ours ready and about to be announced. Also, we wanted to show them [Furthur] the respect they deserve -- as, in a way, we always try to. But John is leaving the band. It's bittersweet. I love John and it's been such a treat to play with him.
At the same time, it's been pretty exciting. Right off the bat, Jeff Mattson is going to come in and take over in the immediate future. We've played with Jeff and had him play with the band for ages, and we've all played with the Zen Tricksters one time or another. We're all good friends, so we're totally psyched to have Jeff -- it's going to take our jams in a lot of different directions. Not better directions or worse directions, just different than what we've done for the past 12 years. It's also a definite added bonus that he and Barraco played together in a band for 11 years and were roommates for 9 of those years. Jeff can literally jump right in and keep it rolling. That's extremely important. We have to come out slamming right from the get-go without John to show people that this thing is not going to die. We have to nail it.Let's stay with the John decision a minute. When did he inform you guys that he planned to resign?
We first found out in August or September that there would be more Furthur. We'd just come off tour and we were about to go on one of the longest breaks we've ever taken. We knew about it then and we thought that he was going to be able to do both. Then, we got a call letting us know that he wasn't going to be able to do it in 2010 [Dark Star]. We were all taken aback by it -- we thought he might be able to do both. You know I can't speak for John. I don't know what they asked him. I know for certain that they want to have him be available as much as possible, and you know, maybe there's other mitigating factors. He's been doing this for 12 years so that might have been part of it, too.How did he notify you of his decision?
He called each of us personally. We've been together for so long, and we don't need to use managers to talk to each other. Really, we wish nothing but the best for John.Do you think John worries at all about how shaky some of those Dead members' projects can be? That he's making the wrong decision?
I'm not going to say no comment because that response fell like a ton of bricks in your last interview with us [laughs]. You'd have to ask John I think.Seeing as Barraco was in the Phil Quintet and then the Dead, do you think John sought out his advice on how to proceed?
I really don't know. I'm sure they talked but the decision was 100 percent John's.When it was clear Dark Star would have a void in the guitar chair, was Jeff your first call?
He was an automatic. We talked and we said, there are two things we have to figure out. We need to know the long term plans, sure, but we also need to think about the short term: we have gigs lined up this year and we need someone who can step in right away. So, let's call Jeff. It was instantaneous. He's the first person we'd think of on talent alone, but because of the he and Barraco thing it seemed even easier. Let's call Jeff.Has Jeff been offered the permanent gig?
[Pause] You know, when Scott died, we were thinking about Barraco immediately. At that point, we didn't even know how to get in contact with him immediately. God bless him, though, he called us, and said, if you need help to keep this going right now, say the word. Hopefully that's going to happen again. Jeff has a lot going on. He made a big change in his own music by parting ways with the Tricksters, and I know they're still going to play together here and there, but he made a big jump to do his thing with Donna Jean.If he decides he wants to then, does Jeff get the Dark Star spot?
We would love to have him. I don't think it's completely out of the question. We also love Donna -- she plays with us so much -- and we'd never want to get in the way of anything she'd want to do musically. It's hard to say.Do you have other guitarists in mind?
I can't name names. We have some other names in mind and people who have known what was going on whose opinions we trust and who know other guitar players. Right now, we're addressing the guitar spot the way we did the keyboard spot after Scott. We're covered for the moment. Jeff is going to help us best he can, and who knows how long he'll do it or even want to do it. We'll be listening and keeping our eyes open.What is your message to Dark Star fans at this moment? How are you letting them know don't worry, this thing is alive and well?
Don't worry, this thing is alive and well! [laughs] Seriously, that's been the hardest part of this whole thing -- just trying to do this in the proper way. We didn't know what the proper way was. It had to play itself out and show itself to us. People who were big fans of the band kept coming up at shows and asking what was up, and not being able to tell them anything was hard. We weren't in a position where we could come public with this. We had to make sure we had our ducks in a row and Furthur and John had to have their ducks in a row.What are you saying to fans who bought tickets to, say, New Year's Eve expecting to see John there?
I don't think we owe an apology to our fans, but to the ones who felt like we didn't give them enough information, I'm sorry. We really appreciated how many people were trying to be a voice of reason on this -- at our shows, on message boards, everything. Those were the people who said, this is how they make their living and I trust and respect that they will handle this the right way.Indeed. And there has to be a comfort -- you said it's almost exciting -- in knowing word's out and you guys can push forward now that you've brought us all up to speed.
The time is right, and everything is in a row. The music is bigger than any one of us, and I think our fans know us well enough to know we're not going to go onstage and knowingly put an inferior product out there. We're going to work our tails off to keep this thing alive and keep it great. Don't worry about us. We're going to come out rocking like we always do. Chad Berndtson writes for The Patriot Ledger, Glide, Hidden Track, Relix. PopMatters and other publications. He lives in New York City; drop him a line at cberndtson[at]gmail[dot]com.