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Did the Reptiles overlap into the Broken Angels?
the Reptiles stopped being a band when Al moved to LA, Steve
and Tammie moved to Florida (and now they live in Lake Tahoe),
so we didn't play at all when our drummer and girl singer were
living 3000 miles away. But when they got back to California,
it was possible for us have reunions. We did our first Reptiles
reunion in the Fall of 1994. We still get together once or twice
a year -- as often as we can as a practical matter -- and we
just have great fun. They're like my oldest friends; we're really
comfortable with each other's music. We have fairly static setlists
at this point, but every once in awhile when we're going to
get together for a gig I'll send out a tape of one of my new
songs and they'll learn it. We've added repertoire here and
there. That's really an old-time garage band reunion scene.
My other bands were always more serious and working more often.
Broken Angels started in 1997. A friend of mine who lives around
here, Dan McGonagle, is a DJ who does a Grateful Dead night
at Nickie's in San Francisco on Monday nights. He started this
thing in Berkeley, at a club near the Cal campus called Blake's.
He wanted to do a Grateful Dead-oriented thing there, and he
proposed to me that we do a night that would be half tapes and
half live music. I said 'Cool.' So rather then have a steady
band, I put together a different combination of players every
week. There are a lot of musicians in the Bay Area who love
this music. So we called the event 'The Dead Experiment' and
I called the band 'David Gans and the Broken Angels.' I would
invite a different combination of guys every week, and part
of it was just to prove that this music is a language we can
all speak and that people who had never met can get together
is not unique to the Grateful Dead world at all. There are Bluegrass
jams in every corner of the world every day of the week that
are the same thing: there is a known body of literature that
everybody has in common, and you can get together and play.
There is a known musical syntax and rhetoric that accompanies
that style, and everybody who gathers speaks that language.
true of Grateful Dead music. So I could bring together guys
who had never met and make magic with them, and it was really
really fun. It went on for nine months -- from January to September
of 1997. Then we lost that gig, and it became a little more
sporadic, and then I made the Broken Angels a steady band with
the same drummer, same bass player, same keyboard, and we played
gigs as the Broken Angels for about another year after that.
And it was during that time that Phil Lesh crossed paths with
the second round?
he never came to the Blake's gig. There's a club that I played
at a couple times a year starting in 1988 called the Ashkenaz.
It's a music and dance community center in Berkeley. The owner
was murdered in December of '96. A guy was causing trouble at
the club, and David threw him out, and he came back and caused
more trouble at the club and David threw him out again. He came
back a third time with a gun and shot David Nadel, who died
a few days later. Because of my affection for that guy, I found
myself really committed to helping the group of people that
wanted to keep the club alive.
became a non-profit and I joined the Board. I got inspired that
summer, and I said, 'Here's something we can do to help. I want
to put on a series of benefit concerts for the Dead community
and use the money to pay for an upgrade to the sound system
here.' It was an idea that was enthusiastically endorsed by
several people. A friend on the Well, a guy named Gordon Taylor,
who also shows up on dead.net
these days, wound up being the co-producer of these events.
sort of revived the Broken Angels for that. I would put together
an all-star band of Deadheads for each of these events. We'd
do tapes from like 4 until 8, and then live music until 11 or
whatever, one Sunday a month.
this time, I was on the Board of the Unbroken
Chain Foundation working toward the first PhilHarmonia,
which took place in December of 1997. I
asked Phil if he would come down and join us for this and he
said 'Yes.' Jill and the boys were going to be away that weekend,
and he said he would come over and kind of see how it went and
sit in for a couple of tunes. We were careful with that -- first
of all I didn't want to advertise him if he wasn't going to
show up -- so I kept my mouth shut about it until the last day.
Then when I was fairly certain he was going to make it, I put
the word out that morning. And the first of our events was just
hugely successful, largely because people knew that Phil was
going to be there.
he came in, and there was this immense scene going on. There
was a jam going on on stage, eight different Grateful Dead musicians
playing, and my wife and I were hanging out with Phil at the
back of the floor. He was just, 'Wow, I've never seen anything
like this!' I said, 'I know, Phil, you've never been to a Dead
concert!' He was totally flabbergasted by what was going on.
I said, 'Think about how you're feeling right now, multiply
it by about 100, and then you'll know how you guys made us feel
every fucking time.' And he got up on stage with us, and Duane
Day, who's a great bass player, handed over his rig. We played
Scarlet Begonias into New Speedway Boogie, and it was a gas.
I guess he really got off that day, that led to his agreeing
do to another benefit for the Unbroken Chain Foundation with
the Broken Angels, which took place at the Maritime
Hall in San Francisco on November 6.
was funny, because we got the word out about it but it wasn't
as well attended as maybe it could have been because people
didn't know how much Phil was going to play. He was not committing
to a huge amount of work, but he wound up joining us halfway
through the first set and staying until the end, and starting
the second set with us and playing half way through. He
played a lot of music with us, and it was a lot of fun. The
place was fairly well attended, ultimately, and he had a really
good time there. I still have the phone message: he called up
and left a message on my machine about how thrilled he was by
the 'high level of musicianship' that we had. I had a cello
player and a lot of other really interesting musicians to play
with him, and I thought we did pretty well.
was really quite a group too. I look back and see there was
many people in and out.
was huge. It was ridiculous. It was a three-ring circus. I was
sort of the traffic cop for that. I recruited everybody, and
tried to sort of run the stage so that Phil could walk in and
play music he was comfortable with.
threw a few curves at him, too. The next time we did it was
at the end of December at the Maritime Hall again, and then
we did one more at the Fillmore
Auditorium which was sold out and a hugely successful show.
I had a pedal steel (Joe Goldmark) for him that night and Vince
Welnick played that night, and those were like massively
you guys know ahead of time that you would do these shows, or
did you just keep going 'let's try it again'?
it was one at a time. I wasn't into pushing Phil. I thought
it was reasonable to ask him to join us at this benefit at the
Ashkenaz, because I was working on his cause, and he agreed
to do it. The rest came from him. I don't remember exactly how
it came up, but they said the would do a benefit with us. I
think part of the thing was the Maritime Hall was providing
the facilities for the PhilHarmonia, and
I think one of the reasons the November 6 benefit came up was
it was a way of doing like a paying gig for the Maritime that
would help them offset their costs of donating energy to the
PhilHarmonia. Something like that -- it wasn't something I agitated
for. It happened of its own accord, sort of. He had such a good
time that he wanted to do it more. That's when the December
one was scheduled.
Bob Bralove show up for that one?
Yes. Oh God, that was weird. Bralove sang one in that weird
Tom Waits meets the Gyuto Monks mode of his. (laughter)
he sing a couple because I missed that one?
did. The December one was the one with Bralove, and that was
where Bob was singing He's Gone and he had completely butchered
the timing of it, and Phil and I were standing there together
trying to figure out where he was cutting out bars and stuff.
It was an amusing adventure, following Bob through He's Gone.
It was a mixed event.
you mention that He's Gone because I remember seeing that in
the set list and thinking till this day I think that's the only
He's Gone Phil has performed since '95.
be. Could be.
got to feel nice to have been in some of these set lists.
things were thrilling.
remember in one of them you throwing out the surprise St.
and I conspired to do that, and it was great. The look on his
face was We had rehearsed Cosmic
Charlie -- he knew that was coming -- but he did not know
about the St. Stephen. We just did it, and it was cool, and
he was on top of it and it was great. The other surprise I threw
at him was
Saw Her Standing There, the Beatle song, at one of the Maritime
shows. It took him a little awhile to grok that one. I took
a few liberties with him, but I think he rose to the occasion
well, and to me that was the spirit of the Grateful Dead: to
not plan things out too much.
did it feel for you to have Phil with you on stage playing these
songs that you've played so much over the years, and having
him play some of your own songs even?
I got him to do one of my songs.
yeah. It was exciting. He's a great musician. Playing with him
was really really fun. It wasn't as great for me. I never actually
got a chance to really play with Phil in what I consider a musically
valid circumstance, because these things were huge three-ring
circuses and I was the organizer and the band leader.
interacted with him well in a few places. At the first Maritime
show, the second set began as a trio of me and Phil and the
cello player (Robin Bonnell), and went into a Dark Star that
was really cool. But mostly I was giving other people room to
work -- other lead guitar players, the pedal steel player, the
cello player. My
only regret out of all this is that I never really had a chance
to play in like a four- or five-piece configuration with Phil
where I really go to do the mindmeld. That's kind of a disappointment
to me. But the events were very artistically successful, and
made people happy, and it got him interested in being out on
stage again, so what the hell.
was monumental for that. That whole concept seemed to take off.
I've read before where Phil is talking about that first night
walking up to Ashkenaz and just being so enlightened hearing
that music being made and turning him on to this whole new idea.
For us at philzone.com,
those Broken Angels shows (prior to the Phil and Friends shows)
is like the The Warlocks era before the Grateful Dead.
can expect from you as a musician in the future? Have any special
projects lined up?
I have some ambitions for next year. After all that stuff ended,
I decided that I really wanted to put my music on the front
burner. I had taken a 20-year detour into other things. I had
a day job in the late 70's that took me out on the road. I always
played music, and I decided after all that stuff went down with
Phil that I wanted to get serious about music before I was too
old to really do it. So I hooked up with John Metzger, who does
Box out of Chicago, who had asked me -- I would play gigs
on the East Coast and I'd play gigs on the West Coast, and he
said 'How come you never play in the Midwest?' I said, 'Because
I don't know anybody in the Midwest.' He said, 'Well, if I can
find some gigs for you, do you want to check it out?' I said
'Sure.' So in June of '98, John put together a little 5-day
tour for me in Illinois and Milwaukee. I had a great time. I
went out solo acoustic and played these shows and actually made
a few bucks, and saw some good audiences, and it was a gas.
He booked a longer tour for me in September, and we've been
working together ever since. I've been touring as a solo acoustic
a number of reasons, I can't afford to take a band on the road.
I gave up my band around here in the Bay Area because after
Phil and Friends started, everything else dried up. My friends
in Dead cover bands are all having a hard time drawing crowds,
because all anybody cares about around here is Phil and Friends.
The Broken Angels ceased to be of interest after Phil wasn't
playing with us any more, so I basically kind of gave up on
the Bay Area for awhile and decided that I was going to get
away from here to make a name for myself as a musician.
was also important for me to get out of the band context, because
everybody expected me to be playing Grateful Dead music in a
band. Well, in a solo acoustic thing they don't expect to hear
jams, so it was my way of uniting all my different musical phases
under one identity. It was a way of distancing myself from the
Grateful Dead so that I could create my own identity, and it
was the only practical way that I could get out on the road
and hope to break even. It's been working out really well. I
was a solo performer when I first started, and always enjoyed
that, and I have done a really good job of keeping it improvisational.
I don't have to make eye contact with other musicians or work
anything out. I can start playing and change gears whenever
I want to. Actually, I've even played Dark Star as a solo acoustic
number once in a while. It's fun. I gauge my performance on
what I am getting from the crowd. If there's a substantial Deadhead
component I'll play more Dead tunes. I am very happy to give
people what they want to hear.
can get a feel.
Chicago at the Heartland Café, that's a singer/songwriter Mecca,
John Prine and Steve Goodman's home turf, and even though I
draw a large contingent of Deadheads in Chicago I also feel
completely at ease playing everything else in my repertoire.
Then in other places, like in New Jersey, I find myself playing
at like Mexicali Blues, it's a Deadhead hangout so I find myself
doing more Grateful Dead music there.
have the ultimate flexibility, and I have a valid active repertoire
of a couple of hundred tunes and I can pull things out of thin
air and play cheesy old singer/songwriter stuff like Sweet Baby
James, or a Beatle song. If it feels right, if somebody requests
it. Sometimes I'll get into these stump-the-band situations.
I'll say 'Anybody got any requests?' and somebody will ask for
something really weird. And I'll play it if I know it. Sometimes
I've even surprised myself with those things.
I'm having a really good time doing it, but I'm also starting
to really miss playing with other musicians. Twice a year, I
go down to Live Oak, Florida, to the Magnolia Fest in the Fall
and the Suwannee SpringFest in the Spring. It's put on this
by this great guy named Randy Judy and his partner Beth Judy
in this old Bluegrass campground place on the Suwannee River.
This last time I went down in October I played with Blueground
Fingers, the Crawfish of Love, the Toni
Brown Band,and Donna
the Buffalo. It was really a gas. I am starting to miss
playing regularly with other guys. Later on that tour, I did
a date with Blueground Undergrass, and I played a half a dozen
tunes or so with them.
you wrote with them?
No, it was covers -- Friend of the Devil, Big River, a Merle
Haggard-style Sing Me Back Home, and I forget what else we played.
But it was a Blueground Undergrass set with me sitting in, and
it was just a thrill to play with them. They were all so enthusiastic
about our working together that we have been talking about doing
something in January or February where I would do like a whole
set with them as my backing band. If I can find somebody to
pay for it, I'd like to record with them.
also play with the Zen
Tricksters once in a while. I haven't played with moe.
lately, but I wouldn't rule out working with them again.
you have a little side project with them also?
done two tours with moe. and some other guys called The Merry
Danksters -- really, really great fun. We recorded the last
tour we did, which was in December '97, and in January Jon Topper,
who's moe.'s manager, and Steve Young, who's the sound guy who
recorded our tour, are going to get together in Buffalo and
mix those tapes. moe. has a record company now called Fatboy
Records and if everybody agrees, we're going to put out a CD
of The Merry Danksters from that tour. And that means we'll
probably tour again to support the CD. I love that. I mean,
Peter Prince, from Moon Boot Lover, who's an absolutely unique
human being, this human funk machine; Gibb Droll, who's a great
sort of blues-based guitarist from Virginia Beach; and Chuck
and Al from moe,; and two guys from Buffalo who are old cronies
of Topper's, Dave Ruch and Rolf Witt. We would all love to get
back together again. moe. is so busy, and Al's got a kid now
so he's like grounded in between tours. He doesn't get to get
out and do extracurricular projects, but I think we would all
make the time for it. If the Danksters record comes out, then
probably some time in 2000 there will be a tour.
interested in all kinds of other things. I'd love to get out
and do any kind of work with Donna the Buffalo or Blueground
Undergrass. The Zen Tricksters' West Coast booking agent calls
me a couple times a year, and we talk about doing gigs together
but they never seem to happen. I opened for the Zen Tricksters
at Great American Music Hall a few months ago, and they played
with me on Bird Song at the end of my set, and they've learned
a couple of my tunes. I really like those guys, and they seem
to like me so I wouldn't rule out doing more work with the Tricksters
in the future as well. If I could afford it I would put a band
together, but I can't so I will just see what opportunities
come up. I'm going to be doing plenty of work on my solo acoustic
the radio shows (Dead to the World, Grateful Dead Hour) continue
yeah, that's my day job. I love my job. I get paid to listen
to Grateful Dead music -- what's not to love? Also, the Box
Set is doing really really well, and I am hoping that our team
will get invited to do more compilation work for the Grateful
Dead. That would be a gas, too. However, the way things are
in the Grateful Dead, you never expect anything and you never
push for anything. You just sort of wait and see what happens.
But we've been so successful with the Box that I can't imagine
that they wouldn't let us do another project. We'll find out
if and when that happens.
to Part One >>
out Philzone.com's special AudioZone
featuring highlights from all three Broken Angels' shows
out the official David Gans tour
some excerpts from a David Gans solo acoustic performance:
4/10/99 - Heartland Cafe,
Blue Roses (stream
River and Drown (stream
An American Family (stream
Brokedown Palace (stream
Check out the official David Gans web site:
So Many Roads on line here.
BIG Philzone.com 'thank you' to
& Fun, Inc. for making this interview possible.
very special thanks to Robert
Minkin Photography for pictures of David Gans and the Broken
Angels with Phil Lesh.
For more beautiful Phil and Friends photos plus thousand's of
incredible music images Robert Minkin has captured over the
past 20+ years, please visit Robert Minkin's web site: http://www.minkindesign.com/photo
Love to Turn You On - An Interview with David Gans"
Conducted by R.Lucente,
December 3, 1999 - Oakland, CA.
David Gans photos & foward by Robert Lucente. ©1999.
All rights reserved. www.philzone.com
Special thanks to Truth
and Fun, Inc. for providing the audio
and to Robert
Minkin Photography for providing the Broken Angels photos.
For more of R.Minkin's photos, visit his official web site:
So Many Roads photographs property of http://live.dead.net
interview may not be republished anywhere in any form -- online
or offline -- without the express written consent of Philzone.com.
However, we certainly encourage you to link to this Interview
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