Friends FEATure in Japan
with Little Feat Members
Paul Barrere & Fred Tackett

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Boston 7-13-99
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Conducted December 9, 1999 - Capitol Tokyo Hotel, Japan

by Masato Kato, transcribed by Jen DeVincenzo

©1999-2000 Masato Kato, and

All photos ©1998-2000 Hank Randall and Eri Sakai. All rights reserved.

Little Feat members Paul Barrere and Billy Payne played with Phil Lesh & Friends, Steve Kimock and John Molo for six shows last Fall 1999. With them, Paul and Billy brought new inspiration and a Feat-like interpretation to the ever-changing Phil & Friends experience. Little Feat has reinvented themselves numerous times for over 30 years and still continues to wow audiences world-wide - delighting longtime fans while recruiting new ones.

I had a chance to interview Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett, 'guitar twins' of Little Feat, on December 9, 1999 in a room of Capitol Tokyu Hotel, which used to be called the Tokyo Hilton. The Beatles stayed there when they came to Japan in 1966. On December 8, Feat played at Club Citta Kawasaki. This was the only 2-set show Feat did in Japan - and the longest one at that! My nerves and excitement kept me up all night and I was in tough shape when I arrived at the interview room at 11:00 AM. Paul and Fred, on the other hand, were full of life and willin' to talk about a lot of things including cherished memories and humorous anecdotes.

- Masato Kato

Masato Kato: First of all, I got the impression from last night’s concert that Little Feat’s sound has a very unique sense of rhythm.

Feat: Yes, and it changes from night to night.

Masato Kato: The rhythm seems to be very simple, but whatever you play - 4 beats, or 8 beats or so forth - behind that, the rhythm is very complicated. How did you guys develop that sound?

Fred Tokyo 12-8-99Fred Tackett: I think it just kind of developed this syncopation and swing, and as Miles Davis use to say, ‘It’s all in between the notes’ - you know, what happens as far as with that behind the scenes rhythm you’re talking about.

Paul Barrere: I remember when I first joined the band early on and finally getting to play a lot with Lowell [George]. We had a good friend, Van Dyke Parks who use to impress upon us that it wasn’t always so much the note but the spaces between the notes. I think everybody really took that to heart. I know that between Fred and I we have a real good feel for the way each other plays, and as much as we play (laughs) we manage to stay out of each others way while we’re doing it. We just kind of blend that with what the rhythm section is doing. You know, it’s very unique because for a song as simple as Let It Roll, for instance, we’ve had drummers try to sit in and play that song with us and it just doesn’t seem the same (laughs). So it seems simple on paper, but in practice it is actually pretty complicated.

Masato Kato: Fred, you weren’t a member of Little Feat back in the 1970’s, so from your point of view, what was Little Feat like back then?

Kenny Boston 7-13-99Fred: One of the things I really remember best was going and watching these guys record. Lowell George use to get out into the center of the room and conduct, sometimes with his feet and his arms – just moving around. He’d just get everybody into playing these grooves. He’d stand in front of somebody, like Kenny [Gradney] the bass player, and kind of like nod and dance and talk and stuff, and this thing would just start churning like a wheel and it’d just go around and around and eventually get into this incredible groove. The thing that really impressed me were the funky grooves. I remember the first time I heard Skin It Back, I went ‘God damn man, that is like one funky song!’ (laughs) So it was like a Blues band gone left (laughs), you know? It took a left turn somewhere on the waRitchie North Hampton 11-98 to Mississippi or something. (laughs) It’s a different thing. It came out of Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, you know, all those guys. That’s what I remember about it. These guys were all my friends. Lowell was the first guy I met and then I met Paul, Kenny and Sam [Clayton] when they joined the band later. Lowell, Richie [Hayward] and then Billy [Payne] were the first people that I met when I moved to California in 1967 or ‘68. They were my friends and musical colleagues from the very beginning.

Sam Mohegan Sun 11-98Masato Kato: Did you move there because of the "Hippie Movement"?

Fred: I moved there just to work with a songwriter named Jimmy Webb who I met in Hawaii, and he brought me there to work with him.

Masato Kato: Who is Jimmy Webb?

Fred: He’s a songwriter who wrote MacArthur Park and By the Time I Get to Phoenix….

Paul: …and Up, Up and Away

Fred: …A whole bunch of pop songs. He was a big, big, big hit songwriter in the 60’s in California and good friend of mine. I’m going to try to come here [Japan] with him one of these days.

Masato Kato: I see. Paul, what made you start up Little Feat again in the middle of the 80’s?

Paul: Ah! We actually had no plans of having Little Feat again after Lowell passed away. We all kind of just split apart and Paul Tokyo 12-8-99moved in our own separate directions and so forth. It was really kind of a fluke that got us back together. There was a rehearsal studio in Los Angeles called The Alley that we use to rehearse at that Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris and gosh, even the Eagles use to go there to rehearse because it was just like an unlisted number. They had completely redone their main studio with a lot of old Little Feat memorabilia and they put a bronze plaque up on the door dedicating the room to the memory of Lowell George. They had called me up and asked me if I could get the remaining members together just to have a little jam session, you know, just to open the room. And I managed to somehow get a hold of everybody. Everybody was in town at the same time, which was actually unique at that time because everybody was then working with different people and we played and we had a great time. The music was just a lot of fun. At the time Billy was working with Bob Segar with Fred and so there wasn’t any immediate plans to put it together. I Kenny Phoenix 8-21-99think Billy went back out on the road and played with Fred. Then I got a call and Billy was saying, ‘What do you think about putting the band back together? We’ll bring Fred in as the other guitar player and we’ll look for a singer.’ I said, ‘Man, that would be great – sounds like a lot of fun to me.’ And we did it. The only criteria that we had was that when we wrote the tunes for the new album, Let It Roll, that we’d only go forward if the music was as good as the past eight or nine records that we had. We thought that the music was equal to what we had done in the past and we’ve been having a great time ever since.

Masato Kato: How did you make up for the loss of Lowell George?

Paul: I don’t know if we ever made up for the loss of Lowell George. Lowell was a friend you know, before he was a colleague. I had known Lowell for years. He went to school with my brothers and I remember being a young punk guitar player at the age of 15 and he was like 18 and he was already playing in the clubs and I would go see him. So when he died it was really more of a personal loss than a business situation. When we got back together after not being together for 6 or 7 years, everybody had really grown as musicians - everybody had actually gotten better – which was good. Everybody had gotten a little bit more sensible in their personal habits (laughter).

Masato Kato: Did Fred bring a new direction to the band?

Paul: He brought a new sense of rhythm, as far as I was concerned. Fred is a great guitar player. I just love the way he plays. The elements of doing the slide parts kind of fell on my shoulders which I had actually been doing for the years that we were apart - in the bands that I had played with or on the solo records that I had done. It was kind of a natural progression for me to take over that slide aspect. Fred brought in a different and amazing rhythm aspect, not to mention his leads, his trumpet and mandolin playing, and his writing. Fred was always like a member of the band. He was like the cousin that we kept in the closet and we’d bring him out and you know…

Fred: …The utility infielder! (Laughter)

Paul: …Yeah, that guy you kept chained up down there. ‘C’mon on out and play for us.’ (laughs)

Fred: You know, the cool thing about the transition was after Lowell had died and we put the band back together, there was Craig Fuller. Craig and Paul had for one thing, written a song, Hate To Lose Your Lovin’ which was our first single. They wrote that while Lowell and I were doing Lowell’s solo tour when Lowell died. So that song was being written – I don’t know if you guys had finished it or not – but that song had beenFred Phoenix 8-21-99 started and was there. So when we got the band back together that song was the first song that we started working on. It was just like we picked up where we had left off. I mean that song had had its genesis – it was born – back in the time when Lowell was still alive. Craig had a vocal quality that was similar to Lowell’s, so it was a nice transition in fact. He sang a lot of the songs that Lowell sang. So when we went out and started playing, a lot of the fans said, ‘Well, he sounds sort of like Lowell’ so it was a nice transition and then we just carried on and the music just evolved naturally like it would have otherwise. If Lowell had been alive, the music wouldn’t have been the same as it was in 1972 or 1978 or 1988. If Lowell were still here, he wouldn’t have been playing the way he played in 1978 – it would’ve been something else. I’d love to figure out what it would be (laughs). You keep thinking – if you knew Lowell. You know Lowell use to sit around and edit cassettes. He use to take little cassettes and cut them up and paste them back together again and we use to think, ‘What would he do with a computer or a sequencer?’ He would be in a room and you would never see him again. You know, he’d never be outside. He’d be in this room with a sequencer cutting up things and making….he would’ve been wild. You know, with the idea of sampling and stuff , it would’ve been amazing to see what he would do with the technology of today. He was always stretching the technology. He had the first drum machine – a weird dichromatic thing - this weird little drum machine. What did it have two beats on it or something?

Paul: Yeah, he got that from Elliot Ingber It actually had 5 different settings: a samba, a rumba, a rock beat and swing and then you could kind of combine two of them which is how he got that wacky thing for Cold, Cold, Cold – that upbeat.

Masato Kato: Mr. Suzuki played a slide guitar solo last night. How did you get to know him?

Paul: Actually, Billy had worked on a record with him, I understand, years ago. When we were planning on coming over here, we had written Mr. Saito [Japanese promoter] to see if there were any Japanese musicians from the list of those we had previously played with who would want to come and sit in and jam with us, so to speak, and Mr. Suzuki came through. He came in last night and it was wonderful. We had a great time. I was almost losing my place singing the words because he was playing the exact Lowell licks in the back part of the second half of the chorus. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s like the exact lick off of the original Dixie Chicken record!’ (laughter)

Fred: Yeah, he’s the only one who showed up. All of the other people we had worked with were little girl singers who are probably grown up, married and got children now. (laughter).

Paul: …Or they don’t want to see us! (laughter)

Masato Kato: Paul, you and Billy Payne played with Phil LeshBilly Sugarloaf 2-12-00 last October and November. Do you remember you played golf with some music fans right before those shows?

Paul: Oh yeah, that was the [B. R. Cohn Golf Tournament] in Sonoma, CA put on by Bruce Cohn who is the manager of the Doobie Brothers [and a recognized vintner]. He does a charity golf tournament every year about that time and the money goes to the Children’s Hospital in San Francisco and to Aids and Cancer research. A lot of fans come and a lot of people from bands too - people from Huey Lewis’ band, some people from the Allman Brothers – well at least Gregg, Butch, and Russ Kunkle – the drummer – were there. It’s one of those fun kind of golf events where musicians, producers and people from the different communities come out and raise money for a charity.

Masato Kato: Taping was not allowed during the Phil Lesh/Bob Dylan Fall ’99 tour. Was this Bob Dylan’s decision? How do you guys feel about taping live shows?

Paul: Right, Bob Dylan doesn’t allow tapers. Phil Lesh and the Grateful Dead people whether it’s The Other Ones, or Ratdog, or whomever – they all do. All of the people that Phil brings in – whether it’s Derek Trucks or Warren Haynes or whomever – they all allow it. I think that even Bob Dylan, well he’s so old school that he probably feels that it's not such a good idea – maybe just from talking with Paul Simon. I don’t know. (laughs) People do tend to get in there and get those tapes but we’ve figured out that to try and stop people from taping is futile, and if you allow them to tape, you actually broaden your audience. The interesting thing to see is how much information actually would be transferred onto MP3’s and so forth, whether people would actually start to pirate copyrighted material like studio albums and things like that and actually post those files on web sites that are illegal and so forth. You know, that’s the only problem I can see. As far as getting live shows? - I have no problem with that. I think it would actually stop bootlegging. However, we’ve had tapes that came through our tape tree that have actually turned into bootlegs here in Japan.

Masato Kato: Lowell George loved bootleg albums, is this true?


Conducted December 9, 1999 - Capitol Tokyo Hotel, Japan
by Masato Kato, transcribed by Jen DeVincenzo

©1999-2000 Masato Kato, and

All photos ©1998-2000 Hank Randall and Eri Sakai. All rights reserved.

This interview or any photos included may not be reprinted anywhere in
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