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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Paul Krassner Interview, 1984, Eugene, OR

Interview of Jerry Garcia, Eugene, Oregon a few weeks prior to the 6/21/84 Seva show.
PAUL KRASSNER is the editor of "The Realist" and a purveyor of 
Freethought, Criticism and Satire.
Issue #131 (Autumn, 1995) of "The Realist" reprinted the opening 
portion of an interview of JERRY GARCIA by Paul Krassner that first 
appeared in "The Realist" #99 (September-October 1985).  


Q. Does the world seem to be getting weirder and weirder to you?

A. Yeah. The weirdest thing lately for me was that thing of the 
Ayatollah and the mine-sweeping children. In the war between Iran and Iraq, 
he used kids and had them line up like a human chain, holding
hands, and walk across the mine fields because it was cheaper than 
mine detectors.

Q. That's just unfathomable.

A. It's amazingly inhuman. And people complained about the Shah - 
a few fingernails and stuff - but this
is kids walking across mine fields. It's absolutely surreal. How could 
people go for that?

Q. But how do you remain optimistic? There's 48 wars going on now 
simultaneously - and yet the music is joyful - even "Please don't murder me" 
is a joyful song.

A. Well, when things are at that level, there's kind of a beauty to 
the simplicity of it. I wrote that song when the Zodiac Killer was 
out murdering in San Francisco. Every night 
I was coming home from the studio, and I'd stop at an intersection and 
look around, and if a car pulled up, it was like, this is it, I'm
gonna die now. It became a game. Every night I was conscious of that 
thing, and the refrain got to be surreal to me. "Please don't murder me, 
*please* don't murder me..."

Q. Oh, so it came out of a literal truth - it wasn't even metaphorical.

A. No, not really. It was a coincidence in a way, but it was also the 
truth at the moment.

Q. And, if you extend that logically, statistics show that more than 
half of young people today think there'll be a nuclear war in their 
lifetime - but they also are 
concerned about whether they want a career or marriage.

A. Well, you've got to do something in the meantime. Nuclear war - 
that's *easy* to see, because it's true that most of the energy is still 
going to the old arms buildup. It hasn't changed a bit, and it's more
horrible than ever, and not only that, but we haven't done anything to get 
rid of all the *old* shit, so that thing has been growing and growing for 
the last 40 years. If you're a kid now, that's what you see, that's
the immediate past, 40 years of this shit, and nobody's made any 
serious effort to turn it in any direction. I'm scared too, frankly.

Q. It used to be there was one weird old man with a sign saying, 
"The world is coming to an end," but
now you've got it embossed on bumper stickers. Still, you know 
that new age parable of the 100th monkey - about these monkeys on an 
island that have subsisted on sweet potatoes and they've always eaten them 
with the sand on.

A. Oh, I know about those monkeys. They wash the sweet potatoes 
in the salt water now.

Q. But one young monkey started it.

A. A young female monkey.

Q. And then other monkeys started following suit, and when there 
was a certain critical mass - and that's the metaphor of the 100th monkey, 
it could've been the 97th or the 108th - when enough young monkeys
were doing it, then the first adult monkey started. Reverse generational 
influence. Then other adult monkeys started doing it.

A. Yeah, there was a moment when all of a sudden it seemed as 
though all the monkeys knew how to do it.

Q. And then, even on adjoining islands - a psychic connection. 
And how that applies to human behavior,no matter what we're doing on an 
individual or a group basis, if we take ourselves as the 100th monkey,we could 
be the one to change the tide.

A. Absolutely. It always did seem like it was a matter of numbers, 
like you really only needed a percentage of people kind of pulling psychically 
in the right direction in order to just avoid the worst possible scenario, and 
it always seemed that the positive had some kind of natural inclination to get 
the weight. Destroying things lacks a certain element of organization, 
it's operating at a disadvantage essentially, because the idea of building 
things always requires some kind of agreement. Destroying things doesn't require 
that, it kind of works against itself in the long run.

Yeah, I *believe* that idea. I always believed that psychedelics 
meant that in a certain way. I always felt that if enough people got turned on, 
there would be sort of a consciousness jump, a paradigm shift in
reality somehow. It's much slower than anybody imagined. That's the way I've 
chosen to deal with it philosophically, to avoid getting too discouraged in 
the meantime, just to think, well, it's gonna take along time.

Q. Do you think that the renewed interest in the '60s is a 
deep interest in terms of perpetuating a spiritual revolution or that it's 
just an interest in a 60's fad?

A. No, it's deeper than that. It's definitely not just the surface, 
it's much more the soulful stuff, because I see those kids, they're in the 
audience, and I talk to them, the 16-year-olds of today, the 18-year-olds,
and they're the same people that we were then.

Q. Except with a loss of innocence.

A. Exactly. They *know* there's way more bullshit going on, but 
all that stuff is more visible, and so in a way it's easier for them to 
deal with it. We were dealing with that world and 
didn't quite understand what we were up to, although we suspected the worst, 
and now they're used to being in that kind of paranoid reality.

Q. So they have less deconditioning to do?

A. That might work for them, it might work against them, but the 
point is that they're game, they're good people, I know that about them.

[the above interview text was reprinted in Autumn 
1995 "The Realist" #131]

Q. Do you think, since the roots of the Grateful Dead are psychedelic, 
that affects the structure of a song in particular, or the structure of a 
concert, in terms of the buildup?

A. It doesn't so much affect the structure of a song particularly.

Q. Except when you have a free reign in the middle of it.

A. That's right, some of our songs are big affairs, and some of 
them are also meant to be opened up.They're kind of like loose leaf files, 
you can open 'em up and stick things in 
them; some are arranged so you can contain an experience, sort of direct it, 
and our second half definitely has a shape which, if not directly, is at least 
partially inspired by the psychedelic experience, as a wave 
form - there's sort of a rise in that - the second half for us is the thing of 
taking chances and going all to pieces, and then coming back and reassembling.

Q. And that's the leap of faith of psychedelics - which is, 
somehow I'll get back to that core - I may make a few convolutions in the 

A. That's right, you might lose a few pieces, but you don't 
despair about seeing yourself go completely to pieces. You don't despair about 
it, you let it go. We've been doing some interesting things in the last
couple of years in our most free-form stuff that's not really attached to any 
particular song. It's just free-form music, it's not rhythmic, it's not really 
attached to any musical norms, it's the completely weird shit.

We've been picking themes for that, and thinking of it as being like a painting, 
or a movie. Reagan in China was one of our themes. One time we had the 
Kadafy Death Squad as our theme. 
Sometimes the theme is terribly detailed, and sometimes it's just a broad 
subject. We do this when we think about it,
when we remember to, it's not a hard and fast rule, but that part of the music at 
times has some tremendous other level of organization that pulls it together, 
makes it really interesting.

A. It's like whether you worry about the world *out there* when 
you're having some kind of personal experience, a psychedelic experience or 
whatever, anything that's happening in your life - and the world
out there, how it affects you, how it sort of colors things that 
are happening in your trip. The music is like
psychedelics in a way, and there are times even when I come off 
stage, and I swear I've been dosed but I know I haven't.

And it's happening to all of us in the band. There is some 
bio-chemical reality in there that has to do with maybe the loudness of the 
music, or maybe like the East Indians believe, that 
intervals in music contain emotional realities. Their music is organized 
where each interval has an emotional truth that goes along with it, and so 
when they're playing, they're playing your heart, or they're playing a kind 
of nervous system music. That's the way they believe, and it feels that way 
when you hear it too, so there may be those kinds of realities in there that 
are kicking off some kind of bio-chemistry, subtle brain proteins, and changes 
of that sort.

Q. It could be, because there's certain notes you reach on a guitar, 
I'll find my body moving, and when I'm really close to myself, I realize that 
what I'm doing is, I'm producing endorphins.

A. Absolutely right. It's there. Since that work is kind of *outre*, nobody is 
really delving into that stuff to see, is it happening or is it not happening? 
Maybe eventually.

Q. They're waiting until they can see some way to synthesize and 
merchandise endorphins - because we can get 'em free now. They've discovered 
that addiction to cigarette smoking is really addiction to endorphins produced 
by the tissue damage. So if a drug company, ethical or unethical, were able to
manufacture synthetic endorphins, they could eliminate all these 
middle processes. People wouldn't have to jog anymore...

A. Right, the joggers are definitely strung out on endorphins. 
They experience withdrawal and everything. There's so much mystery there in 
brain chemistry that I'm sure you cough up a psychedelic experience every once 
in a while. It doesn't happen all the time, but it happens pretty frequently - 
frequently enough for me personally to be aware that there's something there.

More interesting yet is that I've experienced at times - this 
has only happened on those rare occasions when somebody on stage is smoking DMT, 
it's usually like the Hell's Angels - but when there's DMT  being smoked on stage, 
there's actually an interference that occurs, a measurable effect that happens to 
the electronics on stage. I mean I can hear it, and if I had the 
right meters, I could measure it. It really changes things - there's a real 
*electron* leap of some sort that produces a kind of wireless broadcast.

There are times when I'd notice, hey, suddenly something is 
very different, and *then* notice the smell of DMT. Like you're playing 
an electric guitar, you're doing very minute things with your fingertips. The
smallest string is 9/1000th of an inch in diameter, and that's pretty small - 
so you're dealing with minute little changes which are amplified up to huge 
size, and so the psycho-acoustic effect that happens in that chain, is 
something you feel with your body, it's not just something you hear, 
you *feel* it, it affects your touch.

So that DMT thing, it's like somebody sticks in a square wave generator, all of a 
sudden the waves are just chopped off right at the top, it's like a super fuzz 
tone is inserted in the line somewhere, and also the amplitude jumps up 
about 20-30%. It's an amazing effect. We don't 
*know* what the brain does. I'm sure it's a measurable, quantifiable, 
repeatable thing, in terms of "science."

Q. But always, underneath, there's another layer of mystery - 
but everybody needs a metaphor for the mystery - so people who hear the 
100th monkey story, say, well, the first young female monkey to wash
off the sweet potato was an Aires, and they have a certain 
pioneer spirit.

A. What was the sweet potato saying to the monkey?

Q. Help me to meet my sweet-potato-hood.

A. Help me get the skin off.

Q. The truth is, those monkeys needed all of that sand on the sweet potatoes 
for roughage in their diet -then these meddling anthropologists come along - 
now there's islands full of constipated monkeys.

A. Now the monkeys just love the anthropologists. They take their lunch. They 
don't even f**k with the sweet potatoes anymore.

Q. They take their laxatives anyway.

A. Japanese monkeys hooked on Ex-Lax.

Q. That could be a theme for a Dead concert ... What picture would 
you paint right now?

A. Well. let's see, we should be on enormous divans with silk 
cushions all over, surrounded by nubile maidens feeding us peeled grapes, 
with huge bubbly hookahs.

Q. You didn't have to think about that image very long, did you?

A. No, no, all I had to do was tune in to that rock 'n' roll 
place where things happen.

Q. And so as we look around the room we see some young female 
monkeys washing sweet potatoes in the salt water bathtub.

A. There's the wreckage of jeeps over there.

Q. There is Persian powder being smuggled inside Khomeini posters.

A. By amputeed children who've been blown up from mine-detecting.

Q. I'd like to send a note to Khomeini, "Those kids weren't 
raised to be mine-detectors." And a note to Jesee Jackson, "If you can 
apologize to Jewish leaders for saying *hymies*, I want you to apologize to
the rock community for saying that you want to censor the lyrics of rock music."

A. Oh, no - did he say that?

Q. Yeah, because he was afraid that it would lead to sexuality, 
or even accompany it.

A. Come on, doesn't he remember back when they were calling rock 
music "*nigger* music?"

Q. That'll be the Dead's next benefit - for the Jesse Jackson Birth 
Control Clinic ... Even though your music is on one level entertainment, 
I think it's always service.

A. Actually, I've always thought that we were like a public works, 
really, a utility as much as anything else. That's the way it feels, and for 
a lot of people, it's *therapeutic* to have a real good time once in a
while. I know it is for me, definitely, and that's what we do as far as 
I'm concerned, really. And being able to direct that in some way or another 
is awfully nice.

I remember one time a long time ago - Ken Kesey and Wavy Gravy were involved with 
it too, I guess not coincidentally - we played someplace funny, like Cincinnati, 
at a university there, and they had Kesey speaking there, and the Hog Farm 
was there also, and this was in '69, maybe '68. 
We went there and played and the people got off on it, just enormously, and we left 
town, but the Hog Farmers stayed behind, and the day after the concert they 
got on the local FM radio station - back in those days, they had loose,
free-form radio - and they said, there's this vacant lot - there was this lot 
in the black section of town that had old tires and bed springs and junk and 
garbage and all kinds of shit - and they said, "Let's clean up this lot." And 
they got people to stop there, sort of steaming on the energy of the concert 
from the night before, kind of continuing that feeling.

At the end of the day, when those ladies came home from their jobs over on 
the white side of town, there was a *park* there. It's like taking the energy 
of that high - Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farmers have such
grace in doing things like that - and to me, that's always been a great 
service model, you know, how can you turn this into something, how can you 
take it another step, without it turning into some kind of willful mind 
manipulation? And that was one of the times that happened, really spontaneously. 
It was just great, and we got such lovely feedback from it. But for me, 
it's always been this model of, if you get the right elements going there and 
people who are clear about that good energy, there's definitely stuff that
you can make happen that turns out good, and everybody feels good about it.


  1. There has always been a lot of weirdness around this interview. To the best of my knowledge, which is extensive but probably flawed, this interview was conducted around the time of (but not live for) the 6/21/84 Seva Benefit (Band/GD in Canada).

  2. OK, yeah, I found it: The "Deadline" column in the summer 1984 Golden Road (p. 6) says the interview was done in Eugene a few weeks prior to the 6/21/84 Seva show.

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