Here my interview with David Schools of Widespread Panic.
The interview took place following the WSP show at the Fox Theater on Saturday, October 23. I did not record the interview. I jotted down notes during the interview and wrote everything down afterwards. The wording, therefore, may not be precisely correct. I believe I have the gist of it, however.
Anything I was unsure of, I did not include.
Bruce Willner: How do you choose what songs to play each night. How do you make your setlists?
David Schools: We don't. We don't make setlists. Our performances are about energy. When we play we try to build up bubbles of energy and feeling. We play whatever feels right to play at the time. Sometimes it takes off and sometimes it doesn't. But that's all part of the experience. When we play we just let go. Go with our emotions and inspirations. We try to get those feelings across to the
audience through the music. I couldn't be in a band that just went up and played songs. If I did that it would be just like a job.
bw: How did you guys come up with the name Widespread Panic?
ds: Our guitarist [Michael Houser] used to have the nickname Panic. One day he came home in a really happy mood and said "I don't want to be just 'Panic,' I want to be 'Widespread Panic.'"
bw: How do you write your music?
ds: We write music by playing. When we have rehearsals, we don't practice songs; we play, experiment, and arrange from the initial ideas. The music comes from all of us.
We're very different people. We don't always agree when developing new music. At the same time, we have a great deal of respect for one another's ability so we listen to each other. When we do argue over something we let it pass. No one ever
holds a grudge. A lot of the music comes out of these conflicting ideas.
bw: And the lyrics?
ds: Michael [Houser] and JB [John Bell] write most of the lyrics. While many of the lyrics grow out of ideas from any of us, it is a safe bet that whoever is singing wrote the lyrics.
bw: David Blackmon used to sit in on the fiddle with you occasionally. What has happened to him? There are rumors that he just disappeared and no one knows where he is.
ds: Ah, I love rumors. There's almost never any truth to them. Dave still plays with us occasionally. He played at the Atlanta HORDE show this summer.
bw: And who is he? What is he up to now?
ds: Dave was a child prodigy fiddler. When he was a kid he used travel around, enter into fiddling contests, and win them against much older, more experienced fiddlers. He lives up in the mountains now, hot-wiring guitars. He's an electronic genius.
When he first saw my new amp, he took the whole thing apart and put it back together to see exactly how it was designed. It works just as well now as before; actually better. Dave is going to design the next great amp.
bw: What are your plans for the future?
ds: We plan to keep on touring.
bw: A lot of people would like to see a Widespread Panic live album. Any chance of that soon?
ds: We recorded a number of shows a while ago at the Georgia Theater. But they're quite out of date now. We've listened them and ruled out a lot. The problem was we were very aware that we were being taped. Sometime we plan on touring with several ADATs so we can tape everything. Then we can go through it all and put together a good double album. It's up to the record company. It could be
a few years or it could happen this summer. Who can tell. But don't hold your breath. Originally, "Widespread Panic" was going to be a double album, half live. When we listened to the studio half, though, we thought it held together well on its own, so we left it as that.
bw: I know you guys are close to ARU. Lately there has been a lot of talk going around about Matt Mundy leaving the band, rejoining, and ARU possibly breaking up. What do you know about all of this?
ds: Matt has left the band. But they are definitely not breaking up. Matt was getting tired of having to plug cotton into his ears every night. They're presently working with a new keyboardist. However they end up, they'll still be amazing.
The Colonel is a genius and they are the greatest band ever.
bw: Glad to here they're staying around. Here's a good question for you: What's the craziest thing the band has ever done?
ds: That would probably be playing a concert in a copper mine. Up in the mountains in Georgia (He mentioned the name of the nearest town but I don't remember it) there is an old copper mine. The mouth of the mine mine was designed to have two trucks driven into it at once. It was almost shaped like a giant speaker. The acoustics were incredible. You didn't need a PA, except for the vocals. The first time we played in there, it was a frat party and there was probably 400 people there. In Georgia, when a band is starting out you play for a lot of fraternities. That's the only way to make enough money to get by. A year later we decided to play there again. We were doing a benefit for this guy who was paralyzed. It had rained recently and everything was damp in the cave. They had brought in piles of sawdust to dry up the mud and all of the equipment was sinking
into it. There was this one naked hippie girl who kept trying to get to me. She started climbing over the amps until someone pulled her off of them. Then she tried to walk over the guitarist [Michael Houser] until someone gently removed her
again. Later, I heard Todd's drumming fall apart; I turned around and there she was climbing over the drum set, still trying to get to me. I don't have any idea why she was trying to get to me.
4,000 people showed up that second time. Police from 5 different counties came and we were eventually shut down. We were charged with holding an "illegal parade." There was only a narrow road leading there so people had to park on the road miles away and walk up the road to the cave. So they called it an
illegal parade. The story made it onto NPR.
Would you like to hear my conspiracy theory?
ds: It's about the face of Elvis on Mars. That's the reason the government broke the Hubble telescope. They didn't want anyone to know the truth. If everyone could see the face of Elvis on Mars then they'd know that Elvis, Genghis Khan, Marco Polo, and Bruce Hampton are all the same person in different incarnations.
I talked to him about a few other things as well. A number of people wanted to know how they handled their mail. Dave said that most of the mail they received were generally requests to get on the mailing list and they were simply added to the list. Of the rest of the mail, Dave tries to respond to any questions for him (ie. his playing, his bass setup, or whatever). But it can take him 6+ months to get to them.