4/22/95 - Interview with Sunny Ortiz

 Randolph-Macon College
4/22/95 Interview with Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz
by Dave Musser and Jamie Jollie

This is the full transcript of the interview I did with Sunny Ortiz,
Master of Percussion for Widespread Panic. I was assisted during the
interview by my trust-worthy friend Jamie Jollie. It occured about 2pm in a
locker-room with horrible echoes, not to mention having a conveniently-located
bathroom next door. It is almost 45min long...!!

DAVE MUSSER: Thanks. Alright...We got Sunny Ortiz here with us from
Widespread Panic for Earth Day 1995, [door shuts in background] April 22nd,
with Agents of Good Roots opening up...Real glad to have you here Sunny,
SUNNY:[tries to speak]
DM: We'd just like to ask a couple of questions from you about...maybe you
can tell me a little history about the band?
SUNNY: Ok..let's see..First off, thanks for having us here, and it's really
a nice day for all those that couldn't make it out here. And, uh...The
band started with J.B. and Michael both attending the University of
Georgia in 1980. Michael's nickname, even to this day is "Panic." And
so one day he went to J.B. and said, "J.B., I want to become more
widespread." So, that's where the name "Widespread Panic" got its, I
guess, was first born. And then they got Dave as a bass player, within a
probably about a couple of years. And then Todd came into the picture, and
then I came into the picture in '85. And then we signed with Capricorn,
and T.Lavitz was doing us some work with us, and then we got JoJo Hermann
now on keyboards. And JoJo's been with us for about three years now...
DM: Didn't he use to play with Beanland?
SUNNY: Yea, JoJo's done extensive work with our friends from Beanland. In
fact, that's how we met him, was through those boys at Beanland.
DM: Do you think he was a vital part? Do you think they were missing
something when he left to come to Panic?
SUNNY: Well, you know, they were on the verge of breaking up. So we really
didn't...didn't take anything away from them b/c they were already starting
to disform for whatever reasons that they were doing that...But, you know...
in most cases, I think it's real tough to lose an intricate member of _any_
band. And we were just real lucky to pick...to be there when the band was
breaking up, to where we could actually meet JoJo and see even if he wanted
to work with us...
DM: Yea...Was he excited about it from the beginning?
SUNNY:Oh yea, you know, I mean, I think anytime when you're working with a
working band, you know, to where you can can actually do your...your art,
you know, I think anyone would feel fortunate to do that. And, you know,
in the same token, we were real fortunate to be in a position to where he
would want to work with a band like us, you know, b/c a lot of people...
it's tough, you know, being out here 200 dates a year out on the road. I
mean sometimes, you know, I mean alot of people just can't hang 'cause it's
a long time being from being away from your home, you know, your friends,
and depending on how much you're into it. You pretty much...you gotta
devote your full life and time into this whenever we're out here. But, you
know, we take breaks and when we take those breaks, we pretty much go our
seperate ways, you know, we usually don't hang out with each other...
DM: Kind of get a little breathing room?
SUNNY: Yea. You know, b/c we're with each other about 200 dates a year,
and, you know, it's pretty much like a married life, you know, you're
pretty much are stuck with everybody...And nowadays, you know, we're
traveling with an entourage of like 18 people. So, you know, that's alot
of people that you come in contact with. So, it's kind of like a real big
family. And when we try to put that environment when we're out on the
road, you know, b/c we're all, you know, are hanging out with one another
day in and day out.
DM: So...yea. So y'all stick pretty tight with each other, I mean, it's not
SUNNY: Yea...
DM: ...you get sick of each other...
SUNNY: No. You pretty much realize that it _is_ your second family, you
know, that everyone is...knows what they're supposed to do...I guess they
know they have their special purpose and... we know what we're supposed to
do, and everybody appreciates what everybody else is doing, you know, in
order to get this show, you know, happening. The crew gets up at 7 in the
morning and does their thing...And then we come in 3 or 4, depending on
what time the show starts. And then we do our thing...So, we pretty much
appreciate each other's abilities in what we do.
DM: As far as the writing of songs and stuff like that, how does the group
go about that?
SUNNY: Nowadays, we all are a part of the writing end of it...and so, what
usually happens is we'll all come up with a melody together, and we pretty
much let John and Michael do the vocal end of it, and if there is some
things that need to be changed, everybody has their part in it, cause we
all take...all the writes are split amongst us.
DM: So like y'all start out with like some guitar, and then you will try to
fit into...
SUNNY: You know, usually what happens is that J.B. will come up with some
lyrics; Michael will come up with some guitar parts, and then we'll all get
together the majority of the time out here on the road and like during
soundchecks. And we'll probably just kick the song around before anybody
gets there. And alot of times, on our days off, we'll do some work in
hotel rooms, and we'll do some work on the bus. And that's pretty much how
songs for us are created. And, like I said before, when we take the days
off, we usually go our seperate ways, and everyone usually hangs out with
their family or their friends.
DM: A song like "Hatfield"...how would you describe the concept of that
SUNNY: Well, musically, you know, J.B....we were out on the west coast, and
we had picked up a farmers' almanac, and..."Hatfield" is a true story.
DM: Yea. [hoping he doesn't go into great detail...]
SUNNY: There is a guy named Hatfield who lives in Sioux...back, I guess, in
maybe...1800's. There was really a rain-maker named Hatfield and his
statue is in San Diego and there is a lake by San Marino there. So, that's
how that song came about and alot of times, I mean...It really is true:
your influence of songs are from day-to-day occurences...Sometimes you're
feeling good, sometimes you're not feeling good...We're in a real good
situation to where we can write about it and then create songs out of it.
And, you know, _anybody_ can do it. Anyone can write their memoires(sp?)
into anything they want to, you know, some people put it into poems and
sell them. Anybody can do it, it's just...Like I said, we're real
fortunate in being able to do what we've always wanted to do, and that is
being able to be, in our eyes, successful musicians. However, some people
think we're not as successful as _some_ bands, but I think our roots are a
little more into the ground then, say, other musicians that are out doing
JAMIE JOLLIE: I have a question for you...
JAMIE: Last year I saw y'all at Super Jam...
JAMIE: And y'all played "Hatfield" and it started raining like really
hard...What did y'all think about that, b/c that was a pretty...I don't
SUNNY: We said, "well, we should get off the stage..."[laughter b/c of
casualness of reply]
JAMIE: Yea, you know...
SUNNY: B/c, you know, number one was that obviously with the lightning,
it's pretty hazardous being out in the middle of a open field, not only for
us, but for the folks that were unprotected. So, we really were at a
median point between we really didn't want to stop in the middle of a song
b/c, you know, it's unprofessional. And two, we really had alot of things
to think about right there at a drop of a hat when it started to lightning
b/c of the dangers that were involved for us. And we weren't concerned
about so much us as we were the folks out in the audience and everybody
else that wasn't protected. So, we went ahead and finished the song and
obviously we wanted it to clear over and we waited for awhile, and we tried
to do another song, and it just wasn't happening. So, the _promoter_ was
the one that made the call as to whether or not we go on to perform or
not. And, you know, it's just one of those things to where if you're
traveling, and if you see us a whole bunch of times, you'll realize that
sometimes we _can_ bring out some pretty increment weather. So, that was
just one of those days to where we were real lucky that we even got to play
b/c even the year before that...it just seems like everytime we played
Super Jam, there's always been a big, not a big rain cloud; but there's
always something that usually makes it rain or it drizzles real lightly, or
high winds...So, this year, we just didn't beat the odds this year
JAMIE: Y'all aren't going to play this next summer, are you? [disappointed]
SUNNY: No, you know, we're not going to be in town...Or, at least I don't
know if we're going to be in town...
JAMIE: 'Cause I've heard alot of talk about that; alot of people...
SUNNY: ...We're not going to do, I _know_ we're not going to do the Super
Jam b/c since we're doing this thing at Chastain in Atlanta...the promoter
didn't want us to, I guess, cross those paths, you know. And, you
know, it's the same thing; it's just like one year we'll do the Super Jam,
next year we won't. One year we'll do the Fox, the next year we won't...
It's just one of those things to where we don't want, I guess, people to
know what we're always want to do. We'd always would love to do the Fox,
but then I think if everyone says, "Well, you know, I can always see Panic
in the Fox, why go see some of their other shows?" Then that kind of loses
the whole flever...favor of that or flavor of that spontaneity that alot of
people have.
JAMIE: That's how it kind of was with the Theatre probably...? Y'all
played alot down there...like I'm sure alot of people felt they could...
SUNNY: Well, you know, the Theatre is a great place but...being able to
play five nights at the Theatre is good, but there is...We would get
feedback from people saying, "Well, why don't you play at a _bigger_ venue
where I can dance?"..."Why don't you play at a _bigger_ venue where I don't
have to buy scalper tickets for 20 or 50 dollars more than the regular
price?" So, we got tired of hearing that, so that's why we decided that we
weren't going to pursue playing at the Georgia Theatre any more b/c it was
fun while it lasted, but even in the early, early days when we first
started playing at the Uptown, we always knew that eventually that was
going to come to an end too...
JAMIE: Really?
SUNNY: ...So, we had...It's been something that we've always done. We've
always seen a progression in our lives out here b/c when we first started,
we didn't have any of the luxuries that, I guess, that we have now with
carrying your own production, and carrying 12 other guys that do majority
of all the work for us. And all we do is just play. When we first started,
we were in an Oldsmobile Pontiac with a trailer, and we would use that
Oldsmobile car and another vehicle just to get us around. So, things have
changed, but it's always been on the upswing. And so we have been real
fortunate to where we really don't need the...I guess...the big radio push,
or we don't depend on album sales to survive as other bands do...B/c we've
been out here for so long, and people know who we are and they know what
the potential is...And they know that when they come out to check us out,
that they will have a good time just as long as it doesn't rain...[laughter]
DM: What did you think about Conan O'Brien the other night?
SUNNY: We had a good time. They treated us with a great amount of respect
and, you know, it was a fun thing to do...
DM: And like the video for Mtv...?
SUNNY: Well, you know, we've put out _several_ videos for Mtv, you know.
Basically, for those that have seen us, all know that we're just pretty
plain people. We're everyday people. I mean there's nothing really
special about us, you know, none of us have plastic surgery on us...We're
all pretty much are just natural people. We hate putting on make-up, we
hate dressing up, and we just hate going to this, I guess, superficial
person that is really not _any_ of us. And so naturally it comes across in
our videos, b/c obviously we have alot to say if what goes on the video.
Just like we have alot to say if what goes on certain albums. So...and
it's tough for some video producer/executive to try to come in and tell us
how he thinks a song should go, when _we're_ the ones who wrote it. So, we
just say, "Well, you either work with us, or we'll find somebody else."
And usually, then when that happens, then the producer...the video producer
will call like the record company, and then the record company will get
involved...The video, all it is is just a marketing toy for those that
don't know who Widespread Panic is can actually see something that they're
used to seeing on t.v. or they're used to hearing on the radio station.
So, it's a game that they play; but to _us_, it's pretty much like our
livelihoods, and we have _our_ self-respect as far as not doing anything
stupid in the video, but still it coming across as a good product.
Basically, they just didn't...they...there was no...What Mtv said was that
we're just not their _type_ of band that would do it...and, so...Which is
fine with us, b/c...
DM: You don't need them.
SUNNY: ...There are alot of people that have never used _that_ marketing
edge of videos, but it _is_ something that...we're all, we're going to have
to cross that bridge...when it happens, we'll have to cross it again. And
we just take it one day at a time...We'll shoot the video, but we'll shoot
it under _our_ conditions, and then we'll let the record company shop it to
Mtv, and if they laugh at us, or they say it sucks, or whatever...At least
we know that it was fun for us, or else we wouldn't have done it, and we
don't _need_ the marketing end of it that Mtv _does_ have...But see, you
really can't say...it's like a catch-22 thing b/c, see, the record company
thinks that "Well, you boys are only...you're not selling that many
albums. If you tried to do a good video, get a good video producer, work
with a video producer..." Obviously, if you got a good song, they can make
something out of it, but like that's why I said we kind of lose our
integrity if we go and play their game. B/c that's basically that's what
it is, they...it's all one big game. That's the only bad thing about being
part of a big corporate thing like the music business is b/c besides
playing, and besides traveling, you also have to deal with the other stuff
involved in the music business...And there's _alot_ of stuff involved... I
wish it was just getting up there on stage and playing, but...it's alot
more to it than that.
DM: So, what do you think the band's goal is ideally, as far as how many
fans, what size venue ideally they'd like to be playing at...I mean, were
you more comfortable with the bars, it seems, back in the ole days,
but now you're growing with the success of new songs...?
SUNNY: Well, the thing is is that our big problem was that we always hate
to see alot of people crammed in a building, and we all hate to see people
get in that building b/c it is a sold-out show. So, the next step for us
would be to go to a bigger venue. And, you know, sometimes it just doesn't
work out that way. Sometimes we think "ok...well, we played this town
before and we've done real good; let's move to a bigger venue." And
nobody will show up. You know, it's one of those kind of things to
where... you're stuck between a rock and a hard place b/c you think that
"Well, we sell out one town, and we come back the following year or two
years and go to a bigger venue and no one shows up..." And then we're kind
of wonderin..."Well, what did we do wrong? Was it poor advertising? Were
the ticket prices too much...?" And so that the next time we come back,
we go back into our files and we say, "Well, this is why this show didn't
work out..." We look at all the reasons. And, you know, it's a business
thing now to where...not only do we have the six of us to think about as
far as livlihood, and as far as being able to pay rent and have food on our
tables...but we have like 18 other people that we have to make sure that
they're taken care of too. And we've always said, as part as being the
musicians end of it, we want to take care of the people that work for us
first, and then we'll take care of ourselves with whatever's left over. B/
c, like I said before, they're the ones that pretty much make the show run
alot smoother, and without them, it would be more difficult for us to be
able to put on a show like we have going on today here in Ashland...
DM: Yea...Real excited about that. There's alot of Widespread Panic
fans have a computer network...
DM: You know about the Spreadnet...?
DM: ...And I've solicited them for a couple of questions that they wanted
to ask the band. And most of them, everybody is real excited about the
band this year, the Spring tour so far, and they're really excited about
y'all's performances...People have been to some of the shows....One guy,
from Birmingham, was talking about ticket prices, what we were talking
about earlier. He had said that he had paid $22 for a...what is it, the...?
JAMIE: For a ticket, and like $31 for TicketMaster...
DM: Yea...$31 it ended up being b/c of TicketMaster charges...What does the
band feel about...that?
SUNNY: Well, for us, it's one of those kind of things to where we have no
say where that ticket is printed...And, like I said before, nowadays,
everyone sees dollar signs in their eyes, and so TM is going to bump up
their price and...Until you get bands that are in a bigger magnitude than
us, like the Pearl Jams, and the Neil Youngs, and the Stone Temple Pilots,
and all those guys...Until you get the support of _them_ that actually
_make_ a dent in the music business to go out and hassle with the
TicketMasters or whoever...You know, we really can't say, "Well, it's going
to be Widespread Panic to make the movement..." B/c, you know, we're just
like little specks of dirt right now...to some...
DM: Naw, I wouldn't say _that_...
SUNNY: ...To some magnitude bands like Pearl Jam and all the other ones...
So, _they're_ the ones that are going to make the impact, and it will have
that trickle down effect to where bands like us will start, I guess,
getting a more or better ticket price. But see, alot of it depends on the
expenses of venues...That's why if you see, you know...it's great to have a
show in MSG, but in order to get a show like Phish did...In order to have
shows done in MSG, you almost have to have a huge enough following to where
the promoter and the band won't take a big bath if it was a big flop. You
know, b/c you're talking about thousands and thousands of dollars to even
get _into_ MSG. And see, that's not including all the union hands you have
to hire. It's not including the special equipment you have to get...So, it
costs money...and playing out here, even though you might think that "Oh,
well it's playing outside..." But you gotta think about renting a
generator, you gotta think about renting a stage, renting the risers, and
renting security. And then, that's nothing when you go back to thinking
about the promoter has to go buy a huge insurance policy in case something
was to happen out here, and one of the fans would accidently fall and trip
themselves, and break their leg...And then technically, they could sue the
promoter...or the school. So, there's alot of ends that some people don't
realize has to be taken care of in order for a show to happen. And
_that's_ why it takes us so much time, b/c some promoters think that "Well,
we'll get Widespread Panic in here, let's see how the tickets go..." And
then, if the tickets are slow, sometimes promoters won't take that chance
on us. _Especially_ if they never have worked with us, b/c they don't
realize that alot of our fans are strictly like a big walk-up crowd, you
know. They'll always wait until the _last_ minute to actually come to the
show. You see, that's _another_ thing, see...Alot of times, on the day
of the show, you can charged up to any more between two to maybe $5 _more_
than if you bought in advance.
DM: Really?
SUNNY: So that's where the whole key of buying that advanced ticket sale
DM: Have y'all considered mail order?
SUNNY: Mail order? You know, we're not even in the position to start mail
order 'cause #1 it would cost more money b/c then you would have to pay for
all the handling fees...You would have to pay for the handling fee from
getting the ticket to you or having it at will call. And see, once you get
the venue involved, then the venue's gonna charge you a service fee for
handling it...See, so the mail order just doesn't work and the only way how
I think that it's going to work is just for whenever you hear that tickets
are going on sale, just grab those suckers up...B/c if you wait, the longer
you wait, the chances are it's either going to sell out or you're gonna pay
a stupid day-of-show ticket hike...And, you know, it's just one of those
things to where tickets nowadays to see _anybody_ is expensive. I mean, why
wait until the last minute? Plus, you know that if you get it early, and
something happens to where you can't make it, you can always go and help
somebody out and sell it for face value on the day of the show...
DM: Yea...
JAMIE: Yea, I tried to see y'all like in New York, and I went the day of the
show, and it was the first time I've ever been shut out of a show...
SUNNY: Yea. It's tuff.
JAMIE: What did y'all feel about playing on Conan O'Brian? [deja vu?]
SUNNY: It was fun. We had a really good time. They treated us real nice,
and Conan liked us, he was surprised to hear the response that the audience
had...And, so hopefully when we are out on the west coast on this tour, we
can do something with Leno. It's just one of those kind of wait-and-see
kind of things...If the time is right and there is a slot open, I don't see
us not going in there to do it.
JAMIE: Really? Who are those horn player y'all had playing with y'all?
SUNNY: Those were the people that play with the Conan O'Brian's band...
JAMIE: Oh really...? [we all chuckle]
SUNNY: ...I don't know what their names are...yea...But we had sent them the
charts like three weeks...See, all this happens, you know...a month...I mean,
you have to...there's so much involved with doing a show like that...Like, the
record people are like working six months in advance to get something like
that happen for us...And we were on vacation when we were told that we were
going to be on the show. We had to decide what song we were going to do.
Well, first they told us what the length the song had to be...So, the only
song in our repertoire that was under four minutes was "Can't Get High." So,
we said we gotta do that song. So then, we said, "What about the background
vocals?" So, we knew that our voices aren't in tip-top shape when we come
out here on the road and doing it day in and day out, so we said, "We can
either hire some studio musicians to do it..." B/c everything in NY, I mean,
that's where everything is. Or we can get the horn section from the band to
do the charts...So, we went to John Keane's and we transposed all the notes,
and we faxed them the lead sheet and they just did the parts...And we went
up there for rehearsal the day of the show, and they knocked it out the first
take. And so we weren't even worried about that. We figured that they had
their parts down...We just had to worry that and make sure that none of us
were sick, or...We pretty much just all had a good night's sleep and didn't
stay up real late that night before so that we would look like skeletons...
DM: What does the band think about the radio success of "Can't Get High"?
SUNNY: Well, "Can't Get High" is a good song, and so we pretty much just let
the song speak for itself...To us, you know, I think that there are other
songs that are just as good as "Can't Get High", but for some reason the
radio people really liked that song...
DM: [loses train of thought] Um, that's a good song...I mean I like it alot...
SUNNY: Yea, it's a good one.
JAMIE: Y'all have been bringing back alot of other songs like "Michael" and
"Impossible Song" that...
SUNNY: "Michael"'s a good song, you know, it's called "Give Me".
JAMIE: "Give Me"?
SUNNY: "Give Me"...That's...
JAMIE: Yea, cause I've heard it called like "Kiss On Tuesday" also...
SUNNY: No...It's "Give Me"...
JAMIE: "Give Me"?
SUNNY: That's the name of the song.
JAMIE: Allright...and yea, like "Impossible Song", you know, I've heard it
SUNNY: Yea. What we're trying to do now is that, believe it or not, we're
starting to do song lists, or keeping records of the...song list b/c that
way we won't just seem like we're doing all these songs and forgetting a
whole bunch of songs...We're actually writing down the songs that we do, so
that the next night comes, we _try_ not to do the same songs over and over
again. And so...Last night we did "Coconuts"!
JAMIE: Yea, I heard...in Philly, but wait, Richard told me you had only like
400 people there...
JAMIE: How was that playing for such a small crowd?
SUNNY: It was ok...
JAMIE: Really?
SUNNY: Yea...you know...
JAMIE: Kind of like the older days...?
SUNNY: You know, it doesn't matter, you know, just as long as the p.a. works,
and it sounds good...I mean...you know...Crowd size to us, as long as they're
into it...as long as you're not throwing stuff at us, we figure we're doing
JAMIE: Yea...Did you play with the last BarTab they had down in Athens?
JAMIE: You didn't? B/c my girlfriend was...
SUNNY: I usually don't try to make those kind of things...I mean I really
don't...you know...
JAMIE: B/c I've heard a couple of tapes that my girlfriend was at the last
one...And she told me that the crowd just seemed really dissapointed for some
SUNNY: Yea. Alot of people were really expecting us to do it, but we really,
we really...we just do it just to help friends out...
JAMIE: Yea...
SUNNY: And in that situation, unfortunately, it was one of those kind of
things to where we tried to help our buddy out, and there was nothing that we
could do, you know, it was his time to go...So, that guy's dead...so...
DM: [quickly, since sour subject brought up] What about el Laguna Seca Daze?
DM: Are you going to that this summer?
SUNNY: They say we are, you know...I can't really say b/c...For me, all I
really worry about is what day we start and what day we end. I figure that
whatever comes inbetween there, I'm already out here, so they can do with me
what they want to...But, yea we heard that we're doing it, and then some
place like on the InterNet, they were saying that they had heard that it was
going to be at Monteray(sp?) or something like that...So I really don't know
_what_ the scoop is...You might ask Derk, our tour manager. He'll probably
have a better grip on it than me.
DM: And why don't y'all play H.O.R.D.E. any more?
SUNNY: B/c it just didn't get to be fun any more, you know...It was the first
two years were fun for us...We got to hang out with all of our buddies...And,
when it was time to...Even with the 2nd one, it was starting to be a hassle
b/c some people had patented the _name_ of "HORDE", which means that if you
buy something or if you create something and you patent it, then if you want
to be a part of it, you almost have to like _buy_ into it...
DM: So, then you would be labelled like a "HORDE" band...?
SUNNY: Well...not not not not _that_...But, I mean, I'm saying that it be just
like going to L.A. back in the old days when you had to pay to play in some
of the prestigious clubs...So, we felt like, "Well, we'll only do the HORDE
the second year, only if we don't have to _buy_ into the HORDE corporation",
which they had established. And so, through alot of legal hassles, they said,
"You guys can come on in..." And so, when the option came to us to do it the
third year, we automatically said no for...Reason #1 was b/c we really wanted
to spend alot of time pushing "Ain't Life Grand"...And reason #2 was b/c we
felt like we weren't going to be able to play for an hour, maybe an hour and
15 minutes, like we had wanted to...And third was b/c basically at the time,
or the time alotted for us, no one was going to be coming to the show, you
know, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon...And then, to pay that amount of ticket
price, and if they only wanted to hear us, I mean, that would make us pretty
much look like a bunch of money-hongers, and we really didn't want to do that,
so...And, the last thing, you know, the Allman Bros. _explicitly_ had asked
for, they wanted their set to be 2 hrs and 30 minutes long, _period_. So,
when you start back counting from curfew time 2 1/2 hours back, and you got
bands like Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd, and whoever, and us, I mean, that
would make us start like at 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon...And we really
didn't want to do that.
JAMIE: Yea, I noticed y'all only like headlined 7 of the shows or so...
SUNNY: What's that?
JAMIE: Like on the _2nd_ HORDE tour, like only headlined like 7 or 8 of the
shows and BT...
SUNNY: Yea, I forgot how many we had headlined, but I realize that we also
had done...Some of the shows were split between the North and the South with
BT and us...
JAMIE: Why was that they headlined so many _more_ shows it seemed like than
y'all did?
SUNNY: B/C they were doing alot more northern shows than southern shows...
JAMIE: Oh ok...
DM: Well, as far as a live album...Are y'all thinking about that these days?
SUNNY: Not right now...We pretty much don't anticipate having a live album...
You know, everybody else has live copies of us [chuckles]...Why should we go
out and spend money on a live album when everybody else has the tapes?
DM: With the soundboards...Why isn't there any soundboard patches?
SUNNY: _Mostly_ b/c for that reason...You get involved with a record company
if you go out and start selling it.[door slams in background] Then you get,
you're infringing on Capricorn's domain...And, in order for that not to happen
the best way so that _you_ do not get sued by the record company is [door
slams yet again]...is are no digitally outputs out of the board...It only
protects you. For us, it's one of those kind of things to where it's...in the
_norm_ of the business, music business end of it, it's not even allowed...But,
we make the exception, and I'm sure BT and Phish does too, make the exception
of allowing tapers...But, once you get hooked up to the board, and then once
you start distributing it...And then, _unfortunately_ there are some people
that look to it as a money-make adventure, then you're pretty much infringing
on Capricorn's rights b/c they pretty much have the right to record us, and
they're the ones that give us money to make albums like "Ain't Life Grand" and
"Everyday" and the self-titled and "Space Wrangler".
DM: What are some of the bands you've enjoyed jamming with on stage...?
SUNNY: Well, we've been real fortunate to hang with BT, Phish...Spin Drs, ARU,
so...Those would be our top...
DM: What do you think about the recent splits with ARU?
SUNNY: Well, you know, people gotta eat...And so it's just one of those kind
of things to where some people are fortunate like us to have a fan base that
will come out and support us, and some people aren't, where they're really are
struggling to get in a situation like this.
DM: Well who are some of y'all's influence on in _your_ music?
SUNNY: You know, pretty much we're six of us, we all come from different back-
grounds...I mean, we go anywhere from New Orleans...
DM: Hey, I'm from New Orleans...[what a coincidence!]
SUNNY: ...All the way to Santana, to Neil Young, yes, you know it's just so
diverse b/c we're all from different ages, we're all from different back-
DM: What about _your_ influences?
SUNNY: _My_ influences are strictly the afro-cuban, you know, Santana, like
Mongo Santo Maria(sp?), Tito Fuentes, Aerto(sp?), Earth, Wind and Fire... I
like the Caribbean music, I mean there's just so much of it. But we're all
from different backgrounds and grew up in different cities, and so it all
just comes together when we're up on stage.
DM: Yea, you have alot of instruments up on stage around you that you play
with...I just admire the fact that you just go from one to the other and it's
like, do you, is it like impromptu while you're on stage?
SUNNY: Pretty much it's just all different parts...It's just like if you've
ever studied music, and I'm sure people have, they realize that everyone has
a part to play and different instruments, different tones change the moods of
certain songs...And with percussion, it's more of a color than it is a tonal,
b/c it's all rythymical...So, they're pretty much parts that I've learned to
play just in having to go to school, not so much learning how to play parts,
but just learning that you can change the mood of a song by adding a shaker
instead of a tambourine, or hitting a cymbol instead of a congo, and vice
versa. So, it's all parts, it's all pretty much thinking of doing it before
you actually do it.
DM: Yea, like with "Hatfield," I think that definitely affects the mood, I
mean you can feel one way at the beginning of the song...
SUNNY: Yea...
DM: ...Then it starts to rise...
SUNNY: "Hatfield" was one of the songs that was, that we wanted to add so much
to it but we didn't want to take away from the vocal of the song b/c we wanted
to have a story line. But we didn't want to over-emphasize _anything_,
whether it's guitars, or drums, or bass or keyboards. We pretty much want the
_vocals_ to be the more out front than anything else...Except for the live
performances...Then, we're totally different.
DM: What is one of your favorite instrumentals?
SUNNY: I like "Liza"...I like "L.a." "L.a." is probably a real good one...
and alot of people that _I_ know like that song too.
DM: Yea, it's a _very_ good song...I enjoy it alot...What about a song like
"The Earth Will Swallow You"? Wouldn't today be a _great_ opportunity to...
SUNNY: You know, I don't know...Like I said, we don't know _what_ we're going
to do until right before we get on stage...So, I don't know...I'll throw that
into the hat and...[chuckles] But, it's just one of those kind of things to
where we try to do as many songs as we can, and sometimes we remember, some-
times we don't... [editor's note: they didn't remember :( ]
DM: Great...Allright, well I appreciate the opportunity to...
SUNNY: Alright! [seemingly relieved that ~40min interview is over] Thanks!
DM: ...We're _really_ looking forward to the show...
JAMIE: Yea, thanks.
SUNNY: ...We got Sunny Ortiz with my friend Jamie Jollie, and...we appreciate
it...! And Randolph-Macon College thanks you all!!
SUNNY: Thank you THANK you thank you THANK you...[spinning the mic in his
hand...] Thank you THANK you...
DM: Allright...
[THE END, as Sunny bolts back to the stage to get ready...]

4/15/95 Interview with Jojo Hermann

Rochester, NY on April 15, 1995
Interview Conducted by Christopher Antola

Q: You guys are known as one of the best jamming bands in America. Can you
tell us how you found a band that plays so well together?
A: Wow! That's good to hear I did not know that. Well, I think that if you
take any group of guys and stick them in a van and buses for years and
years, and play 200 dates a year, you are going to get pretty tight. But
then again, some nights we surprise ourselves and mess everything up. So
that never ends either. I think it just comes with playing a lot.

Q: Well, since you are such a jamming band, what was it like playing on TV
which is a really structured environment?
A: That was great, they were all super nice. They just made everyone feel
at ease, and you know, we had the horns there, and they were really cool...

Q: Were those your horns, or his [Conan's] horns?
A: It was Jerry and The Gang, and they were Max Weinberg's Band's horn
section. So we were just hanging and they were also easy going and cool.
It was no big deal at all. Yea, it was nothing.

Q: Did you guys choose "Can't Get High" or was that a record label thing?
A: Well, when you go on these things, I think they gave us a certain amount
of time, and 90% of our songs go over that time limit, so our choices were
limited time wise. Since "Can't Get High" was the single and all that
stuff, you know. I love it, I think it is a great song, and the band really
liked it. They really liked it on the disc, and with the horn section, they
really said, "Man, I'd really like to do that on horns." So, it just kind
of came together.

Q: Out of all the places you play, you play large and small theaters and
auditoriums all over the country, which is your favorite place to play and
A: Oh, well, since you are asking me now, I'd have to say The Irving Plaza
in New York City. Since we did that last week, those were just great shows.
The Fox Theater in Atlanta is also good, but my favorite place to play is
Proud Larry's in Oxford, Mississippi...

Q: Why is that?
A: Oh, it is just the best club there is. You have to go there to know why.
You have to be there.

Q: I read in the Moon Times, your official newsletter, that you are now
venturing in to Cyberspace, and posting things such as a special Christmas
acoustic version of "Papa's Home." How did you get involved with the
internet? Did it have anything to do with Phish and other bands being on
A: I do not know too much about the computer stuff. It is real cool. I
have read some of the stuff that has come over that, and it is really cool.
It is a lot of fun. I love seeing the set lists. It is the day after, you
know, and we'll punch it in and get the set lists, and it is like, wow, we
did that? Well, yea it is a great thing. I am basically lost around the
whole technical revolution here, but it is a lot of fun and the people are
really cool.

Q: I was reading some of the posts from some of the Canadian fans north of
the boarder, and they are wondering why you never go up there.
A: Well, let's see, we played Canada, like Vancouver, British Columbia a few
years ago, but we are going to play up there. Toronto we definitely gotta
hit. You know, we are working on it. Going way up north, you know, we are
from the deep south, so we just kind of inch our way up. We don't just kind
of attack, we just kind of inch our way up north.

Q: Do you find you have as big a following in Canada as you do in the
A: I don't know because we haven't really gone up there a whole lot. I hope
in the next year that we definitely go up there. Toronto, and Montreal is a
great city too, but I know that Toronto is a town we definitely gotta hit.
Everybody has been telling me. Every time we go to Vermont and that area,
everybody is like, "Man, you've gotta go to Toronto."

Q: The fans have been noticing changes in your playing, for instance, you
are playing out of this world second sets. Are you trying extra hard, or do
you have an enthusiasm that was not there before?
A: Well, we have always been enthusiastic. I don't know. What happened was
that we have so many songs now, that we kind of lost track in our heads. So
now we just kind of think a little more. We are digging up a lot of old
songs that we did not consciously forget about, but we are being a little
more conscious of how many songs we have, and trying to play them all. You
know, when you don't repeat songs, it is a lot more fun.

Q: Have you ever been jamming on one song, and find that you just go into
another one? Has someone started playing a riff from another song in the
middle of one song, and you just go into that other song?
A: Yea, I mean, that is how it works with us. We'll be playing a jam in one
key, and if one person ignites a riff from another song, everybody will
follow. It can be anybody. It can be Todd [Nance the drummer] doing a drum
lick, or a guitar lick, or a keyboard lick, whatever. It is kind of a chain
reaction kind of thing...

Q: Hey it works well!
A: Yea sometimes. Sometimes you get that train wreck, but that is part of
the game.

Q: Do you plan on starting a mail order service for tickets like Phish and
other bands?
A: Mail order tickets? Well, I don't know. Do we not have that?

Q: No, some of the fans on the internet actually we wondering if you are
going to start up a mail order service.
A: Well, I'll mention it to the powers that be, I don't know. I'll say

Q: Just out of curiosity, it says on your disc, "In Memory of Brown Cat,"
and your fan club address is to Brown Cat Inc. Who is Brown Cat?
A: Well, Brown Cat is a cat who died about a year ago. Brown Cat was just a
very good friend of the band who was there from the very beginning, and
stuck all the way through. I guess Brown Cat is just one of those things.

Q: Well, you guys are definitely on a role. You are playing all over the
A: Well, we are having a good time.

Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: Well, the immediate future, is that we are doing this tour until June
3rd. And then we are going to start fiddling around in the studio for the
next album...

Q: Do you have an idea of when that would be released?
A: Oh, I don't think it will be out until the winter. Well, actually, we'll
probably record it in the winter. It probably won't be out until the spring
after that...

Q: Are you writing on the road?
A: Yea, we have been writing a lot of songs recently. I think that any band
can say that it is an adrenaline thing to keep writing this new material.

Q: Well, it sound like you guys are doing great.
A: Well, we are having a really good time, everything is going really well.

Q: Well, that is great. Thanks for the interview.