"You Can Sleep, When You´re Dead"Ralphs Widespread Panic Euro 99 Tour Tagebuch
A talk with Widespread Panic´s guitar player John Bell
R: Prust! Oh no, prost, with an "o"...
R: Let´s start. You are back in Europe now, making 14 shows within 19 days. It
JB: No, not as much. When we were younger and we played in these sizes
R: You are playing four days in a row and only one day off between these four days.
JB: It´s a hard work, but it is cool! It is Europe!
R: So, you have no time for sightseeing?
JB: No, But I did laundry today.
R: Laundry? You did it by yourself???
JB: Yeah, you go to the main machine and push the number of your machine. They
R: But you don´t know the degree here. It is here in Celsius and not in Fahrenheit
JB: That is true. I looked at the other machines and most of them were at 60°, so did I.
R: Seems to me that you are spending more time on the road than with your family.
JB: (laughing) We have a yard, man. We miss each other, but we understand.
R: When you got in contact with your wife, was it before you were in the band?
JB: No, I met her in New Orleans about ten years ago after a show. A late night!
R: When did you start playing music, learning music, playing in the first band?
JB: I started playing guitar, when I was nine and this is my first band. I met Mike
R: You started as a student band?
JB: Well, we were students, but we were playing in clubs. That´s was like a real gig.
R: I have heard that in the clubs in the States, when your are unknown, you must pay
JB: No, in L.A., not in the rest of our country. It is not the way it should be. We
R: How does the name of the band come from?
JB: It is Mike´s nickname. His nickname was Panic, we called him Panic. The joke
R: Here in Europe, Widespread Panic is still unknown (I hope that there will be a
JB: It is like 8, 9 years ago, some like that. It´s good. You remember, what it was like.
R: In the States you have more security?
JB: -it is like TV.
R: I have heard that even in the backstage you need sometimes a bodyguard?
JB: It is very secure. I mean, it is mostly not dangerous, just overwhelming. Nice
R: This is a pity, you must live with your popularity.
JB: Yeah, it´s cool. I mean, this part of being doing what we do. You can go
R: You are still living in Athens, GA?
JB: I live outside of Athens. Stone Mountains, right near Atlanta and between Athens and Atlanta.
R: But you can make shopping as normal or do you need to send someone?
JB: Oh no, I still do that. And it´s cool, people still respect this.
R: There are a lot of superstars, who cannot make shopping, it is impossible for them. Everybody
JB: You know, I don´t play into that too much. They are special people on their own.
R: That´s for we Germans like you too, not only the music, you are so normal as we are, not
JB: All right!
R: It seems to me that the band consists of different musicans with different influences. How
JB: We just talk about it. We look, what we have played the last couples of nights
R: I have heard that your repertoire is about 300 songs?
JB: Oh no, it is about 150. Could be a little more. That´s enough for my little brain.
R: The lyrics: who is writing the lyrics?
JB: We all contribute. Mostly stuff comes from my imagination.
R: And first the music and thereafter the lyrics?
JB: Sometimes, but anyway comes up. Sometimes they could come from many angle
R: The Americans Spreadheads have told me:" Oh, you have changed one or two words
JB: Oh, sometimes. It becomes to mind. If the image is different, we´ll change it.
R: Are you changing the setlist sometimes on stage or never? Maybe another song...
JB: Sometimes. Yeah. If we have played too fast or too slow.
R: It´s this possible?
JB: We try to play about an hour for the first set. And if all sudden we see that
R: (laughing): What´s wrong with this?
JB: Nothing. But like in the United States our time is limited, because of all the people
R: Do you know, how long your longest show was? Sometimes in the earlier times you had
JB: Oh yeah, we used to play till morning, till sun up. We were the only left standing.
R: Therefore we like you too. With this working out on the setlists, the lyrics and so,
JB: Oh yeah, definitely!
R: I have heard, you have no leader. Some people think you are the frontman-
JB: Only because I sing. That is a traditional roll, but within our band, you know,
R: And if you have differences, your discuss it and will find a solution?
JB: Yeah, sometimes it is compromise, sometimes it is a majority outweights minority.
R: Let´s go to your musical influences: which kind of music, which musicans. which bands
JB: When I was younger, it was like Motown, Rhythm ´n´ Blues and early Rock ´n´ Roll,
R: Early Rock ´n´ Roll, what does it mean? Chuck Berry?
JB: No, no, more Rock, not Rock ´n´ Roll, like Traffic, Grateful Dead. My sister, she
R: I have a beautiful tape with a show from you with Col. Bruce Hampton. Tell me a little
JB: Jokenly he is my adopted father, but in reality we are very good friends. We are
R: Any plans for new CDs?
JB: Oh yeah. We got any kind of idea, we can come up with. We did new songs,
R: Why not an extra live-CD series like the Grateful Dead did it with the Dick´s Picks series?
JB: And to make it real. Actually, what´s on the CD is actually what was played.
R: Radio, do you still have the time for listening to the radio? What´s up, what is modern?
JB: I am listening a little, But the American radio is very business-oriented. Political,
Much you hear on the radio it is a teeny-tiny sound, and sometimes some of it good,
R: Same here in Europe with the exeption of Rockpalast TV. 20 Years ago it was better.
JB: We will do this every year. Keep going, taken it up. It´s just the way we did it in
R: Yeah: Dankeschon, vielen Dank. Yesterday Dave has counted the encore: eins, zwei,
JB: Ja! I get a little embarrassed, if I am in a restaurant: "ein Bier bitte! Ein Brandy!"
R: Here is a little gift for you for the long rides on the tourbus. A CD from Schluff Jull,
JB: Oh yeah, thank you very much!
R: I will see you at the Warfield! Thank you a lot !