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"Just being here is a great experience!"

String Cheese Incident(s) in Europe - An interview

SCI_Euro
A String Cheese Incident @ the Melkweg (w/Ed McGee from ekoostik hookah)

Here is an interview with Michael Kang and Michael Travis from The String Cheese Incident
made by Hartmut (Hannover) and Ralph (Bonn) before the Hamburg show March 25, 2004.

Many thanks to Madison House and roadmanager Chewy Smith for making it possible!
And to Karen from the Western Woods :-) /Germany who has corrected our Kraut-English


After a long time you are the first Jamband to come over to Europe. String Cheese became my second favourite band behind the Grateful Dead–:).

M (laughing): Aah, the Dead have been around a lot longer...

How was Interlaken? Do you have enjoyed that – making music and skiing?

T: Great!!! There are no mountains like that in the United States.

M: Well, there are only very small glaciers in the continental United States: If you want to see glaciers you have to get up into Canada or some of the higher
(Rocky) mountains but they don´t really have mountains that have year-round glaciers on them. The Alps are very steep and large and from base to height. Even in Colorado they have big mountains of 14.000. ft peaks but they all start from 6 or 7.000 ft. So they are not as large from bottom to top. Reminds me of Alaska almost...

Have you been skiing in Alaska?

M: I haven´t gone skiing in Alaska. I usually have been there in the summers and not in the winter...

Well, what do you think about the scene so far at the shows? I mean the percentage between the Friends Of Cheese and the European locals. We are trying hard to get folks to go to your shows. It´s still hard work but we hope to have you back here. What are your impressions so far?

T: The people that are showing up, the locals are really excited, it´s great! In Italy there were a lot of locals, but we have been selling a lot of disks there for a while. But it´s all been fabulous fun and it seems like that the Americans show the locals how to get the band warm...

That´s how I have got into it. At the Widespread Panic tour 5 years ago they showed me how to party...

M: It´s a different thing I think. There aren´t European bands, at least on the live-circuit, that have the same kind of equivalent. In the United States there´s a lot of bands that travel around and build a local fan base but then, they never really want or never ever really try, to go for big radio hits or anything like that. It seems like over here there aren´t bands that like to travel around as much from country to country and then it seems like this gets replaced by the scene in the States where you have the Jambands and a lot of long improvised shows where people freak out and dance really hard. It is more like the Psychedelic Trance or the Goa scene that´s over here. It seems like it´s a little different but for us it´s always been that people come and if they enjoy listening to different kinds of music, then at least at some point in the night, they´ll be interested by what we do. I think more and more locals have been checking it out and this is great for us just to be able to be here! We are enjoying just travelling around getting to see the countries

Do you have the time to go sightseeing?

T: A little bit. Each day for a few hours.

You know that the Beatles have started their career here in Hamburg at the Reeperbahn, Germanys most famous red light district ... and Amsterdam is amazing...

M: ...yeah, it seems like, you know, especially with what´s going on in the United States right now, that it´s nice to be in countries that have a little bit more relaxed atmosphere...

T: ...Sanity...

M: ...and the government is not just completely out of their mind. At least there is a lot of more freedom here.


I have heard it from some artists. F. e. Mitch Rider was so happy that he could smoke on the stage here. I don´t really want to talk about politics but it´s a little different here but we have the right of free speech too and this is an important thing, because you know we were a divided Germany...

M: ...yeah, it is very interesting just to see how that all have played up. I haven´t been to Germany in a long, long time - since I was a kid but I don´t really remember much about it.

Your influences: we know that you play different styles of music: Rock, Jazz, Folk... Who has brought which influence into your band?

M: I think everybody in the band gets to bring in songs and styles of music that they all like and everybody´s taste of music has changed differently over time and we´ve always been trying to find a way to combine all the different tastes. I would say, at first I came into it with a more Jazz-rock type of Fusion, a type of feel of what my taste of music was ten years ago when we started the band. Billy and Keith were definitely coming more from the Bluegrass backgrounds so they brought in a lot of the traditional Bluegrass tunes and a lot of the fast Bluegrass tunes and things that we do and all had to learn and we all kind of bring in something different. Travis has always had more Afro and Latin kinds of rhythms and African stuff. But then over the years the tastes have changed, so now I listen to really different kinds of music and just try to bring in the different elements of that. It seems like the thing that the band has been concentrating on these days is just trying to write good songs that have more meaning to us regarding what´s going on in our lives.

As far as the lyrics are concerned?

M: Lyrics, songwriting, just melodies… We are trying to get better and more efficient in what we do. It is a long process.

You have been on the road now for ten years...

T: ...so about nine years being on the road a lot...

What do you think about the development in the United States of the Jambands scene with regards to the music industry... like Bonnaroo? How is it working?

M: Well, I think in the States and all over the world there are so many different kinds of music and the popular types of music that do really well in terms of selling albums and getting commercial radio play and everything like that in the States is pretty specifically focused on the Pop world and the different artists that make it onto MTV and things like that. Luckily for us there is a whole wider group of fans that enjoy our different kinds of music and therefore we´ve been able to travel around and get a fanbase through the internet. Over the years there are a lot of bands who have done that and it seems what´s happening now is that this has really become an alternative scene where festivals like Bonnaroo, has become one of the biggest festivals in the entire country with mostly bands that aren´t really well known in terms of radio play. It´s kind of becoming like a silent majority in a lot of ways, which just goes to show us that there is a lot of different kinds of music fans out there. And it´s great because it allows us to do what we want to do. By coming here we´re trying to do the same thing too! It´ll be interesting to see what happens because the music scenes are very different and that is something we hope to bring here too.

I don´t think you are doing that badly because I have heard from other folks who are not so into the Jamband scene but they have heard about the Bonnaroo festival and one of two have bought the DVD and watched it and they said, hey that´s a lot of great music going on. This might draw some amount some of, let´s say, mainstream-Pop consumers to this kind of music. Recently there was the rumour that Clear Channel will buy Bonnaroo, which turns out to have been a hoax. So maybe the music industry might embrace and eat up the whole Jamband scene which we hope won´t ever happen!!!

M: The problem in the United States is that Clear Channel owns most of the big venues. So you get to the point more and more now that if you want to play in venues like the Fillmore in Denver, the Greek Theatre in Berkeley or the Warfield or any of the really big venues that have historically been really great to play in, you have to play for Clear Channel... but there´s a lot of good people that are involved in it as well, so we´ll see what happens. It´s something we hope to try to provide an alternative too and we do a lot of our own festivals. Most importantly for us is to be able to provide a good atmosphere for people, that they be able to go and have a good time at a concert, and just immerse themselves in an atmosphere that´s very friendly. The best thing about the Jamband community is that people really go and enjoy the sharing of space with other people and the group experience and it´s quite a family of people as you probably know just through the Grateful Dead following.

Hornings Hideout: it must have been magic...

T (his eyes light up): It´s really is! It´s an amazing place!

Travis, how did you meet the rest of the band. Through sports?

T: Yeah, in the beginning back in Crested Butte we were all skiing together... through the love of snow is basically how we all met.

Michael, how did you learn playing violin? In a Classical style or Bluegrass?

M: M: Yeah, I played classical violin until College and then I stopped playing violin because the classical music scene wasn´t really what I really wanted to get into... so I started playing guitar and different things and the mandolin I picked up because it tuned the same way as the violin but it is not quite as difficult to play as a violin. To play the violin you have to practise a lot and I don´t practise much. (laughing) So, that is how I have got into music. Now I like to play it all and I am trying to learn to play the guitar better right now.

How did you make the decision to play mandoline and not "normal" guitar?

M: I can´t play guitar that well. (everybody is laughing) I can get around the mandolin easier. I really like the guitar too but I am not really a good guitar player and I don´t practise enough.

You are obviously doing very well doing your own thing business wise, I mean with your own ticketing and your own record company and everything. We know, another band which has done that and that was the Grateful Dead who failed big time!

M: Yeah, it´s a different time now because the music industry is changing so much. The fact that you can get the music for free by trading with your friends or by getting it online or whatever. We always wanted to control our own destiny. We may not sell so many albums but at least we are able to do whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it. That´s the biggest reason why we probably ended up forming our own record company. It´s hard work too! (laugh) We have to do all ourselves!

I have seen that your entire On The Road recordings is offered by a German supplier and there are lots of your shows available on the internet so I think this will be working on this side of the pond and we hope that this will be not restricted.

M: We have always invited people to check out our music. They can come tape the shows or they can just get a hold of it. It´s always been about trading and we try to make the setlist different every night and make every show different and that´s kind of what we´ve always tried to do.

Regarding the future - now that you are releasing the On The Road CDs will you not be making any live albums in the future?

M: Well, we still can! Because OTR CDs usually are two tracks audience and DAT mix, so we still record everything multitrack as well so at some point we might go back in and remix everything and be able to actually put out an album that we select out to be perfectly that what we want to hear. Sometimes with the OTR thing, as great as it is for the fans, we as musicians are not that happy with everything that comes out with live music because you cannot be perfect and there is still a part of us that still wants everything to sound as good as it possibly can. With live-shows, sometimes things sound great and sometimes they don´t sound as great. Overall they sound pretty good but we´re perfectionists to a certain degree.

Any new DVDs plans? You have had three DVDs released within 2 or 3 years so now...

M: We have released a few. We don´t have plans to release any new ones now but it´s a good way putting out a different visual side of the band.

One last question: More worldwide Incidents??? After Europe, Australia and Japan. Will we have the luck to have you back here

Both: Yeah!!!

I think this tour must be costing you a lot of money.

M: Yeah, we are not really making any money on it or anything... it´s more about, it´s a great experience for us to be able to see all the cultures and that will influence the kind of way our creativity works. Just being here is a great experience and we are not too worried about making money right now.

We hope that you are enjoying the cities here and making a lot of friends and that you´ll feel like: coming back soon. Thank you very much!

SCI_Euro
Melkweg Incident

These were the tourdates:
3/19/04 Casino-Kursaal Theater - Interlaken, Switzerland (Fri.)
3/20/04 Casino-Kursaal Theater - Interlaken, Switzerland (Sat.)
3/22/04 Transilvania - Milan, Italy (Mon.)
3/23/04 Georg-Elser-Hallen - Munich, Germany (Tue.)
3/25/04 Fabrik - Hamburg, Germany (Thu.)
3/26/04 Paard Van Troje - The Hague, Netherlands (Fri.)
3/27/04 Melkweg - Amsterdam, Netherlands (Sat.)
3/28/04 Live Music Hall - Cologne, Germany (Sun.)
3/30/04 London Astoria - London, UK (Tue.)
3/31/04 Manchester Academy 3 - Manchester, UK (Wed.)
4/01/03 The Cathouse - Glasgow, UK (Thu.)
4/03/03 The Zodiac - Oxford, UK (Sat.)
4/04/03 The Rescue Rooms - Nottingham, UK (Sun.)

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Doors @ the Melkweg  -  All pictures © Ralph/www.germanheads.de