Trey Anastasio Interview

Interview with Trey Anastasio (Excerpts)
By Jess Minnen, 2005

Jess: “On paper that show looked weird. I remember seeing the setlist and being like, Who the hell is Bo Bice?”

Trey: “You’ve never seen American Idol? Well, I had an interesting moment because I was thinking about this concept of worshipping false idols. You know, ‘Thou shalt not worship false idols.’ For a long time I thought it meant, ‘There is only one God. Your God is wrong. My God is right,’ which I think is completely off the mark. Then I started really getting it during the last couple years of Phish. I started to find myself really flirting with unhappiness as everything got bigger and bigger and not really understanding why. Like this is all so great, why am I? And then I realized that one God being Truth, Right, Love, the Real Deal. Call it what you will. You’re supposed to worship only that. Don’t worship the messenger.”

Jess: “But isn’t music by default the most idolatrous art? You or anyone who performs sort of puts themselves on this pedestal. The stage IS a pedestal.”

Trey: “Exactly.”

Jess: “People are looking up at you and it is sort of like worship.”

Trey: “I know it is. And there you go. It’s the first commandment. There’s something essentially wrong if you buy into it. You’re headed for unhappiness. With Phish, we were talking so much about trying to be a conduit. That’s very healthy. A wonderful thing. It was about listening and communication and hopefully some music starts happening. When you’re in the middle of it, it feels like you’re actually channeling something, like it’s not about you. But it’s so easy to get caught up in the fact that you’re standing up there on a pedestal. And you start to miss the boat, right?

“So what I saw at that Bonnaroo show was so interesting. I had two people on stage with me. One was this guy who is very religious. Matisyahu. He was singing the most beautiful … His voice … He’s singing and it’s not about him. It’s about God. He’s very straight up. He’s a Hassidic Jew. The look in his eyes … they were kind of glistening. I was playing and looking right into his eyes, and it was so moving for a couple of reasons. One was that he used to follow the band … He told me he’d been to like, every Phish show for ten years. And then he went and became a Hassidic Jew and sings reggae because of the spiritual purity of a lot of reggae. He’s singing about God. So was Bob Marley. So was Bach, for that matter. Bach wrote at the top of everything he ever wrote ‘For the Glory of God.’

“And then I had Bo Bice with me, who just went through what to me must have been the most torturous experience … Being on American Idol — the ultimate example of worshipping false idols. And the two of them were both up there on stage and it was the most incredible experience. I’m so happy to report that Bo Bice is just the sweetest guy and is handling this so well. I said, ‘How are you possibly dealing with this? You’re getting the completely wrong message about music and everything by being on that show. Everything about it is utterly wrong.’ It was just weird how the whole core issue was right before my eyes up on stage that night. It was a very cool experience.”

Central Plains Jamband Society