“It’s going to be trick,” Hart says, grinning broadly. “It really is. It’s not, like, your Dad’s archives. And this gets to the bottom of the whole thing, which is that the scene around the Grateful Dead was such an amazing scene, it just needed to be preserved. And they’re doing that. They’re keeping that legacy alive.”
Since the official dissolution of the Grateful Dead after Jerry Garcia’s death in August of 1995, Hart — who calls that experience a “crushing blow. Our dearest brother was taken from us” — has kept consistently busy with a litany of world-beat collaborations and projects. Kreutzmann kept a lower profile, moving to Hawaii (where he still lives) and generally staying off the public radar until a newfound motivation in the last couple of years saw him forming two new projects: BK3 (or Bill Kreutzmann Trio, with Scott Murawski and Oteil Burbridge.), in 2008, and, a year later, 7 Walkers (with Papa Mali, George Porter Jr., and Matt Hubbard).
“You know, I needed to heal, too,” he says of the aftermath of Papa Bear’s passing. “But when you don’t play music for a while you kind of get sick. I don’t know how to say it any better. You just start feeling funny because you’re not going to that high place. Your spirit is knocking at your internal door, you know? Your spirit’s going, Hey, come on, what about me? The thing that keeps Mickey and I alive — I know it’s true for myself and it’s true of Mick, I bet you, is you never come to the end of this. There’s always something to investigate. If I have any addictions it’s to music. I mean I’m seriously addicted to it.” [laughs]
Still, it’s been four years since the first Rhythm Devils tour, so the obvious questions are, why again? And why now? Kreutzmann is quick with an answer. “Well, one reason, I’m going to say for myself, maybe Mickey might feel differently: I didn’t want to play in Further,” he says, referencing the Dead-nostalgia band-slash-festival headed by former Deadmates Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. “I still wanted to do Grateful Dead and I still wanted to play with this guy, and so this was the obvious way to go.”
Both Hart and Kreutzmann are reluctant to say anything negative about their old bandmates’ respective attempts to keep the Dead flame alive, but the subtext is that there’s something akin to sibling rivalry going on, some ancient rupture between the sons of melody and the sons of rhythm that hadn’t quite been set right during the various attempts to get the whole band back together in the wake of Garcia’s death.
“The end of the last Dead Tour, I’m gonna tell you the truth,” says Kreutzmann — whose media filter, it should be noted, is less finely meshed than Hart’s, “I was getting bored. These guys were playing the songs like this, like this; it was not as much open jamming as I would like to have. So, for myself, I didn’t do another Dead tour after the last one because I’d done enough, and I really wanted to play with other musicians. This cat right here, I can rely on him every minute of the week, I mean, I know that.”
Hart seems a little more willing to leave the door open a crack. “There might be a time, as long as we’re above ground,” he offers on the speculation of the “Other Ones” getting back together. “It’s, you know, not our plan, and it’s probably not their plan. I saw Bob a couple of weeks ago. You know, uh, good few moments together.” He pauses. “With Bob, it’s like taking a breath, taking a big breath and maybe seeing yourself in a different way. It’s really cool. You know, they’ll always be our brothers. The Grateful Dead — you don’t sign up and you don’t sign out with the Grateful Dead.”
As for he and Kreutzmann, that’s a contract that goes deeper still. And who better to sum up the depth of that arrangement than Hart? “Think of the rhythm over 40 years,” he says. “You’re thinking of the larger rhythms, the rhythms of the universe. And we have a long rhythm going here. A 40-year conversation going. And that’s really rare to have with anybody. There’s only one person that has been in continuum all those years.
“That’s very interesting, as a rhythmist, to have a drum brother, a mate, in that way. To have someone you relate to rhythmically on a constant basis who you’re also in business with. Remember, this is a business as well as a pleasure. And it also happens to be a necessity in both of our lives, which allows us to keep coming back to this. And that’s the important thing to know about drums and drumming. So, if you have any message to DRUM! Magazine readers: That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about how fast you play a paradiddle.”