Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two Tone Tommy Relix Interview

Picture: Linda Park

Thanks Sara!

(via Relix)

Last month, My Morning Jacket announced they would be playing five full-length shows at New York City’s Terminal 5 this fall, performing one of their full-length albums in its entirety each night. Kicking off on Monday, October 18, the band will begin the run with their 1999 debut record The Tennessee Fire and conclude with 2008’s Evil Urges on Saturday. Each night will incorporate hits from outside the records as well as rarities and covers throughout the time of the albums inception. Relix caught up with co-founder and bassist Tom “Two-Tone Tommy” Blankenship to discuss this historic five night stretch in New York City, the reason behind the event, an upcoming record and more.

The last time My Morning Jacket played New York city was after the release of 2008’s LP Evil Urgeswhere the band played a follow-up show at Radio City Music Hall. This fall, the band is doing five shows in six nights at New York City’s Terminal 5. What is it about New York City that prompted the group to schedule a five show Fall stretch there? And why, out of the many city venues, Terminal 5?

That’s a good question [laughs]. It’s funny; the entire band was sort of opposed to doing a multiple night event. We’ve definitely done them before, but we’ve never done more than two or three nights in a row, I don’t think. So when the promoter originally brought the idea to us saying that we can pretty much block out this entire week and have five days, we were kind of like, “Eh, we don’t know” [laughs]. But it was sort of a mixed bag because it really would be great to be in New York for that long and play in a venue we haven’t been in before. And then, when it was suggested that we do one album for each night, it became interesting because that was something we had never really done before. When a My Morning Jacket record would come out in the past, we would maybe play it front to back a couple times at most. But a lot of the material has never been done start to finish in that way, especiallyThe Tennessee Fire and At Dawn tracks. So we became excited and agreed to these shows and, of course, the Bowery is involved and we have such a long, good relationship with them. That was pretty much how it all came together. They had the idea along with our management as well, and then brought these ideas to us and we flushed it out from there.

It’s definitely going to be a monster production. Are you planning on going through the albums’ tracks successively or possibly rearranging the record and peppering in other tracks here and there to change it up?

We’ll definitely go through each album in its entirety. I’m pretty sure we’re going to do it start to finish in the exact order as it’s played on the record. I think it’d be cool because—at least for us—the way we think about albums is that we like to create a sort of journey through our music. We’re on that journey together as a band; organizing it and sequencing everything just right. We just hope that the listener will sit down at least once and go through that whole journey with us before they start picking their favorite tracks. I think it’s going to be fun to go through the records front to back and actually experience that journey live with the audience.

What additional songs will be included throughout the sets other than the ones featured on each record?

We’re hoping to do a lot of material from around the era of each particular album. Some random covers that we’ve done over the years,—which there have been tons of— EPs and B sides that we can throw in the mix. There might be some new songs in there as well. We’ll also probably play some crowd favorites during the encore every night.

Since only Jim James and you have been a part of the group since the band’s 1998 inception, what was the process like revisiting the group’s earlier material with the current lineup?

We haven’t really started full band rehearsals for that stuff yet so I’m not exactly sure how some of the older songs will develop, everyone’s just been working off on their own. A lot of The Tennessee Fire stuff we’ve done before live with the current lineup. It should definitely be interesting to see how everything comes full circle. They’re songs like “Honest Man,” “Just Because I Do,” and “Butch Cassidy” that we haven’t done in years. I don’t even think we’ve ever done those live.

And regarding guests, do you have any plans to invite any former members of the band back for these shows?

It may be tough to have any former members play with us during this stretch. I know that Danny Cash is trying to make his way to New York for at least one of those first two shows, so hopefully we can get him out for one night. But I think John [Quaid] is moving closer to the west coast, so he’ll be unable to make it out.

As you mentioned, songs like “Butch Cassidy” and “Just Because I Do” have been shelved for quite some time now but you plan on playing them on their designated album night. Are there any songs that you would like to particularly stay away from during the five show run?

I don’t think there is anything that I really want to stay away from, not at this point in my career. There were definitely songs like “Just Because I Do” and “Honest Man” that we have stayed away from for a while now. I’m not even sure why we’ve stayed away from them. It’s probably because we played those two songs so much in the first year we started that we just stopped playing them once new material was produced. But I’m looking forward to bringing those songs back. Songs like “Nashville to Kentucky” we’ve done recently with Carl Broemel doing a sax solo and “They Ran” we did a couple times and had this big kind of loungy ending. So I’m excited to see how these songs work out. It would be boring to plainly watch us go straight through the album, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens to those songs once the five of us get together and improvise on them. It’s going to make the songs different for ourselves and switch it up for everybody in the audience as well.

You used to jam out songs like “Contra” for over 20 minutes but many of these songs are shorter now to reflect the current band’s sound. Do you plan to rework some of the At Dawn and It Still Movestracks to fit the current band formula?

A lot of those songs that have always been sprawling will stay that way like “Steam Engine,” the end of “Mahgeetah” and “Dondante.” A lot of those are going to be played the same way they’ve always been. We never really talk about ‘what it’s going to be like’ though. It kind of just happens throughout the show based on the mood and everything else. Even at rehearsals, we’ll just quickly run through the songs to make sure we have everything together, but we don’t go off the pool jazz odyssey. We save that to do live so that we can torture people [laughs].

Each night, one dollar of every ticket sold will be donated to a different charity. When did My Morning Jacket begin doing this and will it stretch throughout the end of this tour? Beyond that?

That’s something we started the same year that Evil Urges was released (2008). It was the fall tour when we started doing one dollar from every ticket to a specific charity of our choice. And yes, we’re starting that again when we go back on tour in the next couple weeks. We’ll do it on that tour as well as through the end of the year and hopefully beyond.

Carl Broemel is releasing a solo album next month. Do you plan on working any of Carl’s solo material into the set list for these shows? Also, any chance of performing “Lullaby’s, Legends, and Lies” or any other tracks off the new Shel Silverstein tribute album?

I really hope we do. It would be fun to do that Silverstein stuff because we’ve never had the chance to perform it live yet. And I really, really hope that we pull out more of Carl’s songs during the five show stretch. His record comes out next month, so I hope—I think it comes out while we’re on the road—if nothing else, we’ll be able to pull some songs out on this next tour. The record is absolutely amazing and it would be great to play a bunch of the tracks from it with the band.

Different outlets are reporting rumors about the Terminal 5 show’s opener(s). Will there be one band that opens for the group all five nights or will there be five separate groups opening each show?

There is definitely going to be a different opening act for each night at Terminal 5. It’s just now being finalized, and I’m not exactly sure if everyone’s totally confirmed yet so we’ll have to just wait and see.

With these Terminal 5 shows and the recent Jazz Fest, Preservation Hall performance, it seems that the band prefers to put on large lavish productions as opposed to smaller venue shows. Is this accurate and if not, what is the band’s preference between larger vs. smaller venues?

I think it’s great either way, whether it be a small intimate show or a larger production. It’s totally different experiences but what’s strange is I feel we play the same way no matter how many people are there or what size the venue is. I really hope that it translates to the listeners that way. Even if 13 people are in the audience we perform like we’re playing in front of 3,000. So it’s fun to do both of them. I’m curious to see what the turnout is for five nights in a row. Just five nights in one week is crazy.

You are playing before Furthur at Outside Lands Festival mid-August. If you could collaborate with the band on one Dead song, which would it be?

Honestly, I never went through that period. I spent most of my time reading comic books and playing role-play games. I was that kind of dork.

As the trend seems to be that My Morning Jacket releases an album once every 1 ½-2 years when should we expect the next release?

We started recording last month for a couple weeks and we’ll do some more later on this year. I would say that sometime next year there will be a new record out. Besides that, we have the shows in New York, a show here in Louisville, and then the tour in August. I believe that’s all for the year so far.

Anything else you can give away regarding the Terminal 5 shows?

No that’s all, we have to keep some things a secret [laughs].