Grateful Dead

Talkin’ About Music, Laughter and Life with Bill Kreutzmann

By Gary Lambert

When Bill Kreutzmann came off the stage at Penn State University’s Bryce Jordan Center after the Change Rocks concert last October, one of the first things he said was, “I couldn’t stop laughing up there… I was just having so much fun!”  When Kreutzmann is laughing, it’s a good bet that his fellow musicians and the audience are in for a good time as well, because that laughter is a product of the delight Bill takes in surprising himself and his partners in the creation of collectively improvised music.  You can look forward to seeing that laughing face a lot in the coming months, most conspicuously when The Dead return to the road in April. But before renewing his longest-standing musical relationship, Bill is eagerly looking forward to reconnecting with his newest creative associates: guitarist Scott Murawski (Max Creek, Depth Quartet, Mike Gordon Band) and bassist Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band, Oteil and the Peacemakers, Aquarium Rescue Unit), Kreutzmann’s partners in a trio formed last year. The BK3, as the band is known, made a successful debut tour of the northeast last spring, plus a couple of festival appearances later in the year, revealing a level of musical empathy and telepathy that was remarkable in an ensemble that had come together so quickly and spontaneously.  Now the other side of the country gets in on the fun, as Bill, Oteil and Scott prepare for a six-date western tour, beginning in Santa Cruz, CA on Thursday, February 12th.  A complete list of shows can be found here.

Bill’s excitement over the continuation of the BK3 saga was evident as he spoke to recently from his home in Hawaii: “This band has been progressing at such an amazingly fast rate,” he said, “especially considering that we don’t get to spend that much time together, since I live here, Scott’s in the Northeast, Oteil’s down South. But I’ve been having real good conversations with these guys, and every time we get together, we just pick it up again so naturally. It means a lot to me that they’re so committed to doing this, with all the other stuff they have going on.”

While he looks forward to reexamining and revitalizing the Grateful Dead repertoire with his longtime brothers in music this coming spring, Bill is just as enthusiastic about the prospect of creating some entirely new music with BK3: “I didn’t want to play too much of the Grateful Dead stuff with this band. That’s a tremendous body of music. I still love playing it, and I love that Phil and Bobby are doing such great things with it with their bands, but I’m mostly looking forward to doing more and more new material with the trio. We’ve got a bunch of new songs with lyrics that Bob Hunter sent us, and depending on how much time we have to prepare them, we’d like to start playing them live, and maybe get into the studio to record some of them. Scott’s writing a lot of new stuff, too.” He does acknowledge, though, that when BK3 tackles some of the cornerstones of the Grateful Dead repertoire, it feels like he’s discovering their potential all over: “even with the older material, you’re always creating new music in the moment, because you’re playing it with new people.”

Kreutzmann also looks forward to sharing some of BK3’s music with those who haven’t yet had a chance to catch the band live: “We got real good video of some of our shows last year… enough for a couple of DVD releases, and 2 or 3 CDs worth as well. And we’ll be recording these shows coming up. I’m really excited for people to hear this band.”

The joy Bill is expressing in his music right now is very much of a piece with the rest of his life. He has great optimism for the future — a feeling that was bolstered by his recent experience at the Presidential Inaugural festivities in Washington, where he and his colleagues in The Dead performed (at the Mid-Atlantic States Inaugural Ball) and met the new President and First Lady. “I gave him a big Hawaiian hug,” he says with a laugh, “and complimented him on his surfing style. It was great to meet him and Michelle. They are just the way you see them — good, real people. I wake up now in the morning with a lot more hope for my country.”

He goes on to give another compelling reason for his optimistic attitude: “I’m real happy now in my personal life. More than I’ve ever been. Love really is the best drug, the best medicine. I understand that now in a way I never did before.”

As our conversation with Bill drew to an end, he told us of one of his favorite things to do while at home in Hawaii: “I’ve got this little trio I jam with, a garage band… I mean really a garage band, because that’s where we play, in my garage. Since it’s always warm here, we leave the garage door open. And the neighbors come around, and they become our audience, dancing in the driveway!  I’ve actually met a lot of people doing that who I didn’t know before.  They come up and introduce themselves, tell me they live a few houses down, and we get to know our neighbors that way.”

You can be sure that Bill Kreutzmann and his musical cohorts will make a lot of new friends and neighbors, and reconnect with old ones, out on the road in the months to come.


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Joined: Oct 30 2009
Any chance of some sort of

Any chance of some sort of tour? I've been out of the loop for some time though I was in
chicago last May. Great Music, interesting set lists with the Dead. Let me hear some BK3 please.

Psycle Sam's picture
Joined: Aug 13 2007

BK3 are amaz-n,,,let the music flow brothers.

The Grateful Web's picture
Joined: May 6 2009
The Grateful Web's interview with Billy K...
eyephennario's picture
Joined: Jul 20 2008
no joke

Man, that article put a big smile on my face. "BK3" (we called them either KBM, Bill Kreutzmann Trio, KBM trio, etc.) are a must see. This article got it just right. Billy was all smiles when I caught BK3 headlining Magnolia Festival this past fall. You can tell they really want to focus on doing their own thing, developing and exploring all the new Hunter material... but they can't deny how much fun they have when they open up an old GD tune and unfold it into something entirely new. For those who haven't already, catch them live!

Canyon Critter's picture
Joined: Oct 20 2008
Yet, You know our Love will not fade AWAY!

So just keep rockin Billy!
Will you come with me? Once in awhile you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right!

Joined: Oct 3 2008

The only thing Kreutzmann was laughing at was how bad the show sucked and how he was still gonna get paid. The Dead are GREEDY, stop supporting them so they go away for good they deserve to all goto hell at this point, after screwing over their loyal fans. Maybe I'll buy a consider it dan $500 ticket so I can go up front and throw eggs at them all night. That girl on Youtube was right, the dead can't play for shit and are simply a greedy nosolgia act, fux off guys. Play another Sugarmag, Casey Jones, Box of Rain, Bertha, GO AWAY NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR FIRST SET SONGS ALL NIGHT, LAME. And no one wants to hear an unbroken chain that is so bad I wanted to walk out of the venue. Get a clue, a raging one.

Joined: Jun 6 2007
Billy's Garage Band

All right, who's got the soundboards? There must be at least one taper outside that garage.

danceswithbears's picture
Joined: Aug 26 2008
Billy at Penn State

Billy had quite a few of us laughing pretty hard behind the stage, his animated humor while jumping off the stage kept the smiles growing. Thanks, see you in april.
"peace is ONLY idealistic to those who believe it to be so"
Peace, Love and Hugs,

Joined: Jun 14 2007
These guys rock!!

I saw these guys play last night at the Crystal Ballroom here in Portland last night and they were amazing! I was really impressed at how tight they were, and not to mention how much fun it looked like they were having together. Here is hoping that this can really take off cause I'd love to see more of these guys. Next time, please do a headlining act; it was an hour long, but would love to see a couple sets. If you get a chance, don't miss this act.

Joined: Mar 23 2008
Rocking show at Moe's Alley

Rocking show at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz last night! I really like this band. Very high energy and Billy was having a great time. Murawski's gritty blues adds a nice element to the music. Seeing these guys from so close up was a real treat.




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