Direct Quotes: Talks with Great Musicians

Zen Cowboy Chuck Pyle (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Tim Van Schmidt


This is where I came in, on these pages, well over a year ago.

My first article for the North Forty News/New Weekly Scene was about a project I had started right before the onset of the CO-VID-19 pandemic — January 2020 — editing recordings of talks I had with great musicians and posting them on YouTube.

The interviews were originally for articles in the Fort Collins press and I connected with musicians of all kinds, from international stars to local heroes, on the phone, usually in advance of an upcoming concert date.

I didn’t just take notes during these interviews, but I recorded them all on cassette tape. It took years for me to organize these tapes and start digitizing them — but all along, I knew I had some good stuff in there.

Once I had amassed a respectable number of interview posts, I sent out a press release, which resulted in an invitation to tell my own story in the North Forty News. That’s how this whole writing thing got started.

Since then I didn’t just post interviews on YouTube, but all kinds of projects — art projects, time capsule projects, my own music, rock and roll slide shows, travel photos, and pop history. But by far the posts people are most interested in are the interview recordings.

Number one interview Kate Wolf (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

My number one post “of all time”, is a 1985 interview with California singer-songwriter Kate Wolf. It was recorded live in the living room of Wolf’s private studio — a quiet, serene little house. She was so kind. We used her tape recorder when mine wouldn’t function and she told me everything.

The post is titled “Love Letter: An Hour with Kate Wolf” and it has been accessed by thousands of Wolf fans, happy for a full, heartfelt interview experience with this influential artist.

My next top post is an interview with Joseph Shabalala, the founder and leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African vocal group. He tells me of Mambazo’s international stardom, in large part thanks to Paul Simon, and of the inspirational origins of his music.

Henry Rollins at Lollapalooza (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Some other good interviews include a feisty Henry Rollins, Dr. John on New Orleans music, and Charles Neville of The Neville Brothers on the same subject.

Dr. John on Linden Street (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

But now, let’s just say that I got slightly sidetracked from the interview project by a little writing I’ve been doing for The New Scene Weekly — 64 articles and counting, with original photos.

Despite all that fun, though, I’ve managed to come full circle back again, posting a new interview on YouTube — and this one is a good one. The interview is with Robert Hunter, the lyricist for the Grateful Dead, from 1998.

The story is that I got a call one day from Grateful Dead publicist Dennis McNally, still active in Dead affairs after the passing of guitarist Jerry Garcia, offering me the chance to interview Hunter.

He was coming to Fort Collins with a solo show and since he didn’t do many interviews, this was a rare opportunity if I wanted it, Dennis explained. Well, duh.

I connected with Hunter on the first day of his tour and I think he was pretty energized. It sounded like he was bumping around in his kitchen as I was talking to him and I’m not really sure why he was even doing the interview.

But I found him to be very talkative and he balanced a gregarious sense of humor with a sincere effort to answer my questions with true heart — a legendary songwriter talking about his process, about the legacy of a band he helped define with his words and about his excitement to play new stuff.

My interview to-do list for future YouTube projects is long and the subjects are interesting. My upcoming workload includes a wide-ranging talk with Paul Kantner, from the Jefferson Airplane/Starship. We talked about everything from The Grateful Dead to science fiction.

Zen Cowboy Chuck Pyle (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

The list also includes interviews with Colorado’s own “Zen Cowboy” Chuck Pyle, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn, The Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers, jazz bass legend Ron Carter, and Earl King with the subdudes.

South African Johnny Clegg (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

I’m also stocked with two interviews with the late Texas singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker and three talks with the great South African musician Johnny Clegg. Also on the list: Victor Wooten, Joan Osborne, Patty Larkin, Buddy Miles, Mick Fleetwood, and, for something different, artist Peter Max. That all is just a start — there are many more preserved on those tapes.

Artist Peter Max (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

I have a lot of work to do.

Here’s the thing — these people have a lot to say if you are interested in the creative world of music. Some of it is minutia, maybe a lot of it, but for the most part, it is all about the love of music.

Why not let these musicians speak for themselves? I share the recordings freely because I think it’s cool listening to the artists talk — these are quite literally “direct quotes”.

And can you believe we are still dealing with this pandemic nonsense? Stay tuned to my channel if you love music and I’ll keep the good stuff flowing.

Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. Hear his latest vintage interview with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter and many others on his YouTube channel “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt.”

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