Tim Reynolds Interview
By Mike Rothman
Guitar virtuoso, de facto member of Dave Matthews Band and frequent South Florida visitor, Tim Reynolds’ quiet ascent to the precipice of the music world is a fascinating story.
Despite the inevitable high profile that accompanies touring with the highest grossing music act of the past decade ($530 million), for Reynolds it was never about making it to “the big time.”
Soft spoken and humble, Reynolds took a few minutes off, OK maybe 35, during his acoustic weekend with Dave Matthews in Las Vegas from Dec. 10 to 12 to talk with Mike Rothman and Corey Martgnetti about impromptu marijuana-inspired jam sessions in a friend’s basement and how it has always been about the music. He even threw in a touch of politics into the conversation that took place in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel inside the Mandalay Bay Resort. As Dave Matthews puts it, “Watching Tim play is like having a light shone on me.”
Corey Martignetti – What is the process like for coming up with a set list when you play an acoustic show with Dave Matthews?
Tim Reynolds – I don’t know what the songs are until about 10 or 20 minutes before the show and then I look at the list and hope I know everything. Dave looks over his massive list and then I have a slot for the songs that I do (solo).
Mike Rothman – Being in a city like Las Vegas for an acoustic weekend Dec. 10-12, what do you do after the shows to blow off steam or relax?
TR – Yeah I had a little wine and we went out last night or the night before but not for all night though because that’s too much and we have to rest.
CM – After playing venues ranging from small bars with TR3 to sold-out stadiums with Dave Matthews Band, which do you prefer?
TR – The bigger the venue the more surreal it is. The first night in a big place, like when you’re doing a sound check, it’s almost like the room is so much louder as it is without even making a sound. You eventually get used to projecting the energy of that but you can’t really overpower it. You just can’t hit the instrument hard enough. You have to go the opposite direction and start really soft and let it build from there and it kind of oozes out more like music as opposed to physical force. So with acoustic, there’s a learning curve and that learning curve is the first night.
Doing the Dave Matthews Band really loud all year and doing TR3 really loud all year, it’s a whole different thing because you have the amp that has “the power!” You just don’t have to play that hard.
CM – Dave mentioned at the Dec. 10 Vegas show that Shake Me Like a Monkey was a pain to learn on the guitar but he said, “Of course not for Tim.” Having mastered the guitar, do you find any songs difficult to play?
TR – A different song on any given night can be a challenge. It’s always a little bit of a challenge but just the fact that you know the music whether it’s with the band or acoustic.
You always feel like you could do more though. Every time you play a song you just go “Oh man! I just could have done that so much better!” That’s just general musician headspace. Perfection is up here in a concept and the reality is always grasping for that. The perfection is being human and having in your mind what can be perfect. The only time you can do that is when you’re in your room and there’s no pressure and you’re like “wow!”
MR – Aside from touring with The Dave Matthews Band, you have your own band TR3. You played two shows with DMB and two shows TR3 in West Palm Beach Summer 2009. What’s the origin behind TR3?
TR – The original came out of this band called Cosmology. It was a lot more improvised, but not a jam band. More like a jazz improve unit. It was really very exotic.
After doing that for a while, I was really starting to get into more roots music like Bob Marley and Hendrix. It started out as myself, the drummer, and the base player. Immediately we were playing jazzy versions of Police songs and Bob Marley. So that’s where TR3 came out of when we started writing originals from the band Cosmology.
There were also these other two guys I used to play with, including John Gilmore. I remember playing with them maybe before I played with anybody. I used to go to his basement, hang out, get high, and jam. There was this one jam that was like a 45-minute orgasm. I started jamming, closed my eyes, and when I opened my eyes there were all these people in the basement that had come to listen. It was just a f&*king magical thing. And with that band we played a lot of gigs.
And then there was another TR3 that was almost like a bigger band by the end of the 1980s, where we used keyboards, percussion.
The newest TR3 started touring in 2008 and it encompasses all of the past TR3s that I put together.
MR – What are some of your influences for TR3?
TR – There was a time when I was listening to Nine Inch Nails. We got a little harder edge at that time. I don’t want to pretend I was metal at all! But there are certain metal bands that I love as much as anything like the Def Tones and Tool. I also love Perfect Circle. I saw them on their first tour and they were great.
CM – Was this ‘harder edge’ period when you notoriously used to come out to perform in gas masks?
TR – I was just trying to break out of whatever mode I was playing at the time. I played in diapers in Charlottesville because they were expecting some kind of nice acoustic and friendly performance.
CM – They were expecting you to play Crash, or something like that?
TR – Yeah, and so then we came out really, really f&*king loud!
MR – Your newest TR3 album is Radiance (2009). What is the inspiration behind that?
TR – It kind of came about just after playing with Dan and Mick. We did some new songs. We also did some old songs. There’s a song, Wild Country, which really makes me feel the way I feel about New Mexico. I just love that space in the world.
I’m hoping besides TR3, we’re working on a live recording and all this acoustic music I recorded in my house in New Mexico. There’s a lot of stuff to sift through and I want to do a CD or a double CD of that. It’s just been sitting around and I want to represent that time and space in New Mexico.
CM – You’ve had an unbelievable career. When you started out could you have ever imagined having this much success?
TR – Not really because that kind of stuff has more to do with luck or where you’re at a certain time and who you know. I always knew I’d play music. Actually, most of the time I didn’t really have a desire to go into what you call “the big time.” When I started playing music, for many years I was into jazz and stuff that wasn’t really popular. When I started getting into more modern music in the 90s and that becomes more what you like to do, it’s easier to slip into that “big time” element.
Even when I was doing the hard-core TR3, we were still playing music that was very popular, like Nine Inch Nails. So I’m not so much into the jazz anymore even though I still listen to some of it. I see people playing jazz and wonder if I stuck with it would I be better at it now. But if I had stuck to playing jazz I’d be playing little bitty clubs making $30 a night.
MR – Is there any music you listened to as a kid that comes out in your music now?
TR – The rock music that I liked as a kid was blues rock like Led Zeppelin and a lot of things that I thought were really cool sounding were coming from Indian music. The way Hendrix would play these exotic kinds of things and you just kind of go, “Ooh! Nasty!”
There’s a lot of music that really turns me on. Like Dervish flute music. It’s just so beautiful and like puts me into a trance. It’s so different from jazz where it’s like “duh duh duh!” It’s just older and deeper. Where some of these musical traditions haven’t been changed in thousands of years. It’s like when I hear it it’s like I’ve heard it in more than one life. You kind of hear it and your head goes “wow” and then it goes to your body and it kind of makes you weep. And that to me is the ultimate shit. There’s a lifelong pursuit of trying to get to that.
What else I grew up with was like rock music with drums and stuff. To me that’s very powerful. So when you combine primal shit with spiritual kind of stuff it’s easier for me to grasp that now.
MR – Out of the thousands of venues you’ve played all over the world, are there any that stick out in your head that you are particularly fond of?
TR – The Gorge in Washington is pretty because of the countryside. But most of the venues I find really charming are small. I like these great little acoustic venues. I played a lot of bars and they’re fun. There’s this one place Skipper’s down in Tampa, Fla. that I really like. With acoustic, the smaller, the more intimate, the better. With rock and roll, the louder, the more wide open, the better.
CM – Any other things you’re currently involved in?
TR – I’ve been doing this acoustic teaching thing at Fur Peace Ranch, where we have workshops taught by really talented musicians in all areas. You can be taught as a beginner, intermediate, advanced, whatever. It’s really special and it’s on a small farm. During these workshops you can learn how to play guitar from me.
MR – I know for the great ones it’s hard to teach or coach. For example, in basketball, Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan could never be a coach because their players could never live up to their expectations. How could anyone live up to the guitar aspirations of Tim Reynolds?
TR – You know, I get blown away by some of these kids that are really good. You don’t feel like you can teach them anything. It’s like, “Shit! They should have their own damn seminar!”
MR – What’s on your iPod right now? What are you listening to?
TR – I really like this band called Dead Weather, which is Jack White from the White Stripes playing drums. I like the new Flaming Lips record, Embryonic (2009). That’s f&*king great. Secret Machines has a new album. I really also like that album with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.
There’s just more of everything. There’s more bad music but there’s more good music too. There’s just a lot of crap but there’s also a lot of good stuff too.
MR – What do you think about American Idol and the commercialization of packaged music?
TR – Unfortunately, most things that try to say “American something or other” it’s almost like indicative of the empire of American on a slippery slope. It’s gonna have to learn the lessons of all the other older empires where it’s gonna have to get over itself so it can be real again.
Like most of the countries in Europe they’ve shot their wad and realized they can’t rule the world. So America’s still finding that out. If it doesn’t figure that out, it will just kind of ruin itself and go bankrupt, like it did. Unfortunately they haven’t changed the system, so they’re going to do it again if they don’t figure it out, like to bail out the same people that ran it into the ground. I’m just a musician man, politics is f&*ked up.
CM – I saw that you had traveled with Dennis Kucinich, who was running for President in 2004 and 2008. That is an interesting pairing?
TR – I thought he was a truthsayer. In the future of history, they will probably realize that he was the only one who actually had a clue. But he lived in a world of politics that isn’t about truism or idealism but the mind and the body is separate in that world.
I dug Kucinich because I could relate to him. It was like the Dalai Lama was trying to be president or something. It was a great uplifting thing to go out and see him speak the truth. I didn’t expect him to become president. That wasn’t the point. It was more about doing the right thing.
It also showed me the darkness that surrounds everybody. It really broke my heart to see what happened. They made him look like a fool in the media. In fact, he is one of the most eloquent people.
You know Noam Chomsky had a clue. He criticized the left or the right. And to me, those are both fictions anyway. It is beyond that. That is just a game they shoved down our throats so we would be caught up in that.
MR – To be honest, I don’t want this conversation to end but what are some of your next stops with DMB and TR3?
TR – I’ll be around South Florida next year some time in the spring and will be touring the West Coast in the winter. The South Florida energy reminds me of the 1970s party mode, which I kind of like.
The views and comments expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of antsmarching.org.