Interview with Michael Falzarano from NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE/HOT TUNA; Playing Syracuse 10/5/12!

Time to toss in a classic to bring on the nostalgia. Syracuse, NY is in for a rare treat on October 5th when New Riders Of The Purple Sage come to town! For those unfamiliar, meet the other band that Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, and Phil Lesh performed with. You know, The Grateful Dead guys? Don’t you feel silly, now?

With 27 albums, New Riders are a prolific and longstanding testament to the allure of countrified rock jams, and it will be great to see the group perform on a Friday night! Currently touring in support of their 2012 release, 17 Pine Avenue, on Woodstock Records, the group seeks to continue its long legacy of stellar recordings with 12 brand new jams to garner the new fans, while appeasing the desires of old school followers, in one foul swoop.

Known for their revolving and musically diverse array of talented musicians among their ranks, The New Riders current lineup consists of David Nelson, Buddy Cage, Michael Falzarano (Hot Tuna), Ronnie Penque, and Johnny Markowski, all highly established and reputable players breathing fresh life into this legendary project. I got in touch with guitar/vocalist Michael Falzarano prior to the performance to discuss the groups’ lengthy career, current lineup, new record, and a few choice stories of legend firsthand.


G- Hello and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! New Riders are currently touring in support of your brand new release, 17 Pine Avenue… Would you tell us a bit about the record? Where was it recorded, who was behind the boards, and how was the writing and recording process for the band?

MF- Well, I produced the CD, as I did the last one “Where I Come From”(released 2009,) (and) both are on Woodstock Records. Like the last CD, we laid down the tracks in various studios around the country while on the road. My style of producing is simple… Get everyone in the same room at the same time and play music.

Then, I take the tracks to a studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn called the Secret Garden, hook up with my friend and studio wizard Christian Cassan, and mix. The CD features 7 songs written by David Nelson and Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead lyricist,) two by me, and one each by Johnny Markowski and Ronnie Penque.

G- How often will New Riders be looking to hit the road in the future, and do you have any other tours planned following your current stint? If so, where will it take the group?

MF-When we play The Westcott Theater on October 5th that will be the 8-year anniversary on the renaissance of the New Riders. We’ve been playing between 80 and 100 shows a year since we started 8 years ago. This year and next will be no different. We play all over the country and occasionally go to Canada as well.

G- New Riders are basically children of the ’69 San Francisco psychedelic scene, and I wondered if you could shed a bit of light on the harmony and/or disharmony of the times with some of our readers who were too young, or not even born yet, in regards to the group’s formation and early life.

MF-Well, John Dawson and Jerry Garcia started the band along with their old friend David Nelson. Jerry was learning to play pedal steel guitar and was looking for a place to use what he was learning. He recorded one album and had to return to his day job in The Grateful Dead and got Buddy Cage to take his place and the rest as they say is history. It’s all on our website

G- So, you have a song called “Panama Red,” and accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from High Times Magazine… Is it safe to say the New Riders are familiar with herbal remedies? Let’s called this “The Stoner Chronicles” for a moment… Can you tell us about the first time you ever got high and where you were and what you did?

MF-No, I can’t remember!

G- What was the question again??? Oh yea… The cookies are in the cabinet. And how do you feel about the possibility of marijuana legalization in the U.S., and how it will impact our society as a whole if such a measure comes to fruition?

MF- It’s just crazy. Legalize it and get it over with. You know they’re gonna do it someday, so why not now and stop wasting tax payer money busting people for something that most people know is relatively harmless…

G- Since it is an election year, and New Riders formed during a very tumultuous and revolutionary time in American political history, how do you feel about the current states of politics, the upcoming presidential election, and can you draw any comparison between then and now?

MF- I really don’t want to say much about that except, VOTE!

G- What would you say is the most important song in the New riders catalogue, or do you have a favorite song to perform when onstage with New Riders? Which song would that be, and why?

MF- The New Riders have so many fine songs. I don’t have a favorite, except to say that I’m really digging the new songs because, well, they’re new.

G- In your expansive performance career, what would you say is the most memorable show that you have played to date with New Riders? Where was it and what was it like?

MF-A few years back at Hornings Hideout. There’s a festival call the String Summit put on by The Yonder Mountain String Band. It’s a magical place and John Dawson came out and sang a few songs with us. His health was failing, but his spirit was lifted by the response the crowd gave him and his music. It was a great night.

G- Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?

MF-Stay with it in the good times and the bad, and stay true! Hope to see ya at the show it’s gonna be a special night.

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