In the studio, they're a Phish out of water

December 25, 1997|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

To make another live album, or not to make another live album -- for Phish, that is the question.

There's no doubt that the quartet is incredible in concert, balancing tight, song-based playing with breathtaking, spontaneous improvisations. Even a decade ago, when Phish was just starting out, it owed its audience to the magic the four could conjure onstage.

That stage show is even better now. "This last U.S. tour was really a great tour for us," says guitarist Trey Anastasio. "I think in 1996, we weren't playing as well as we are now.

"All of a sudden, we're just cookin', you know? So we want to record."

The question is, How? "Slip, Stitch and Pass," the most recent Phish release, was a live album, and the band isn't entirely sure it wants to go that way again. On the other hand, Anastasio and his bandmates recognize that the music often loses something in the studio.

"There's a realness to actually capturing a moment," he says. "That's probably what you're after when you're putting out an album -- a genuine emotional moment, captured on tape. But the standard process of recording albums kind of goes against that. It's just so boring! I mean, you get in there for three months, working on this album. . . ."

He laughs. "I think that has probably been our biggest downfall with the albums. We just get antsy. We want to get in there, play and get out."

Hence, the allure of the live album. "We were listening back to some tapes of really recent shows -- shows from like two weeks ago," says Anastasio. "There was one night that was particularly good. So we were having this conversation on the bus, and we decided that the next album would be another live album, off this recent tour. Right off the soundboard. We liked the way the soundboard [tape] sounded so much, we figured, 'That's it.'"

But that was a couple of weeks ago. "Now, this week, we're questioning that, I think, and we're talking to producers," he says. So Anastasio spent several hours talking with producer Brendan O'Brien about how he made such a good, live-sounding studio recording with Rage Against the Machine on "Evil Empire."

Anastasio adds that the band is even considering doing both -- making a studio recording while releasing a live album at the same time. "We have always wanted to put out more albums," he says. "There's a real pressure from the industry to not put out too many albums. Yet at the same time, what do you do if you happen to go through a prolific period, which we are right now?"

So it looks like the band will continue to weigh its options. "Everything is up in the air," says Anastasio. "We don't have any idea what's going on, except that we decided to do a Europe tour next summer that is completely booked by cities we wanted to hang out in. Like a vacation tour, basically.

"But other than that, we have no plan."

Phish

WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 28, 7: 30 p.m.

WHERE: USAirways Arena

TICKETS: $25

CALL: 410-792-7490 for information, 410-481-7328 for tickets.

Pub Date: 12/25/97

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