Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reggie Speaks

Here's a transcript of an interview I did with Reggie Scanlan of the Radiators, parts of which were used in the OffBeat cover story from Jazz Fest 2011:

Reggie Scanlan: I'm excited about doing something new and focussing on what I look at as another chapter in my life. The Radiators have had their time and it's probably better to close it down now with a little bit of style than to just kind of fall apart.

John Swenson: Do you see any difference in the shows since the announcement?

R.S.: I have to say that I think the band is playing at more of the level that it was at 15 years ago. We only have so many gigs left to go so it's almost like an unspoken thing that every gig has to count. Everybody is playing up to the mark and I can feel some people in the band getting a little more sentimental I guess. When you've got guys backstage crying and saying that this is worse than when they got divorced, I kind of go "Whoa, it's just a band," y'know?

J.S.: But obviously it's not just a band.

R.S.: When that started happening it dawned on me that the real thing the band achieved was not that it played great music and Ed wrote a lot of great songs, that's OK. A lot of bands do that. But the one thing about us that I think is our crowning achievement is that we were the catalyst for the formation of an amazing community of people that kind of formed in our wake. It's a real community. People talk to each other across the country, they travel to meet each other, they met their wives at a Radiators gig. We've become part of the tapestry of a lot of people's lives. I think that's really what we did. We proved that music really does bring people together.

J.S.: How did that happen?

R.S.: It wasn't a conscious effort on our part, I can tell you that. We had no idea what we were doing. Our fans have a different feel about them than other band's fan bases. These other bands have great fans -- Grateful Dead, Little Feat, Allman Brothers, they all have great fan bases. But ours seems to have taken on a different kind of a feel than all of those people. I'm not sure why that is. It might have been that we never got so big that we had 100 million fans. We got just big enough that we had a group of fans that could all stay in touch with each other if they wanted to. They all knoow each other when they go to shows. They all know their names, they recognize each other. It's a mystery to me why that group of fans fell into that particular mindset. It just happened on its own and in any other petri dish so to speak it never would have happened. It's a fluke almost.

J.S.: Are we talking about the nature of what it is to be in New Orleans?

R.S.: No because this is something that happened across the country. We're all out of New Orleans and obviously that's something that appeals to people on a deeper level. Maybe New Orleans music is what it took to get people to come together like that. Now that we're talking about it, I'm not even sure I wanna know.

J.S.: Alot of people would say it had something to do with the fact that you played with all these generations of Tulane students who moved to different places but stayed fans in those new places.

R.S.: That's really how we started to get gigs on the east coast back in the old days. Also people would come in and ask if they could tape shows. We said 'sure, if you want to go to the trouble to tape the show you can have it.' We didn't realize that the tape traders were sending these things back up to the east coast. When we went up there to play people already knew who we were. It was an amazing grass roots advertising system. But also, people following the Heat Gen which is the Radiators list serve, people were talking about what part we had played in their lives and you start seeing that we were really the soundtrack for a pretty good chuck of most of these people's lives. Whatever else was going on in their life, this was the constant. So I think that's one of the things that people kind of latched on to. And also Ed seems to write the kind of songs that make people believe that a particular song speaks to them at a certain point of their life when they need it. Something's going on in their life and they hear that song and think that's really what I'm about right now. I think all of that has a lot to do with it.

J.S.: What will these fans do now?

R.S.: I would imagine this is gonna be the same scenario on a smaller scale as what happened when Jerry Garcia died. There will be a number of fans that are not gonna wanna see anything that any of us do or any revised version of the Radaitors because they're Radiators fans and that's it. But that will be a small percentage. I think most of them will be interested in seeing what we do post-Radiators and hopefully it will touch them in some similar ways and be something thet're willing to support to some degree. There are people in the band who want to keep it going with a new keyboard player but honestly and realistically I can't see that happening. You can't do a big farewell tour and then jump up and say here's the band again. You're screwing your fans if you do that. You'd make them feel like they'd been conned.

J.S.: It wouldnt be the same band.

R.S.: It is in the sense that you have a different element in there but in a broad sense the Radiators is whatever we say it is. If we got a new keyboard player it would have a different... You want somebody who's gonna bring something to the party, adding to it because everybody plays different and I wouldn't want anybody in there who was trying to sound like Ed Volker. Half the fun of bringing somebody new into the band is they've got a different way of doing things.

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