Eric Gould – Pink Talking Fish

I’m an anomaly in this one because I’m the bass player. I am the one that came up with this concept. I put the band together and my guys have been awesome. They built it with me. So we’re all in it together. But I’m also the manager of the band, too. I’m sort of the captain of the ship.

I actually didn’t pick up with the bass until the summer after my freshman year of college. I was a late bloomer. I had tried a couple instruments when I was younger and none of them worked; but then about a year before I picked it up, I started hearing—the bass line started rising to the surface for me. What I was hearing was bass lines in my head that weren’t on the tracks. I had my own bass line. I had my own soundtrack going on with the bassline. I followed my intuition on that and also there were a handful of concerts that I saw that summer, 1994. A handful of Phish shows, and—I don’t remember if it was the summer or a little earlier, but Pink Floyd’s Pulse Tour at Yankee Stadium. It was awesome. And that was what really led me to say, all right, I need to see what happens here. Once I picked up the bass—sometimes things in life just fit no matter how old you are, no matter when you find them and that was something that fit like a glove for me; and once I picked it up, it just became a part of what I am.

Let’s see. I mean, I was listening to a lot of funk at the time and I was really into Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters, and I was really into a band called Cymande, And I was really into Sly and the Family Stone and ParliamentFunkadelic, all incarnations of it, so I was really feeling that as well, along with classic rock and hip hop. Oldschool hip hop was a big one for me. So those bass lines are just, you know, just absolutely love them. Steely Dan was another one I saw that summer.

I was going to film school at the time, in Ithaca, New York. Ithaca College. I always had an unofficial second major in music, where I wasn’t I’m self taught. I had someone teach me about Pentatonic and Dorian scales on a rooftop and after that he said, ‘Now you can play rock and roll.’ Other than that, I really wasn’t taking any formal instruction. I was just playing along to music I loved, which was the wide variety between simple lines and intricate composition and I was jamming with people as much as I could. How you really get into it is when you’re playing with people and just feeling it. Fortunately, with the jam scene you can really let that go. Just explore, the things you can do jamming on one chord for an hour, you know, the ideas that come; and it’s just fantastic.

I graduated college and went out to Los Angeles, because I figured I owed it to myself to work in the film world. I was in the editing world—but music was still in my soul and it was there. And I was editing many hours in the day. I didn’t have much time to play with people. I literally would take my acoustic bass, my Washburn acoustic bass, to work and I would bring my lunch; and during my lunch break, I would go up on the rooftop of the building. I was in West Side Los Angeles and I could see the 10 Freeway and I would just eat my lunch real fast and spend the rest of my time with my bass, just playing and singing songs and looking at the highway, just wanted to be out on the road. Eventually, I came to my crossroads and I knew I had to go one direction or the other and I chose music and I went for it. A friend of mine was a drummer and we were a rhythm section for hire briefly in LA and then my friend who was the Particle keyboard player, he moved back to Los Angeles and that’s when, between him and another drummer I was working with, that’s where Particle got started, in 1999.

Particle was, I would say, one of the bands at the forefront of the livetronica movement, taking live instrumentation and putting that into electronic rhythms and live synthesis. That was a pretty amazing time. Actually, our first show was a boat cruise after party in San Francisco on the eve of Phish taking their first hiatus after their show in Shoreline in October of 2000.

So that was pretty awesome; and it was a weird time in music for the jam scene and people didn’t know what to do next now that Phish was on a hiatus we were developing the sound as we went and people got excited about it, so we hit the road and we didn’t stop for quite a long time. There were only a few bands doing it at the time. There was us. There was Sector 9, Disco Biscuits, The New Deal, a couple others, Brothers Past. The Philly bands were getting at it. And there was just a handful of us that were doing it and, you know, part of it was, you know, what I talked about before with the Phish hiatus, a lot of the jam scene was looking for something new and this genre was something new and so that was exciting. I think for Particle, in general, —we weren’t straightup electronica. We were more fusion.

Photograph Dave Vann

We were a rock and roll band that fused electronic styles into what we do; but primarily, you know, some people might say to the contrary, but from my eyes, we were more rock and roll than we were electronic; but the fusion on what we did— the only other band that really compared to us would probably be Ozric Tentacles, who were doing it before any of these bands. And they were a rock band as well and I think the rock and roll elements with it were something that made it tangible to people who were dipping into the genre, and I think that helped. And we had a great team behind us. We had people who really just loved the freshness of what our sound was. And there is a lot of that kind of thing that you can’t explain, you know, if we tried to. It just sounds weird. Sometimes the stars align and you find your lightning in a bottle. I’ve been fortunate to have had two bottles of lightning in my music career. Between Particle and between Pink Talking Fish, I’m a fortunate man. So thankful for it.

And one of the high points with Particle was getting to work with Mickey (Hart). Mickey’s done amazing work just capturing different sounds out there in the world, just different forms of music, and—actually, when we were going through DC on tour, he brought us to the Library of Congress and showed us some of the archival work that he was doing out there; and, man, it’s just such a good thing, something a lot of people don’t know about that Mickey does. He’s been a huge contributor in archiving different sounds around the world. Different types of music, different types of chanting and other types of just natural rhythm and I’m so thankful for the work he’s done on that. He’s done such a great job.

He’s such a mad scientist. He was developing a system where he takes a lot of these sounds and turning them into more—like pigmy chants, for example, and looping them and turning them into more of a rhythmic feel. He wanted to team up with a band that was doing the live electronica piece of it, and he wound up coming to see Particle, really enjoyed it, and we got to talking. We all had conversations together. He loved it, so he invited us up to his spot  he called it Yolo—to jam and we just we just locked in on some things. It was really amazing how we did a songwriting session. You’re going to appreciate this one. We wrote our songs with Hydra (Hydra was the name for Mickey and Particle together) by—he had his sound loops that he developed, and—we were all on in-ear monitors so he brought the loops up and we had a jam to these different rhythms that he did, these different sequences that he created, and we played on them all together. And then when it was done, he took that out of the mix and we had our song without the loops. And then when we would play it live, he would incorporate them in here and there, but it wouldn’t be going all the way through. It was a really unique way to write. And so I really appreciate the process. It was great. We had so much fun. One of my only—one of my few musical regrets is that we didn’t record an album with Hydra. I wish we had done that. We had a great tour. We had a lot of fun around it and we toured around the country for a month, and we did a couple festivals together, and it was awesome, and the experience with him was fantastic.

Another good Mickey scenario, when we played with him. He had this system where he could grab radio frequencies and he would incorporate them into the music. It was always random what he would find, and he just somehow was always coming up with the craziest radio sound. And it’s not easy to find awesome things off of the radio that can fit within, you know, within trance music that we were playing. You know? Somehow he found it. It was like he was a conduit to these crazy radio waves and something wild that was going on with them. We would be playing a show, and all of a sudden we would just all look at each other like what the heck is that? And after the show, we’d ask Mickey, did you already have that? No. That just came up randomly. It was so fun, man. It’s great. It was really fun.
I had a really nice ride with Particle. I left the band about five years ago, so all those guys are still my brothers.

Photograph Dave Vann

I got into Tribute Music in Kansas City. My wife, who had been with me since before Particle ever started, before I was a touring musician, she was ready to get out of LA. I was on the road all the time anyway. And her family had grown up on this amazing 600 acre lake community about a half hour out of town and we loved it. We always loved it. And I’ll tell you what. Kansas City is an amazing hidden gem when it comes to a city which is rich in the arts. Kansas City has an incredible music scene beyond just jazz that it’s known for. It has a great jazz scene, but it also has a very diverse music scene. It has an awesome theater scene.
So there was a place there and it had live music and I got in a pickup band with friends of mine and every Thursday that I wasn’t on the road, we would do a residency and play tribute music. I hadn’t really opened myself up to it and I was loving it. I was learning so much, actually putting these songs that I’ve known and loved for years under my fingers. Absolutely loved it. I had so much fun with it.
One summer we were doing acoustic versions of all these different bands and I got inspired to think, man, what kind of tribute project would I do that would actually hold my attention and get me excited, because like on a natural level it wouldn’t be for me to just do a straight up one band tribute, dress the part, play it note for note, type thing. That’s not what I enjoy about performing other people’s music. I like giving people an opportunity to experience catalogs that they know and love from a fresh perspective. And so it was just, what if I chose three bands that I love, that I think would be great connections, and I thought about it for a bit and, you know, I thought of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish and I knew Phish would be a great conduit within the other two bands, because the music is so versatile and I love playing their music too. So I got Floyd and Talking Heads in the mix and the minute I wrote a set list down, I knew that it was something special. I got some friends—a couple of the guys from Particle and some people from Kansas City and we wound up doing our first three shows. It was actually out in Colorado. I called a promoter in Colorado about it and he said, I’m booking it right now whether you like it or not. Get your band together and we can make this happen.

So we did it. We flew out to Colorado. We did a day and a half of rehearsal. We learned about 40 songs and it was intense. It was awesome. And then we played three shows. We played one in Breckenridge and two in Denver. And the minute we experienced it on stage, and the minute that we saw people’s reaction of this band, how it takes these songbooks from these three amazing bands that so many people love and blurring the lines of tribute and originality within the way that we design and implement the show—it was just something new, something fresh, and it felt so good.

I left Particle around the same time I had the concept of Pink Talking Fish. I was about to become a dad and I didn’t know what that meant as being a touring musician, and so it was right around the time that our keyboard player was touring with Phil Lesh and he had just Phil had just gotten into a new lineup and our keyboard player, Steve Molitz, he wanted to tour with Particle, give it a go. I said, hey, man, do it. I can’t go with you. I’m going to be a dad. I don’t know what that means yet, but I’m not going to stop Particle from doing that was sort of the initiator of me leaving the band. And so Steve went and got a new lineup, because our drummer was in the same boat as me as well, being a new dad, and I just thought Pink Talking Fish would be something that I could do however I do it. I’ll keep it as a revolving lineup, get fun people to play. Do it on my terms with my schedule and that’s how the whole thing started. Then as you know, you open a door, be prepared to walk through it. The excitement around it spread in a beautiful way and well, I guess I better work it. That was in late 2013, and I played four PTF shows in 2013. Over the course of 2014, it was a revolving lineup, and by the time 2015 came around, my “A list” agreed to become fulltime members and build it. And since then these guys have rolled through with me and it’s been fantastic and they’ve been an integral part of how this whole thing has grown.

Now, Skull and Roses is going to be extra fun. Pink Talking Fish has done a lot of shows where there is a concept beyond the concept. Sometimes we’ve done albums where we do Pink Floyd’s “Animals” and we have Animal style Phish and Talking Head songs in through it. We did “Junta Circus” where we performed the full album of Phish’s “Junta” with Talking Heads and Pink Floyd songs intertwined. And we had Big Apple Circus perform circus attractions on stage during the show. We designed all these amazing things. And sometimes we throw a fourth band into the mix. And we’ve done it with the Grateful Dead. We actually when GD 50 happened, that was the first time we did Pink Talking Fish are Dead. And we added Grateful Dead into the mix and that’s actually what we are doing at Skull and Roses. We are doing Ping Talking Fish are Dead. So it’s Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, Phish and the Grateful Dead.

Pandemic Update

You know, I’m also the manager of Pink Talking Fish. So I’m the band leader and the manager and the performer in there. I wear a lot of hats. So not only was I hearing from our agent about what was going on, but I was also on the phone with all these promoters and venue owners and we were discussing what’s what. So I was deeply ingrained in this entire thing, so it was pretty early on when I knew what was happening. But I tell you what, those first shows that got canceled in March and April, we thought okay, this is happening, but we had faith that it’s going to be short term, that the government is going to figure something else. It was when our entire summer got canceled, and we had an amazing summer planned, and when that all went, that was the oh fuck moment.
And it was just like a house of cards. It was like a line of dominos. It was like boom, boom, boom, boom, and it just kept on going and it was so depressing. And from behind the scenes the agents and the managers were doing so much work on every show for it not to happen. It was so depressing, and my heart goes out, of course, to musicians, you know, not being able to play; but my heart also goes out to everyone behind the scenes in the industry, the managers, the agents, the venue owners and the promoters, the marketing people, all of those folks. You don’t really hear about that a lot; but the amount of extra effort that went in with all these people for what wound up not even happening, was tremendous and so, so heartbreaking.

I know a lot of people who were creatively paralyzed from the pandemic and everyone was at one point or other, whether they cared to admit it or not. Because of the stress involved in the whole situation where you could grab on to stress in any which way, whatever you wanted—and it would hit you…you might not be affected by certain things, but there is that one thing over there that will get you. I definitely had a lot of moments where I would just stare at the corner of the ceiling and lose myself for however long.
It’s interesting, you know, we all went through our trials and tribulations. The world was shut down, and I wound up doing a mix of things. I worked with a friend of mine who is a venue owner and we formed an organization called Curbside Concerts. We created a website where it’s almost like Uber for athome concerts and we organized a network of musicians to come and pull up to someone’s driveway. The house provides them with power and they just plug in and go and everything’s paid for over the website. That was pretty cool. That was a little something that felt like it was done right for the music scene out there, just giving people as much of a live show as they possibly could during the height of the pandemic at that time. I live in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The person I formed this with is in Frisco, Colorado so I—he told me about it and I went on to just letting people know about it across the country. And offering people opportunity to do it.

And then the other thing that I did was I started a band. Go figure. As you know, Pink Talking Fish is a tribute act. The band I was in before that, which I formed in the late 90’s, was/is called Particle. Particle and Mickey Hart worked together a while under the name Hydra. When I left Particle, I had the idea for Pink Talking Fish; and when you open a door, be prepared to walk through. It took off in such a great way, but my professional music world has been in the tribute arena for many years. And although there is a lot of originality within the design of Pink Talking Fish, we’re still using the song books of other bands. And throughout those years, I still had original music flowing through me. There was just no outlet to get it out. And there were a couple guys who lived close to me, and over the course of the years we always wanted to get together. We never had the time. So the pandemic hit, and over the summer when the weather was warm, we got together in my driveway six feet apart and at first we just did it just to soothe our souls. We were just going to play a couple tunes and have some fun, but there was a connection. Fast forward a year later and we’ve written over sixty songs together over the course of a year. We’ve just been so inspired. We have a debut album and we’ve performed. The name of the band is called Marble Eyes. it’s me on bass. You might be familiar with the band Kung Fu out of on the east coast. Well, it’s this funk band, the drummer, he’s one of the best drummers in the universe and he’s in it, and a couple other great guys. And it’s been amazing. It took a pandemic for me to get back into original music. It’s pretty wild. The album is called Return to the Roses.
With Pink Talking Fish, our first public show was a drivein. We were able to have a very select amount of shows with PTF. We don’t live that far away from each other, but getting together for regular rehearsals was not going to happen and we weren’t prepared to get together anyway even outside. So when we did get together for a show at this drivein in New Hampshire, it was amazing. Like there were 450 cars. There were a lot of people there, but it was done in a very safe way. Everybody was super respectful and prepared for it very carefully.

Pink Talking Fish is so fun to design a show for and we really just put our all into the show and it got produced beautifully. It was our first drivein show, so we incorporated movie themes in with the songs. The Talking Heads song “Nothing But Flowers” melted into the Jurassic theme. It was amazing, it felt so good. In the middle of 2001 the funky theme by Deodato that that Phish made its own. We did “Eye of the Tiger” in the middle of it. We had all these different things. We did the Indiana Jones theme in the middle of “Weekapaug Groove” by Phish. We had all these different themes that we were doing within there and it was awesome. It was so cool. And it felt so good there are silver linings everywhere. And the one thing about what happened is the shows that we did play were so special and they felt so good, and like, man, we’re able to do this right now during a time when we might not be able to do this and we took it to heart. We took it seriously. We embraced the joy. We made sure that we were extra careful and educated, our fan base that was coming too, made sure they were as safe as possible, because we wanted to be able to keep doing this and we wanted to not be contributing to the negative of this situation. We wanted to inspire joy and safety within this time where it’s so hard to find joy through life.

We did three or four more drive-in shows, and then this April (2021) we got back in action. The second show we played—we’ll bring this back to Grateful Dead here—was actually an indoor. It was on May 8th and the wonderful people at the State Theater invited us to Cornell for Grateful Dead Day and we did what we’re going to do at Skull and Roses here. We get Pink Talking Fish Are Dead inspired by the Cornell ’77 show. So we opened up with “Minglewood.” We opened up the second set with “Scarlet”- “Fire,” true to form. We listened to that show and really. We’re not about complete replication, but we love inspiration. So we definitely did that. All the Grateful Dead songs that we played were from that show. We also have Pink Floyd, Talking Head and Phish there. Check out the set list. It’s pretty amazing. The first set ones were from set one at Cornell, same with set two. It was a blast and it was special. We were in this 2000seat theater with just a production crew. It was a live stream. So it was an empty theater, because we were still being safe, but we put it out there through the Relix Twitch channel. It was an amazing experience. Since then we’ve done mostly outdoor shows. We’ve done a handful of indoor shows. Starting in October we have a lot of indoor shows on the books and it’s interesting. Nobody knows how to feel about that right now. But outdoor done right is great, which is why we’re really looking forward to Ventura. Both Grateful Dead and Phish have done amazing things there. We’re taking that with all of our hearts as we come in for that festival. We are so psyched for this.