Early in my journalism career, I figured out that interviewing two musicians at a time can get you some interesting stuff that you don’t get from a one-on-one talk. This is from an interview I did on March 3, 1983 with Mickey Hart and Ram Rod (Larry Shurtliff), the Grateful Dead’s longtime crew chief and Mickey’s drum tech.

DG: What’s in it for you, Ram Rod?

Ram Rod:  I get off when everything’s working right. The music melting together, fitting together, the musicians playing and not arguing while they’re playing.

Any one guy can stop it from going. I know that I can make the music bad if I want to, just by thinking. I’ve done it, to see if it’s true. But then, I’ve been listening and letting my consciousness do it for 15 years or so, and after a while it’s undeniable. After a while you realize that it does make a difference, whether you’re sitting there listening to it or not. There are times when I’ve left the stage because I’ve felt that my consciousness was keeping it from happening.

When those guys are out there playing, it’s consciousness working together. And when the music is really happening, you don’t stop to think about what you’re going to play, ’cause if you stop to think about the next note, it’s gone past you. It goes through everybody. Whether you’re playing it or not, if you are there and the person who is playing it is aware of you being there, you’re part of it – and if he’s worried about you being there, what you’re thinking, you’re interrupting his consciousness. You’re keeping him from flowing with the other people’s minds.

Hart: I’ve never yelled at Ram Rod in 15 years, never raised my voice. Because he feels worse about messing up or not giving his all than I would. I wouldn’t even call him on it.

Ram Rod: I’m not the person in the spotlight … If I think it’s hard on me, what’s it like for the guys standing out there?

Hart: If my cymbal is a half inch off, I could cut my knuckles. That’s the responsibility he has.

He’ll take brass, glass and wood out and bring it back. That’s not an easy task. We just used to have drums. Now we have all these little percussion instruments that we take out, instruments that weigh hundreds of pounds as well as ounces. And they’re all brought back as good as they went.

Ram Rod: It means a lot to a musician when he’s playing and he looks back and sees somebody back there…. You don’t have to worry if somebody is paying attention.

Hart: You never have to tell Ram Rod what to do; he’s self-motivated. Everybody in the Grateful Dead is self-motivated. Nobody is anybody’s boss.

Ram Rod: Someone once in an interview asked Steve [Parish], “Who’s the boss?” Steve said, “The situation is the boss.”