An Interview: Vince Herman
J-man: I looked at the tour dates for Leftover Salmon, Telluride and Red Rocks were listed. Not to shabby, for a couple of dates…
Vince: (Laughs) Yeah…
J-man: What’s next for Leftover Salmon and are there any plans for a tour?
Vince: None at all. It’s just like you were saying; a couple dates a year. Maybe some live compilations or something like that of stuff that would be released. As far as an album or something like that. But, no plans to go into the studio, no tours, no. Just a couple of occasional sets to pick with my ol’ buddies.
J-man: Right on. What are some of the highlights from your twenty years of playing with Leftover Salmon?
Vince: Oh man! Umm, god. Well, getting to play with Mark Vann all of those years was certainly a major treat. You know, Mark was an incredible banjo player and we lost him to cancer in 2002. So, that was definitely the was probably the most profound experience of getting to pick with a banjo player like that. Anyhow, all of the great friends we’ve made over the years; both musicians, fans and all of that stuff. It’s just a great community to be a part of. It’s certainly had a big impact on my life, that’s for sure. (Laughs)
J-man: I think Leftover Salmon had a big impact of a lot of people’s lives…
Vince: Hopefully positive! (Laughs)
J-man: Definitely positive. Can you talk about the difference between playing with Great American Taxi as opposed to Leftover Salmon?
Vince: Yeah, well Taxi is a bit more kind of country rock, alt country, Americana kind of thing. Where as Salmon, I guess, had a little bit more of a bluegrass feel to it… Bluegrass/rock and roll. In Taxi there’s five of us that sing, and write, and play, so it’s a very diverse material. Even though Salmon was incredibly diverse itself; there are more writers and singers in Taxi. And a little bit more complex vocal arrangements. But it’s a lot like Salmon too. I do a lot of improvising on stage, kind of making up words about what’s going on at the time. All those kind of things. So I guess the major difference is just a little stylistic shift.
J-man: How did the Suwannee Springfest go, down in Live Oak, Florida?
Vince: Oh, it was real fun… Real fun. We got to pick with Peter Rowan and John Randall Stewart. A real thrill for me; Richie Stearns from a band called the Horseflies, which is really influential on Leftover Salmon. Richie just happened to be at the festival, not playing with anyone. But, we talked him into coming up and playing with us. It was great… I have been wanting to play with him for a long time.
J-man: That’s cool. I love it down there, it’s such a beautiful venue… and a hell of a time.
Vince: Yeah it is… We’ve had some great times there over the years, that’s for sure (Laughs).
J-man: There has been several times at music festivals where I’d be wandering around at the early hours of the morning and come upon a group of wild pickers howling at the moon…
J-man: … At second glance, time and time again Vince Herman is leading the charge. Where do you get the energy, and more importantly; where do you get you moonshine?
Vince: (Laughs) Oh man, I have a lunar sniffer, I guess.
Vince: (Laughs) You know… I’m just so excited…
J-man: It’s apparent.
Vince: … To be alive, to be playing music and to be getting to play with these great musicians at festivals. Often when you’re on the road; you’re doing one night in each town. You kind of get there in time for sound check and you haul your stuff in, play the set and haul your stuff out. Then you drive, and play, and drive, and play… Then you get to a festival; sometimes you might even have two days in the same place. All these other musicians that otherwise would be out doing the same; play, drive, play, drive, thing. You get to hit this little oasis. So, when I hit those; I just feel like I want to suck it all up and play all of the tunes I can. That’s basically where the energy comes from.
J-man: That’s great. It’s turned my evening and my mood right around; to go from wandering around/spacing out and to come upon a group of good pickers having a hoot…
Vince: Well, it will definitely turn moods around…Especially if you’re trying to sleep and there’s a band playing outside your tent.
Vince: Now there was one time when it was about six in the morning at the Telluride campground… We were picking tunes, just doin’ all this stuff and this guy yells from his tent “Hey, would you guys shut up? I’m trying to sleep, man!” And so we yelled back “Hey man, this is a festival and we’re playing music…” and there was a little pause and he said, in a real low voice “You guys stopped playing music hours ago…” ( Laughs).
J-man: (Laughs) That’s classic.
Vince: … We all just totally cracked up laughing and went somewhere else to pick (Laughs).
Vince: (Laughs) He had us on that one…
J-man: What are your feelings on the newgrass movement?
Vince: Thank heaven for Sam Bush!
Vince: It’s a beautiful thing, man. Bill Monroe invented bluegrass music and he cast it in this beautiful form of tone and style that’s just… great. As that music evolves, it takes these… In Anthropology you call it… in evolutionary terms a “punctuated equilibrium.” Where as you change from point A to point B; there are points on the way where there’s a little evolutionary jump, and it levels of, and en evolutionary jump, and it levels off on the way to this other point. “Newgrass Revival” and newgrass music is definitely one of those leaps in musical evolution, that really deeply affected my ears.
J-man: I’ve heard stories about your involvement with helping to elevate Yonder Mountain on the scene; can you talk about your early involvement with Yonder.
Vince: Well, they moved here to town, to Nederland. It kind of became a pattern, man; guys would move to town, start a band… and when I was home from the road, I’d get to pick with them. It was like “Oh cool, there’s new kids in town, let’s play.” Then they’d start their band, go on the road and I’d never see them again. (Laughs) Then a new band would roll into town…
Vince: … So, when Yonder first got to town; they were hanging around all the time and pickin’. It was a lot of fun and they were always ready to play… Had their instruments on twenty four hours a day. They were totally committed to building their thing… and yeah, I made a couple of phone calls for them. I thought they were hugely talented, driven, good guys, and their hearts were in the right place… I still do.
J-man: There is a great band that’s out your way currently on a Colorado run, they’re called the Henhouse Prowlers. New sounding, kind of traditional bluegrass, with suits and a one mic set up. Great group of guys…
Vince: Oh yeah, I know those guys. We played with those guys out in Chicago a few times.
J-man: … Good musicians.
J-man: Someone had mentioned to me that you had run for political office, can you tell me a little bit about that?
Vince: Yeah, I ran for the Board of Trustees here in Nederland, Colorado and luckily was a few votes away from winning (Laughs).
Vince: (Laughs) The amount of time that it takes to do it… I was planning on doing a lot from the road, kind of over the internet. Boy, it would have been quite a bit of material to handle (Laughs). We have been touring a whole lot more than, I guess I anticipated.
J-man: You’re doing a lot of dates with Taxi…
Vince: Yeah, the Taxi pushes on. We’ve got a brand new record called “Reckless Habits” that we’re really pumped about, we’re getting good radio play, good reviews…Hoping that we start selling some soon… (Laughs).
J-man: (Laughs) What bands are you into currently?
Vince: Currently… Well, Elephant Revival, my friends from up here in Nederland are big on my radar right now. They are kind of lead by Bonnie Paine, who is a phenomenal washboard player, cellist, guitar player, singer… They’re just a great band. Incredible writing and just phenomenal world-class singing, from Bonnie and Bridget Law on fiddle and singing… Just a great band.
What else have I been listening to lately? I just got the Oxford- American Southern Sampler. I’ve been digging it… I just picked up this soul, late 60’s early 70’s gospel/soul compilation; recorder by this cat… It’s phenomenal. It’s really, really cool shit. It sounds like Motown, early reggae, soul stuff… It’s awesome!
J-man: I appreciate you taking the time to do this. It means a lot to me as a fan and I’m sure my readers will appreciate it.
Vince: Excellent, I appreciate it. Thanks a bunch.
Great American Taxi Live at Nelson Family Vineyards on September 12, 2009.