(03/04/14) - "It's like RatDog 2.0 if you will. Not your grandfather's RatDog."
That's drummer and founding RatDog member Jay Lane's take on the band's return from a three year hiatus for a winter tour, which hits The Fillmore Detroit Wednesday.
"Oh man, it's like comin' back home. It's really good to be back playin' with Bob and the guys. It's a little bit different, but it's reinvigorating."
The fans seem to feel the same way. Many of the shows on the east coast and Midwest tour have sold out, which Lane says is great to hear, but also puts more pressure on the band.
"I'm excited about that of course. But I'm just tryin' to focus on not disappointing the fans. 'Cause we've had good selling tours before, but had less than stellar reviews. So I'm just tryin' to concentrate on playin' good, and stayin' warm in this cold."
There's a few new faces in the band this time around, with the addition of guitarist extraordinaire Steve Kimock to longtime member Jeff Chimenti on keyboards and founding members Lane and Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. But a unique change comes as original bassist Rob Wasserman returns, while his replacement from 2003, Robin Sylvester, is still here, giving the band two bass players.
"That's workin' out really cool. Cause it's sorta like no matter what instrument it is, you got guys that are really good listeners. And in the tradition of RatDog, you know, not having a traditional lineup from what you'd expect. We gotta throw a monkey wrench in there somehow."
As the drummer, Lane has the task of working with both bass players to make the rhythm section find the right groove, which is especially important to the highly improvised music RatDog is known for. But having played with both Wasserman and Sylvester for many years, Lane says the three of them figured out their place pretty quickly.
"I think we all kinda find a common ground. I find that Rob and Robin are able to switch roles at different times. Like who's gonna take the bottom and who's gonna take the more top end. And you know it's not so much like two guys doubling each other, that would be more tricky for me."
The band will have plenty of time to get even more cohesive as this tour moves on for a couple more weeks, and they keep adding summer festival dates to their itinerary. But, Lane says there could be more changes coming to the band soon, although hopefully not in personnel.
"I think the way Bob was lookin' at this, especially since there's kind of a new, reinvented band, he was jokin' around about a name change. Not jokin' around, he really was thinkin' about changing the name. He keeps on mentioning it even though we booked all these gigs as RatDog. We're sayin' it's not a good idea right now. But I understand why he wants to do that, as part of a reinventing thing."
But no matter what the name of the band will be going forward, Lane says he's excited for the future. The band will celebrate it's 20th anniversary next year, but it will probably get overshadowed by the Grateful Dead's 50th anniversary, which Weir has already said he hopes to commemorate in a big way with his surviving bandmates.
"I'm sure he'll probably do The Dead before he does any RatDog kind of thing," Lane says.
But, Lane is hearing that a new album, RatDog's first since Evening Moods in 2000, might be coming soon.
"Yeah, in fact we've already been kickin' around with a few ideas. And Bob's lookin' to go record when we're hot right off the tour. That's what I heard, so that's inspiring."
ABC12 Main Station