with Trey Anastasio recently, I realized it's packed with date
references that clearly and definitively mark it as having been conducted
during the week beginning Sunday, January 29, 1989.
Here's one tell-tale quote from the interview
(my annotations are in red):
TREY ANASTASIO: Last week, we played at The
Paradise [TREY IS REFERRING TO A PHISH SHOW THAT
TOOK PLACE AT THE PARADISE IN BOSTON, MASS.,
ON THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 1989]. It was just us, so we
sold it out. First time we played [in Boston], we played at
Molly's [TREY IS REFERRING TO PHISH SHOWS AT MOLLY'S
IN BOSTON THAT HAPPENED A OOUPLE MONTHS EARLIER,
IN 1988, ON DECEMBER 2, 1988, AND ON NOVEMBER 3, 1988]...and
that went real well, so we played there again. It was too crowded. So then
we tried to get a gig at the Paradise. And we [finally] did that
last week. [PRECEDING SENTENCE MAKES IT OBVIOUS TREY
IS REFERRING TO THE BAND'S VERY FIRST SHOW AT THE
PARADISE] And that sold out."
Here's another tell-tale quote from the interview:
IORIO: HOW OLD ARE YOU GUYS?
ANASTASIO: I'm 24 [TREY WOULDN'T BE 25 UNTIL SEPT. '89]. Mike is
[Trey is prompted by Mike, who is heard in the background] is 23 [MIKE
WOULDN'T BE 24 UNTIL JUNE '89]. Um, Page is 25 [PAGE WOULDN'T
BE 26 UNTIL MAY 1989]. And Fishman is 23 [THIS IS THE MOST
TELL-TALE DATE OF THEM ALL; JON FISHMAN WOULD BE 24 ON
FEBRUARY 19, 1989].
* * * *
By the way, a phew accurate Phish Phacts...
Golly, gee, the bad information on the Internet
about the very early history of Phish is
astonishing, almost breathtaking. I have some general
admiration for Wikipedia, no doubt about it,
but when it comes to Phish history, Wikipedia doesn't
know what the hell it's talking about. At all.
Regarding the history of the band, circa '88 to '90, here are
the actual facts:
Part of Phish's first major album, "Junta," was recorded in 1987,
and the rest was recorded in the winter of '88/'89. The part
that was recorded in 1987 was also self-released as a cassette
demo and sold/distributed to fans, mostly at shows. Those tapes
were not called "Junta." They are identifed by a label on the
cover art that has the copyright symbol and says: "1987 Ernest
Anastasio III." I still have the copy that the band sent to me
in '88, and I've scanned the cover art below.
When "Junta" was released in May 1989, it was self-released.
Phish did not have even an indie record contract at the time.
In fact, the band had not even sent out its demos to anyone
at a record company before Feburary 1989 (and I know this because
Trey told me so in an interview on a tape that I still have).
"Junta" remained a self-released album throughout 1989.
In 1990, a small American indie label, Absolute a Go Go, signed
Phish to a recording contract and released a small number of
copies of "Junta," mostly on cassette, before releasing the
band's subsequent album, "Lawn Boy." But within months, in
1991, Absolute a Go Go went out of business, due to the
bankruptcy of its distributor, Rough Trade.
And Phish was, again, an unsigned band.
Of course, major label Elektra would eventually sign them, in 1992,
and when they did, it released a '92 edition of "Junta."
Another point that should be cleared up: the members of
Phish hadn't even heard of the band Widespread Panic before
I personally told Anastasio in January 1989 about Widespread Panic,
with whom Phish would later collaborate.
As I've noted before, the tape of my January 1989 interview with
Anastasio captures the moment. Here is the verbatim exchange:
PAUL IORIO: ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH A BAND CALLED WIDESPREAD PANIC?
ANASTASIO: No, I'm not.
PAUL IORIO: THEY'RE A BAND FROM ATHENS, GEORGIA, THAT HAS A
FOLLOWING SIMILAR TO WHAT YOU'RE DESCRIBING. THEY REALLY
GO VERY FAR INTO LONG-FORM JAMS AND ATTRACT A LOT OF DEADHEADS.
Pretty open and shut! There's nothing ambiguous
about that interchange.
But some misinformed folks don't quite get it and say
stuff like, "Wow, man, [Phish keyboardist] Page McConnell
played on Widespread Panic's debut album 'Space Wrangler,'
and that was released in '88."
Wrong. Here are the facts:
McConnell played on the 1992 edition of "Space Wrangler,"
not on the 1988 "Space Wrangler" that was originally released
on Volcano. And he performed only on bonus tracks that were
recorded in 1990 and subsequently added to the original '88
album for the '92 release.
I know all this because I interviewed Gordon and Anastasio
during this period and still have my taped interviews and notes
from the late 1980s. And my information comes
from no less than Anastasio himself, speaking to me in
January 1989. Second, I've also minutely researched early
Phish history for stories I've written (most notably, for
Miami New Times in '03).
Those who have it wrong should correct the record.
Cover art of Phish's 1987 cassette tape demo
(four songs on this tape would later be included
on 1989's self-released "Junta").[Above, cover art from a tape
the band sent to me in early '88.]
How I Managed to Be the First Journalist Anywhere to Interview Trey Anastasio on Tape
Photo of Phish that the band sent to me in early 1988.
It's safe to say, I think, that the Phish I remember is not the
Phish almost everyone else knows. That's partly because -- as I
mentioned above -- I did the first taped Trey interview
http://www.myspace.com/paulioriooo ; and here's
the '89 interview transcript, published many years later in Miami
For the record, I was also the first writer (outside the band's
Burlington hometown) to have written about Phish
(see scan below) and -- as I also mentioned -- the first person to tell Trey about the band
Widespread Panic (and I even did so on audiotape, whch you
can hear here: http://www.myspace.com/paulioriooo).
Actually, my connection to the band dates back to early 1988 and late 1987.
A few months after I left my staff writer position at
Cash Box magazine in New York in '87, I came up with the idea
of doing a story on the pop music community in Burlington for the
East Coast Rocker, a New Jersey-based music newspaper. And I
asked dozens of unsigned Vermont bands to send me tapes.
Among those who sent in tapes was Phish, which mailed me
a 1987 demo featuring four originals ("Golgi Apparatus,"
"Fee," "David Bowie," and "Fluffhead," all of which
later appeared on "Junta") and two covers.
My first interviews with Phish's Mike Gordon date back
to an astonishingly early January 1988. Back then, we
talked on a fairly regular basis, and here is a letter he
sent to me in 1988:
I eventually wrote about the group for the newspaper's July 19,
1989, issue, calling Phish "an unlikely combination of the
Grateful Dead and Steely Dan" in a story that stands as the
first to mention the band in a publication outside the
Burlington area (besides concert listings in newspapers,
Meanwhile, my Anastasio interview of '89 stayed in a drawer
in my desk for years; nobody wanted the interview at the time
because the band was almost completely unknown (and would
remain that way for some time to come).
My '89 interview with Trey was finally published
many years later, on December 24, 2003, in Miami New Times,
after it had become something of a talked-about
pop culture artifact of significance to Phishheads. (Click the New Times
link (above) to read the New Times piece, or check it out in
the Phish Archive!: http://www.phisharchive.com/articles/2003/miami1.html
Above, my description of Phish for the East Coast Rocker
newspaper in 1989, the first mention of the band in print outside
of Burlington. (It's a brief item, yes. But nobody else went even
that far in the press at the time. Remember, I was just
a writer/reporter; I didn't own the publications for which I wrote.
Back then, I simply couldn't get an editor to greenlight a story on an
unsigned band whose self-released music was generating no radio ariplay
Anyway, I lost contact with the band after 1989, so I don't
really know any of the bandmembers (and, frankly, I haven't
really followed their music that closely since). But I was there