"Life Is A Jam" says David Gans

When I first heard of David Gans a long time ago I thought he was jamband royalty – a member of the extended Grateful Dead family and friend of the band, a writer about The Grateful Dead (and others), a long time radio presenter with shows about, you guessed it – the Grateful Dead. I saw his name on a Henry Kaiser album playing tunes by the Grateful Dead and realised that he was a musician too. Since then I’ve bought a couple of David’s CDs directly from him and I’ve downloaded many live shows of his music, which incorporate his own songs, telling stories about life in America, love – of course, and, yes, Grateful Dead tunes too. He also creates entrancing soundscapes using his looper pedal – both in solo settings and in collaboration with many musicians from the jamband scene.
Life for an independent musician is tough  – tougher still in the current economic climate, so when I had the opportunity recently to support David by buying his latest “single”, I jumped at the opportunity. He has written and recorded a new song “Life is A Jam” with some interesting  musicians. The CD contains 3 versions of the song, each of which extends into a jam. Rather than waste words trying to describe the songs to you, let me just say that “Life Is A Jam’ is a jaunty tune linking life and music and jamming. If you are in search of “spiritual entrainment” as David sings, I suggest you check the 3 songs out. While there are some left, you can order the CD from here. (A download will be available very soon.)
The CD is a limited edition which was necessitated by needing some physical media to circulate to radio stations in the US. David decided to offset the cost of producing these CDs by offering the surplus to fans from his website. 
David has been kind enough to answer a few questions about the song, the recording and the CD.

I first asked David about the songwriting process: 
As is so often the case, I can’t really tell you how the song came into existence. There is a mysterious quality to songwriting that I cherish. But I can tell you that the basic rhythm of the “A” section (aka “the verse) derives from my love of Donna the Buffalo. I love Jeb Puryear’s grooves; this song began as an attempt to do something along those lines. It moved in its own direction, of course; once you start coming up with words, the rhythm mutates – a sort of co-evolution, you might say. At one point there were four more lines in the second chorus, but they fell by the wayside as the song solidified.
David had this to say about deciding to put the CD together:
I recorded it in December, when I found myself with a small wad of uncommitted cash. I have no hope of having the money to do a full CD any time in the near future, so I decided to record the one song. If make any money on this one, I’ll roll it into another “single.” The music business is more or less extinct at this point, so I might as well try my luck as a “singles” artist and see what happens. 
THE CD features one of my favourite guitar players, Mark Karan of Jemimah Puddleduck and Ratdog as well as keyboard player Mookie Siegel – a veteran of the jamband scene. I asked David how he chose the musicians for the project:
I chose these musicians because they’re all great! I have played with Mookie many times in various situations, and I have been a great admirer of the other guys’ playing. I offered them all a fairly standard day rate to do the session and we found a date that worked for everybody. I was confident that this group would work well together.  
The trick is to hire great players. I knew these guys would be able to make something good happen. 
 I asked David about the performance itself. he told me that, with the exception of the background vocals,  it was played live in the studio but recorded to multitrack, to allow mixing later:
We ran through the song several times, trying various grooves and textures. We did a few takes with a “jam in D” at the end, and we tried it a few times with a four-chord pattern derived from the “B” section of the song (resulting in nothing memorable), and we jammed in E minor a couple of times. I was gratified by the musicians’ attitude: no one was in a hurry to pack up and go, so we had plenty of time to develop a working relationship and ended the day with several worthwhile takes.
I asked David if this meant that the jams were planned in some way?
He said: Not really. Just the simplest – “stay in D this time,” or “Ease into a jam in E minor,” or “let’s try it with these four chords.”

The session was recorded at Megasonic Sound. David said:
The studio is fairly new, owned and operated by Jeremy Goody; I met him at his previous place of employment, Bay Records, where he engineered my 1998 single “Monica Lewinsky.”
A few days after the session, Jeremy and I listened to everything and made rough mixes of everything we thought might be a keeper. I spent some time reviewing the roughs, and then Jeremy and I made final mixes of the three takes that I released.
I’ve listened to the CD many times since it arrived in the post last week – I love the song itself and the sentiments in the lyrics. I love the jams too; each different, of course, but each full of moments when “The music plays the band” and each full of promise of what might happen next. For as long as David continues to produce interesting music I’ll continue to support him as much as I can. I hope you’ll do the same.

One response to “"Life Is A Jam" says David Gans

  1. I happen to be listening to a live version of this song right now. Played at “A Bear's Picnic” in Laurelton, PA on 14th August last year.

    It was recorded by our good friend John Bleich.

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