Mickey Hart

For his latest album, former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart collaborated with scientists from NASA and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to convert light waves from outer space into music. Hart joins us to talk about his varied career and to discuss his efforts to tap into the rhythm and vibrations of the universe. His new album with the Mickey Hart Band is “Mysterium Tremendium.”

Interview Highlights

On his new album:

“These are not new sounds. These are probably the oldest sounds in the universe… It’s all about the awe. When you meet some spiritual, sacred demention or something completely other, you know, that from reality, and that would be the Mysterium Tremendium.”

“The thought of going back to the beginning of the story, where the beat began, where the rhythm began, where the universe began, where some creational force put his foot down and made beat one, was too sexy and irrestible for a rhythmist not to investigate.”

On working with sick children and his character Drumbohead:
“I really don’t instruct when I go in. We become one and we try to pulse together. I really don’t talk too much. I put the red nose on and suddenly I’m from the planet Drum. ‘I’m really happy to be here on my first day on this planet. I really like your planet.’ I just try to create something other and they just start to drum, they start to pulse, and as they start to pulse, their face lights up with hope and the pains go away, for a while anyway. And it reinvigorates them and sometimes it reconnects them…it’s not about drums and drumming it’s about the rhythym and what the rhythm does neurologically.”

On playing at the Fillmore:
“It’s not quite like the old Fillmore. It doesn’t smell the same, it doesn’t look the same. But yeah, it’s kind of a nice feeling, going back to where we were birthed, as it were.

On politics, Nancy Pelosi, and Jared Huffman:
“There’s an environmental bend to all of this, and a health bend as well. And so these people are pushing that agenda and I will support them as long as they do that. I’ve known Nancy for 30 years and Jared is an up and comin’ and he’s going to do some really good work in D.C. I mean, you have to make a difference, you have to work for change or else it will just change on its own. Remember Wes ‘Scoop’ Nisker — ‘If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.'”

Advice on Drugs:
“Moderation — you should consider that in anything you do. And know your sources. That’s another thing — if you are going to experiment with psycho-active drugs or whatever, know where you’re getting it from… I knew the chemist. He actually worked for me. And so I knew exactly what I was doing, everytime I did it. There was no guess work, we were professionals at this. So it’s different with me — I never bought drugs on the street or anything. I wouldn’t do that. It’s too dangerous, who knows what you’re getting?”

On collaborating with Zakir Hussain:
“Zakir Hussain is probably the most developed person on the planet, rythymically speaking. He comes from a long tradition of drummers, [his] father, Alla Rakha was my teacher back in 1967 and kind of introduced me to all the intricacies of the grove. I brought that back to the Grateful Dead and we changed from a blues band into the Grateful Dead. Very, very influential his father. His father — soft, older gentleman, he said ‘My son, he could play with you and you will enjoy it.’ So he brought Zakir to California when he was a kid, 17 I think, and we lived together and that’s where our relationship started. He says that I got him funky, taught him to relax and to breathe as opposed to playing so perfectly. And I wonder what I could have taught Zakir… but we had passion and we loved each other and so we created some historic works over the years.”

On the healing power of music:
It’s four words — it’s the rhythm stupid. You know, that’s what I always say to anyone and myself as well. It all goes back to that. We are rhythm machines, embeded in a universe of rhythm . It stands to reason that there has to be some resonance with all of that.

Mickey Hart, percussionist, musicologist and former member of The Grateful Dead

  • USARunByCrooks

    Has everyone from the 60’s and 70’s hippy scene lapsed into irrelevance?
    The world economic system is crashing, the Syrians are about the instigate the next World War, the major banks are bankrupt but powerful like never before, but this fellow is making music from starlight? Reminds me of what has happened to Burning Man.

    • Guest

       I’m sorry we can’t all be as miserable and depressed as you.

      • USARunByCrooks

         I’m not miserable or depressed. I’m a realist. When Mussolini was in power in Italy, I am sure there were Italians who were like you, insisting on living in a bubble. That’s irresponsible.

    • Gerda

      Getting caught up in the turmoil of the world around us is easy – especially with the media reminding us instantly and regularly how miserable our world is. Making music from starlight requires creativity and thinking outside of the box – something our world needs an extra helping of on a daily basis.

      • USARunByCrooks

         Actually the media hides the worst of it. They tell you what the 1% wants you to know, because the 1% owns the media.

  • Christopher jette

    Would love to hear Micky address the specific technologies that enable his sonifications?  Are you working with soundfiles or lists and arrays?

  • Diane

    This feels like it should be an interesting subject… but it’s not, through the the Micky Hart filter. Too earth biscuit-y & self-indulgent. Changing stations now, I’m bored.

    • Unme

      Your comment…Diane…is exponentially more self indulgent than this program…try thinking first, and remaining silent second.

  • Maribeth Sands

    A little story about drumming. I will NEVER forget what a friend told me about his time in the Peace Corps many years ago. He described how he could hear the drums at night as they traveled all the way around Lake Malawi in Africa. This was how the villages communicated with each other. Although I could only imagine what it must have sounded like, it still had a profound impact upon my psyche.

    Keep drumming Mickey!

  • Mimi Schreiber

    I would like to hear more about his work with chronic diseases, specifically Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  Has he interested anyone in clinical research?

  • ForumProducer

    Here is a link to the video of Mickey leading an attempt to break the world record for the largest drum circle: http://bit.ly/JOOLPL.

  • Mimi

    WOW!  does he have a name in SF (UCSF by chance?).  I work at Senior Access and we have a daytime social club for folks with memory loss and would love to engage with a specialist in the field.

  • Usfifty

    I was trained at massage school to entrain our rhythms with the patient’s, and the rhythms would vary depending on collaborative moods etc. You discuss that we all have a rhythm do you feel that this rhythm is altered by what is going on physically, emotionally etc., or that it is more fixed in nature. 

    Thanks for all you do, long time fan, met in Ann Arbor in ’97 at your book signing.

  • Randy

    I was going through the loss of my lover leaving me.  I thought I could/would never be happy again.  That was when “Touch of Grey” was everywhere, and this was even more as I am in the Bay Area.  I would stand there with tears streaming down my face, singing, in tune, with the song!  It really helped pull me through! 
    Thank you Mikey and Co.

  • EM

    25 years ago today I woke
    up from brain surgery with “Touch of Grey” playing in my head.  I had no idea yet what had happened to me,
    but I did survive, like the song says, and have a wonderful life.  Thank you

  • Juneja Ranjan

    Can someone tell me the name of the album, a part of which they played as “Heart of the Sun” ? Thanks

  • ForumProducer

    Mickey gave Michael a drum to help him discover his rhythm. He’s working on it Mickey! http://on.fb.me/OhuWrj 

  • Scaryfinger

    He should stick to music and leave science to the scientists.  A lot of his thoughts are valid, that music has healing power, that it celebrates life and spirit.  But that it’s due to ‘energy’ and ‘vibrations’?  Too much woo.

  • noname

    Anyone know where the recording of Bertha Michael Krassney played comes from?

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