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Jams Amplified: Mike Gordon 

Phish bassist Mike Gordon explores new realms of the strange and accessible in his solo work

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It seems like it's going to work out. 

That's the prevailing sentiment Phish bassist Mike Gordon shares as he speaks over the phone from Riviera Maya, Mexico, on the Yucatán Peninsula, where the long running jam band is slated to perform a special three-night set. Weather forecasts predicted lightning storms all three nights, but things seems to be clearing, Gordon says with relief. "I think it's going to be okay," he says. 

The show going smoothly is of particular importance to Gordon, who isn't set for much downtime once he returns to the States. Instead, he's hitting the road with his solo band: guitarist Scott Murawski and percussionist Craig Myers, with whom he's played for eight years, and newer additions to the lineup, organist Robert Walter and drummer John Kimock, who joined up "a little over a year ago."

Like his main band, the sound of Gordon's solo work is dense and difficult to classify. His 2014 album, Overstep, blended funk, soul, reggae, acid jazz and prog rock with complex harmonies and quirky lyrics—the kind instantly recognizable to Phish fans. But hitting the road with this current band feels like something new for Gordon.

"It's definitely gelling, but it's new enough that we can reinvent it and redefine it as needed, which is one of the funnest parts for me," Gordon says. "There's no rules, and we can give it a whole new spin. Well, you can only escape your personality so far, but I like the idea of evolving and taking some radical shifts each season." 

Following the band's first tour, Gordon felt like the group had honed in on a particularly satisfying sound, anchored in "soulful, funky, rootsy" stuff, but given to experimentation in line with the band's far ranging inspirations: electronic music, soundtracks, Krautrock and indie rock.

"By the end of the tour, there was stuff that was so good that I'm now writing songs for it," Gordon says. "That was only one tour. I think we're just getting going. It's exciting with that anything goes vibe."

The group went into the studio in September 2015 to experiment and write, and while Gordon's not entirely sure if they'll record a proper album, he's certainly not ruling the idea out. 

"It's not mandatory to use the exact band on the album or use a band name. However, there is a strong inclination to play with these people because of the way that we're experimenting together...I can't really predict [what will happen next]. I have all kinds of projects brewing, but I'm very eager to start working on some of the new things Scott and I have started," Gordon says.

He says his writing with Murawski is pushing in two directions, encompassing his most accessible songs and his strangest yet. "It's definitely a chance to stretch the limits," Gordon says. "Because everyone is so talented they can learn anything, but that doesn't mean we should play anything as weird and long-winded as it can be. It just means that there's a really great forum for exploring different territories." 

More by Jason P. Woodbury

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