[4 June 2008]
Trey Anastasio (left) and Tom Marshall (right) perform together
CAMDEN, NJ—Phish lyricist Tom Marshall, Trey Anastasio’s longtime friend and writing partner, said in an exclusive interview Tuesday that “Trey wants Phish to come back.”
Marshall announced that he has been writing and recording with Anastasio at the Phish frontman’s personal Rubber Jungle studios in Saratoga Springs, New York “for the past four months.”
“I think Phish is his baby,” said Marshall, speaking backstage after Dave Matthews Band’s Tuesday concert at Camden’s Susquehanna Bank Center. “It’s not like there are people preventing it from coming back, it’s just that the landscape has to be right for it to come back.”
“I’ve always been hopeful in expecting a Phish,” continued Marshall. “I think if the stars align and everything works out there will be. I don’t think they will ever be a huge touring band.”
All members of Phish—Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon and keyboardist Page McConnell—appeared together at the Jammy Awards in New York on May 7 to accept a lifetime achievement award. Although Phish did not perform, Anastasio made a cameo appearance on-stage, performing a cover of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with a group of various artists.
On May 21, Anastasio received a reduced sentence of three years’ probation for a 2007 drug conviction after completing a counseling and treatment program in Washington County, New York. Anastasio faced class D felony charges after he was arrested in Whitehall, New York in December 2006 with prescription medications prescribed to another person, including hydrocodone, Percocet and Xanax.
“As one of his close friends, I’ll say he’s extremely happy,” said Marshall of Anastasio following last week’s ruling. “He’s come out the other side of this in the best way that someone can come out.” Marshall believes that Anastasio has “learned a lot” from his recent legal and personal issues. “It’s immeasurable what he’s learned,” said Marshall.
Anastasio is slated to perform his first major public concert since his 2006 arrest on July 4th weekend at the inaugural Rothbury festival in Rothbury, Mich. Two other Phish members, drummer Jon Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon are also set to make appearances, albeit with separate acts.
Marshall was elated about his recent work in the studio with Anastasio. “We’re on our fourteenth, fifteenth song in like two months,” said Marshall. “We’re extremely productive and got the drive again. I have the old Trey back, which is incredible.”
When pressed about where these new songs will end up, Marshall said they “could take a left turn into the Trey Anastasio Band or a straight turn to Phish.”
“(Trey) is just excited and happy to be done with his legal problems,” said Marshall. “It’s almost like we’re in 8th grade again.” Marshall, who began writing with Anastasio during adolescence while attending New Jersey’s Princeton Day School together, has penned over ninety original songs for Phish.
During their recent sessions, Marshall said he sometimes plays drums and Anastasio, widely considered one of rock’s best guitarists, will even play the bass guitar at times during the writing and recording process. Marshall said that he and Anastasio “have a new energy, a spark.”
“It’s spilling out of us. We’re both look wide-eyed when something meshes up because it’s meshing up a lot better these days then it did when we were under the fog, under the haze,” said Marshall. “We’re not in the haze. We’re just moving forward, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”
Marshall said that he and Anastasio have not brought other Phish members into the studio, yet. “We haven’t done that in the past and we work best when there are no distractions. When we write, we write together. What happens with songs after that is up to Trey, really.”
“Reforming something like (Phish) has so many pieces, it’s a very complex, three-dimensional, four-dimensional, jigsaw puzzle,” said Marshall, adding “No one wants Phish back more than Trey.”
Robert Costa is a reporter in Bucks County, Pa.