KindWeb recently chatted with Buddy Cage, longtime pedal steel guitarist of the New Riders of the Purple Sage. The New Riders are currently touring in support of the critically-acclaimed Where I Come From, their first studio album in twenty years.
1. KindWeb would like to congratulate you and the rest of the band on completing the new disc. It’s a fantastic record. There is an obvious high caliber of songwriting throughout Where I Come From. Many of the David Nelson/Robert Hunter collaborations are instant classics. The additional material from other members of the band is also topnotch. What are some of your personal favorites?
Thank you… thanks very much! It’s a blast. It was as much fun to record as ANY one I’ve worked on. I like "Ghost Train Blues," "Barracuda Moon," "Blues Barrel," "Carl Perkins [Wears the Crown]" a lot. I dug what I played… no more than one or two takes.
2. We understand that one of your motivations for leaving the original New Riders was the lack of new original material entering the band’s repertoire. Fast forward to the release of Where I Come From; what is Buddy Cage’s impression of having much-anticipated new NRPS songs to promote and interpret on the stage?
After eleven years…well, it’s everything for me. I’m not a songwriter like the other four guys. My original contributions come in the form of ‘serving the song’ with my steel interpretations. The interviews are driving me crazy; [Dennis] McNally has set up three, four, five of them a day. I put SO much into them [that] it really drains me after a week. But hell, Where I Come From is being played everywhere and I have received requests from SO many enthusiastic [disc jockeys], fans, writers… it’s exciting again! As to live performances, I create new stuff every night. I’m alive again!
3. Did you keep in touch with John [Dawson], David [Nelson], and other members of the original lineup after the band’s dissolution?
Of course, I call John [Dawson] every couple months down in Mexico. He doesn’t respond well to more than the occasional calls. He’s retired… he likes to keep tuned in on what we’re doing with his songs, but not an everyday thing. There are no other [surviving] members of the originals; Jerry [Garcia], Dave Torbert, and Spencer [Dryden] have picked up their hats and coats and split. They’re not with us anymore... in the corporal sense.
4. The current incarnation of the band sounds like it has been playing together for a long, long time. You guys have really gelled over the past four years. How does this lineup compare to your recollections of the ’71-’80 NRPS?
The comparison is in the CD. It’s your perception that counts. I can get to many other places with these guys. I play differently myself... with these newer situations and materials.
5. We had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Falzarano after his recent CD release and were delighted to see his name listed as both band-mate and producer on Where I Come From. What was it like working with him in the producer’s chair on the new disc?
Well, there was no such word applied as "work.’ [It] didn’t happen that way. Quick blasts in each little studio we used… one [or] two tunes… no more than one, two takes! In a matter of four or five sessions, we had ‘er done! It was fantastic! Michael is always an easy producer. He just lets the musicians take it out. "One more take? Oh, sure, just one more!"
6. Looking back over the band’s storied past to the present, who do you see as primary influences on the band as it exists today?
Everyone! …From James Brown to Bill Monroe, from Cindy Lauper to Ian Tyson, from the Tuvan Throat Singers to the Grateful Dead, from Led Zeppelin to Bukka White, from Miles Davis to Beethoven. Inspiration comes in all forms.
7. Off the top of your head, name a few of the relative newcomers on the music scene that have caught the attention of the New Riders.
Ryan Montbleau, Boris Garcia, Donna Jean [Godchauex]’s Band, Bob Dylan always… especially now with Robert Hunter co-writing.
8. Notwithstanding the cheap play on words, where do you see the New Riders heading after the Where I Come From tour?
No direction known… More shall be revealed.