From Spin; June 1999
Before hitting the road for his summer stadium shows, Dave Matthews talks about playing unplugged, paying for room service, and the Wu-Tang Clan
Spin: A few months ago, you released a live album from your acoustic tour. How did it feel to indulge your sensitive singer/songwriter side?
Dave Matthews: I hate the term “singer/songwriter.” It’s not like I sat there and strummed John Denver songs. It’s just different from the band—it wasn’t a fickle “look at me” thing.
Did the rest of the band miss you?
We’re together a hell of a lot more than most married couples so we’re not possessive about our time spent apart. We were going to take this time off anyway—that was just what I chose to do with mine.
Why not take a real vacation?
I love playing. I hate the idea of sitting on an island relaxing, with the sun beaming down on me. Well, maybe for four days—but on the fifth day I’d start going crazy.
You’re going to spend most of this summer on your tour bus. What’s it like?
They all seem very much the same. Country artists have the coolest buses ’cause they have the nice showers and bathtubs and double beds in the back. Ours is very luxurious—nicer than some houses I’ve lived in. It’s got a couple of lounges, a bed area, a little kitchen, and a little bathroom.
No, we don’t have anything like that. But we have a nice TV. A couple of nice TVs.
You often play to 60,000 fans a night. How does Dave Matthews keep it real?
Well, we’re not the types to shit on people because the coffee’s not warm or because there’s too much cheese in our dinner. But it helps to have people around who keep us in check. They’re the same people who’ve been working with us since we started. The sound guy did our first gig ever. I’ll say, “How did we sound tonight?” and he’ll go, “I wasn’t listening.” Also, I see myself naked. As soon as you see yourself naked, you just have to laugh.
After Elton John, you were the top-grossing live act of 1998. When is all that money too much money?
I don’t know. I put my fingers in my ears and go “ahhh” when anybody talks about it. I have to hire people who are concerned with money because I’ll be like, “Yeah, I’ll do that for ten bucks.”
What’s the most outrageous thing a fan has ever said to get backstage?
This girl told one of our lighting crew that if he let her backstage, she would let me take her up the back passage. That was interesting. But I don’t think she represents the larger demographic of our audience.
What’s your favorite live album?
I love The Last Waltz. Mostly, I get disappointed with live albums. They bring out different [sounds], like, “Oh, listen—it sucks!”
Did you worry about the quality of your live albums?
I can’t take my own perception too seriously, because I’m much more critical of myself than I am of anyone else. Something I’ve done is okay if I don’t projectile vomit while listening to it.
Ever think about doing a full-length concert film?
If we do, I want to be the person who gets caught with his pants down on the toilet when the bad people are looking for the good guy and they kick the door in. I want to be the guy who’s caught unprepared.
I won’t ask what you’d be doing with your pants down.
I’d be taking a shit is what I’d be doing! What do you do in public toilets? [laughs] At least if you do that, don’t tell me about it.
What drives you nuts about being on the road?
Paying cash for room service. It seems tiny, but we should always just sign for it. I’ve been told, “Well, your room is taken care of, but you have to pay for room service.” You have no idea how childish I get when I hear that.
Because you’re a rock star and your people pay for everything?
No, I pay for everything!
How long is too long a jam?
When it starts to suck. I think sometimes we go on a little bit long. [chuckles] Maybe.
When people get up to grab a hot dog?
Yeah, but we try not to ramble so it looks like nobody knows what they’re doing. I don’t like it when we get sucked into a black abyss onstage and everyone’s standing there looking confused—like, “What are they doing now? I guess this is my chance to sit down.”
Who’s your favorite member of the Wu-Tang Clan and why?
Um, Dirty Old Bastard? ‘Cause he’s the only one I know.
Stephan Jenkins or Rob Thomas?
Who are they?
From Third Eye Blind and Matchbox 20.
Sorry. [laughs] I don’t listen to the radio or watch MTV.
What’s the best gossip you’ve heard about yourself?
That I died of AIDS in Italy a few years ago. I don’t know if I could top that one.