TR3 - Watch It

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
TR Speaks From Space & Beyond

Tim Reynolds Speaks From Space And Beyond

By Sam Davis

For many years, Tim Reynolds has been known as the guitar virtuoso closely associated with Dave Matthews. But those aware of his Matthews collaborations may be less familiar with his solo project TR3, which dates back to the mid-80s. This summer, Reynolds and TR3 played sets at the DMB Caravans while also releasing their first live album called From Space and Beyond, which captures three live performances recorded in November of 2009. Shortly before closing out the final DMB Caravan this weekend at Randall’s Island in NYC, Reynolds took the time to chat with about the new live release, his approach to songwriting and how he made the transition to a full-time DMB member.

What inspired you to finally release a live album with TR3 after all these years?

Just the way the band has been playing live and getting into a groove. In ’09 we’d been playing for about two years, pretty steady, and we worked up a repertoire of songs—mostly originals and some covers. It’s just the fun we’ve been having…we’re still having a lot of fun playing. So I thought let’s record some gigs, get three gigs recorded, and not play every set the same—but have a lot of stuff to look at and draw upon. It was just the band getting glued together and it was really good fun.

So you went into the shows knowing they were being recorded for a future release?

Yeah, you try not to think about it when you’re playing. That’s why it’s good to do more than one so you don’t feel the pressure. You feel some, but not as much. We recorded three gigs, and most of it we ended up taking from the Chicago gig, which I didn’t think was going to turn out very well because it was the first one. Sometimes you think, “Well that’s where we’ll be getting our feet wet,” but other times, the first gig sets a lot of fresh energy that you don’t know about until you hear it back.

How did you assemble the song selection heading into these shows? Were you focusing on more classic material or did you bring some newer songs to the table as well?

Both, really. This year, we’ve been working on a lot of new songs—we’ve probably got about seven or eight at this point—but we try not to just play those. I mean, we play for two and a half hours so sometimes we try to play all of it in one night. We don’t assume that people know all of our music, so that’s why we play covers as well. It’s fun just to play different music.

TR3 has been around since 1984 and in that time there has been a rotating cast of players who have come and go. How do you feel about the current lineup and is it more solidified?

Well that was more from the 80’s in Charlottesville with the original version of TR3. The current lineup has been together for about four years now. In Charlottesville, it rotated a lot back in the day. Not at the beginning, but as time went on someone wouldn’t be able to make it and we’d find someone else.

When I moved to New Mexico I started getting into some harder music and wanted to break away and not use the TR3 name anymore. So we had different names every week…Puke Matrix was one of the names, then we called it the Electric Power Trio…so that brought a whole different element to the band. At first it wasn’t the idea of having TR3, it was just having a live rhythm section because I’d been using drum machines. But immediately, when I heard the first tape, I realized there was this whole different thing going on. It’s a beautiful thing and they’re all great people to be on the road with.

Does the band collaborate on the songwriting or do you bring most of the songs to the band yourself?

I still write a lot of songs. I just have a neurotic, schizophrenic need to write music and they really just go with it. But they also bring their own input—they’ll learn some of the older songs with the drum machine as a guideline and then create parts from that. I guess it gets better every year.

Like this year, learning all these new songs…we’re learning this one kind of metal song that has a double bass drums all through the song going [drums on table]. All of sudden, Dan was just killing it on the double bass pedal. We’re always learning from each other and I’m just psyched that it’s evolved.

This TR3 almost went through a similar cycle as the previous TR3. We started playing roots rock like Hendrix and Bob Marley and some blues stuff and then we upped it to progressive rock in about two or three years. A similar thing has happened with this band—we started out learning simpler things just to have stuff to learn…some of the early TR3 songs were very rooty with one lick through the song. Now we’re getting into more expanded arrangements and it comes easy after doing more songs like that. I’m just loving having that expression.

How do you approach your own songwriting?

Well, I’ve been doing it since grade school and they come in different ways. Some songs, you just get an idea walking down the street, sing a couple lyrics and it’s done. And then some songs take a while because you’re not satisfied with how it is. We just learned a song that I’ve been working on for quite a while. They really come depending on the inspiration for the song—it’s really different. Mostly it’s the music first, but some songs it’s the vocal first…it’s no longer a set thing. With a band, it’s more flexible because you can come up with a simple idea and bring it to the band and after a couple hours you got all the other stuff.

For acoustic it’s a little more drawn out because it’s more technical. I’ll come up with a couple of different parts and I make a lot of spontaneous recordings like “I’ll make this recording and then come back to it later,” then I’ll put all those ideas on a CD. It just takes longer to sift through all the ideas so I haven’t really written as many acoustic pieces and I’ve only done about a week of acoustic tours this year. I had time for writing two songs but it just takes more time because it involves more head process. But with the band it just comes from the gut.

So are you straying from writing acoustic music these days?

Not intentionally. I still play acoustic all the time and I still have a lot of things I want to get back to. But just because most of the gigs this year have been with a band, I guess just the reality of that dictates what I’m writing. If I’m playing a lot of band dates I want to write a lot of music with that band because then I’ll get to play it. Earlier in the year I just did about a week and half of acoustic gigs and I was only able to write two full songs before that, and now boom! we’re doing [the Caravan]. I just like to write either way…but I hope to get back to writing more acoustic stuff.

You mentioned that you’ve written a lot of songs this year already. Do you have plans to enter the studio now that the live album has been released?

Definitely, as soon as possible. With so much touring going on right now, I realize that the next record won’t be done in one visit. Radiance was done in one week…we had all the songs ready, we mixed all the songs and it was done. With the next record, I don’t know if I’m going to have a week to do that. But we have enough songs, so I’ll probably have to do it in pieces. With the live album out there’s no hurry, but I’m psyched that we have a lot of new material. I’d like to have time to just go into the studio and just improvise and let the studio be the inspiration ‘cause I have enough songs to make a whole record—it just changes what you do.

An example to me of how that works is Radiohead’s first couple albums were just three guitars—awesome fucking guitars. And then as they progressed, they were just like “let’s turn the guitars down and see what we can do.” Then they started getting into [makes eerie noises] weird sound and I love that. When I lived in New Mexico I had a professional recording studio and I did a lot of recording at home and after a while you just get into “I’m not going to play guitar, I’m just going to do some other shit and see what that sounds like.” You always get off on that because it’s not the regular thing. So I’m hoping to get into that space too just to write music. To me that’s the best thing.

It’s funny because playing is great but writing is like creating a story and it’s kind of the same any time you play it. But whenever you play it live, it always sounds a little different—because you play it in front of different people. Even when you play it in the same club two times, one year you play and then the next time it’s a totally different experience. Sometimes a few people can bring out a different energy, like we played a gig in Arcata, CA and there was a small group of people there that had such a great time, and we had a great time. It was the first gig we had played after we played the Gorge, which was a lot of people. But we realized it was just as fun because this small group was just as enthusiastic. It was really intimate and I was talking a lot of shit to them and they were getting high. It was really fun.

How do you feel working with Dave has affected your own songwriting?

I don’t really know consciously, but I’m sure unconsciously just the expression of your soul. He just writes some great songs and I’m always inspired to write a song that has something to say or projects a feeling. He has some great songs and he’s just inspiring.

After working with Dave for so many years, what finally to the decision to become a full-time member of DMB?

It’s kind of an organic process. I had moved back to the outer banks and [my manager] Hugh called and said they wanted me to work on their new record. It was kind of a result of that—going into the touring cycle based on that album. It just seemed like a nice thing to do after being in New Mexico for 10 years doing my own thing. I also realized that in years past, they used to just tour so much and I didn’t really want to make a commitment to that because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do anything on my own—and I really needed to do that for my own personal expression.

But at the time, which was three or four years ago, they pretty much just toured in the summer. But since I’ve been doing it, they’ve toured a lot more than just that. We try to make space to do my gigs…this year has been great because we’ve been able to do a lot of gigs. I’m hoping to keep it going next year. It’s always just a matter of working out the schedules.

How have you been enjoying the different format with the Caravan shows?

It’s been fun being able to do TR3 gigs with larger audiences, depending on the show and being able to see some of my favorite bands. Like to see The Flaming Lips twice, Black Dub and fucking Devotchka…fuck! I really love Devotchka’s one album called How It Ends, it’s one of my favorite albums, but I never heard or knew what they were like live. I wasn’t ready for how awesome it was live. To me, one of the deepest things would be to see someone like Peter Gabriel who just grabs your soul and tears it inside out. As soon as the guy in Devotchka started singing I was like, “Oh, yes!” I love it when you get that kind of input because that makes your soul ready to play for another 20 years—if you can get one show like that. And The Flaming Lips was like that and Daniel Lanois and Trixie Whitley with Black Dub, that did it for me. It just brings you back to the same thing. I didn’t know Devotchka was on that bill at the Gorge but when I saw I was like “Devotchka?! No fuckin’ way! Fuckin’ A!” It killed me. It’s so different, I mean try to describe it somebody…

How did the rescheduled Randall’s Island shows go?

Well I didn’t know it would be so quick, but it’s pretty amazing. We had to cancel a couple gigs on the West Coast, but it was great to be able to play on all four of the shows. It’s all kind of the oneness of any day you get on stage and play music—that’s just the most free moment of any day of your life.

Warren Haynes has joined DMB for a couple of songs this summer. You two seem to have a fairly close chemistry…

It’s always great—he’s my total guitar brother. I love playing with him, he’s got so much soul. I’m always feeling like “you’ve got such great tone and I have shit tone,” because he’s got tone of the ages. He was playing through these amps that weren’t even his and he came up to me after and said “I can’t get a sound out of the amp!” But I said “you have your sound, you can play through any amp and it’s going to sound like you.” I mean I would feel the same way if I played through an amp I wasn’t used to. It’s just so free and there’s no competitive thing. It’s just…play.

So what are the upcoming plans for DMB and TR3?

Well there’s a few acoustic gigs with Dave, and I’m sure DMB is going to hit it hard next year, but the rest of the year is mostly TR3 gigs. We’re going to Florida and Georgia next month. Our tour kicks off in October down in Florida. I’m very excited…