THAT’S PART OF THE UNSPOKEN EMOTION COMING FROM THE STAGE THE LAST FEW TIMES I’VE SEEN YOU. THE PEOPLE’S REACTION IS PALPABLE. IT SEEMS LIKE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS YOU’RE THE HOUSE BAND FOR A CLOSE-KNIT COMMUNITY. There is a communal kind of thing going on, for sure. If we play something like Muddy Waters’s “Got My Mojo Working,” you see it in the crowd: there’s a tribal thing taking place. I feel like I’m the drummer of the tribe, and we’re creating a vibe. I like the hypnotic effect of the repeated riff on that song and “Shake Your Hip,” by Slim Harpo. It takes me somewhere. I hardly drink anymore, and I don’t do drugs or anything like that. But I’ll tell you, I really do get high off of it. Sounds corny, but the other guys feel the same. They get into some kind of trance, and we feel lucky we’re able to get to that special kind of place.
IS IT DIFFERENT FROM THE DAYS OF LARGER CLUBS, MORE YOUTHFUL AUDIENCES, AND LOUDER MUSIC? Sure it is. I think I’m having more fun now, though. Back then it was 1000 people at the Living Room — there was something crazy about that. Those were fun days, though. Local bands were taken as seriously as the national acts. Press, radio, clubs — there was a professional aura about the scene. Record companies would come and see bands playing to several hundred people, and these were several hundred people who knew the words to the songs. Now it’s good if you get 50 people in a place. Seems like time is of the essence now. These gigs I’ve been doing the past few years, they feel very special to me, and I think it’s because I’m doing it for the reasons we should have been doing ’em all along. You gotta do it for love, not for some payoff.
HAPPILY, YOU WERE PART OF A FEW BANDS THAT DID HAVE A PAYOFF. YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A DIFFERENT METRIC FOR SUCCESS AT WORK THESE DAYS? Yeah, if it’s a good gig, and people are having a great time, and I’m sweating, and I’m hovering six inches over the floor — that levitation thing when it’s all going right — that’s all I need.
THE ’80S ROCK SCENE IN PROVIDENCE SEEMED UNUSUALLY FRUITFUL. WAS IT REALLY, OR DO WE ROMANTICIZE IT? ARE THERE LOTS OF TALENTS AROUND THESE DAYS? I’d say yes. I’m not familiar with all of ’em, but that’s the feeling I get. There’s an Olneyville scene, some good bands in the East Bay. Six Star General, Von Doom, others. I don’t know if they want to become rock stars . . . maybe they do. But they create guerilla gigs, like we do. The Penalty Box and Nick-a-Nee’s — we’re setting up on the floor, we don’t care. I look at pictures of Howlin’ Wolf playing in the corner of a grocery store, and I feel part of that tradition. Proud to be part of it, too.
THEN THERE’S THE GREENWICH HOTEL AND YOU RECENTLY PLAYED AT DAN’S IN WEST GREENWICH — IT’S ALMOST LIKE AN INTRA-RHODE ISLAND ROLLING THUNDER REVUE. Ha! Plus, there’s no pressure. No one’s saying, “How much money are we going to make on you guys?” We’ll all make money and we’ll all have a good time. I love the Greenwich Hotel, playing in that window, and that horseshoe bar. It’s like The Shining meets Ironweed.