With Neil Young, Beck, The Ben Folds Five, Toad the Wet Sprocket,
Squirrel Nut Zippers, Kula Shaker, Primus, Morphine and Cake Like on
board, this summer's H.O.R.D.E. tour may be the hottest ticket going.
Blues Traveler frontman and H.O.R.D.E. organizer John Popper sat down with
MTV News' Kurt Loder last weekend at Tinley Park, Illinois', New World
Music Theatre to see how this summer's tour is shaping up.
Kurt: Before you played this set with Neil today, had you
ever even talked to him before?
John: Uh, no actually.
Kurt: Just walked up on stage and played...
John: I saw him from afar when we were playing in Hershey
last year. And the other guys got to meet him but it was raining and they
wanted to keep me dry for some reason. And it was really cool that day
because we weren't sure if we could follow Neil and it was a real
challenge for us and I thought we did real well because he pushed us
really far.That's the great thing about this tour is that you wind up
going on after some really amazing bands so you better kick some butt. And
that was a really great day for that. And I got right in off the plane,
came straight here and he was going up on stage and I sorta' jumped
right up there uninvited and started puffin'.
Kurt: And it worked out really well.
John: Oh it was great. I was really suprised 'cuz, like I
was telling you before, I was pretty worried about what I was going to do.
Because he has a harmonica you see.
Kurt: That didn't deter you though.
John: Nope. No I just figured, try and find a spot. Find
a happy place.
Kurt: When H.O.R.D.E. started, you were among one of the
guys who were behind it. What did it start out to be? Was it a specific
John: You know, all the bands on the original year were
Phish, Widespread Panic, the Spin Doctors and The Aquarium Rescue Unit,
were all talking about, you know, we all hate playing indoors in the
summer and the only way to play would be to have a draw - and you know if
we teamed up maybe that'll be a great thing and we'd draw a big crowd.
We'd sorta' have travelled the farthest of all these bands. So we were at
home with Phish, and we knew Widespread real well and the Spin Doctors
were in New York where we were. I wound up being the one making a lot of
the calls. That was an interesing first year. It was eight really great
shows and we added on Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. And it was just a
really great show and the next year the people who wanted to do it
remembered that spirit and it was just a lot of fun. It was hang out with
really good bands in the summer and we were all learning from each other.
I mean The Aquarium Rescue Unit who had the smallest draw was the band
that when they would go on everybody would shut up and listen to them
because they were the best band I had ever heard in my life.
Kurt: World's oldest underground band actually. They've
been underground for so long.
John: Well, Colonel Bruce Hampton just, he lives
underground. I'd take a bullet for the Colonel.
Kurt: Now this years line-up is really, I think
especially in view to what's happening in the charts which is essentially
nothing, is really interesting 'cuz there are these bands, some of them
don't have guitars, what's going on with them? People searching for
alternatives kind of thing?
John: Well, our pre-requisite is good live music. We
wouldn't have a H.O.R.D.E. tour, we wouldn't do it if it was acts that
couldn't deliver live. And I think that uh, we were just saying "Who wants
to do it that hasn't done it yet?" And Primus, I was really psyched about
getting Primus because those guys jam from way back. And, Beck obviously
was a killer thing. We felt comfortable about leaving the tour when we
found someone like Neil who could headline it. With some authority, really
make it good. I was saying before when we were playing with the trains
that live music has its own value. If you want to come here, smoke a
little something, not that I'm telling you that it's...whatever you want
to do...you just show up and you just dance to the bands. I mean, it's a
lot of fun. It's something that's going to go in and out of style but will
always be there because this is American music. Just like the blues or
country music, it's going to be there forever. Rock and roll is here to
Kurt: Can you explain this sword you're carrying with
John: Well you know my motto is 'What's a H.O.R.D.E.
without a sword?' The first year where we called it the H.O.R.D.E.,
because I'm a big history buff, I was into the whole Ghengis Khan, Attila
the Hun thing and you know, Attila had a magic sword that supposedly fell
from heaven. Well this didn't fall from heaven, this is a 1862 Union Naval
Cutless. And, you know, it just looks kind of cool when your converging on
a town and you sorta feel like a pirate, it's nice to go...ARGH!!! And
it was a lot easier than a parrot because you don't have to feed this.
When your leading chants you know like...G...L...O...R...I...A, it's a
Kurt: Now when your going to get on a plane, I suppose
there are problems.
John: Well, you know, they weren't really thrilled with
me over at the old baggage check in. The real problem is this thing
(fingers vest) they think this thing is ticking or has some sort of
explosives in it. But you know, it's quite harmless, I assure you.
Kurt: You explain that its just a bunch of holstered
harmonicas and they say, 'Well pass then...'
John: And grappling hook, you never know when you have to
Kurt: So what's the most amazing thing you've seen on the
tour so far?
John: That train exhibit was brilliant. I mean really all
the tents, I think this is the best concourse we've ever had. That's why
I'm really glad you guys are here. I think people should just see it. If
we had no bands, this would be a nice museum exhibit anyway. But it's sort
of an interactive museum exhibit at that. But you throw in live music and
your talking about a days worth of fun. You're going to get your money's
worth here. I highly recommend it.
Kurt: Well, I think everybody'll be coming down. I thank
John: Thank you! You know I really appreciate you getting
down in the grass, back to nature, you know.
Kurt: Getting down is what it's about.