I would imagine that senate campaigns are an ugly time for ugly questions. What is your least favorite interview question?
Are people going to take you seriously. I didn’t mind it when I started and it seemed like a good question. But a year and a half later, after getting the DFL endorsement, raising millions from over 100,000 people, and winning the Democratic primary, I still get asked it from reporters in interviews. The answer is still yes. I’m talking about change, and I think that’s something people take seriously.
I’ve heard that you’re a Grateful Dead fan. How has the Dead impacted your life? Or how has music in general impacted your life?
Yes, I’m a big Deadhead. I remember when I started my radio show I told everybody I was going to use only the Grateful Dead for bumpers, and my co-host Katherine Lampher said, “why would you do that—it just pegs us as 60s liberals.” And I said, “I just like the music.” It brings me tremendous pleasure and inspiration, and I’ve now gotten Sirius radio in the campaign car, which has a station that just plays Dead music. I think my staff wishes Sirius didn’t have a Grateful Dead station, but it does.
Do you remember where you were when Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995?
I got a call from my daughter, who was at an arts camp and she called me about 10 in the morning and said “Daddy, is it true?” I was just bummed out for the rest of the day and I remember that night Ted Koppel dedicated a whole Nightline to Jerry. And he admitted he had no idea who he was or what the Dead were about. But nevertheless, he spent the rest of the half hour finding out. I had taken my daughter, who was 14 at the time, to a number of Dead shows, and she met Jerry at a show in 1994. He was an amazing guy and music just flowed from him.
How many congressmen are Grateful Dead fans? How many can we suspect are closet Deadheads? Do you think Norm Coleman jams to “Sugar Magnolia” late at night in the bunker I can only assume he has built beneath his house?
I know Pat Leahy [Senator from Vermont] is a Deadhead. I would imagine that out of the 534 other members of Congress there are quite a few, although I doubt they’re in the closet. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to be a Deadhead. And I’m sure Norm Coleman will tell you all about “Sugar Magnolia” himself when you interview him.
What is your favorite album at this time?
I listen to very little actual contemporary music these days—[just the] Sirius Dead channel. And I don’t have one favorite album of all time. Obviously, American Beauty is one of them. But so is In a Silent Way, and I just love Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, which I listened to a lot when my father was passing. Derek and the Dominos were good.
“It was such a mob scene that I got pushed into the girl in front of me who had a camel hair coat. And I had braces. And the braces got stuck in her coat. They started to close the doors and everyone started pushing forward and she fell down and I went right down with her. This was rock and roll.”
How do you feel about Internet piracy?
This is a complicated issue—we’re finding our way as the technology changes and morphs. On the one hand, I don’t like it. I think that intellectual property needs to be protected. On the other hand, I want information, including artistic expression, to be as free-flowing as possible. Radiohead’s doing some interesting things, the Dead used to let people tape their concerts and exchange them. They felt once the music was out there, it was everybody’s. But that was easy for them to say, because they just kept producing an endless stream of improvisational music.
There has been a lot of change in the industry in recent years, for good or ill. Where do you see the music industry in five years?
There’s a push and pull of things being owned by large corporate entities, versus a democratization of music because of new technology. I think if I were more conversant in today’s music, I’d probably be more conversant in this issue. And I’d be very interested in looking into, say, what the Commerce Committee can do in the Senate to make sure that we still keep the music industry and new music vital, and dare I say, happening. Do I sound terribly old? I do? Oh.
Do you think that there is any place for censorship in music today?
I think that depends on what you mean. Obviously, children shouldn’t be exposed to things that are terribly inappropriate. So the government has a role in ensuring that doesn’t happen on the public airwaves. But basically, music has always been a way of presenting new and important ideas and the fewer restrictions put on that, the better.
What was the first concert you ever attended?
The first concert I attended was Lou Christie. I was 14 years old and he had a hit out, “Lightin’ Strikes.” And I went with my friend Dave Griffen to Dayton’s—the big department store downtown—to see the singer-songwriter [who] had a number of pop hits in the 60s. It was during the winter, and it was such a mob scene that I got pushed into the girl in front of me who had a camel hair coat. And I had braces. And the braces got stuck in her coat. They started to close the doors and everyone started pushing forward and she fell down and I went right down with her. This was rock and roll.
Do you have any secret talents?
Yes—although it’s not such a big secret anymore. I can draw all 48 contiguous states from memory. In two minutes.
How would you describe the music scene here in the Twin Cities?
From what I understand, it’s an amazing scene here. Unfortunately, and with the exception of a Trampled By Turtles New Year’s Eve concert, I haven’t had the time to enjoy any of it.
Do you have any final thoughts, comments, or advice to our readers?
Vote. For me.