Keller Williams on Creating a One Man Jam Band: "I Couldn't Afford Humans. That's Where the Gear Came In"
The scene can arguably be traced back to the o.g. wave of 1960s psychedelia. The jam band circuit, as it exists today, fermented in the twin wake of North America's obsession with festivals, as sparked by Lollapalooza, and Phish's evangelical, Black Flag-like touring.
Williams is one of the genre's stalwart champions, his greatest contribution being the eclectic, hydraheaded nature of his output as engendered by bend-over-backwards versatility. He rose to fame for using gear to forge a singular path as the world's first One Man Jam Band. And he's held the Bonnaroo demographic's attention ever since with records covering everything from bluegrass to R&B, and sessions with some of the biggest Deadhead improvisers around.
In anticipation of Williams' upcoming concert at Revolution, we spoke to the axeman about the secret life of jam bands.
New Times: You have a reputation for your gear, and have been tagged "a one man jam band." In the early '90s, were you already in that mode or is that something that developed over time?
Keller Williams: The idea was to play music with a band and share that camaraderie with other people. Try to create a dance groove the natural way, with humans. But I couldn't afford humans. That's where the gear came in.
I imagine as equipment has become more sophisticated, your experience has evolved. What are some recent additions to your arsenal?
I've been using this little toy called a Kaossilator, a little handheld touchscreen synthesizer. It makes a lot of fun, interesting sounds. I've seen guitars come and go, y'know? Still waiting on a certain guitar from the Martin company and I'm excited about that.
Do you think digital integration is necessary for rock music to keep up? Is rock otherwise obsolete if it doesn't have new gadgets?
Oh, hell no! Absolutely not. Humans can achieve more interesting [results] than computers. It takes a human to program a computer. It starts with a human being.