Publish date:

Backstage Pass: Keep the beat with the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart

For years, Mickey Hart's complex drum patterns provided the groove for the Grateful Dead's exploratory jams. Today, Hart is boldly beating out a brand-new rhythm on the forefront of a world music revolution with his Global Drum Project.

Powered by a sense of adventure and innovation, as well as a healthy respect for the backbeat of American rock ?n? roll, Mickey Hart was, indeed, the pumping heart that beat inside the chest of The Grateful Dead.

His complex drum patterns provided the groove for the Dead?s exploratory jams, but at the same time, he did a great deal of experimenting on his own.

After Jerry Garcia died in 1995, the Dead was laid to rest with him, and Hart, who had released a solo album in 1972 called Rolling Thunder and produced the Diga Rhythm Band, continued the ethnomusicology studies he?s pursued for decades.

Fascinated by the variety of rhythms found all over the globe, Hart has been at the forefront of a world music revolution, birthing such acclaimed works as Planet Drum and the soundtrack for ?Apocalypse Now.? In 2007, Hart teamed with longtime co-conspirator Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain, Nigerian talking drum virtuoso Sikuru Adepoju and conga expert Giovanni Hidalgo for Global Drum Project.

The result is a mesmerizing journey into world music?s heart of darkness, blending acoustic rhythms and electronica into one of the year?s most spellbinding works.

Global Drum Project represents another progression for you as an artist, exploring moods and trance-like environments and movements. Why did it make sense now to make that kind of an album?

Mickey Hart:
Well, that?s a good question. [It was] the right time, you know. I waiting for the time where we could dance with these machines, so that we could accomplish this extreme processing onstage in real time, and we were using these new processors to compose with, as opposed to post-production. We have the archaic world of membranes ... it all comes from acoustic source. You could call it processed percussion, just like the others, but this is more advanced, because the machines are smarter, so we?re able to have an intelligent conversation with them now. So, the processing now becomes the instrument, as opposed to doing it afterwards.