|"Hi it's Dave Matthews" he says in a laid, husky drawl, like he's just rolled over out of a deep sleep and offered to make you coffee; like a strokeable and warm Jack Bauer. Ya, welcome to my sexual fantasy. And my musical fantasy. And my intellectual fantasy. Wait - a sexual fantasy about a musician, driven by his intellectual prowess and involving coffee being delivered to me in bed... I believe I've found true love.|
After listening to him flirting live with cheering crowds of thousands of fans, I'm anticipating a slick orator who'll force-fit prepped answers onto any questions and keep everything "on message" (famous musicians mostly do this). Instead Dave made his every point very thoughtfully, even if it meant lots of "uhms", "ahhs" and "sort ofs".
Silence is rare because Dave doesn't just sing in run-on lines, he speaks in them too. As he picks his way carefully though his answers, it feels like you're really getting know him.
So what is it like to be number one on the Billboard charts yet again - to be king of the USA, to be selling albums at a time when CD sales are plummeting? Well it's exciting, he says, but it means less to the band than just getting a good album out, "Although we didn't necessarily wanna finish it, because it was so much fun in the making."
Dave talks of the Dave Matthews Band (DMB) like a second family - most things are "we", not "I". And when I ask about the time he first remembers playing music, he's humorously dismissive of everything that came before the band.
"Other than being an idiot, I didn't really play or perform," he claims. "I think there was a school play. I think we did Grease once when I was in the equivalent of what would be standard five, but then I wasn't one for 'after-school-activities'. I had a band when I was living in South Africa but we didn't do much except drink beer."
But DMB "...sort of became my religion or whatever" he says, the first music worth "forcing our into people's lives with". Before I realise how insensitive the question is, I ask how a band that's made up so much of its members is likely to change now that sax player LeRoi Moore is gone.
"He's a dear friend of mine, so his absence musically is not as big a concern for me as his absence on a personal level." Dave feels that the musical philosophy LeRoi brought to the band as a founding DMB member who spent most of his career alongside Dave will live on in the band - in the improvisational approach. "I think the band has managed to maintain its original goal, which is quite free form. We have songs, but we move around within those songs." With Jeff Coffin (formerly of Flecktones) replacing 'Roi, he admits the sound will change without 'Roi's voice, but explains: "if you play every gig as if you know you were going to be run over by a truck after it's over, if it stays the same and the quality of musicianship is the same, and it sounds different, then I hope the sound will still have the same urgency to it."
"Big Whiskey - which is recorded partly with LeRoi, and partly with Jeff - is very vital, very full of life..." I say, trailing off with all the trepidation of a fan girl who's terrified she's hurt her hero's feelings. "For me, death can be another reason to fight on," Dave explains. "I think if we embrace the fact that we're gonna end up in a hole, with flies buzzing around our eyes then the tiny blink of time we get here becomes even more precious."
Next he explains "Groogrux King", the nickname DMB remember LeRoi by in the new album's title. Groogrux is a word meaning "cool" that Tim, Carter and LeRoi invented as kids in Charlottesville, which somehow stuck to LeRoi, whose name is French for The King. And Big Whiskey? "Big Whiskey was a drunk man in New Orleans near the famous jazz hangout Preservation Hall, stumbling in the streets, screaming 'I wanna big whiskey'. And my trumpet player said 'Big Whiskey - that's a great name for a record.' So we just tied them together and it sounded good. A grown-up fairytale in a way."
Speaking of grown-up fairytales: the first time I heard of Dave Matthews was on lefty NY-based website Salon.com, where the writer described him as a sex symbol, in some detail. He sounded like my perfect prince back then. Does it bother him that every second straight politico chick in the world wants to take him to bed, and talk to him about death?
"Sex seems a good thing to sing about? I don't know if I sing about being alive and that always ends up having something to do with politics." He thinks for a bit, then continues: "So I sing about love, lack of love, and sex because it's a good distraction and because... um... we're all beasts. And death, because it ties us all together. I just try and dig around inside the refuse inside of me and see if I can find anything to say."
Don't we all, Dave, don't we all.
We're running out of time, so I've got mere minutes to deliver the many marriage proposals I've been asked to convey to him from friends, colleagues and followers on Twitter. His answer is a polite "Oh that's nice!"
But "no", of course, is the answer to the popped question. So I beg Dave to make us feel a bit better about not sharing his bed, by telling us about all his worst qualities.
He laughs and obliges in a playful growl, making every character flaw even more seductive than it already is: "I'm horribly selfish. I'm ummm ummm... I'm filthy. You know... but that's a good quality... And I sweat to an almost unnatural degree. Mainly from my head. And uh... what other poor qualities? I have very small toes. I have small toes. That's not great. There's a long list. I'm trying to think of the least appealing... parts of things. Um. I'll eat anything. I've got that going for me. And for as long as it takes. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing."
Is that it? Yes, that's it. "I hope you've found something in my responses that's worth scribbling down," he smiles, "Otherwise you could just publish an unflattering picture of me and scribble some fibs down - I don't mind. It was nice talking to you."
Let's just say I was charmed, I'm sure.
No luck finding an unflattering picture - here's a recent gallery to prove that Dave looks good even with slight pattern baldness at 42: http://www.channel24.co.za/Content/Galleries/Image/Images/Music/Dave%20Matthews%20Band ... and he sounds even better on his band's new album,Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King: http://www.channel24.co.za/Content/Music/AlbumReviews/672/91d60af5ca3f41b4b68e114620b57716/23-06-2009%2008-06/Big_Whiskey_Rocks%21
During the course of the interview, Dave Matthews revealed that although he would love to keep South Africa as his private retreat, it is not likely to stay that way. He's making plans to bring the band here by 2010, he says, and although he doesn't have specific dates, "that's certainly my goal, and I don't wanna be a liar, so the more I say that, the more my manager will be obliged to make it happen." Spread the word, fans!
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