Once the hottest act of the mid-90s, the Spin Doctors completely disappeared from the scene by year 2000. Was it the usual story of being dropped by their label? Not in this case. Read on...
The pioneer of the early to mid 90's onslaught of Dead-inspired funky, spacey, crunchy, groovy, jam-loving bands has been resurrected! New York's Spin Doctors, in their original personnel line-up, are back with their first studio release of new material in six years, Nice Talking To Me [Ruffnation]. Taking their forced break due to head Doctor Chris Barron’s vocal chord paralysis, the band seems to be on a dedicated mission to make up for all of that lost time. Catching a big friendly hug and a sit-down chat with Barron a few hours prior to the band's December 15th performance at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room in St. Louis, he revealed the pros and cons that go along with getting back into the ring after being temporarily knocked out.
NT: What caused you to part ways with your long-time label Epic, and how did you end up on Ruffnation?
Barron: Chris Schwarz of Ruffnation is an old friend of the band--he tried to sign us way back in the beginning, so when the band finally got back together, he just sort of swooped in and we made a deal--a handshake agreement was done before we ever signed anything. He's a great guy, and a good friend and long-time fan of the band. Before [this] there was a possible Sony deal for a while that was sort of in the works, but it just never materialized.
NT: What do you feel are some of the main differences between Nice Talking To Me and your previous releases?
Barron: I think when we got back together, we set out to try to make a record that was more to the heart of what the Spin Doctors was all about. I think there's a lot of similarities, really--the main difference is probably that we're just a bit older and more experienced now, and the playing is sort of more settled and our sound is more grown-up.
NT: How long did your vocal chord paralysis last?
Barron: My voice was gone for almost a year. I couldn't really talk, I could only whisper. I would have to write things down a lot, like questions for people in stores, and people thought I was deaf, so they would write their answer down for me! It was pretty horrible.
NT: Do you know what caused you to get the condition in the first place?
Barron: Not exactly--it's kind of like a stroke--it can hit anybody. The nerves that control the vocal chords are just sort of taken over. But luckily, it's not a chronic condition--my voice is now completely back--I've had a full recovery.
NT: Did you have to take singing lessons again?
Barron: Yeah, I did some serious vocal training with this guy Neil--he's a genius--I've been working with him since the beginning of my career, and I worked really hard with him on getting my singing voice back. I'd like to think that I'm singing as well or better now than I used to.
NT: Do you still consider your band a jam-band, or is there some other term that you prefer to use?
Barron: However people want to think of us is fine with me, really. We've never been the kind of band that just goes off into really long, extended jams--we've always been more song-oriented. Early on in our career, I would always try to fight whatever labels people would try to put on us, but now, whatever people want to think of us is fine with me. As long as they remember who we are, that's what matters!
NT: What bands out there today are you really into?
Barron: I like Abra Moore, the Sneaker Pimps. The Disco Biscuits are really good. I don't really listen to a lot of current music, to tell the truth--I feel like a real loser saying that! I listen to a lot of old, crusty music, like Muddy Waters, Bing Crosby--old school stuff.
NT: Who would you like to collaborate with, that you haven't already, if you could?
Barron: (without any hesitation what-so-ever): Willie Nelson! I'd like to also do something with Trey Anastasio (from Phish). We've met on several occasions, we come from the same home town--I'd love to write some stuff with him.
NT: You've played Woodstock, you've played Glastonbury, you've opened up for the Stones, and you have platinum albums--what's left in the goal-achieving department for you ?
Barron: I'd like to headline Madison Square Garden--that would be really great. And I would like to win a Grammy--I'm not a big award-winning freak or anything, but it would cool to win a Grammy--we've been nominated for one, for "Two Princes." I'd like to win an Oscar too--not for acting, but for like "Best Song In a Movie"--that sort of thing.
NT: Anything else that you'd like to add?
Barron: Yeah--we all have a few side projects going on that people should check out: Aaron is in an awesome band called New York Electric Piano Trio. I have a solo acoustic record called "Shag" that can be bought from my website: chrisbarron.com. Eric plays with Corky Laing from the band Mountain--they're called Cork--they've got some records out. And Mark gives bass lessons in Houston, so if anyone is ever in Houston and wants a bass lesson, they should look him up!