Mickey Hart – Always Learning

'This interview is over!" declared Mickey Hart, apparently offended by the joke he had just been told about a drummer. (Specifically: What do you call a drummer in a coat and tie? Answer: The defendant.)

After being informed his interviewer is also a drummer, if not nearly on his level, Hart chuckled. Asked if he had a favorite drummer joke to share, Hart laughed gleefully, then recited a line guitarist Jerry Garcia had shared with him during their decades-long tenure in the Grateful Dead.

"Garcia used to say: 'A drummer is to a band what a barnacle is to a ship,' " a chortling Hart recalled. "That was really a deep one. Ba-da-boom!"

Hart, 69, performs here Wednesday at the Belly Up with his one-woman, six-man band. They are on tour to promote their new album, "Mysterium Tremendum," and single, the Hart-penned "Jersey Shore," which was released to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

In a recent phone call from Red Deer in Alberta, Canada — "Oh, man, the snow is up to my eyeballs!" — he spoke about his life and music. Here is some of what this 1994 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee had to say about:

What he seeks in his band mates: "I always look for the willing, the people who want to expand, who have passion and want to go out of the box. And they have to be nice people to hang with, because a happy band is a good band. … I'm looking for people who like to 'group' — I'm a 'groupist.' The Grateful Dead was a group. We knew how to become a band, and be one (together), at times."

What he knows about music now that he didn't before: "Man, you could write a book about that! Well, if you're really in music — and with music — as opposed to just playing it, then it's an education, every day. You learn things about yourself and the music, all the time. Music makes you whole, if you're a full-time musician. … I'm a perennial student. I've always been a student."

Musical maturity: "You're different when you're older. You try to play a lot when you're young, a lot of notes and lot of emotion. A lot of it is learning, and it takes a long time to learn what is effective and what is not. As you get older, you go with the flow more and you use less, but there's more power and you're more confident. You don't have to play four notes, you can play one note. And that one note carries (more) importance and impact…

"You can play one thing, in the right place, and be more calm and have more conviction when you lay it down. You put it in a place that you are very secure in, because you've been working on it for years."

By – George Varga

U-T San Diego