Kantner at helm
by John Soeder / Plain Dealer Pop Music Critic
Tuesday October 21, 2008
What: Jefferson Starship headlines a benefit concert for the
Cleveland Metropolitan School District's arts programs.
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24.
Also on the bill: Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver
Where: House of Blues, East Fourth Street and Euclid Avenue, Cleveland.
Tickets: $25-$150 at the box office and Ticketmaster outlets, or
charge by phone, 216-241-5555 (Cleveland) or 330-945-9400 (Akron).
Singer-guitarist Paul Kantner is at the helm of a new Jefferson
Starship, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted group that got its
start in the 1960s as Jefferson Airplane. The band's latest album,
"Jefferson's Tree of Liberty," features covers of folk songs by the
likes of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. Kantner, 67, gave us
a ring last week from his home in San Francisco.
Q: Who are we going to see onstage for Jefferson Starship's gig here?
A: We never know these things, do we? [laughs]
Definitely me and our new singer, Cathy Richardson, who is a splendid
human being. And [bassist] David Freiberg, [keyboardist] Chris Smith,
[guitarist] Slick Aguilar . . . and our drummer, Donny Baldwin.
[Singer] Marty Balin is a maybe. . . .He has a disabled daughter at
home [who] he has to take care of.
So we're up in the air on Marty all the time. But the rest of the
band . . . is splendid, so it's not a big worry.
We do a little stuff from [Jefferson] Airplane, from Starship --
Starship 1, Starship 2, Starship 3 -- whatever. Jefferson Starship, I
Everything from "Ride the Tiger" to "Let's Get Together" to stuff off
our new album.
Q: The folk songs on your new album are timeless. And, for better or
A: Seems to be that way, with everything going on. . . . They seem to
have an appropriate connection to what's going on, just in terms of
normal life stuff.
I have about 100 old folk songs that I used to do and like and love.
We just went through and picked a bunch.
I have a whole list . . . for a follow-up album of just lovely folk
songs that are just some of the most beautiful songs in the world,
from my point of view.
Q: You're a sci-fi guy, right?
A: Well, sci-fi isn't the only thing I do, you might've noticed. I go
in and out of it in various times and phases.
I found the value of science fiction very early on, in terms of
opening up your imagination to the abstract and the unusual and the
impossible even. In the science-fiction days of my youth, we had all
the great writers like [Isaac] Asimov and [Robert] Heinlein and
[Arthur] Clarke, on and on and on. It was very illuminating for me as
one of the steps in my reading history.
Q: If I have my history straight, you came up with the name Jefferson Starship.
Q: Yet you've wrangled in court with former lead singer Grace Slick
and the band's ex-manager over rights to the name. Why not just call
this group something else and spare yourself a headache?
A: Uhhh . . . maybe lack of imagination?
There's a certain strength to that name. . . . I like the history --
the good history of it. And I'm working on erasing the bad history of
it, in the '80s when it went bad. I had to leave the band, it got so
bad. I'm usually the last one at the party, as a general rule.
Q: Did I just hear you say in so many words that we're not going to
hear "We Built This City" in Cleveland?
A: You probably heard that. [laughs]