Interview with Tim ReynoldsBy Waldo Jaquith
Guitarist Tim Reynolds is somewhat of a mystery to most DMB fans. Though he was once a name recognized only by the most hard core fans, 1998's "Live at Luther College" made him a household name. He's contributed to every DMB release, performed dozens of intimate concerts with Dave Matthews and even appeared on VH1's "Storytellers" with Dave.
Tim Reynolds, to some fans, is simply a guitar virtuoso. To others, he's the guy that that brings out the sensitive side of Dave. And to some others, he's the sixth member of Dave Matthews Band. Perhaps the most common question, as posed by a fan on #dmb recently, is this: Why doesn't he speak? But that's not the real question. That's just the only way that people know to express it. The real question is this: Who the hell is this guy?
The story is oft-repeated. Tim Reynolds was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, and began playing electric bass at age 12 for his Pentecostal congregation. He played regularly for the church until he left high school, when he started to flirt with psychedelic rock and jazz. He found his way to Charlottesville, by which time he'd picked up sitar, drums and guitar. He became a regular performer at Miller's (the downtown bar featured prominently in every story of DMB) where he met Dave Matthews. The two got along well, and ended up spending time recording in Dave's mother's basement, munching on marijuana brownies and playing whatever came into their heads.
Fast-forward about a decade. Dave and Tim have performed as a duo dozens of times, in three separate tours. Their album, Live at Luther College, has sold bazillions of copies. Tim has contributed heavily to every DMB album, and has become known as the unofficial member of DMB. Tim, in this time, has released nearly a dozen of his own albums in this time, both solo and with his rock band, TR3. Just in the past year or two, Tim has become known as a musician in his own right among DMB fans, selling out shows all over the U.S.
Tim's solo career is on an upswing. He's been playing colleges across the country, and has been very well received. Although there were once stories of people showing up demanding that he play Dave Matthews Band songs, or expecting to have Dave walk out on stage, that hasn't been a problem recently. The inclusion of Tim's song "Stream" on Luther College gave listeners a taste for what to expect from him.
Tim is on the other end of the telephone, at his home in New Mexico, his voice raspy and quiet. What does he think about DMB fans showing up just to see him play "Stream"?
"People are realizing," he explains, "that I have other songs that are similar enough that they can come to see a guy going apeshit on guitar. It seems like people have gotten quieter, listening more for what it is, instead of expecting something."
His frantic, intricate, near-perfect guitar technique requires a Zen-like approach to performing. "The whole approach to music is internal. With Greg [Howard], or with Mike [Sokolowski], it's a lot of improvising. It just comes from nowhere. It's like light or something. You don't know what the origin of it is. It's something that you tap into. Once you're in the flow of it, it pretty much plays you. It's like meditating, relaxing. There's instances of concentration...the rest of the time, you try not to think. It gets in the way of the process. Even when I play a piece of classical music, it's on automatic. I have to go from A to B."
Does he feel that he's influenced others, even changed the manner in which musicians view the guitar?
"Only just the few people that I've met and that have me sign their guitar. I don't really see myself being like that."
If Tim hasn't yet made an impact on the guitar world, it seems a near-certainty that he will. Tim lists his strongest influences as 70's guitar players, though those that have seen his over-the-top rock performances with his band, TR3, may disagree. Perhaps something more along the lines of Alice Cooper or Trent Reznor. He's even appeared on stage wearing just a diaper, to the horror of college kids expecting to hear "Ants Marching." Does he push the edge just to scare some of the frat boys that show up?
"Not necessarily trying to scare away the frat boys, but deliberately trying to do something different that I like. This is something that I really, really like to do. When bands like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson started to get popular, I really dug it. Not because of the shock value, but because it was 70's rock again. Trent Reznor was able to reinvent rock & roll all over again. The same way that Hendrix refigured what the guitar could do...Marilyn Manson was kind of a modern political Alice Cooper, even singing like him. I've always had a trio to kind of do stuff like that."
Surprisingly, Tim is not signed to a label. He's had a few offers, but most of them wanted to make an "acoustic pop record with guests." He's just not interested. Given his changing stylistic interests, Tim isn't excited at the prospect of anybody telling him what style of music he's going to play when, or what his albums are going to sound like. "You've got to sell fifty million copies to get the money back that they invested in you. I respect the music business, but I'm trying to do my own thing, and you really give it up for the labels, because they're going to take it and do what they want. I'm all about independence. I just rebel against shit like this."
Contrast this with Dave Matthews Band. They're signed to RCA Records, they've dropped Steve Lillywhite for pop producer Glen Ballard, and they've even started booking their shows through the much-maligned SFX. And it appears that their new album will, for the first time, have no guests. Surprisingly, not even Tim was asked to contribute. Isn't this a little odd?
"I think it's really cool. Anybody who has a band, you really want to show people what you can do by yourself, that's totally legitimate. I think that's really cool. It gives me fucking breathing room to tour, to write...it's given me time to do my own thing. I haven't really talked to Dave since we toured in '99. You know, they probably just, maybe -- in the same way that I go out and people come expecting to see a Dave thing or think that we're connected at the hip -- in the same way, maybe they have the same kind of technology in reverse. I can totally see it. I think they could do fuckin' great with any producer. [Lillywhite's] definitely got the science down. But he definitely wants control. Maybe they wanted to strip it down."
DMB isn't the only one with a new album coming out soon. Around the same time, Tim's new disc (the working title is Nomadic Wavelength) will come out. He recorded it in the spring after getting off tour. Prior to that spring, Tim hadn't written any new material for a while, making solo performances discouraging. But after this tour, he was ready to record. He laid down seventeen solo, acoustic songs. Twelve of them are straight Tim, no effects or other instruments. A couple more of them use looping, a couple others are "soundscapes," and the remaining song employs percussion. He hasn't mixed the album down yet, and there's no artwork, but he's plainly pleased with what he's accomplished so far.
He hasn't announced plans for what comes between the upcoming end of his tour and the release of his new album. This lull, combined with DMB's similarly-scheduled time off, begs an answer from Tim to the obvious question: Will there be a Dave & Tim tour this winter?
"Not that I know of."
Tim explains that he's heard rumors that there will be a tour, and he's also heard rumors that they'll never tour again. But he's also heard rumors that he and Leroi died in a car accident, he explains, so he's not inclined to trust rumors.
The lack of a Dave & Tim tour, although disappointing, isn't all bad. Both Dave Matthews Band and Tim Reynolds have new albums coming out within a few months, and both still have some shows left this year. If you live in the southwest, you can catch Tim in the first week of December. And if you live in the northeast, you can see Dave Matthews Band at any of a dozen shows.
But if you want to see both at once? Well, don't hold your breath.