20 Years On, Hot Tuna Keeps It Familiar After two decades out of the studio, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady stick to familiar sounds on their new album as Hot Tuna, Steady As She Goes.
NPR logo

20 Years On, Hot Tuna Keeps It Familiar

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/135599567/135679021" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
20 Years On, Hot Tuna Keeps It Familiar

20 Years On, Hot Tuna Keeps It Familiar

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/135599567/135679021" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


It's Easter Sunday. Maybe you're preparing some lamb for the holiday dinner or perhaps a delicious ham. But we're serving up some hot tuna.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: It's been 20 years since this band released a studio album, but guitarist and founding member Jorma Kaukonen says that Hot Tuna really never quit playing. He and bass player Jack Casady were also at the heart of Jefferson Airplane, another iconic band with roots in the 1960s. Over the past five decades, they've released over two dozen records as a band and too many to count solo projects.

The newest from Hot Tuna is called "Steady as She Goes."

(Soundbite of song, "Angel of Darkness")

HOT TUNA: (Singing) What kind of evil baby, I don't wanna know. Who poisoned your waters, just when we begin to flow...

HANSEN: The dynamic duo joins us from the studios of WOUB in Athens, Ohio. First, welcome, Jorma, nice to talk to you.

Mr. JORMA KAUKONEN (Guitarist, Hot Tuna): Well, nice to talk to you too. Thanks for having us on your show.

HANSEN: A real pleasure. And Jack Casady, welcome to your too.

Mr. JACK CASADY (Bassist, Hot Tuna): Thank you very much.

HANSEN: You guys have been getting down to business for a very, very long time. I mean, both of you grew up in Washington, D.C. Is it any different being now grown-ups in a studio and doing an album like this and when you were kids and you were doing it for the first time?

Mr. KAUKONEN: Well, if you think about, I mean, we're going to sound like us because that's the way it is to be an artist. But I think one of the things that really happened is it really, you know, people asked why did it take so long to make another studio album, and the true answer really is when the time was right that we did it.

I think when I go into the studio now, I'm not chasing dreams in the sense that I did when I was younger because I kind of know where I want to go, even though I'm not really sure exactly what I'm going to find when I get there. And we all know today that the sum is greater than the whole of the parts, so there's no ego conflict. And it's just really, it's kind of like a family project that really works.

(Soundbite of song, "A Little Faster")

HOT TUNA: (Singing) Stuck in drive, going down this long road...

HANSEN: There's some great people on here. Your mandolin player, Barry Mitterhoff, your drummer, Scoota Warner. Of course, your producer, Larry Campbell, plays some guitars. I have to ask about your vocalist, Teresa Williams. She really sounds like Grace Slick.

(Soundbite of song, "A Little Faster")

HOT TUNA: (Singing) I just want to move a little faster...

Mr. CASADY: Hot Tuna hasn't usually had female singers on their albums.

HANSEN: Right.

Mr. CASADY: So, there's a lot of association that way. But I was listening to some of the harmony she was using and I think that's where your reference points comes in.

HANSEN: Perhaps...

Mr. KAUKONEN: Well, I think also if you listen to "A Little Faster," a song that our buddy Johnny wrote, I mean, she really does nail Grace on that one. And she does sound like Grace. I'm sure she did it on purpose. Here's something else: Teresa is Larry's wife and she's a great, great singer. And she's from west Tennessee and you can't sound like that unless you're from west Tennessee. And also if you dip back into your NPR archives, there is a little program about the Carter family and she plays one of the Carter sisters in that one. So, she's just the real deal.

But she's such a professional, she can go a lot of different places, but her soul is very deep and she's always very honest in her presentation.

(Soundbite of song, "A Little Faster")

HOT TUNA: (Singing) I just wanna go a little faster...

HANSEN: Jack, you had a really fun bass solo on this one.

Mr. CASADY: Absolutely. I haven't really done bass solos on Hot Tuna records before. Usually, I've incorporated into melody work, melodic work and Larry just told me, take a solo there. You know, so I said, OK. So, it was a one-shot deal on the first take. And so when I listen back to it, it was just a free-flow fun little jam.

(Soundbite of song, "A Little Faster")

HOT TUNA: (Singing) Stuck in drive going down this long road. I gotta move...

HANSEN: I'm speaking with Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady from the band Hot Tuna.

You revisit a 1979 song, "Easy Now."


Mr. JORMA KAUKONEN: You know, what happened was, when we recorded that song -actually, the first version of that, I can't remember, there's some archivist that knows. It was one of the mid-'70s Hot Tuna records and I wrote that song about a motorcycle trip that I never took.

(Soundbite of song, "Easy Now Revisited")

HOT TUNA: (Singing) I've got the riding pneumonia today, well, the weather's too fine to stay...

Mr. KAUKONEN: And it's always been a fun song to play and this time I wrote it about a trip that I did take last year going down the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Cherohala Skyway and the Dragon and all that kind of stuff. So, I feel like I've kind of like, I've solved that feeling of frustration I had for years about that trip I never took. All the riders out there will know what about I'm talking about - the Blue Ridge Parkway, stunning; the Cherohala Skyway, unbelievable. Natchez Straits all the way to New Orleans, you just can't beat it.

(Soundbite of song, "Easy Now Revisited")

HOT TUNA: (Singing) When I was young, I tried to learn the people. The body explodes, but not so chrome and steel. The (unintelligible) you get about the paths you've chose, so just ride on as daylight starts to close...

HANSEN: On May 5, next week, "Steady as She Goes" will be released on vinyl. Now, I have to ask, is this just for the sake of the few of this unrepentant hippies who haven't upgraded our equipment?

Mr. KAUKONEN: Well, I'm going to jump real quickly, Jeff - hold your thought. And the only reason I'm doing this is because when my father passed away - may he rest in peace - he left me his record player. So, I have three turntables, I have a tube stereo that really works and I love stuff like that. That's right, I'm unrepentant about that.

And when they offered us a chance to do this on vinyl, a double vinyl set, by the way, we went, what a great idea. OK, Jack, you're on.

Mr. CASADY: I have a Thorens turntable bought back in the day - and I think I bought it in 1967. And I upgraded it, put it all back together, all the rubber had rotted out up in there. And I can't wait to get my copy of "Steady as She Goes" in vinyl so I could fire the thing up and play it.

And, of course, the audiophiles out there, they swear by vinyl. What they've done to keep the fidelity as high as possible is the tracks that are on the album, number 12 tracks, and they will be spread over three sides of the album so that they will get maximum fidelity quality and on the fourth side will be an etching of...

Mr. KAUKONEN: Picture disc.

Mr. CASADY: ...Jorma and Jack. So, you get the whole ball of wax with this deal, you know, and definitely I'm going to have a couple of copies myself.

Mr. KAUKONEN: Will you sign mine?

Mr. CASADY: Absolutely, if you'll sign mine.


Mr. CASADY: All right.

HANSEN: "Steady as She Goes" is the name of the new Hot Tuna CD and vinyl album. Band members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady joined us from the studios of WOUB in Athens, Ohio. Both of you, thanks so much. Good luck with this.

Mr. KAUKONEN: Thank you so much.

Mr. CASADY: Thank you so much.

(Soundbite of song, "Goodbye to the Blues")

HOT TUNA: (Singing) Good news, good news, I've said goodbye to the blues...

HANSEN: You can hear two songs from Hot Tuna's new album at NPRMusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.