GLEN PHILLIPS: PAIN AND DEPRESSION CANíT STOP THE MUSIC


Photo Credit: Laurel Phillips

By Paul Freeman

What follows rock stardom? In the case of Glen Phillips, Toad The Wet Sprocketís singer, guitarist, songwriter, it was depression. Then came a horrific physical injury. Ironically, it was the pain that ultimately helped to lift his spirits.

Four years ago, he was sitting on a friendís old, glass-top coffee table, when it collapsed, shattering. The shards ripped Phillipsí left arm apart. He needed surgery to repair the ulnar nerve and muscle. He refused to rely on the prescribed opiates for the terrible pain, as he rehabbed, struggling to slowly regain the ability to play guitar.

Though heís still coping, having to sometimes adapt in terms of guitar fingerings, Phillips returned to gigging within a few months of the accident.

In his intimate, acoustic solo shows, he includes a couple of numbers from his brilliant new ďCoyote SessionsĒ solo album. In addition to critically acclaimed, though commercially overlooked solo albums, Phillips has collaborated with Nickel Creek and an all-star collective called Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.)

Heís also touring again with Toad The Wet Sprocket. In 1986, 16-year-old Phillips formed the band with lead guitarist Todd Nichols, bassist Dean Dinning and drummer Randy Guss. They named the band after a Monty Python sketch. They broke through with their third album, soaring up the charts with such songs as ďAll I WantĒ and ďWalk On The Ocean.Ē The group broke up in 1998, but reunited in 2009. In December, theyíll be in the studio, recording a new album.

POP CULTURE CLASSICS:
Do you enjoy the freedom of performing solo? The up-close-and-personal atmosphere?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Sure. Especially now that Toadís been playing more shows again, I like having variety and having to stay on my toes. And you get to respond to an audience a little more in a real time way, where you donít have to go by rote, doing the same songs over again. I can walk up without a set list and really respond to things, talk more, be slightly stranger [Laughs]. So I like the form.

PCC:
ĎCoyote Sessions,í great songs. Youíve described the songs as beloved orphans. Did you always think theyíd find a home on a record of yours at some point?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
I didnít know if they ever would. There are just some songs Iíve kept playing live. Weíre getting ready for a new Toad record and thereís this whole batch of songs I just knew was not proper for Toad, either too folky, maybe mood-wise not quite right for Toad in whatever way. Or simply things Iíve been playing so long solo acoustic that had never found a home on another record. It was nice to throw those all together and have an excuse to go in the studio and do that.

And also, do a record thatís, in process, kind of the opposite of what Toad is doing. Weíre doing a much more kind of produced and thought-out, meticulous record. I was going in and grabbing things live and creating moments and just capturing them. It was really fun to go in and get to do that.

PCC:
So it was liberating to have that kind of natural, spontaneous atmosphere?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Yes, itís natural and spontaneous. And also, it wakes up some different parts of the brain. If you can punch in, and do a bunch of takes, and if everybody is not playing together, itís different than if everybody has to really listen and, in this case, really play the room as an instrument. I mean, it was not the hugest room, but we really had to arrange the songs considering the sound of the room and make sure we were leaving enough room that everything could be heard distinctly. And everybody just concentrates, because you canít fix anything later. What we played is what we hear. I want to do more recordings that way again, just have a little more time to prepare, so I can do things like harmonies. But it shakes up a different part of the brain.

I had injured my left hand. I had some pretty severe nerve damage about four years. I sat on a glass table and severed my ulna nerve, which isnít really good for guitar. I mean, the other part of this, Iíve been slowly relearning to play guitar and finally got the point where I didnít feel like I had to apologize for my playing live. But the idea of pulling something off in the studio, in a stripped down format, that forced me to concentrate hard and get my playing back to that point, that was also a big thing for me, because even a year ago, I couldnít have pulled this off. I donít think I was playing well enough yet.

Itís one of those things where, on the one hand, yes, itís a pretty major injury. But, on the other hand, I didnít find my liver impaled and I didnít get castrated, so I came out of it pretty well. [Laughs]

PCC:
How exactly did the injury occur?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
I was sitting on a glass coffee table. Iíd been sitting on it for like 15 minutes. It had a wide metal rim. And I assumed that it was going to continue holding my weight. And it cracked and it was a vintage table with untempered glass and so I just sliced my arm open and slit my nerve in my ulna.

Itís one of those things where, on the one hand, yes, itís a pretty major injury. On the other hand, I didnít find my liver impaled and I didnít get castrated, so I came out of it pretty well [Laughs]

PCC:
Through that long rehabbing period, were you able to stay positive or was it depressing to not know whether you would get your dexterity back?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
There were some scary moments. The first year, letís just say nerve damage and random nerve pain, is not a lot of fun [Chuckles]. There was a year of just kind of dealing with pain. And after that, itís just been about compensating for the muscles that arenít plugged in anymore. My pinky is basically always pins and needles. So I canít really tell where it is in space. But I even started using my pinky a little bit again. Around February of this year, I started incorporating it, in a limited way. And, so, I donít know, I put on a lot of Django Reinhardt records [Laughs] and told myself I could do it and kept working at it. So, people figure these things out, if they have to.

PCC:
While you were unable to play, were you still writing?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
I actually got back on the road, I couldnít play well, [Laughs] but it didnít stop me from playing. So I was back on the road in a couple months after the surgery. I went out on the road and, for the first few tours, I would always have somebody accompanying me. After about six months, I played my first show by myself. And it was terrible. And the great thing was, I was opening for David Wilcox, whoís like this monster on the guitar. So it was really a shameful performance on my part [Laughs]. But I just kept doing it. And it was right when W.P.A. was touring and they really were just incredibly supportive and covered for me so well. And Toadís been great about it, too. Just everybody Iíve been working with.

As time has gone by, I had to change what fret I played a lot of songs on with Toad. And, at some point, itís like,íI think I can do ĎCrazy Lifeí again! I think I can do the riff!í ĎOkay.í So we rearrange it again and I get my old part back. Thereís a lot of help from the other musicians. A lot of patience.

Iíd been wanting a new challenge in my life. I mean, this is a hilarious thing. Be careful what you ask for, because you might get it.

PCC:
In terms of new challenges, you always seem to find interesting collaborations. Is that something that always stimulates you creatively, working with different musicians?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Yeah, itís really lucky. Part of what I think made Toad break up in the first place, is we all were so focused on the band, it was our only outlet. And we might not have broken up, if weíd actually given ourselves some time off to really seriously pursue other outlets. Now, going back into Toad, itís a thing I do. Itís the Toad thing. And itís not who I am. And itís so nice to get to visit it. And know that Iím visiting it. And the collaboration is great. But that I can go back and work with Sean Atkins again. And I can work with so many really cool, interesting people.

And beyond that, challenge is a good thing. W.P.A. just kicked my ass, more than anything I had ever done. Those people were so good that I had to concentrate more and learn more, faster, than I ever had before. So that was a great experience.

PCC:
Working with the Nickel Creek people, whatís the chemistry thatís made that such a great, ongoing thing for you?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Yeah, Sean and Sara were in W.P.A., as well. They are so kind and so generous. And, on top of that, they just love music more than anything. And so, when youíre on the road with them, theyíre so alive. By the time Toad ended, we were all in this kind of thing where we were in our own corner and nobody went out and did stuff on the road together. Everybody was kind of in a protective bubble. And when I went out with Nickel Creek, itís like, you wake up every morning and ĎLetís find the local coffee shop!í And after the coffee shop, you go and see if thereís a good museum in town or you go for a hike. And, by the time youíre at sound check, youíre working on songs together. And then after the show, all they want to do is play more music, whether itís going out in the street and playing for another hour or just sitting around backstage or on a bus. Thatís what they live for. And that kind of gratitude and excitement is really wonderful to be around. I have no idea why they like me [Laughs].

PCC:
Youíve always had a spiritual element to your music. Is that just a part of you? Or are you conscious of infusing that into your songs?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Iím conscious of that. Whatís strange is that Iím a spiritual enthusiast, but Iím not at all religious. I think religion, mythology, are beautiful. Theyíre the most kind of artistic narrative form of philosophy we have. Itís a great way of talking about the things that words find hard to describe. At the same time, Iím very much a skeptic and a non-believer. [Chuckles] But Iím kind of in awe.

Even when I was a kid and I had an upbringing where my Mom took me to BíNai Brith, Reform Judaism. I had my bar mitzvah there. My Dad was giving me Idries Shaw books on the Sufis and taking me to the Zen Priory for meditation courses. So it was a pretty broad, very Southern California attitude. I was never told to believe in anything. And even at Temple, I remember early on, I read the old Testament, God seemed too human to me, too kind of jealous and punitive to actually be something that would have made the universe [Laughs]. I had trouble reconciling that in my head. And so Iím a bit baffled by faith, and also a bit in awe of it, because Iím incapable of it.

But the idea of living in a world that makes sense, in a world where there actually is a grand plan, instead of randomness, I have a very legitimate awe. In my humanist, scientific attitude towards the world, I think thereís so much beauty and wonder, itís quite enough. At the same time, Iím so curious what it would feel like to live in this world, where you knew that there was this God that made you and loves you. That would be a profound feeling to walk around with. Iím a little jealous of that feeling. I donít think Iím capable of that exercise of the mind.

PCC:
But it must be gratifying, when you hear that your music has uplifted people, in almost the same sort of way. Music can have that effect, right?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
I think thatís what musicís for. It makes you feel less alone. And itís the same parts of the brain that light up and make us feel at one with everything. Every single human being has those apparatuses. And some people would say God built this thing for our brain, so itís proof of God. And other would say itís a great neurological trick. It is the core of who we are and what we are. And that shared feeling is a spiritual experience. So however you choose to explain that feeling, the feelings are indisputable.

Itís interesting, because Iím sympathetic towards the content of Dawkins and Hitchens, but I think the tone is disrespectful and cruel, because I know what religious people are responding to is undeniable, first-hand experience, where you find yourself in that presence and have that feeling... and nothing can compete with that. Itís just the explanation of that feeling may or may not be historically true, at least from my perspective.

PCC:
As far as the musicians and songwriters who most influenced you, did they tend to be people that reached you on that kind of deep level, lyrically? Or was it about the sound?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
It kind of depended on when. I mean, I was really into Rush, in junior high. My brother got me deep into The Beatles before that. But I was into Rush and Ozzy. I was very much into the lyrics, but that was much more left-brain kind of music. And then, I guess it really changed in high school, when Todd turned me on to a bunch of bands. But I remember listening to things like The Waterboys and Replacements. And that was the music that really got me listening in a different way. When I heard ĎUnsatisfiedí by The Replacements, that kind of rocked my universe... hard. Even the first Janeís Addiction album kind of rocked my universe. The first Indigo Girls album rocked my universe. So, as far as genre goes, itís pretty broad. But yeah, I remember hearing ĎThe Whole of the Moon,í and all those Waterboysí songs, and they definitely got me in places where few other things could reach.

PCC:
So was it more about the honesty of the music, rather than genre?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Yeah, maybe it is the honesty... or the angle of approach. Itís an interesting thing. For music to touch you, itís not just enough to say the right thing, youíve got to say it in way that cuts through a couple layers of defense. I just think about people talking about crafting medicines that will mimic, stuff that can only be absorbed by cancer cells and ignores the regular cells and then kills the cancer cells. Today, there are specific modes of entry. If you write something thatís just really plain and says, ĎWe need more love in the world,í it might not move anybody. If you do it in a way that shocks you out of your expectations or comes in at an unexpected angle, all of a sudden, it can bring you to tears and be really profound. So I like the writers that manage to do that.

PCC:
So for you, do you see songwriting as something you were born to? Or as a craft that you had to painstakingly hone?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Probably the latter. I didnít think I would be doing this for a living. Iím from an academic family and I kind of assumed Iíd be a high school teacher. My high school theatre teacher, it was his first year out of college and he came in and explained that he loved the theatre more than anything. And the reason he was in our school, instead of in Hollywood, is he realized he wanted to be in theatre, instead of at auditions. He didnít have the salesmanship. I was like, ĎThatís me!í [Laughs]

So my whole plan was go and study education and social sciences and be a high school teacher. And then we got signed, when I was 18. So I cared about it, but I didnít really think it was my identity. It kind of became my identity by default. And I probably still fight it a little.

But Iíve learned a lot in public. I mean, our first couple Toad albums, I was 15, 16, when I wrote some of those songs. So I have this kind of public record of my songwriting education. And the early stuff, itís honest and revealing, but itís really ham-fisted and embarrassing to me. I canít listen to the first couple albums. I get that the honesty is compelling to people. But itís like seeing pictures of yourself naked as a teenager. Itís just no fun for anybody.

I feel like, by ĎDulcinea,í which was our second major label record, I feel like I could write songs by then. I could write a lyric and know what I was saying and making a point clear. But yeah, itís a combination of having an idea pop into your head, but then I work pretty hard on the lyrics. At least, these days I do. I didnít when I was 16. [Laughs]

PCC:
Beyond the maturation, has the writing process changed much for you over the years?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Well, yeah. I mean, I write for specific projects now, in a way that I didnít used to. Iíll reserve a song. When we did the W.P.A. album, I reserved a bunch of songs for that. For the Remote Tree Children album, that was all written in the studio with John Askew, my collaborator on that. A much different, much geekier, more ridiculous side of things. And right now, Iím writing Toad songs and Iím really thinking about the three vocalists and the fact that itís a rock band. Weíve got a drummer. And I donít have to make it something I can play solo acoustically as easy. So thereís a little more of that, writing to the project itself.

Also less is the ego of youth. I think I have to have more deadlines and collaborations and people to write for, because , if I just sit by myself in a room, itís easy for me to just kind of go depressed and not come up with anything and walk out of there feeling like a loser. So itís a different process now. I can get in my head much easier than I used to be able to get into my head... and not in a good way. [Laughs]

PCC:
How close to completion is the new Toad album?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Weíve been writing. Weíve been trying to figure out how we make it, how we put it out. We hadnít had management. Weíre slowly getting that together. The songs - we pretty much have it written. We have things demoed up. Weíll go in the studio in December and January. So weíre being patient on getting that done, because weíve had things snowball before and lost control and that ended up being a bigger setback than being patient.

PCC:
Is there any concern about all the anticipation, finally a new Toad album, and having it compared to the earlier works?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Weíre actually pretty confident. Itís not going to sound like old Toad. So, if people expect it to be a time machine, it wonít be. Thatís the hardest thing, because we took such a long break, weíre competing with history. I think bands that stay together suffer a little of that, but we have a profound gap. So if weíre dealing memories that were made when people were like 21 and had just gone to college, that record that you listened to on your first away from home, nothingís ever going to compete with that. [Laughs]. But it has less to do with the record and more to do with the time of your life. But I think weíre going to put out a record thatís as least as good as anything weíve done before. And weíre excited about it.

PCC:
Having had time off, did that re-energize things when you finally got back together?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Yeah, itís good. I feel like I havenít taken any time off [Laughs]. And so, itís odd, once again, to have the band back together and to re-integrate it into whatís already a pretty busy schedule. I mean, Iím invisible, but Iím working.

Itís interesting. Iím doing the job that I do, writing songs and co-writing with Todd and Dean, as well. And itís the Toad blend. So itís interesting to me to see the brand new interest in it. Everybody in the band is excited and getting along well and thatís a huge difference. And Iíve finally been able to see peopleís interest in Toad without resenting it.

There was a long period where I was comparing, unfairly, my career with Toadís career and wondering why, if I wrote a song and Toad did it, it was so much better... or at least people wanted to hear it [Laughs]. Why, if I do the same song solo, is nobody interested? But bands are more than the sum of their parts. And thereís a whole lot else in it. Once I stopped resenting Toadís audience for liking Toad [chuckles], it got a lot easier, because those comparisons can really mess with your head. Thereís just a little more acceptance and a little more gratitude.

Toad, for a while, I carried the band around like it was a curse and like it was this thing that I had to escape from and I had to prove something outside of. And now Iím really looking at it like a blessing again. Iím proud to have something that people care about. And I know it doesnít actually change the quality of the stuff I write on my own [Laughs]. But the mindís tricky that way. Now that Iím able to kind of be grateful for it, itís really nice to go back to it and still realize it doesnít have to define me.

PCC:
So are you now in a comfort zone, career-wise? Or do you still feel pressures?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
No, Iím scared to death [Chuckles]. Thereís been a lot of changes, as Iím sure youíve noticed, in the last decade. In some ways, thereís more opportunity. And in some ways, itís harder than itís ever been.

With my solo career, obviously, Iíve made a lot of big mistakes. And been in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot. And so, itís sometimes hard for me to be hopeful. Iím really prone to depression. I let that eat up a good decade of my life. Iím trying to manage that better. I have a whole set of checks and balances that I do internally, kind of keeping inventory, and keeping moving ahead. Iíve been hopeless a lot, but Iíve never stopped working. And so, if I start hoping again, I get a little uncomfortable. But actually Iím excited about it. I like the work weíre doing.

I donít know, maybe itís because Iím almost 42 now, I feel like Iím finally getting a little more comfortable in my skin and my life as it is. Just to be long-winded and philosophical again, I think we all go through our youthful idealism. Toad, when first came out, we were scared of, ĎWhat if we lose our idealism? We donít want to lose our hope. We donít want to lose our ideals. We donít want to lose our sense of who we are.í And then, as happens with everybody, you go through your twenties and you feel like youíre the king of the world. And the thirties, those are hard years, for everybody, whether itís figuring out your friends, your marriage, your job, everybody goes through it. And heading into the forties, fairly universally, thereís this idea of ĎOkay, Iíve got to accept my life as it is. Iíve got to choose to be happy... or choose not to be happy [Laughs].í But itís not about what you get and where you ended up. Itís about what you decide to do every day.

Toad coming together, I think itís partially about reaching that point in our lives. Weíre done holding petty grudges against each other. Weíre done feeling resentful about the past. Weíre happy to have the lives we have... and want to make the best of them.

And again, I think thatís pretty age appropriate. I donít think itís a special band experience. Everybody I know has gone through some version of this.

And I think itís interesting that those middle years were kind of lost for the band. We started all idealistic and we broke up fairly young and the hard years were the years we werenít doing it. So, getting back together is good. Weíre this mirror image of the band we started as and we want to regain the hope and the idealism and the sense of self that we all lost.

PCC:
In your twenties, when the hits were happening and the songs were being used on TV and in movies, were you able to enjoy the moment or were you fretting about how long it would last?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Actually, I was convinced it wouldnít last at all. I assumed that we would get called out as impostors and, at any moment, it would end. I didnít expect it. And it kind of wasnít my dream. So I always felt a little bit like a fish out of water. I was very skeptical about the whole thing. Not that this time Iím going to go all crazy rock Ďní roll, but I think I might actually enjoy it more, being in the band and doing the work and realizing itís just a job.

I think with anybody, in your early twenties, thatís not when youíre worried. Thatís when youíve got a headful of steam and youíre not really thinking about consequences or thinking that much about the future. You just donít want to lose what you have in those days, which is all that idealism and hope. And youíre not going to mess up, the way your parents did. Youíre not going to do those same things. And then, inevitably, we do some of them. [Chuckles] And we create our own mistakes and have to figure ourselves out. I think itís the same for any young person. If youíre in a band, maybe you have more pictures taken of you, but otherwise, itís pretty much the same as it is for anybody else.

PCC:
That process of re-recording the greatest hits [for 2011ís ďAll You WantĒ], I know there are licensing and publishing advantages, but did that also give you a different perspective on the songs?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
It was fun. It was a good confidence-builder to get back together and record it and mix it ourselves and realize that we could throw this thing together without much of a problem and do something we were proud of. And also, of course, itís very good to have us owning it, instead of Sony [chuckles]. But it also was a way of breaking the ice. We hadnít been a band for a long time. Revisiting these things and having to work together and do more than show up and play a few shows together, it was a good way of us realizing that we probably could make a real record together again. So it was really helpful for that.

PCC:
Itís got to be encouraging, the fact that people still respond to the music and remember it so fondly.

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Yeah, weíre proud of it. Weíve been really lucky that we were around at a time when we had the ability to get heard. It was very fortuitous. I think, in the current environment, I would have gone back to school in a couple of years. I donít think we would even have been signed, in the current environment. I just would have been making music for myself. So we were really, really lucky to have this experience. Strange life.

PCC:
There was a lot happening in that alternative rock scene of that time period. Do you think it had a lasting impact?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Some. Itís hard to say. People like what they like. Mostly, I think, if Toad had not been around at that time... It was a time of college music, indie music, stuff that we had been listening to, Husker Du, Replacements, and post-punk or whatever it was called in those days. It was a really exciting time in indie music, a time when those bands started getting signed by the majors. And the majors actually had enough cash that they could let you put out a couple of albums without having a hit.

Once again, in the current environment, if you donít have a hit within the first couple of months, youíre just done. And when we were out there, we didnít have a hit until the ninth month of our third album. Thatís just impossible now. And so, having that ability to grow and get better as a band and get an audience together, we were so insanely lucky. And to have radio in a state where it was just between bouts of deregulation, so they totally reorganized for a current version of payola. The formats were really open, so we were getting played on like three or four different radio formats. And, once again, it was luck and timing. I mean, we worked our asses off. But we were totally in the right place at the right time. It canít be said enough. Youíve still got to work hard and still got to be good, but you also have to be lucky, just as much.

PCC:
Not having anticipated this kind of career, overall what have been the biggest challenges and the biggest rewards?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
The biggest challenge and the biggest reward, still is probably having been successful without it being something that I was supposed to do early in life. It gives you really odd expectations about how the world should work [Laughs]. Having earned back a lot of humility over the years, itís strange. Not to try to make everything universal, but nobody ends up precisely where they thought they were going to be.

But itís a strange thing. There are parts of this job that drive me crazy. And there are parts of getting back in the business with Toad, stepping out of the indie world for the first time in a long time that just scare the crap out of me. There are parts of the business that I really find unsavory. And itís also an incredible job. You get to travel. You get to see some beautiful places. You get to make people happy. It offers great opportunities. The benefits outweigh the bullshit. But itís still going to be a very strange world to get back into with Toad.

PCC:
Youíre still based in Santa Barbara and married?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Yes, still in Santa Barbara. Iíve been with my wife since I was 18. We live in the house she grew up in. Sheís a midwife here, opened a non-profit birth center a year ago. Three kids. Teenage girls, who are awesome - just thought Iíd mention that, for those who are afraid of teenage girls [Laughs]. Theyíre really cool.

PCC:
Are they into music?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
My youngest, the 11-year-old is. The oldest, too. Theyíre all into music, but not musicians. The oldest one is an aerial dancer. So sheís going to go off and join the circus in Paris next year. [Laughs] Just to choose a world thatís even stranger than music, I guess, basically.

PCC:
Whatís the age range of the girls?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
11, 15, 16.

With all youíve achieved, whatís the goal at this point? Anything youíre still hungry to reach?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Well, whatever I reached, it was when I was young and wasnít really paying attention [Laughs]. So it doesnít feel like Iíve reached much. I do feel like Iíve written some good songs and Iíve worked with amazing people. If I could be as successful as people think I am, that would be great. I think for me right now, my goal more than anything is just to keep working hard, but have my expectations match my realities.

Like I said, I lost a lot of time to really severe depression. A family disease. The main thing for me is appreciating the life I have. I know I have a great family and I know I have a life I should be really happy about. And Iíve spent a lot of time feeling isolated and miserable. Depression is its own thing. It doesnít matter what the story is. Itís a machine in your head that kind of eats sadness. Generate more sadness and it eats it.

The last few years, Toad would not be possible unless Iíd been doing a lot of work to get my head in shape a little. If I can maintain some sense of happiness, then thatís really all I want right now. If things are successful or not successful, all youíve got is your state of mind. And I see people all the time who, given their lives, have every right to be walking around in a state of tragedy, yet they walk around in a state of gratitude. And I know people like myself whoíve had really blessed lives and have made a story where theyíre always the victim. Iíve lived in that for a long time. My goal is to stay away from that, basically.

So, to a degree, I want to do good work. I hope people like it. It would be wonderful if all that works. But I really donít give a damn [Laughs], because I need to be happy, regardless. So, if nothing ever works again, thatís the only thing Iím going to have is my state of mind. So thatís all thatís important to me right now.

PCC:
Well, itís wonderful music you make and it certainly does work, on an artistic level.

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Thank you. And again, I donít want to color it like a victim story. Nobody deserves a great career. God, with this economy, there are a whole lot of great, talented people working very hard at what they do, who arenít exactly where they want to be, especially in your forties, this time of life. Itís where you kind of choose how youíre going to handle things.... Thatís all.

PCC:
Itís a huge step just to view it as a choice.

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Yeah and, once again, itís hard sometimes to explain it to people whoíve not been severely depressed. Itís a state of mind where every story about your life gets twisted into fuel for this machine, where the only way you can wake up is to be stressed and anxious. And thatís the only adrenaline blast, because youíre not getting any sleep. So you wake up by essentially just re-jolting yourself with just total panic. It wears out your body. It wears out your brain. Itís a really hard state to get out of. And, if youíre in that state, you start making those stories truer, because youíre certainly not making good things happen around you.

What Iím really grateful about is that I still have my family, I still have my wife, I still have my friends, because, at times, I came very, very close to losing all of that. And that has nothing to do with the music. That just has to do with my brain. So, yeah, Iím really happy to feel like thereís another side to that. And Iím trying to talk more about it, because I keep meeting people whoíve had problems with it and they feel like itís because theyíre weak or theyíre stupid or they have some great moral fault. And itís important to understand that the sadness machine is something that can actually be dealt with and that itís not about what happens to you. Hard days for most people in this country these days.

PCC:
Is that a topic you want to explore more in the music, as a way of maybe understanding it more?

GLEN PHILLIPS:
Yeah, Iíve written a lot of songs about being depressed [chuckles] and less about getting out of it. But I feel like the last year was really a big shift and it took a ton of work. So I donít know if I can be philosophical about it yet. I need to experience more up days than down days for a long enough period, before I can reflect on it more accurately.

PCC:
Well, it does sound like a new, positive phase is underway.

GLEN PHILLIPS:
I certainly hope so. Weíll see. As life does, you get your next hurdle and sometimes you go, ĎAh, cleared that one. Thatís awesome.í But they keep coming. And sometimes you think youíve got it all worked out and you realize youíre five steps behind where you thought you were [Laughs]. Thatís okay.

Iíve got to say, I think the arm helped me more than anything. In that year of nerve pain, I Iike opiates. I never had a problem, but I knew enough to stay away from them. And they gave me one bottle of pills and I had this moment of going, ĎWell, either Iím going to get really into pills or learn to live with pain.í So I didnít get a refill. And opiates are the only thing that deal with nerve pain. And so it was this whole year of just feeling like randomly my arm was being dipped in fire. And having to live in the presence of pain like that, you really have to have a different relationship with your life. And a different kind of tolerance. And a different way of removing yourself. And I think that experience enabled me to view my state of mind in an objective way, that I donít know if I would have had, otherwise. And to view my expectations of what my life could be up against, for the first time, the physical disability that was directly impairing the one thing I had to do to support my family.

And so, there wasnít time to spare. I had to actually work through it. And having that real pain, I think, knocked me out of my fantasy pain in a way that nothing else could have. Like I said, depression is not about the story. Itís about this thing you do with what you have and the way you feed it. And itís all made up. My bad storyís a fiction. The stuff I got depressed about, itís tangentially real, but not actually real. And having something real to confront really woke me up again... Not that I would recommend sitting on glass tables as a cure for depression [chuckles], but it ended up helping.

PCC:
Youíve got to feel that you can overcome anything after that.

GLEN PHILLIPS:
It is what it is. In the Buddhist way, itís suffering and it will pass. And you have to choose how you respond to it. It really helped me understand Randy, the drummer in Toad. Heís had terrible back troubles and bone problems. Heís gone through periods on the road, where heíll show up and play a show and just have to lay down for an hour after to recuperate. And just realizing what a warrior he is, just to get New Age-y in my words, but just to realize how amazing he is, facing that. I think he had to cancel two shows once, ever. And heís soldiered through and made that work. And you can talk about him, but until you live with it a while... itís a really intense thing. And clarifying.

For the latest tour dates, visit www.glenphillips.com and www.toadthewetsprocket.com.