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Page McConnell is the first to admit that he's better known as "the guy from Phish" than he is by his given name. Just the same, when Phish dissolved in 2004, McConnell wasn't in a hurry to make a name for himself. Instead, he spent almost two years piecing together his eponymous debut album with the help of friends, including his old Phishmates and drum legend Jim Keltner, who's currently touring with McConnell. The music on his latest ranges from funky to far out, with — naturally — a few Phish-like excursions along the way. We recently caught up with McConnell to discuss the album, life after Phish and his lack of name recognition despite being in one of the world's biggest bands.
Westword: After Phish broke up, did you feel any pressure to get an album out?
Page McConnell: I definitely did take some time off; I took a couple months to regroup and then started working on this album. I put together a home studio and spent almost two years making this album. That's what I felt like doing at the time. It wasn't like I felt pressure to do it. But I did feel an inner pressure to do something; I couldn't just sit around doing nothing. I ended up making a record. That's how I spent my time. It was just me wanting to keep busy.
Did you have any direction in mind when you started the album?
Not really. In fact, I didn't even necessarily know I was going to make a whole record. My goal was to be making music and trying to write songs. Since it was more or less a solitary effort, I did [almost everything] just trying to flesh the songs out. I tried to get a whole band sound in the studio.
There are a lot of guests on the album. Did they eventually help dictate the tone?
I guess. I worked mostly by myself. All the songs and structures, I came up with myself. Everybody brought something to it, but it was mostly me.
Many artists, once their bands are gone, try to distance themselves from their past. Do you want that? Can you escape Phish?
Or do I want to? To think that I'm not going to be labeled "the guy from Phish" is naive. Phish was such a phenomenon in a giant cult kind of way. People who knew the band and were intimately connected to it probably knew the four of our names, but anybody outside of that subculture might not know who Page McConnell is. It's not at all surprising to me if I get somewhere and the listing says "Page McConnell of Phish." It doesn't surprise or annoy me.
How is life after Phish? Are you happy with your solo adventure?
I'm pretty happy with life after Phish. It's all just rolling along. I'm not sure what my goals are other than to just keep making music. And that's something I've been able to do.