After founding member and lead guitarist Mikey Houser succumbed to cancer in the summer of 2002, many a Widespread Panic fan (call 'em Spreadheads) figured the ride was over. But the hard-touring, hard-rocking Georgia six-piece brought in a new axman and followed Houser's directive to keep going without him. Earlier this month, lighting director Dino Derose was found dead in Austin, Texas, apparently the victim of a hit-and-run. Recently, we spoke with big, bad bassist Dave Schools about overcoming loss:
Westword: Seems you guys are in constant rebound mode.
Dave Schools: I guess it's that first rule of show business: The show must go on, if you want it to. Obviously, we want it to. The Houser thing, that was pretty deep, and it still affects us to this day. The Dino thing, it's still really fresh. I thought I saw him walking down the sidewalk in Memphis yesterday. The rebounding thing is pretty easy when you're out here in the midst of everything; everyone has their job they have to do. These days off, you get more deeply affected.
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Ever feel like there's a reason behind these tragedies?
Certainly there's something positive to be gained for those of us who manage to carry on. You learn mainly that the longer you do carry on, the more people you have to say 'bye to. Does it make us stronger, or is there a big lesson to be learned? I don't know. Despite being sort of a literary and spiritual guy, I don't see much sense in either of these.
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How has Houser's death influenced the music?
Widespread was really so busy going about the business of dealing that it may have only worked into the songwriting in a subtle way. In our minds, the best thing we could've done was put that song "Traveling Man" on the Ball record because it was the last song Mikey brought to the band.
Certainly when we were recording Ball, there was a phantom guitar we'd all hear from time to time in our headphone mixes. We'd be playing and kinda stop and go, "Is that on tape? Where'd that come from?"