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Fever Tree - Michael Knust Interview

Fever Tree - Michael Knust Interview

In the year 2000 in the small town of Wimberley, Texas, I was part of a group that hosted an open mic night at a local bar. A semi-regular was a guy I knew as "Mike" who, despite debilitating injuries from a recent car wreck, was one heck of a player. I'd help him up to the stage, put his Les Paul in his lap, and back him up on bass. The open mic situation ended and I lost touch with him; knew he Played out in the Canyon Lake area.

After a year of searching for information and following leads, a chance comment from a drummer friend triggers the revelation... not only have I found him, I already know him! The Mike at the open mic was none other than THE Michael from Fever Tree.

To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. I called him up and prepared my questions, and the interview was conducted at Michael's home on October 23, 2002. Houston in the late '60s was also home to the legendary 13th Floor Elevators, the obscure John David Bartlett and a cast of other characters stranger than fiction...

When did you first notice the guitar?I think towards the end of the 8th grade... I never was much of a sports buff and my father was a concert pianist. When I was a child, I would remember him Playing the piano... and I always dug the way the music made me feel good, put me in a better frame of mind. At the end of the 8th grade a friend of mine got an old Kay or Harmony Guitar or something and didn't do anything with it. The Kinks came out with you really got me... I bought the guitar from him for ten dollars and just started fooling around with it: na-NA-NA-na-NA, na-NA-NA-na-NA (laughs).
After approaching his father about pursuing the guitar, his father insisted on lessons...So he helped me by buying an old dot-neck 335 for $200, and an old Deluxe Reverb. Dale Mullins had Westview Music which was maybe 10 blocks from our house. Dale was my first teacher. I would get up in the morning at 6:30 and rehearse whatever my lesson was for that week for 30 or 40 minutes before school, then I'd come straight home from school and get back to doing my lesson. I did that for 3 to 5 days a week...

Dale was an excellent teacher, he got me into Chet Atkins style. In 8 or 9 months, Dale asked me to start teaching for him because he had beginners and what not, and it was the only teaching place in that area. I sight-read, I did everything I was supposed to do, had quite a few students, made pretty good money... for a kid, you know. The Beatles played the Ed Sullivan show... I thought "Wow, that looks like a lot of fun, playin' with a group." I was doing all solo stuff.
At that time there were maybe four bands around Houston that did all the uniforms and all the same clothes... silly songs and so I was teaching a student, Bud Wolfe, and I'm thinking in the back of my mind 'I want to get a band together' . I can't remember if Bud was was doing that well on guitar or not... so I said 'Hey, you ever thought about playing bass?' He said 'No, why?'? Well I'm thinkin' I need a bass player (laughs). So I started teaching Bud the bass and he picked it up a lot better than he did the guitar.?

At the same time Jerry Campbell was a teacher there who (future Fever Tree singer) Dennis Keller was taking guitar lessons from. But he was totally clueless about the guitar. I'd hear Jerry playing these Beatles' songs and Dennis would sing along with them. 'My, that guy's got a pretty good voice.' After lesson time, Jerry was hangin' out and Dennis was hangin' out and I told them about Bud playing bass. I said 'Dennis, you can't play guitar worth a shit but you have a really good voice.' Jerry was a pretty good guitar player at the time. He had an Epiphone Sheraton... Dale was an Epiphone dealer.

With a drummer friend of Jerry's, a band was formed. Dale allowed them to use the teaching studio as a rehearsal studio. They were doing early Stones tunes, Duane Eddy...One of my heroes... I just love Duane Eddy.
They become... no, not Fever Tree... THE BOSTWICK VINES!
Jerry was playing lead, I was playing rhythm, Bud was playing bass and Dennis was singing. And John was drumming; it was a 5-piece. Jerry was kind of a mentor too 'cuz he could do all this (lead guitar) stuff and I'd only been playing for a year and a half, and I was listening all the time and picking up on it. About this time Jerry got drafted, so... no more lead guitar player. (Michael then assumed the lead guitar role)

We looked through all these magazines, goin' 'What can we name our band, what can we name our band... something different, something different' and all the English stuff was starting to hit, you know. Chad & Jeremy, Herman's Hermits...
And you guys were starting to gather together those clothes...Right, for sure. Beatle boots and little tweed coats... wanting to look the part, thinking that's the way its going, which it was. We went through every magazine, saw this word 'Bostwick'. 'Oh, that's an English kinda thing or something' (laughs).?
What did it mean?I have no idea.
To this day?To this day. It was an ad for something in a men's magazine, I don't know if it was a perfume or a cologne or a type of cut on a coat or what. But we liked The Vines and we thought that's ok, sounds English, whatever. So we'd rehearse and we got some material together... I remember Satisfaction, I remember when the fuzzface or the fuzztone first came out. 'Golly,' you know? 'What's that? How do they do that'... Last Time, All Over Now, Empty Heart, these were all songs that I loved.
So the Rolling Stones were also a big influence.On the copy material we are doing. About this time we got Don Lampton who played a little keyboards and a little guitar and I guess this was sometime during the 11th grade, we played our first performance. Dale's music store was on Westview Avenue which was right down the road from the high school and he had an overhang over his store and said 'Why don't you guys set up on the overhang?' So we set up up there and made it so when we played, school would be getting out.

So we're playing on top of his music store and I mean traffic was stopped for miles... hundreds and hundreds of kids walking up going 'What is this, what is this, what is this?' And the police had to come down and break it up because there were so many... the traffic was dead stopped and there was probably 3500 kids in our school, and there was probably 2000 of them in the parking lot cheering us on and what not. It was our really first, like 'Alright, this is fun...' The girls were all like, yadda yadda yadda. Not like we were... for me it was the music. I feel very fortunate that I'm at the age I am and my whole life has been supported by me playing music or recording music, and I'm
very grateful.
So your first band was the Bostwick Vines?
Actually, my very first band was The Runaways. Now this was just a band with me and a drummer. This was when I had the 335, and (laughs) I think we did maybe two or three gigs, I think we played the Heights Theatre? (sp.?) down there in Houston and... Scott was the drummer's name, I can't remember his last name. But we did two or three gigs and nothing... I wanted more.
What material were you guys doing?Oh, aaah... Buddy Holly, Everley Brothers... this had to be end of '63 / beginning of '64, shortly before I got with The Bostwick Vines.

Scott Holtzman and his wife Vivian wrote for the Houston Post a column called "Now Sounds", and we hunted him down 'cause he knew about... the Jefferson Airplane had just started doin' their thing, and we would go to a place called La Maison which was an old church right on the edge of downtown Houston around McAllen and bagby, and that's where we first saw another group called Euphoria and another called the 13th Floor Elevators. And I just thought they were the ones. This was it, you know. This was probably early '66, mid '66 something like that. Tommy Hall the jug player, John Ike the drummer, Roky was the singer... he also played guitar... Stacy Sutherland the guitar player. I loved it. I just thought 'Wow, this is too cool." it was different.
Were you hearing bits and pieces about what was going on on the West Coast?Through Scott's newspaper column. Jefferson Airplane had just come out with Surrealistic Pillow, Moby Grape... Jerry Miller the guitar player was Steve Miller's brother, and I thought they were just bad to the bone. They were a really good BLUES band. At that point, I wasn't that familiar with blues other than the Duane Eddy stuff. After we did this roof gig we started getting hired to play senior prom things and what not... we were playing quite a bit, every Friday and Saturday, plus I was still working at the music store and that's when I got my Sheraton, through Dale. and I can't remember, it was brand new like $325 or something... it was natural finish and it had the Bigsby.

The semi-hollow, you could get pretty good feedback out of those. But you had to be careful... like, you stood over here it would feed back on certain notes, if you stood here it would feed back on certain notes and if you stood in the WRONG place it would squeal, so you had to be very careful. Usually what I'd do is stuff it with foam to keep it from squealing. So like I say when we saw the Elevators, I thought "Yeah, we want to go in this direction." Then when we hooked up with Scott and Vivian, they were our producers. He was the one that came up with the name Fever Tree. He said "This name's (Bostwick Vines) not gonna quite work..." He had connections through the paper... our first big concert was at the Houston Coliseum with the Jefferson Airplane.


Our first record label was Mainstream out of New York City. (They) had us and Janis Joplin. Janis was living in Houston; she was from Beaumont/Port Arthur area and she rehearsed at the same place we did, called Theater In The Round on South Main. Scott was into theatre stuff, live theatre, and he had access to this facility. I do remember us rehearsing there one night and Janis coming in just totally smashed and they basically threw her out of the building and said never come back. I think Marijuana was coming around at that point but I didn't do any of that, I was... music was my thing. So we rehearsed probably, oh, through the end of '66. I was a senior in high school, and that's when Scott had this guy Bobby Shad come down from New York and look at us and we released our first single on Mainstream Records called "Hey Mister".?

By this time there were a couple of other clubs in Houston going and we were playing them all and what not, and "Hey Mister" was written... I wrote the music, Scott and Vivian wrote the words. The first guy that we had playing rhythm guitar and keyboards, when we went into the studio really couldn't do his part, and Rob Landes was a studio musician. "Hey Mister" did very well, it went to number one about March of 1967 and of course at this time, you know, we were tryin' to let our hair grow a little bit and back then you didn't HAVE long hair you know...

But things were changing quickly...Yeah they were. Yeah they were. They absolutely were. We were still with Mainstream when we released our 2nd single "Girl Don't Push Me", which I still think is a very excellent song to this day, and that's when Rob officially joined the band. And that song went to number one on my graduation day from high school. There were no FM radios, it was all AM, and driving to my graduation they have the top ten countdown whatever thing, you know... "And the number one song, Fever Tree 'Girl Don't Push Me' " and I was just like "Wow". It was very very? emotional and very... very comforting, that I'd gone from I guess maybe from playing three and a half years on the guitar and having two number one 45s and playing decent gigs that were paying, proms and what not, anywhere from a thousand to fifteen hundred dollars. And you know, you do that a couple times a week and back then that was... pretty decent!??
Those first recordings... were you finding it natural to integrate your influences with this new feedback thing you were discovering?At the time, the first two singles there was not a feedback thing. As a matter of fact they had a Gibson 12-string on the first song and on the second song I had my Sheraton, and it was all clean, pretty clean. The end of "Girl Don't Push Me" has a little guitar thing on it it's kind of a Wes Montgomery, clean six, seven, eight notes. But it was a beautiful song.

Scott Holtzman... pursued this company called Gulf Pacific Productions, which was Steve Zax and Don Altfield, "Doctor Don" they called him, they were from Hollywood or Los Angeles or wherever, they came down. I believe the first fuzz tone that I had WAS a Fuzzface, the round one.
Roger Mayer? Did it look like a spaceship?It was round, kind of domed, had two knobs on it... and a wah-wah pedal, they had just come out with wah-wah pedals. We were doing gigs with The Moving Sidewalks, which you know later became ZZ Top, and we were playing in Beaumont at the Driscoll Hotel, if I'm not mistaken, and that's when the people from California came to see us play. And we would pack these places. And that's when all the feedback stuff started coming into play.
Was there one moment when you hit a note and it just stayed there and you went "Aaaaah..."Well yeah, yeah, ahhh... that was actually in the recording studio. Now I was doing it onstage, but I was just starting to... it was all new, it was all virgin territory. When we did our first Album, which was the Summer of '67 through maybe November, towards the end of '67, "San Francisco Girls" which was our national hit, I think it went to number 21 or number 11 in Billboard and Cashbox and what not, but it starts out slow. Right? Then it goes into this tempo pick-up thing (hums the seven note guitar melody) and I was gettin' this feedback and we were using Vox amplifiers. We had two takes in a row, so we were going to do the slow thing and pick up the tempo and do the quick thing and that was going to be the end of it.

Well what happened was, while we were recording, I was getting this killer feedback and I was just getting a kick out of it, right? And at the end of the song, the note just held and I had that Sheraton, and it was an A note that I'd get go down to a G and was pushin' it up to the A and it kept feedin' back and feedin' back, and the second take of "San Francisco Girls"?started rolling, which is the slow part again. It sounded so cool that I did it through the slow part, and everyone in the control room is like "Yeah, THIS is pretty cool", and so they stopped recording and said "Can you do that again?" (laughs) You know and I said "I don't know, I can try". So the second time I did it, I did a harmony with the feedback over the feedback I'd already done. And it just worked out.
Yet MORE uncharted territory...Yeah! Exactly. And it just worked out PERFECT. And everybody was just flippin' out going "God! Great! This is better than we had anticipated!" and I was like ok, well that's good, you know. So we recorded our first album. I think we had at this point with Zachs, Altfield & Gulf Pacific Productions signed up with them as our production company, who in turn THEY got our deal with MCA, which is UNI, Universal Studios. At that time, I was into the feedback big-time. And on the first album, one side is rock 'n roll, I guess, with a lot of different feedback-type things. Me and Rob wrote all the music, Scott and Vivian were the lyricists for the most part, I would change the lyrics so they would fit with the music I wrote... and the SECOND side had some ballads on it, which were, I think, just absolutely beautiful stuff. We had David Angel and Gene Page who did the strings on the Buffalo Springfield stuff, Love, stuff on Roy Orbison's, what not... do all the string arrangements for the second side of the album. And we had to go to Los Angeles to put the strings down. Out there, we were doing whatever, you know acid was coming around and what not, and I did my fair share...

We got backed by Vox amplifiers out of England, (Webmaster's note: at some point, Sunn amplifiers came into the picture) and they couldn't figure out... because of the feedback stuff, we blew about 90 speakers in a six month period. And they sent a representative from Sepulveda, California I believe, to come down and they watched us play. "Well no WONDER y'all are blowing so many speakers" and they outfitted our stuff with Lansing speakers, which was good, because the bass player was blowing speakers left and right. After we got the Lansing speakers it was better, and we disconnected the horns... had the Super Beatles and the MRB, and reverb and they had an overdrive built into them which I didn't use, I used the Fuzz Face or the Vox Tone Bender, which was my favorite, FAVORITE feedback pedal of all, that's the one that really gave me the sustain.

The first album was released at the end of 1967, and our first big show out of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma was in Los Angeles, March of 1968 at a club called The Kaleidoscope on Sunset Boulevard. Jefferson Airplane, Fever Tree and Canned Heat. And it was probably a two or three thousand seater, a beautiful club. It was just awesome. I was a little nervous about it, I was like (laughing) "You sure we're ready for this? This isn't like, goin' to Beaumont or something, this is where the big boys live, you know?" "Oh yeah, yeah." And I kept insisting that we have another four, five, six weeks rehearsal time before we went out there. Because our singer, Dennis, had a tremendous stagefright problem. And he would hold onto the microphone stand... for dear life. After that, we went on tour for probably a year, where we'd go out for six weeks, come back for two weeks.?

We really weren't doing that many drugs. I always hung with our equipment man, because I always liked going to the gigs pre-hand to set up and meet the local people and what not, and just get a feel of the situation. Whereas Dennis and John, ahh, would stay in their hotel room getting ready for the gig from nine in the morning until six o'clock at night, you know making sure every hair was in place and this and that. Me and Bud used to laugh about that, and our roadies, too. And of course, when I'd go early, I might meet somebody and they'd say "Here try this" and you know hey, what the fuck, ok. So I guess I was the guinea pig at the time, and it was all good. It all worked well, and we toured probably every city in the United States.
Did you hit places like The Tea Party in Boston?Oh yeah, in 1968 as a matter of fact, we played a place in Chicago called The Electric Light Circus I believe, and that was when the Democratic conventions were goin' on, and I think some people got shot... we got busted. We were supposed to play a gig at this place with Jeff Beck and Pacific Gas & Electric. They were a group from up in that area. We were smokin' a little weed and riding in the back of the equipment truck, and a policeman pulled up right behind us. We throw the joint out, right, and the policeman pulls us over. "Well, what do you think you're doing..." We were right in from of this club, we were just fixin' to park. They arrested our equipment man. Thank God we were able to get him out right before the show.

It was a really big club, they had a light booth built in the ceiling, another circular club and it was just a fantastic place, and the stage was probably eight feet off the ground. Jeff Beck's people were setting up his equipment and he has two stacks of Marshalls on either side of the stage, and the roadie had Jeff Beck's what they call a "Fretless Wonder" black Les Paul on top of his Marshall. "Man," I said, "Don't you think that's kind of dangerous havin' that guitar..." I mean that put it like sixteen feet from the ground (chuckles). And he goes "Nah, I do this all the time." Ok. And I turn around and I'm walking off and I hear this BAM and sure enough the guitar fell off the amp and hit the floor and the neck just snapped. I don't think Jeff was real happy with that. Rod Stewart was singing with him, it was the Jeff Beck Group I remember that, and 7-Up was there. They were going to listen to us to do a commercial for 7-Up and we were gonna get money for it and all this and whatever, and upstairs in the dressing room they had the whole spread, all the kind of food you'd wanna eat. The English cats all seemed like they were big drinkers, they were ALL walking around with a fifth of whatever, sluggin' it down, sluggin' it down. "I don't know about THIS", you know? And there was amphetamines goin' around and I'm sure I probably did some...

Anyway, we open up the show, it went fairly well, we got the contract for 7-Up. It was just a short-term little thing "Fever Tree drinks 7-Up", whatever, and Beck was really pissed about his guitar. This was probably August, September 1968. And the Viet Nam war was going on pretty heavy, and everybody was protesting and doing all that, and we went from Chicago. We played Philadelphia, we played DesMoines, we played EVERYWHERE, everywhere. We toured with different groups. We toured with Spirit for quite a while. We toured some shows with Jeff Beck. We toured with the Airplane. Steppenwolf, we did a lot of shows with Steppenwolf.
Michael Monarch is on my list...Is that right? Good luck. John Kay was a pretty good fellow, but the keyboard player, I can't remember his name... he was an asshole. He wouldn't say two words to you.I wonder if this was before or after the bass player got fired for wearing bunny ears to a gig.Well, I don't know if you knew this or not but John Kay was legally blind. He could see somewhat...He could see bunny ears...(much laughter) I guess he could!?Bunny ears would be hard to miss...
What was Fever Tree named after?There is actually a tree in Africa that is called a fever tree that, from what I understand, you can take the bark or the juice or something from it that is a healing product for some type of... disease, rash, I don't know exactly what. But that is where the name came from.
Fever Tree had an unusual arrangement, with Scott & Vivian Holtzman producing as well as writing the majority of the words. On song credits & royalties, Michael had this to say...I get a few credits, I got kinda beat out of a couple, but they only used my first name (which I don't know was supposed to be some cool, whatever back then)... I have, on the internet you can look up, it's got most of the songs that I wrote listed. I've been with BMI ever since the '60s, but I just recently sent my new address to 'em so they're gonna send me back whatever information and royalties I may have coming. And this fellow who has RCA Limited Records in Houston, his name's Roy Ames, he is the one that just released some of the old Fever Tree material in Paris, France and from what I understand they wanna do it again here in the next month or two and they also wanted to release another one in the UK. So, I get a little bit from that. AND, as you can see sitting here in my home, I've got my studio pretty much set up and, God willing, if everything goes as we would like it to go, we will have a new CD out under whatever name... there may even be a possibility we may get to go over there and do some playing.And you own the Fever Tree name?For the most part, yes. I have registered it with the Library Of Congress.?
?What the hell is on the cover of the first Fever Tree album?That is us, in Bay City which is somewhere between Houston and Galveston, and we made a raft, we actually made a raft... you see there? This rope? There was this knocked-out chick, just knocked out, pullin' the rope. We had an old tree, and what it was is we put moss up in it and what not, and found a birdcage and weird chair and a trunk and just some old junk stuff... they colored this in, obviously... (there were) 20 billboards they had in Los Angeles, all along Sunset blvd., it had the picture with the girl pulling us, and under it said "Fever Tree is Coming" like this chick is draggin' us! (laughs) 'they're coming in even if we gotta drag 'em, pull 'em in by boat'. So we're on this raft, you know, just dressed up in our little Nehrus and whatever.

(At this point, I? point at a pair of humungous sideburns on Dennis Keller...)
Those sideburns should have, like, a name tag.Chops, we used to call them chops...Those are HUGE!Yeah, he could do that, he was good at that. Especially, he wasn't even 21 years old yet. But his hair grew so fast it was just... unbelievable.
Those are uberchops.
Yeah, yeah! It was just... unbelievable.

Yeah, see? "Andrews productions, engineered by Walt Andrews, basic tracks, assisted by Frank Davis who was just a very original... just very good, he also did some of the 13th floor Elevators' stuff. International Artists where the Elevators did their recording, was owned by Leland Rogers, who was Kenny Rogers' brother.?


One thing I'd like to mention, when I graduated from high school, I had never been to California. Fresh Cream had just come out, I guess... May of '67. I went with our light man to Long Beach, California, his name was Harry McLaughlin, and we stayed with his Aunt, and we saw in the paper that Cream was playing at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go for three nights. We managed to get tickets for all three shows, and I want you to know... the Whisky-a-Go-Go was a very small place, holds like 350 people. I'd never smoked weed in my life, and we scored a matchbox for like (laughs) twenty bucks or something. I don't even know if I felt it, you know? It doesn't matter. We went to see them play and the place was packed, and they... were... absolutely... awesome. Absolutely awesome. As a matter of fact, I stood at Clapton's feet. They were using Marshall amplifiers, which I'd never heard of before. Just kicking fucking ass. Just playing like nobody had ever seen before... and the hand tremolo, the vibrato, I mean I was working with it a little but most people used a Bigsby or whatever, you know? And he was just whippin' it, man.
So they finish their first set and everyone's on their feet, like I said they played VERY well, they played all the stuff off the Fresh Cream album. They come back for the second set and start doing material I hadn't heard before - "Strange Brew", "NSU", songs off their Disraeli Gears album which hadn't come out yet. About halfway through the set, Eric Clapton goes "Jack Bruce on the bass guitar" and Baker and Clapton walked behind stage. And Jack Bruce plays the bass and sings at the same time just rippin' it. Just awesome.? Clapton had left his guitar leaned against his Marshall feeding back in the same key he was playing the bass. After 20 minutes Clapton walks out, picks up HIS guitar, and Jack Bruce sets his bass against HIS amp and does the same feedback thing, goes "Eric Clapton." And Clapton gets out there and plays for about 20 minutes just kickin' it, man. Just playin', playin', playin' and I'm watching this vibrato... and this TONE, you know was just AWESOME. Just finesse; total finesse. I'm standing at his feet watching the whole time, I'm like... 'They're from another planet'. (laughs)
All three of 'em come out and start that song "Toad", (hums the melody) then they put the guitars down and (Ginger) Baker plays for... I don't know how long. And he was about this big around, and just... screamin' I mean the place was going nuts, man.

Had you ever seen anything like that before? Did you have any idea...I couldn't even read the name on their amplifiers (laughs). I was wantin' to know how he was getting that TONE. What pedals he was using, what what you know? Anyway Baker did his deal and they come back out and they finish the song and they go off stage... the show's over. Fortunately, like I say, I had tickets for all three nights. The THIRD night, when Baker was doin' his drum solo, he was sweating like a pig... I mean I sweat a lot when I play, you know, you're just putting every ounce of energy into the music. He was almost to where they'd come out and finish together, and he just fell off his stool. The roadies came out there and picked him up and put him back on the stool, and they finished their little deal and that was the end of the show. And everybody was going totally nuts, I mean it was just absolutely fantastic.

That was a really big influence in my playing, you know 'I really wanna get this tremolo thing down' and I actually got to talk to their roadie. I said "How's he gettin' that SOUND?" From what I saw it looked like he was going straight into the amp. Which he was! The roadie says "He's not using any effects, that's the Marshall amps." "Ohhh..." 'cause I was going 'Mitchell, Mammmm whatever' tryin' to read these amps. It was really awesome, it was a real influence. And I came back to Houston, and this was before we played that gig at the Kaleidoscope I told you about, and I said "Hey! There's some badass players out there, you know, we gotta really be together
when it's our turn."?
And about a month after that, Hendrix came to the Houston Music Coliseum, which is no longer there. Dale Mullins, my guitar teacher, he could play anything... and so I took the first Hendrix album over to him and (asked him about) the different chord inversions. I got two tickets to see him at the Coliseum and I took Dale, I said "We've gotta go see this guy." Before Hendrix starts, the curtain is closed and he's back there playing every cream song, just warming up, just rippin' it you know? And then when they finally opened the curtain, he starts off with "Foxey Lady" and it's just like God, you know, after seeing Clapton and then seeing Hendrix, I'm going
'These guys are from another planet.'
The Sad Tale of? Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators...
Now we did a gig at place called The Living Eye in the Summer or end of 1967 where we opened for The Elevators. There were two stages. And it's all, you know, the early freaks or whatever... one stage is over here, and the main stage is over here. So we play our set, and it's just packed. And the Elevators, they used Standel amplifiers I remember it perfectly well, and they're onstage doing their first or second song and I notice these two or three guys kinda drift in... and they have suits on, right? Next thing I notice there's eight, ten guys in there in SUITS and next thing I know, they're jumpin' up on stage grabbing Roky (Erickson, singer) & Stacey (Sutherland, guitarist). Roky had a joint in his pocket. And they had a padded wagon out back that they threw Roky in, they took him to Bellevue, which was a mental hospital in Houston. At the time, International Artists said to say that you were crazy, and they would get you out, instead of getting busted for weed back then which was a big deal. Ok, so Roky's out there anyway and whatever... International Artists broke up while he was in there. So the state took over his case and moved him up to Rusk in Austin, which is a very very radical mental institution, where he received quite a few shock treatments and it really, unfortunately, screwed him up really bad. I went up and visited him a couple of times, we were buddies... it was just a real shame that... he was there for three, maybe four years, in Rusk. When he got out, I was living in California.?Doug Sahm, rest HIS soul in wherever the hell he is, took over Roky Erickson's management when Roky WAS trying to get his thing back together and totally screwed him. Now, Doug Sahm is dead and I'm not saying that's good or bad but I think what goes around comes around and uhh... Roky is an excellent person, he has problems no question, we all have problems...?
Was your first experience with psychedelics with music?No. My first experience with LSD was in Colorado, while we were on tour there, we went up into the mountains and camped out and took acid in 1968.
Do you remember the first time you took psychedelics when you were playing music?The first time... the first time.... (long pause) I think probably in mid '68... and if I remember properly, it was with The James Gang. In Philadelphia. They opened for us.
Good experience or completely unnerving?It was definitely DIFFERENT. I really didn't know what to expect, ummm... at the time I thought it would be 'Oh cool, this is what's happening' and blah blah blah, but actually I? really... didn't... like it. I really didn't like it, at that stage of the game. I'll just run this by you real quick; later when I was living in San Francisco, Marin county, we did a show for the Hell's Angels. And it was a private deal, and we had no idea... I didn't take acid very long, couple of years, not every day... but enough to know what it was about probably as much as anybody did then. But not performing, really. In 1973 or 74, I was playing with a band called Snookie Flowers and The Head Hunters. Snookie Flowers was one of the horn players with Janis Joplin's band, the second version of the band she had. And we were playing for these Hell's Angels, and it was a costume party on Halloween. It was a blue moon, two full moons in a month, right? All the guys were on one side of the room and all the girls were on the other. Nobody was dancing, we'd played like three sets and these guys come up to me and Ollie, this big ol' guy who was a kickass bass player, and he says "Here, have something to drink".
Oh man.Yeah (laughs) so we drink this, and we're playin' our fourth set and all of a sudden the guitar neck's gettin' real long and I'm looking over at Ollie and he's looking over at me, and we're laughin, we're havin' a good time don't get me wrong. But finally, this is the last set, like one in the morning or something, everybody loosens up and dancin' and havin' a good time and we were gettin' paid five or six hundred bucks... So we finish our set and WE figure the gig's over. About this time we're walkin' around and we're kinda lookin' and these biker guys had sheets on, you know it was a Halloween thing, and I don't know if we were hallucinating, I don't think so, but we're lookin' and we're seeing PISTOLS, under their things. Then they come up and say "Hey, we want y'all to play for another hour."?
We go "Well man, it's two o'clock.." you know? "Man, we did our part" you know? And he says "Well the doors are all locked; y'all can't leave." And you know, we're laughing and cuttin' up by now we're pretty stoned, right? I'm lookin' at Ollie, Ollie's lookin' at me, and Roy our keyboard player is looking at me and we're all just crackin' up (laughs) 'What do we do, get shot or play for another hour?' So we worked it out, I think they paid us another hundred and fifty bucks or somethin', played for another hour and everything went well. It was alright; that was probably the BEST experience I had playing under the influence of a psychedelic drug. Afterwards everybody was all happy, and they unlocked the doors so we could leave...
(laughs)...making YOU happy...uh, YEAH, so that was pretty trippy, pardon the irony... needless to say, we didn't play for any more Hell's Angels Halloween parties.Pretty tough crowd.Well they are a tough crowd, actually they are doing some good things now. As a matter of fact, I had a very good friend, Badger was his name and, unfortunately he got killed on his motorcycle. He was a great big dude and he would do anything for you. If anybody was giving you any trouble or anything he'd go over and pick 'em up like this. "What's the problem?" you know? And he was a really good cat and God bless him wherever he is now. So you know, there's good and bad in everything.
Let's talk more about that first Fever Tree tour.Okay, alright. We were on the road for... that first big gig was March of '68 at the Kaleidoscope, and from there we went out and played virtually every city from Orlando to Miami to Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to DesMoines, the Twin Cities, Schenectady, Albany, New York City, Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix, Dallas, Oklahoma, went up into Canada on the West Coast side. And it was quite a bit of fun. And the show was pretty tight; we had it down, what we were doing. To me, there was nothing like it in the world. It was the greatest high that could ever be... bar none. And personally, I found myself... at the time, I was dabbling in whatever drugs... but I would find that I played my best when I was totally straight. And I still find that. Now, we toured for the year of '68, with numerous people from Little Richard to Soupy Sales, like I said Spirit, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, I can't even remember... ALL the bands that were happening back then.?
Fever Tree @ Mt. Carmel, late '60s??

At the end of '68, I believe, we were still living in Houston but we were never there. You know, wherever we had a layover for two weeks, after being on the road for six weeks for five nights a week, we'd stay in some hotel or whatever. During that tour our second album Another Time Another Place was first started (being) recorded at a little studio in Denver Colorado, I could not tell you the name; I'm sure it's on the album. We did some recording at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, which I really loved 'cause Roy Orbison was recording (there). It was a very high tech, very nice studio. You could get any kind of equipment you wanted; Studio Instrument Rentals just had started their business which, if you wanted a '63 Les Paul or a '50s whatever, whatever piece of equipment you needed they'd bring it over if you didn't have your own. As a matter of fact, we were recording there and Blue Cheer was recording there. And Blue Cheer's manager came in and asked me how I got the sound I got, he wanted his guitar player to get that sound.
Was he a big Biker named Gut?wheewwww.... I couldn't tell you... (it was) mid '68 through probably Octoberish. Like I said, we did it two or three different places, I was very proud of the album, it had some really nice instrumentals on it, it's the first time I got to sing.?

There's a song on there called "I've Never Seen Evergreen" which I wrote while I had strep throat. I was very sick; we were staying in Evergreen, Colorado and what I'm told, Vivian Holtzman was at my bedside and I was talking deliriously out of my mind from the fever, and that's how she got the lyrics for the song. And as a matter of fact when we recorded the song, I played acoustic gut-string guitar and Rob Landes did the flute part, and all you had for effects back then was a room made of cement walls maybe 8 feet wide, 8 feet tall, 12 feet long with a mic at one end and a speaker at the other end, and that's how you got your reverb. There were no effects like there are today. When Dennis found out I was gonna sing this song on the second album, he quit the group. Briefly, 'cause he was a real... ego-centrical personality. But Vivian was real good at handling things...
That's when it must've been good to have an older team looking after you guys...Oh you bet. You bet. Sure.
...'cause SO many bands self-destructed over stuff like that.Exactly. Right, right. So it was really neat, I dug recording the album in the different places, and getting different type tones - there's another one, I called it "Theme For An Untitled Movie"... (he can't recall what it ended up as on the album)?'s an instrumental me and Rob wrote and? it's a beautiful song. Anyway we finished that and that was our second album which we released in the latter part of '68.?

Now we had been touring, flying, back then you got to carry all your equipment and fly and everything was cheap, and yadda yadda, you know rent a truck when we get to wherever and roadies da da da, and supposedly our manager, Ron Sunshine (I remember his name for some reason) was getting half the money up front and was supposedly paying for the airfare and the truck rentals and whatever out of the first half payment. Well when we came back to Los Angeles, we received a bill for $13,000 from airlines and truck rentals. So he was NOT paying his part and getting his 15% or whatever commission, he was just pocketing the money.?

And so at the end of '68, beginning of '69, I think we did some New Years gigs and what not, and we had all these bills that we tried to pay off and like a dummy I signed for 'em, January of '69 Dennis Keller quit the group. And you know, I guess I was 20 years old, pushing 20. We would've maybe got a new singer and continued on with it, but at that time everybody just... threw their hands up in the air and went our separate ways.
A year went by, I had a group in Houston called The Ark, which was an excellent band, Stevie Webb was the drummer, Jerry Lightfoot was the bass player, and I was the guitarist. We all sang; I didn't sing that much because I really don't consider myself a singer, but out of necessity it's become that way. But back then, really Stevie was the main singer, a younger kid. We played quite a bit for that 10-month period as The Ark and we did a lot of Mike Bloomfield, Electric Flag, we did a lot of original material that was very VERY well received, we got a short deal with Polygram records which fell through... and then Universal wanted us to get back together, at the end of 1969.?Rumor has it The Ark cut a record for Polygram but it wasn't released.This is true. And I may have run across those tapes, just this morning I found out. Maybe. We'll see. When I get them I'll see if they're playable, who knows. But it was some really really good stuff. Really good stuff. Stevie Webb the little drummer was killer, as a matter of fact he filled in for Roky Erickson when Roky was locked up, and did some gigs with the Elevators 'cause he sang just like Roky. And played drums, at the same time. We called him Spider Webb 'cause he was real skinny and he had these real long arms and legs and when he was goin' he was goin' and he sang his ass off. Unfortunately, he's passed away also. Now Jerry Lightfoot is living in Austin, I understand, and he just did an album with International Artists...?

Jerry Lightfoot who started as my bass player, we lived in California together six or seven years, and the name of his album if you want to check it out is Jerry Lightfoot & the Essentials, the name of the CD is Burning Desire. Now Jerry LeCroix, who used to sing for the Winter brothers, Johnny and Edgar Winter way back, does a lot of the vocals on this album. It's an excellent album, if you want to try to get a hold of it you can try (713) 587-5492. E-mail
[email protected]. I love Jerry like a brother. We went through a lot of changes together from writing songs, recording songs at the Grateful Dead's studio, working with Mickey Hart, Pete Sears, David Frieberg the drummer from Quicksilver Messenger Service, John Cipollina the guitar player for Quicksilver, Mark "Naftelin"(sp.?) who was the keyboard player for The Electric Flag, Bill Church who was the bass player for Van Morrison, we went through a lot of changes together and he is well worthy of this effort that he put out. I just wanted to comment on that. I have not talked to Jerry in quite some time, but this is an excellent album if you like Blues it is as good as any of 'em.

When we moved to LA in 1969, it was just me and the singer as far as the original members. We went out there for, I guess a year, did a lot of good shows, up to Salt Lake City, with Love, more with Steppenwolf, The Burrito Brothers, matter of fact our drummer was cousins with one of the Burrito Brothers... ummm....
Blue Cheer?We did a couple of gigs with Blue Cheer but this was when we first moved out there. We lived in a motel called the Tropicana, "Sandy Kofax's" (sp.?) Tropicana, where every band that, I think, came through Los Angeles stayed there, and Blue Cheer was staying there and they burned the hotel down, part of it, while they were staying there... and (laughs) uh, I don't think they were welcomed back!

We got back together, like I said Uni said "Come on out to California, we'll put you up..." and they did. I guess it was Christmastime of 1969, we moved back to Los Angeles, they got us a beautiful house to live in, Dennis had just gotten married, we had a three story mansion right behind the Playboy club on Sunset, I can even remember the name of the street it was on Alta Vista. But Dennis was too good to live with the rest of the band, so he had to have his own apartment and his own car, and we were together for the year of 1970, we played a lot of good shows, we did the third album... I guess... shortly after that (Creation), and again, only to find when things were starting to go well, we go over to Dennis Keller's apartment and see a Beacon's truck out in front loading all his furniture and stuff, he's moving back to Houston. He can't take it, it's too much stress, yadda yadda yadda yadda. So, the same thing as a year before basically, and again like I say, maybe we should've stayed there and got a singer, but we didn't.?

I moved to Marin County and hooked up with some very good players and stayed in Northern California until 1978. Which is when Dennis and Scott called me in Marin County, I was doing good there, there is a band there... that is fairly popular now.... I can't think of their name, that I was playing with, and they were asking me PLEASE don't go back to Houston, we're about to hit it... as a matter of fact they did hit it, I heard of them playing somewhere just recently...
What are some of their names, I could look it up...(Whispers) uuummmm..... goddammit.... (shakes head)?Was that kind of a foggy time?Yeh...
?Rumor has it the fourth album has been described as outtakes and new tracks with session musicians.
True?The fourth album?
That was recordings from before the first album... Now that, that may be true, cuz that was released? I don?t know when, I have no idea. And it?s very possible there ARE other musicians on it. If it says there are, I don?t see any reason for them to lie about it. But I know that on the one song that my friend Mark in New Braunfels has, ?She Comes In Colors? which is the old Love, Arthur Lee song, that it?s definitely me playing guitar on that one.
So anyway, I moved back to Houston to get with Dennis & Scott, reform Fever Tree again. We had Pace Concerts and ShowCo working with us, Michael "Dunnim"(sp.?) who was with Pace Concerts was guaranteeing us all this and that, and we did do some decent tours, we played with Billy Joel at the Houston Music Hall, we played with Spirit at the Music Hall, we would go out through Louisiana and Mississippi for two to four weeks at a time, come back, make good money. And it got to be such a pain with Dennis' attitude that I ended up firing him. Which felt really good to me (laughs). And I also fired Scott Holtzman. And at this point Pat Brennan, who played keyboards and was also a pretty decent singer...?

...our last gig after being together for about a year, which it says on the album '78 I think it was really probably end of? '79, was our last gig as Fever Tree. And I called up Charlie "Bickley"(sp.?)
with Buttermilk Records, he had a mobile studio with 24 track analog 2", and Trent Burns was the engineer, and I said "Man if there's any way y'all can get this up this place is killer it'd be perfect for it" and they recorded a live album, Fever Tree's supposedly last performance, live album, and it is impeccable. There is not a mistake on it, I wrote pretty much all the songs, it is a VERY good album called Fever Tree Live at Lake Charles on Shroom records, you can get it over the internet but don't do that, wait for my website to come out an' git it from ME! (laughs) 'Cause I paid for everything on that and never got a penny back from it from 'em. I'm VERY proud of it, I think it's some of the best material I've ever written... it's got Rock and Roll, it's got Eric Johnson type stuff, it's got fusion/jazz, different time signatures, it's the proudest work that I've ever done. I recommend? it if you like good music.
So you have the masters?(Michael reaches into a box, pulls out a sealed CD copy and smiles)
I guess so! Ok!That's close enough. They actually have the fucking masters, which is a bitch.
Other than possession, do they legally own them?
No. They do not legally own them. But I have no way... I have not talked to those people since... when does it say it was released? Says '78, probably '79... (Reads) "All songs published by Kristen Knust Publishing" which is my daughter's name, "except 'San Francisco Girls' and 'Man Who Paints The Pictures', and 'Spirit' published by Al Jurreau Music, BMI." That's the only unoriginal song on there... it was when we were a four piece band, I was the only original member. Pat Brennan who played keyboards took up singing and we played at the Texas Opera House in Houston, five days after we fired Dennis, and kicked ass, man. That place was packed.

Nice. Go out on a high note.
You bet, man. There was another band from the '60s called Bubble Puppy. Bubble Puppy opened for us.
Take me up to 1989.

Alrighty. I came back from Marin County with the help of my Father, I bought a house in an area called Spring Branch down in Houston, which is kind of odd because the town I live in now that we?re doing this interview at is also called Spring Branch.
Life?s weird little symmetries.Right. Anyway, the house had a real large - like you could probably park 4 or 5 cars in it - an old old barn. And I gutted the whole thing, I went out to the old farmhouses and talked to the farmers and collected tongue and groove old floor wood and what not, and built me a studio, had an 8-track studio, analog. I played with a band called Special Forces, not meaning military things ? meaning special forces of the universe, and we were an excellent band, a trio; Keith York was the drummer, Mark Evans was the bass player. We did a lot of really good material, all original. I played with the Michael Knust b.. blu? ahhh? the Tex? the Texas Rhythm?? Texas Rhythm? Blues Show and Rock Revival or somethin? like that, I (laughs) anyway, ahh, 2 or 3 different bands, and with that and with the studio I stayed quite busy and did alright. I lived with a young lady named Sherry for that 8-year period, that was from about ?80, ?81 to ?88, ?89 give or take a few months.

Broke up with Sherry in ?89 and in ?89 or ?90 I got with Keith York who is an excellent drummer, he was also in Special Forces, and a vocalist who sounded much like Dennis Keller and a bass player who now lives in New Braunfels (Mark Dupre?) and we did another little rendition of Fever Tree. We did a very very good show on July 4th, it was called the Freedom Festival, 1991, it was outdoors, it was REALLY hot and like a dummy I have on black leather pants, and we played with Bachman Turner Overdrive and the Jefferson Starship I guess they were called at that time. It was an excellent gig, I have it on video, and after that? I met up with Melissa (ex-wife), we moved to Austin in early ?90, something like that?

Airtight Recording Studios was the name of my studio in Houston, I kept the name in Austin when we moved up there I built a very beautiful studio, I?m very proud of it, did a lot of CDs on different people. David Spann, and Bounce, Charlie Keen who is Preacher Keen ?Preachin? The Blues?, they were all on my label. The 150th Psalm which was a Gospel group, and also mixed and edited the ?Live At Lake Charles? album there. And then had ?em all mastered at Jerry Tubb?s Terra Nova, which is the place to go.
Jerry Tubb is so fucking good at it, it?s absurd... I?m completely computer illiterate.
How about from ?90 on?

Ahh? played with a band called the Nightsnakes, Leland Parks who played with the Cobras which was, I believe, Stevie Ray Vaughan?s early band. Played with the Michael Knust band, played quite a bit ? all the places on 6th Street and up in Marble Falls, we?d go to Houston, we?d go to Dallas to the Deep Ellum area, I had my studio going like I say, had my daughter in 1995? she?s 7 years old, Kristen?s her name, God bless her. Everything went pretty well until I had two major car accidents, which really put my life on hold. As a matter of fact in one of the car accidents the surgeon, who was the President of the
(Edited out name of organization) in Texas, did neck surgery on me and cut the nerve in my left arm which controls your ring finger and your little finger, and for nine months my left arm was unusable. Completely unusable. And thank God, I found a surgeon that knew what he was doing, who went in and rebuilt the nerves out of muscle tissue from what I understand, and gave me back my first and second finger, and probably 60 or 70% of my ring finger.
How did you handle that? I mean, when your whole life is music, and that gets taken away?

I was? I?m not a suicidal person, but when that?s the only thing you know how to do and it gets jerked from you like that, you start thinkin? some pretty nutty things. And as far as I was concerned my life was over. And it really didn?t matter anymore what happened to me at that point. But thank God, there was this other fellow that was sharp as a tack and was able to at least re-establish somewhat a viable fretting hand to where, thank God, I am still playing to this day.
Do you find yourself still getting better?
Yes. Absolutely.
So it?s been a long road back but you?re out doin? it now, you?ve got a blues rock band called?Lost Cause, yeah we?re playin? the Canyon Lake area, we played in San Antonio, we played Maggie Mae?s in Austin a few times, and I?ve got my studio set up again and God willing if everything goes right we may have a new CD out before long, and it?s been a long hard road and that?s gonna be the name of the album.
Nice. What recent music grabs you?

Well there is no way I will even listen to a rap song. I would say there are some good bands, they?re not my favorite, but I guess the U2 guys, they?re okay. Matchbox 20 has done a couple of good things, Vallejo, they seem to be bands that strike my fancy? I really don?t listen to that much of the newer stuff. Then again these days I?m a blues man, and when my arm was like it was I started playing slide guitar. I love to play the slide guitar ? it?s a very emotional instrument. The album Eric Clapton put out, From The Cradle, is an excellent example of the way that I may be kind of heading. Rhythm & Blues has always been one of my favorite type of musics. I?ve been fortunate enough to play with Freddy King, Albert King, I backed up Lightnin? Hopkins when I lived in Houston for almost a year, with my band, Roy Buchanan who God bless him has also passed away, he would always insist on using my trio as his backup band whenever he came to Houston, Dallas, Austin, wherever. So I?ve been fortunate enough to be able to play again, and to have been able to play with some of the finest musicians in the world.
So through it all, you?ve been a blues fan.
How about jazz? What are some other genres of music you listen to?
Oh definitely... When I lived in L.A. the first show I saw at the Roxy was the John McLaughlin Mahavishnu Orchestra, and that just ripped? me? apart
. Billy Cobham, the whole nine yards. I, I, I was just? totally overwhelmed by what they could do all together. I mean, it?s a lot of notes but they?re right there on top of it with each other, however they do it. Herbie Hancock? jazz is music I love to listen to. Coltrane, Miles Davis?

What about other players who came up around the same time you did?
Carlos Santana, I appreciate everything he does.

Are you a fan of Tommy Bolin?
Yes I am.? Is he not? passed away?

Yeah, he passed away in the late '70s. OD?d.
That?s a shame. Yeah. Same as Paul Kossoff; I knew Paul Kossoff? from Free, Bad Company, he was another overdose? which is? which happens. James Gurley,
Sam Andrew, we played together - they were friends of mine, we put a band together for a while. This was back in the mid ?70s and we put a band together briefly, but I just couldn?t handle the madness. ?Cuz it was totally? just somewhere else that I didn?t want to be.

I was fortunate enough to be in California in I believe it was ?70 or ?71 at the Berkeley Community Center in Oakland, or Berkeley I guess (laughs), and Derek and The Dominoes were playing. It was their first gig. They come up and play a couple of songs and Clapton goes ?I want to bring out a good friend of mine now, Mr. Duane Allman.? And that was one of the best shows I?ve seen also. Also, (the Allman Bros.)? played a New Years gig in Houston, I think I was just passing through? it was 1969 I guess, I can?t remember? and somehow, the girl I was with took me back to their hotel. And me, and Dickey Betts, and another guitar player, Duane was there for just a second, I think this was just before he died (Note: that would make it 1971
) but he wasn?t really into? we probably (makes big sniff) and played for 36 hours straight. And then, as you know Duane died shortly after in a motorcycle wreck. One year to the day later, (Allman Bros. bassist) Berry Oakley died on a motorcycle; it was at the same place.
What is your muse and what keeps you going?
I think a lot of the material I?ve been writing post-Fever Tree is material that comes from my own life experiences, I consider myself an observationist, an observationalist of the human race. And if I see something I may take mental note of it, that?ll gimme an idea fo

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Fever Tree - Michael Knust Interview


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