Michael Eliot "Mike" Gordon (born June 3, 1965) is a bass guitar player and vocalist most recognized as a founding member and bassist for the rock band Phish. In addition to bass, Gordon is an accomplished banjo player, and is proficient at piano, and guitar. He is also a filmmaker (Rising Low, Outside Out) and author (Mike's Corner). He has released four solo studio albums.
Gordon was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, the son of Marjorie Minkin, an abstract painter, and Robert Gordon, founder and former President and CEO of New England convenience store chain Store 24. Gordon attended the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston and Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. Gordon holds a bachelor's degree in Arts (he was originally an Electrical Engineering major) from the University of Vermont.
Gordon met Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman and Jeff Holdsworth while attending college at University of Vermont, where the rock band Phish formed in 1983. He answered a posted flyer hanging in the dorms at UVM by Trey Anastasio, looking for a bass player for a new band.
Gordon played many roles in Phish. Until the band became too big for self-management, he dealt with practically all public relations and fan communication, such as answering fan mail, managing funds and booking gigs.
Musically, Gordon's influence is the most obvious in Phish's many different renditions of various bluegrass, calypso and even traditional Jewish songs (Gordon is Jewish). He also contributed by singing, as well as writing off-beat lyrics to amusing but thought-provoking songs. Gordon wrote 19 original Phish songs and co-authored 25 additional Phish tracks, including "Mound", "Train Song", "Round Room", "Sugar Shack," "Yarmouth Road," "555," "Say Something" and others. 2
Instruments & Gear:
Like Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, Gordon used to play custom-made bass guitars built by Paul Languedoc. Gordon played two Languedoc bass guitars, including a "dragon" bass. These bass guitars employed custom wound pickups from Mørch guitars of Denmark.
Gordon began experimenting with a Modulus Quantum 5 bass guitar on stage with Phish as early as October 31, 1994. He made the switch to this instrument as his main bass at Phish's March 1, 1997, show at Markthalle in Hamburg, Germany to a Quantum 5 with two EMG DC pickups. He later acquired a TBX model which is the through-neck version of the same guitar. This instrument is known for deep tones and a "futuristic" sound, largely attributable to a unique construction including a neck that is made entirely of a lightweight, extremely robust carbon-graphite compound, not dissimilar to a material selected by NASA for use on the Space Shuttle. Gordon plays with a pick (Jerry Dunlop 1.5mm triangular graphite picks) and Ken Smith Slickround™ (half flat) strings
Gordon's signature sound is also attributable to an array of signal processing equipment including an ADA MB-1 pre-amp, an Ibanez flanger (used at the beginning of "Down with Disease"), a Lovetone Meatball envelope filter (also used at the beginning of "Down with Disease"), and Akai Deep Impact, an EHX Bass Micro-Synth, an EBS OctaBass and a Boss SYB-3, a Boss BF-2 flanger, an Eventide 4500 Harmonizer, an Eventide Eclipse and a Lexicon LXP-15.
Gordon has used a variety of amplifier and speaker combinations including the SWR SM-900 amp/Goliath 4x10" enclosure but lately has been playing through Eden WT-800 amps, a Meyer Sound CP-10 parametric EQ, and onward toward a Meyer Sound powered speaker system (two 750P 2x18 cabs and two UPA-1Ps with 12" low frequency drivers and 3" compression drivers).
As of December 2012, Gordon uses Source Audio Bass Envelope Filter Pro, Source Audio Bass Distortion Pro, Eventide Eclipse, Eventide Space, MXR graphic EQ, Boss graphic EQ and Electro Harmonix Super Ego, The Meatball envelope filter by Lovetone™, an Ibanez stomp box flanger, and an Eventide 4500 Harmonizer (Mike marinates with at least ten Eventide patches on a regular basis, such as "Echospace of God." These effects were simmered, char-broiled, and braised by a CAE switching system, complete with hard-bypass, on-off loops and MIDI.
He currently uses Eden WT 800 amp into a Meyers CP-10 parametric EQ, and onward toward a Meyers powered speaker system: One 750P 2×18 and one 750 PL 2 x 18, two UPA-1P on top. He goes straight to the Eden WT800 driving a single Eden 4×10 cab, sometimes enhancing with more Eden 18′s and more power.
In 2014, Gordon commissioned custom moiré instruments for himself and guitarist Scott Murawski to work with stage props being used on his 2014 Spring Tour. The guitar and bass (crafted specifically for this tour by Ben Lewry of Oakland, California's Visionary Instruments) are hollow, with LEDs inside that make them glow, and moiré screens stretched across the front. The LEDs in the guitars are manipulated by lighting director Jason Liggett, swapping colors and flashing patterns in response to the music.
He has played banjo since 1994, performing the instrument in concert with Phish and Phil Lesh (albeit an electric banjo) and in the studio on the 2007 Bernie Worrell album Improvisczario.
Mike Gordon (2008-present):
His current touring band (and longest running touring project) is billed as "Mike Gordon" and includes Scott Murawski on guitar, Brooklyn drummer Todd Isler, keyboard player Tom Cleary and percussionist Craig Myers. Gordon emerged from touring hibernation in 2008 and performed with this solo band for the first time since 2003 at The Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts, on June 30, 2008.
Gordon completed a 25-date supporting tour across the US with this band in summer 2008 and a short four-night stint in December of that year. They ventured on a 22-date US tour on September 8, 2009, and again in March 2010. On September 7, the band announced a 17-date November tour, from the 5th to the 27th of the month, with more than half of the dates completely sold out.
In January 2011, the band announced a 17-date March 2011 headlining club tour, including its first sold out double-header event at Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, New York. The band made its debut late night talk-show television appearance on February 11, as musical guests on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, promoting Gordon's album Moss.
The band played a small handful of dates in New England (and one date in Albany) in November and December 2011, including a show at The Egg in Albany, NY on December 11, 2011 that ended up being the focus of a live album Gordon released in 2013 simply called "The Egg". They again toured in March 2014 (and a few weekends in April) supporting Gordon's last solo album (co-written with band-mate Murawski) Overstep.
Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke:
In 2002, Gordon recorded the critically acclaimed Clone album with acoustic guitar master Leo Kottke. The duo reunited in 2005 for Sixty Six Steps, followed by a supporting tour. According to The Boston Globe, "the recording dormancy may end as Kottke and Gordon both confirmed plans for a get-together that will include Phish drummer Jon Fishman."
Benevento/Russo Duo and GRAB (2004-2006):
In 2004, Gordon performed with The Benevento-Russo Duo for several shows benefiting Headcount, a voter registration organization. The trio played a number of dates in late 2004 and 2005 including the Bonnaroo Music Festival in June 2005 and a New Year's Eve series of shows in Florida and the northeastern United States.
In summer 2006, Gordon, along with Phish bandmate Trey Anastasio, again joined the Benevento-Russo Duo for a co-headlining tour with Phil Lesh and Friends before finishing the final leg of the tour on their own. The group performed various songs from each members' catalog, as well as a handful of brand new originals. The quartet parted ways after the tour ended in July.
Gordon has played in several side-projects apart from Phish, including Grappa Boom with Jamie Masefield of the Jazz Mandolin Project, The Chieftains with Rosanne Cash, and Doug Perkins of Smokin' Grass. Gordon formed his own solo band featuring Josh Roseman, Scott Murawski, Julee Avallone, James Harvey, Gordon Stone, Jeannie Hill and Doug Belote in 2003.
He released his first solo album outside of Phish in 2003, entitled Inside In.
In summer 2004 Gordon produced musician Joey Arkenstat's first album, Bane. Gordon is also credited with providing vocals and shofar accompaniment.
In December 2005, Gordon formed SerialPod with Anastasio and Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. The group debuted at the 17th annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam in Asheville, North Carolina.
In early 2006, Gordon teamed up with his mother, artist Marjorie Minkin, to present Another Side of In -- a visual and audio art show featuring interactive sculptures created by Minkin and set to the music of Inside In. The interactive show appeared at the Boston Children's Museum beginning in January 2010.
Later in 2006, Gordon formed a honky-tonk band called Ramble Dove, consisting of himself, Brett Hughes, Neil Cleary, Marie Claire and Scott Murawski. The band came into fruition after Gordon's long-time stint as bass guitar player in a honky-tonk band led by Brett Hughes that performed each Tuesday night at the Burlington, Vermont, club, Radio Bean. The group performs a number of classic country songs and a few Gordon originals, such as "Ramble Dove", "Loosening Up The Rules" and the rare Phish song "Weekly Time".
In August 2006, Gordon joined the Rhythm Devils - a group featuring Kreutzmann, The Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, guitarist Steve Kimock and a host of backup players.
On January 2, 2007, Gordon appeared with a group billed as The House Band containing many former members of The Grateful Dead playing at a party in honor of the new leadership of the United States House of Representatives hosted by Nancy Pelosi. The group included Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby and Warren Haynes.
Gordon performed at a concert in Hawaii on September 21 with Kimock and Kreutzmann and, on November 2, appeared during the second set of a Ratdog concert at the Memorial Auditorium in Burlington, Vermont, joining the band on the songs "Stuff", "Bird Song" and "Cassidy". On January 5, Gordon again teamed with Kreutzmann and Scott Murawski in Jaco, Costa Rica, for a performance at Doce Lunas, playing a range of covers and originals including "Keep on Growing" "Estimated Prophet" "Twist" and "Intensified". After this show, Gordon began a year-long retreat from public performance to focus his time on writing and recording a new album, and forming a new touring band.
He joined Trey Anastasio at the first annual Rothbury Music Festival in July during his solo acoustic set. Anastasio and Phish drummer Jon Fishman joined Gordon for part of his set the same day. Gordon released an album entitled The Green Sparrow on Rounder Records on August 5, 2008.
On March 6, 2009, Mike reunited with Phish at the Hampton Coliseum. The band has toured regularly since Summer 2009.
Gordon finished writing and recording his next solo album, Moss, at his home studio in Vermont in May 2010. The album was released by Rounder Records on October 19.
He explains that many of the songs on the new album "began as bass and drum jams" adding that it is "kind of bass-oriented. Not in that the bass is the lead, but that the rhythms and the patterns are bass centric. The uniqueness is centered on the bass. So the bass is the key instrument. On Inside In, the pedal steel is the key instrument and if you had to say it for Green Sparrow, maybe electric guitar. But this time it's the bass."