By Victoria Wasylak
It’s that time of year again: every band worth listening to will release a hardy coffee table book for the Christmas season, only to turn around and make another one next year. The Grateful Dead, however, find a slipcover with soul this holiday season in Susana Millman’s book Alive With The Dead: A Fly On the Wall With A Camera, a five-pound tome that features Millman’s own photos of the psychedelic rock giants. In the composition’s pages, Millman crams 25 years of her photographic work with the band into a 256-page 12” by 9” hardcover.
HOW DID YOU INITIALLY GET INVOLVED WITH THE GRATEFUL DEAD?
I traveled in South America in the early ‘70s to study shamanism and met San Francisco Dead Heads with whom I came back to the Bay Area. Through these connections I met Dick Latvala and then Rock and Nicki Scully. Our children went to Wavy Gravy’s Camp Winnarainbow together and as we got to know each other, I’d have dinner with Jerry when he came upstairs for dinner at the Scully home (they lived in the same building).
WHAT ARE SOME PHOTOS THAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO SEE IN THE BOOK?
• “Hell in a Bucket” video, Jerry laughing with a cigarette while Bobby gives the duck a drink, and Steve Parish being made up for performance.
• Mickey Hart vacuuming to make the space beautiful for the Gyuto monks, 1991.
• The gaffer tape ball, a.k.a. eco art by roadies.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHICH PHOTOS MADE THE CUT? Limitations of space and design made for really difficult decisions and I miss many that did not make it. The photos that made the book best conveyed the positive vibrant energy that enveloped the scene, and also were chosen to create overall a visually broad brush.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE FOIL STAMPING AND RICH EXTRAS.
I had the good fortune of a very successful Kickstarter campaign and wanted a first edition that would be aesthetically special. So we have the silver foil stamped skeleton rose on the clothbound slipcase, 256 pages instead of the original 192, and the embossed skeleton rose on the soft touch laminate cover, and beautiful thick paper! The production was by Freddy Hahne (Watermark Press, a subsidiary of RR Donnelly International). And one day I had a meeting with Freddy and Don Pasewark, the graphic artist and book designer, and we decided that a perforated blotter page would complete the package, and so there is a perforated blotter page — benign, of course.
WHAT PART DOES THE DARK STAR ORCHESTRA PLAY IN YOUR BOOK TOUR?
On about half our events, we’ll be the “opening act” for DSO. We’ve joked about taking our act out on the road to talk about our life and times around the band. And now it’s about to come true. Books will also be available for sale and signing.
WHAT DO YOU THINK JERRY GARCIA WOULD SAY ABOUT THE BOOK IF HE COULD SEE IT TODAY?
He’d have said “Cool, man,” and maybe talked about the slipcase foil…but I don’t think he’d have looked into it too much ‘cause he didn’t like to see his own photo.
WHAT IS ONE GRATEFUL DEAD LYRIC THAT SUMS YOUR LIFE UP?
Tossup: “All the years combine, they melt into a dream…” or, “Oh, oh what I want to know, where does the time go?”
Learn more about Susana Millman’s adventures with The Grateful Dead at mamarazi.com.