Mark Batson: Infinite Kundalini

By Waldo Jaquith

When Everyday was released, it hit long-time fans like a ton of bricks. It was just so different that few knew what to make of it, and many rejected it out of hand.

Glen Ballard, in a screen capture
Glen Ballard (R), from a video capture.
Helping nothing was producer Glen Ballard, who was first introduced to Dave Matthews Band fans by way of his February 2001 appearance on PBS' Charlie Rose. Wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and smoking a cigarette, Ballard had unkempt hair, a heroin-chic physique and a vocabulary that would be unbecoming from someone a third of his age. This struck a stark contrast to the clean-cut, professional DMB that fans knew and loved. If Everyday was the product of an unhealthy relationship, then Glen Ballard was the evil stepfather.

With the subsequent Busted Stuff and Dave Matthews' solo album, Some Devil, the band wisely worked with a known quantity -- long-time DMB engineer Steve Harris, who fans were loathe to criticize (see our October 2002 interview with Harris for more). Musically, Busted Stuff did little to advance the band. More than anything else, it was a return to the jazz roots they never had, an album by musicians for musicians. While a beautiful work, it served the role of sating fans' desire for the Lillywhite Sessions, and wasn't intended to do anything new. Stand Up is really more of a sequel to Everyday than anything else.

Apparently having learned from their mistakes with Ballard, the band has worked hard to ease fans into the idea that Stand Up is going to be the beginning of a new direction for the band, and that their new producer, Mark Batson, is nothing more than the facilitator for that process. (Clearly, that was his chief talking point for our conversation.) As Batson describes it, Stand Up is nothing less than a new starting point in their musical evolution. Fans have been warned for months, via the band's website and the Stand Up website, that the album would be different. A positive spin has been put on the change, and it's hoped that fans will take to it much more readily than they did Everyday.

Batson is succinct on the comparison. "I hope that the fans think that I'm a cooler dude than Glen."

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