A Blues Traveler tries multimedia

By Ethan Smith
Updated April 12, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Blues Traveler lead singer and harmonica virtuoso John Popper has been at the fore of the new wave of old sounds since he and his band first kicked out the jams in the late ’80s. In 1991, Popper and Co. founded H.O.R.D.E., an annual touring music festival that provides exposure for inheritors of the Grateful Dead’s aesthetic mantle and to eco-conscious political views. Now the show has gone interactive, with the release of the CD-ROM All Access: The H.O.R.D.E. Festival. ”It’s technology way beyond our understanding,” says Popper, who lent a creative hand to the making of the double disc. ”But it’s cool that we’ve been able to really express ourselves through it.”

Are you surprised that a lot of the people who are drawn to multimedia are the same kind of hippie-ish kids who like Blues Traveler?
That doesn’t surprise me at all. A lot of the people who get into computers are college kids. And college is also where you tend to meet the kind of music that we play.

Do you see any connection between interactivity and the kind of musical improvisation you do?
Yes. The way we’ve always looked at things as a band is just to try stuff we want to do. It’s reaffirming for me to discover the Internet. There’s a whole lot of people who want to do that.

Do you surf the Web?
I try. I’m a real novice; I only mess with the little waves. I splash along in the water and body-surf. But I don’t just wander the beach looking for shells. I wade in.

What do you look for?
Everything. I’m the kind of guy that, when I’m looking up a word in a dictionary, I get distracted cause I’m like, ”Wow, they have a definition for life here.” I’m going along [on the Web] and trying to figure out the words to that Phish song, and then they’ll have a reference to some other thing in blue [a hypertext link]. And the next thing I know, I’m looking up the history of turnip trucks.