Remembering Michael Houser of Widespread Panic: Interview with Sam Holt
Sam Holt Band is currently on tour paying tribute to Michael Houser, founding guitarist of Widespread Panic. That tour stops through Pour House tonight, Saturday, April 7th. Sam Holt, former guitar technician for Mikey dubbed the project “Remembering Mikey: Honoring the music, memory, and spirit of Michael Houser.” The 16-year WSP veteran moved on in 2002 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, but his fan-turned-friend Sam Holt has been honoring him on tour for several years.
Sam plays Mikey’s entire rig and will run through anything from his original catalog from Sam Holt Band as well as WSP favorites. Had the chance to talk with the Athens resident about the rig, Mikey, and some former Phish experiences. Read the full interview below.
Since you live in Athens: I was seeing Trey Anastasio down there, he talked about Mikey a little bit that show, do you have any early 90’s Phish stories?
Yeah, I actually saw them at The Variety Playhouse one time and the place flooded, water pipe burst. They came out and did 4 songs a cappella, then literally a water pipe burst in the venue and the next time they played Atlanta was 3 nights at the Roxy. Those were unreal.
How long have you been doing Remembering Mikey?
Off and on for 6 or 7 years. I have some guys out in Boulder and we would do it maybe on like his birthday or the day he passed away or a couple days around it. When I moved back to Georgia I linked up with a couple guys through another person, keyboard player named Adam Grace who plays in a band called Truth and Salvage and he said, “If you come back down South, I know a bass player and drummer we can play with,” and we started rehearsing and playing Remembering Mikey shows and Sam Holt Band shows.
What is your original stuff influenced by?
Well you know I was a big fan of The Dead, Jerry Garcia, love Frank Zappa, and love Willie Nelson so I don’t really have a category. If it seeps in somehow it comes out through whatever filter with my playing. I love country music.
Let’s do a run through of the whole rig?
Well the main rig I play was Mike Houser’s and he passed that along to me. So I have a Soldano SLO100. I mean do you want me to get technical?
Ok, well I have the Soldano SLO100 head and that feeds a MESA/Boogie 2×12 vertical cabinet, and it is the ones which kinda have a metal grill. They quit making them in the 90’s. It’s loaded right now with Tone Tubby Speakers which their deal is their cones are made out of hemp fiber and I like them. I had some EVM12L that I really liked and if I do a speaker switch I may go back to them. I like the Tone Tubby’s but the EV’s I just liked them a little better.
I use two volume pedals, one is in the effects loop which is a trick I learned from Mike – that’s what he did. So there is one that goes out of the send into the input of a volume pedal then out of the volume pedal into a delay that’s always on, its a BOSS DD-3 delay. It kinda thickens up the tone, it’s not super noticeable but if it was not there it probably wouldn’t sound as phat, sound as thick. And on the front end I just have a another volume pedal and a wah pedal and then I switch between the two channels on the amp.
Do you use any parts of that rig in Sam Holt Band?
Yeah that’s my main rig. Only time I wouldn’t play that rig is if I was doing a little duo show or maybe a restaurant. I have a little MESA/Boogie I haven’t used in a while .
Last question really, how do you remember Mikey?
Well man I really started out as a fan. I never heard anyone play like that it just spoke to me and it was just so intense, yet at the same time he would just start these beautiful parts of songs, these arrangements like the “Pilgrims” and it’s just magnificent, just these huge beautiful arranged guitar parts. Then you know the jams where he would step on the distortion and it would just go like borderline heavy metal and just lead the band and 10,000 people hanging on every note. Him and Nance would just hit this connection where they would keep pushing each other.
I remember him when I started working with him and for him, I remember him as a very patient and giving person, family man, got 2 kids and beautiful wife that were always a priority for him. Always very gracious, ya know I have seen situations like a tour manager would be like “Mike ya know we gotta go Man.” He was just really nice and if someone wanted to talk about his music or the band or whatever he was usually very open and just a normal dude, supremely talented, and gave a lot of people inspiration.
Here is an awesome version of WSP playing “Pilgrims” from when Mikey was still around.
Tickets for Sam Holt Band “Remembering Mikey” will be available at the door for $15 at The Pour House tonight. Come out, share the tribute, and learn some new stuff from Sam Holt Band.