Meet the 'Dream Attic' Band


Joel Zifkin



What is your role within the 'Dream Attic' Band Tour?   New person. Eclectic violin, occasional mandolin and backing vox.

How long have you and RT known each other and how did you meet? Describe the same for any other band members with whom you have a history.

  Richard and I began to know each other in Feb 2010 although we had met a few times over the years at festivals or musical events through common friends while I was with Kate and Anna McGarrigle. I've known Simon Tassano since the eighties. We've had some amazing, interesting, fun travels over time with Kate and Anna, with whom he did sound etc. on and off. I met everybody else in February at Richard's or at the hotel.

Please list the equipment / instruments you brought on the road.

  My main instrument is a solid body electric violin (actually it's sort of an "empty" figure eight) that has been in a state of flux, development, and disarray since 1979. It's a bit unwieldy and lacks classic visual beauty, but I prefer its sound to anything else that I've tried so far. I brought a spare, more standard and prettier electric violin on the road but I only had to use it once briefly while amazing Bobby changed a broken string during a song. (no mean feat for a first time on a strange instrument in a high pressure situation). I also brought various electronic devices that, hopefully, enhance the sonic palette. They rented an amp for me for the tour, that I use for stage sound.
Please describe the 'Dream Attic' show visually and musically.   Musically and visually it's a small boat, some big waves, in the milky way, navigated as deftly as possible. It's beautiful, serene, wild, and there are elements that will never be fully domesticated.

What is your favorite track on the new album and why?

  That varies from moment to moment. They've each had their turns.
What song performance did you find the most challenging?   That varied from night to night. They've each had their turns here as well.

How did you keep in shape during the tour? Did you follow any special diet or exercise regimen?

  Time permitting, I tried to walk wherever I was going, occasionally tried the hotels' torture chambers, and tried not to eat too much crap. It can actually be easier to avoid limitless snacking when away from the cornucopia of the home fridge and pantry.

What do you find to be the toughest part of touring?

  Sporadic very early morning calls.
Can you share a favorite memory of the U.S. tour?
  Other than the thrills of playing with these people? Hanging around with these people, all of what, for me, is exotica e.g. walking around towns like Battle Mountain Nevada, meeting up with strangers and friends in far flung places, the views from the bus of crowds, towns and highway signs, the geography, flora and fauna of America, being on the bus, a Waco truck stop Harley gathering, backstage at the Pabst.
How many fines did you accumulate and what were your DA road infractions?   I didn't change my time zone once, which caused me to be waiting casually for the lobby call in my room while everybody was already on the bus. Onstage, I had a few musical daydreams, just enjoying the sound of the band, and would occasionally have to fling myself back to the mic in time to catch the tail end of a backing vocal. Sometimes I'd slip right off the musical ledge. It's all honourable, good natured and entertaining in its own way.

To what other RT projects or tours have you contributed?

  I participated in the Kate McGarrigle celebration at Richard's 2010 Meltdown in London.

More About Joel Zifkin

Where do you call 'home'?   Montreal Quebec, Canada
How did you become interested in music?   I can't remember not being interested.
Who got you started? Was it with a different instrument?   I started with classical music on the violin.
Please list all the instruments you play.   Violin, Guitar, Bass, some Viola, computerized sounds, keyboards, mandolin, a little banjo around the house.
Are you self-taught or formally trained?   Originally, formally trained violin and everything else self-taught.
What genre of music do you consider your work to be?   I try to play good music well.
Who would you say are your greatest musical influences?   This sometimes varies. Aside from the highly influential guys with whom I'm playing in the RTB, I'd say Jerry Garcia, Kate and/or Anna McGarrigle, Beethoven, Big Mama Thornton, Prokofiev, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Beatles and Bach.
Do you compose your own music?   Yes.
Are you a songwriter? A vocalist?  

I write songs and I'm a vocalist by default.

Have you recorded solo projects? Are you a member of another band?  

Solo projects - Yes. There is "Zifkin" and "Five Songs More" both on iTunes etc and it's an ongoing thing  I experiment with songs and then with recording them.

I'm primarily a freelance musician but we used have a band called  the Bliminals which also included RTB alumnus Pat Donaldson. We used to do a bunch of my songs.


With whom have you recorded/ toured?


Some of the people with whom I've played and / or worked, live and/or recorded; some just at one event and others more long term.

Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Big Mama Thornton, Richard Thompson, Bliminals, Buddy Guy, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Emmylou Harris, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright, Philip Glass, Townes Van Zandt, Joe Dassin, Big Moose Walker, Hubert Sumlin, Wade Hemsworth, Lou Reed, Complainte de la Butte (Moulin Rouge Soundtrack), The Chieftains, Pat Donaldson, Film: "Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave", Elvis Costello, Roma Baran, Joe Boyd, Madou Diarra, Murray McLauchlan, Nick Cave, Lisa Hannigan, Neil Tennant, Krystle Warren, Pierre Marchand, Rational Youth, The Harry Smith Project: The Anthology Of American Folk Music Revisited, - Hal Willner - Came so Far for Beauty (Brooklyn), Chaim Tannenbaum, Boy George, Ed Harcourt, Guy Garvey, Brad Albetta, Boo Hewerdine, Ray Bonneville, Jen Gloeckner, Ravens & Chimes, Robert Charlebois, The Chicago Blues All-Stars, Yaya Diallo, Backo Njacko, Gogh Van Gogh, Les Colocs, Willie Lamothe, Mr. Boy and the Fabulous Colossals

What is the strangest venue or gig you've ever played?  

Sometimes, the trip and the city visited seems like the venue and the venue is but moments in the experience. 
We (K & A McGarrigle) once went to Hong Kong for a show. Getting there involved my first ever stop in the UK, a quick tube ride into London for a morning pub crawl between flights courtesy of PD, back to the airport, a weird stop in Bombay, a surrealistic time in Hong Kong and vicinity and then back home.

Berlin, shortly after the wall came down was also incredibly strange. The east was still very much the east. Burning Trabants, dark nights of Russian soldiers in empty streets, eisbein. West Berlin was opulent. I ate my first real caviar.

Large outdoor festivals are often full of strangeness. I've been fortunate to have had some wonderful touring families and it's all a fantastic trip.


What is your most memorable musical experience?


There are a few. Right now I'd have to say that it was The Kate McGarrigle Celebration at 2010 Meltdown that Richard curated. It had everything dear but Kate in body.

What's the most 'rock star' thing that you've ever done?  

Played very loud in front of enormous amounts of very supportive people. Occasionally been treated well in fancy places.


On what dream tour would you love to play with any past or present artist/band?

  Well, the RTB  is pretty dreamy and present tense. Otherwise, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones. I imagine those to be potentially fine musical experiences.

If you had to give up music - what would you do to be creative?


Daydream? Chat? I'm not an adequate author, I can't draw what I imagine and the other media are far too complicated and or expensive. One can't , for example, dabble in filmmaking and nobody's asking me to act. I don't know. Maybe "do" isn't one with "to be".


What advice do you have for people who want to pursue a musical career?


If you enjoy playing music, by all means, do it as best you can. The career aspect is on a totally different plane and is, at best, a somewhat fixed lottery. What can one say? Be lucky?


Tell us anything else that you would like people to know about you.


I'm happy, have been fortunate in many musical endeavours and am extremely grateful. I'd like to do more.

What is next for you?  

I have no idea. More I hope.

How can fans learn more about you and your music?


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