Q&A With David Lemieux

The brain behind Dave's Picks. Audiovisual archivist and legacy manager for the Grateful Dead.

Walk us through a day in the life, what’s on Dave’s agenda?

One of the greatest things about my job is that there is no typical day. Every day is very different. The largest part of my job is producing album releases for the Grateful Dead, so a huge part of my day is spent listening to music. And at any time, I am producing several albums, be they Dave's Picks, boxed sets, Record Stay Day projects, or reissues, so there is always a lot of variety of listening on any given day. I also spend a lot of time proofing current projects, which means listening to digital files sent to me from Jeffrey Norman, and David Glasser, both long-time mastering engineers for the Dead, or test pressings of upcoming vinyl releases. Grateful Dead music is constantly playing in my house and in my studio (also in my house).

I also spend a lot of time reviewing licensing submissions from the Grateful Dead's many licensees, such as Slowtide. This involves reviewing designs, making sure they both fit within the Dead's aesthetic sensibility, and to make sure the designs are historically and aesthetically accurate.

I also host a daily one hour show on the Dead's 24/7 Sirius XM Grateful Dead and have been doing that for more than 14 years, more than 5,300 shows since 2007. There are many other smaller things that fill my workday, such as reviewing music and set-dressing requests from film and TV projects, shooting videos to announce new Grateful Dead music releases, and many other things that come up. It's all-consuming, and I love it.

You have every Dead Head’s dream job, how did this happen, and can you put a good word in for me?

In 1998, I was finishing a master's degree in film archiving from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, living in Victoria, BC, Canada while doing an internship at the Provincial Archives of British Columbia. I wrote the Dead's archivist, Dick Latvala, an email in May 1998, asking about the Dead's film and video holdings. He invited me to visit the Dead's vault in July 1998, and a few months later I wrote him a thank you letter, and one to John Cutler, the Dead's producer and studio head. I offered my services to them to catalog the Dead's film and video collection, and they took me up on the offer. I spent a few months in 1999 working in the Bay Area, and while I was there in August 1999, finishing a second contract, Dick got ill, and sadly passed away. The Dead asked me to stick around to help around the archive and studio, which I was honoured to do. That was 23 years ago, and my duties and responsibilities have grown since then.

When curating Dave’s Picks, what do you consider?

It always comes down to performance quality. It's got to be about how well the Dead played that night. There are other considerations as well, such as what else has been released recently, making sure we cover all eras, and of course sound quality of the tapes also matters, but the performance quality is always the driving factor in what's selected for release. 

What is your most prized artifact in the vault?

The tapes.

How many tapes in the vault? How do you keep everything organized?

The Dead's archive has around 15,000 audio tapes, and 3,000 video tapes and film reels. The audio collection is extremely well organized. Everything is housed and shelved chronologically by format. Which is to say one area of the vault has 7" live show reels 1966-1981, and they're chronologically shelved, another has live show multi-tracks, another has studio projects, etc. The videos are also shelved chronologically. Because of the initial organizational efforts of Dick Latvala, the tapes collection is remarkably well-organized, and everything is very easy to locate.

What is your most memorable Grateful Dead experience?

Probably my first show, the first of the 100 I saw, on March 26, 1987, at the Hartford Civic Center. I was 16 years old and had listened to virtually nothing but the Dead for the previous two years. So, by the time I was at an actual Grateful Dead show, I was in awe of every second of the show. I remember so much of that night, 35 years later, very vividly. It's still crystal clear in my mind. That show was the start of a long journey that continues to this day, and onward.

You can only listen to one Grateful Dead song the rest of your life… which one would you play?

That's a very good, and very tough question. I think it would have to be something that has a lot of depth and is very different every night. I think it would be either Dark Star, The Other One, or Playing in The Band.

Thank you for your time, Dave. Is there anything else you'd like to say? 

I’m a huge fan of Slowtide. Both the quality of their products, and the designs their team submits to us for approval are perfectly aligned with the Grateful Dead sensibility, the guiding force of everything we do. Their blankets and towels are part of my daily life, whether it’s a beach blanket used for my frequent outdoor adventures near the ocean or in parks, or the towels I use constantly in my lake visits, canoe trips, and anytime I need to dry things off. As a parent, a car equipped with emergency supplies is always part of our road trips, and Slowtide blankets and towels are always a part of the emergency box in the trunk of the car.

The Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast is available for binging wherever you listen to podcasts. For more information, check out www.dead.net/deadcast