Indy: This spring's tour follows two shows last year to support the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, one in San Francisco and the other at Penn State. Did those shows figure into making this tour happen?
MH: I think that [second show] was the catalyst, because there really wasn't any talk of touring before. It was just trying to renew our friendships and our love for each other and our musical and our personal relationships, because without a personal relationship, you can't play great music. If I could answer it in one word, I'd say Obama.
Indy: The last time the Dead toured — in 2004 — there was a good deal of tension between band members. What was going on, and what has been resolved since?
MH: The big issue was everybody having their own management team. And their guy was their priority, as it should be, you know. But the politics of all of that interfered with the music. We didn't really know it. We knew it was happening, but we thought it was happening for legitimate reasons. When we really looked carefully at it, we realized it was getting in the way. [The managers] are all good people. But they were getting in the way. And so we had to dismember that part of our scene. ... So we all agreed on one person that we all trusted, a center, a neutral center.
Indy: How much did any lingering grief over the death of Jerry Garcia figure into keeping the previous reunions from being all they could be?
MH: There is that part of it. I mean, Jerry was a big part of the Grateful Dead, so everybody had to grieve in his own way. And it takes time to do that, years sometimes, to replace an integral part. Not replace it, but take the best of what you have into the future. And that's what we were faced with, not having a very clear image of the music that we wanted.
Indy: You have a six-man lineup, with guitarist Warren Haynes [of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule] and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti joining the four Grateful Dead alumni. How does this lineup stack up to previous editions of the Dead?
MH: This is the best version that we've had without Jerry. It is up to a good Grateful Dead standard ... Everybody is pretty much at the top of their game, both physically and spiritually and emotionally.
At Denver's Pepsi Center, May 7.