David Lemieux has taken the stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has been interviewed by Rolling Stone, but don’t expect to hear him belting out tunes any time soon. Lemieux proudly calls himself an archivist, and has worked as the Grateful Dead’s audiovisual archivist since 1999. Read on to see what Lemieux has to say about his rockin’ career. What drew you to the archives profession? As a teenage collector of Grateful Dead tapes, it occurred to me that they needed to be backed up and stored properly. I was always concerned with the longevity of my cassette collection, knowing these analog tapes wouldn’t last forever. In the 1990s, I completed a BA in history and a BFA in film studies, focusing on film history. I began to take note of all the older films that no longer existed, and I learned a fair amount about the process of preservation. Upon completion of my history and film degrees, I decided to combine these two interests into what had become my passion, film archiving, and moved to England to attend the University of East Anglia’s film archiving master’s degree program. While I was interning at the British Columbia Archives in Victoria, I was contacted by the Grateful Dead’s archivist, Dick Latvala. Grateful Dead Productions soon offered me a contract to catalog the video and film collection. A few months later, in August 1999, Dick passed away, and I was asked to stay. Needless to say, I did. What’s been your favorite find in the archives since becoming the band’s audiovisual archivist? A batch of 1/2” analog reels from February 1968 recorded at a small venue in Lake Tahoe, California, called Kings Beach Bowl (formerly a bowling alley). These tapes were poorly labeled, but after some research we determined what they were. Not only were they rare and unheard, they were terrific shows. We produced a CD release shortly after we discovered these tapes, Dick’s Picks Vol. 22, which is still one of my favorite releases I’ve worked on. Another major discovery occurred in 2005, when a batch of 1/4” analog reels were found in the bottom of a band member’s parents’ houseboat in Oakland, California, where they’d been stored since 1971. This turned out to be a major find, consisting of five or six complete shows from the summer of 1971, featuring shows we had no idea existed on tape. We released a CD from these shows called Dick’s Picks Vol. 35: The Houseboat Tapes. Clearly the Grateful Dead has secured a loyal band of followers (called “Dead Heads”). How do you engage with these fans? It’s not too difficult to be directly engaged with the fans. Many of my colleagues and I are Dead Heads, so it’s like we’re communicating with our friends. We do occasional live video chats that draw thousands of people, and I answer fan questions in real time. My email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, is very public and allows fans to communicate directly with me with suggestions, questions, comments, criticism, or anything else on their minds, and I respond to all queries. The best way to engage, though, is through the Grateful Dead’s web site, www.dead.net, run by our partner Rhino Entertainment. It is a very active web site, with frequent updates and announcements, both on our archival activities and the band members’ activities. Additionally, our official Facebook page has more than 1.3 million fans. What’s a piece of little-known Grateful Dead trivia? One bit of trivia I always find interesting because of the Grateful Dead’s history at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in Saratoga Springs, New York (they played there in 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1988), was that in 1972, the band was scheduled to perform at SPAC on September 15 and 16, but the shows were can celled shortly before they were to take place because the town was worried about the huge rock crowd. The band played the Boston Music Hall those dates instead. If you could be a rock star for a night, what’s the song you’d most want to perform and why? The Grateful Dead’s tapes are stored in the Los Angeles area, in a fortress within a fortress within a fortress behind a chain-link fence, which we call the cage. As a good friend at the archive recently said, “I’d rather be in the cage than on the stage.” That pretty much sums up my aspirations to appear on stage.
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