interview took place October 1992

      The sonic wizardry of Dan Healy is as well known to Grateful Dead fans as it is to those who follow innovation in sound reinforcement systems. Dan's association with the Dead goes a long way back, but not so far back that Dan doesn't remember.
       "It's a story that I've told so many times that I've got it down pat now," he says. The story takes him back to the days when he lived on a houseboat in Corte Madera, Marin County, CA.  One of his neighbors was John Cipollina, who was putting his tremoloed guitar to work for a band called Quicksilver Messenger Service.  For struggling musicians, having a neighbor and friend who works in a recording studio and knows about electronics and equipment repair is better than befriending the owner of a pizza parlor. Dan was frequently visited by Cipollina and his bandmates.
       "Nobody had any money," Dan remembers. "There was no such thing as a spare amplifier. You were lucky to have a spare string. If you broke a string, you frequently would play the rest of the night with 5.
       "So those guys were always, 'Hey Dan, would you fix my amp?' And I didn't mind doing it. They were all people in my age group and we all had a common interest in things." In exchange for his repair services, Dan had a standing invitation to Quicksilver shows.
       Dan continues, "This one night, Quicksilver headlined and the Grateful Dead were the opening band." An amplifier on the fritz nearly ended the night for the fledgling Dead. "The music had stopped and it was, 'Is there a doctor in the house?' kind of thing. And of course John Cipollina immediately volunteered me, the son-of-a-gun. He pushes me up on the stage, 'Hey, this guy knows how to fix it.' " Dan fixed the amp and the band played on.
       Dan picks up the tale, "I stood at the back of the stage and watched the rest of the Grateful Dead set.  I remember having the sensation that, 'Hey, something's happening here. This isn't just more rock 'n' roll.'  This was a whole new kind of music. A new approach.  A new philosophy.  So I began to tune into it.  I liked it.  I liked the approach, and I liked the idea of all of the movements that the Grateful Dead was into, and the different songs all strung together and things.  And there was something new and really rewarding, and something bright and really boss about it, you know.  It was very interesting."
       Dan never did hear Quicksilver that night.  Instead, he accepted the Dead's gratefulness and spent the rest of the evening in their dressing room, shooting the breeze.  During one of the qsts in the breeze, Dan commented on teh Dead show he had just seen, saying, "It's too bad you can't hear the voices." Since the sound system consisted of a pair of home bookshelf-like speakers on each side of the stage, that was no surprise.
      "They sort of challenged me," Dan continues. "It was kind of, 'Put your sound system ideas where your mouth is.' So I took them up on the challenge."
      Dan financed his plan by supplementing his recording studio paycheck by "doing what you did in those days to earn some money."  With his ill-gotten gains he rented all the sound equipment available from the three generic Bay Area rental companies.
      "I went to the old lady that ran the Fillmore Auditorium," he continues.  "I conned her into letting me in there a day or two ahead of time to set up.  Of course, the equipment I rented wasn't mutually compatible.  I had to make it all into one big sound system, piles of speakers on each side of the stage.  We played the shows.  Man, you could hear Pigpen and Jerry and everybody singing right up with the music.  I was mixing on the side of the stage.  The first time Jerry opened his mouth and sang, he looked around at me, and it was like, 'Yeah!  This is obviously what it is we're looking for.'  That was the birth of the way it is.  We had unearthed a big piece of the answer.  At that point I quit my job at the studio.  I quit everything else and just went with the Grateful Dead."
      Fortunately for Dan's emotional and legal well-being, as the Grateful Dead's financial footing improved, he no longer had to create "independent" financiang for his sound ideas.
      Dan relates, "The Grateful Dead has always been unbelievably supportive.  They would get royalty checks for records and instead of buying houses and cars and yachts and all of that junk, they would give me the money back to put into the sound system and stuff.  And so we reinvested emotionally and materially for years.  By the early '70s we were the leaders in the field.  By 1969 I was asking questions that had no answers.  I had bottomed out all the research which [had basically been done] by the Bell Labs in the '20s.  During that period a number of now-famous audio people sort of collaborated on the Wall of Sound." By working together, Dan claims their collective knowledge moved ahead by leaps and bounds.
      "It caused major, major changes," he says. "Changes that are still going on in the sound industry today.  We debunked so much stuff that you'd be amazed.  And we verified so much stuff.  In the period from 1969 to 1974, the entire audio industry completely turned upside down and the Grateful Dead was at the hub of it.  Just that alone is something to have lived through and seen.  And now we're into our seventh or eighth-generation sound system.  And we're so many years ahead of everybody else."  The band has recently unveiled their lateest wrinkle.
      "We've gotten rid of all the loudspeakers on the stage, which is really another monumental step," Healy says of the newest innovations. "The band uses earphones, but they're extremely high quality.  They come and make molds of your ears and they build these things to fit inside of your ear. Sort of like what the newspeople wear, only a real high-end audio quality version of it.  They're stereo, one for each ear.  Each musician can make his own stereo mix.  And it's just being developed right now.  We're developing the software to do computerized mixing and stuff like that, so we've removed all of the monitor speakers and all of the instrument speakers from the stage. Now, if I shut off the sound system, you don't hear anything except for the drummers on the stage.  All the sound comes out of the sound system.
      "The advantage is that the monitors were so dense and so complex on the stage that it was like standing knee deep in mud. As a sound mixer, I could only be so subtle.  Below that threshold, I was continuously plagued with resonances and feedback and stuff.  I could only go so far and then I might as well go into the dressing room, sit down and drink a beer.
      "But lo and behold, it turns out that the same thing were causing different sets of complaints with the band members.  So collectively we realized that we've got to get rid of the speakers on the stage.  We've now known that for a long time.  So in wonderful, wonderful Grateful Dead fashion [this past may in Sacramento] we jumped right off into no speakers and it worked.
      "You've got to keep doing it," he says. "I mean, I don't ever stop.  I'm never satisfied.  I mean, ever concert is good, but I'm already scheming on what I can do better, and we start planning the next show."