Warren Haynes is one of those musicians that everyone that meets him holds in high esteem. Joining the reformed Allman Brothers Band in the 80s he’s built a formidable reputation and list of credits to his name, not least fronting Gov’t Mule since the mid 90s.
2014 has been Gov’t Mule’s 20th anniversary and January sees the release of Dark Side of the Mule, a live set of Pink Floyd covers recorded at their 2008 Halloween show.
Despite still being one of the busiest men in rock music, Mr Haynes kindly took time out to answer some questions about Gov’t Mule, their new live album and his career to date.
You’re celebrating Gov’t Mule’s 20th anniversary with an extensive tour and a series of archival releases and the first of these, Dark Side of the Mule, finds you covering a range of Pink Floyd numbers at your 2008 Halloween show. How important is it to you and the rest of the band to pay tribute to the acts that have influenced you?
Covering other bands’ music has been part of what Gov’t Mule has done almost from the beginning. Mostly in accordance to the way other bands in the (so-called) jamband scene take a similar approach. It’s only on special occasions like Halloween and New Year’s Eve where we cover an entire album, or do a special set of someone else’s music. These shows are very rare and very special for us. I think aside from the fun factor, it is important to turn your audience on to the music that inspired you and maybe they’ve heard it, and maybe they haven’t.
Were you tempted to include anything from Pink Floyd’s opinion-splitting album, The Final Cut, and see how that would go down with your audience?
We just picked 90 minutes of music that we really wanted to play. It was a hard choice because there is so much to choose from.
Listening to Dark Side of the Mule, it sounds like a particularly amazing audience you had that night. How risky is it for an act with as many self-penned classics as you have to go out on stage and play a set half of which consists of another act’s classic material? Or do you find that after all this time your relationship with your audience is so strong that they just come along for the ride?
We had just performed an 80-minute Gov’t Mule set of all original material, and I think most of the audience knew or expected what was to come. Since our Halloween shows are traditionally crazy and different, I don’t imagine there were very many people that didn’t know they were in for such a strange ride.
In recent years there’s been an increasing amount of established rock bands going that extra mile with the presentation of their archival releases such as yours. Do you feel this is a reaction to the download and streaming culture where there’s almost no emphasis on the physical release?
I think for a band like Gov’t Mule who plays a different set list every night, a business model such as this can be successful. It would not work for a band that plays the same songs, the same way night after night. This is really just an extension of our policies on taping from the very beginning. We’ve allowed the fans to record the shows and exchange the tapes, as long as no money changes hands, from the very onset of Gov’t Mule. Having MuleTracks.com where we offer every show in a more high-quality setting, and taking it to the next level of remixing and re-mastering shows for the archival releases, is just an extension of that philosophy.