12.22.14 Warren Haynes Looks Back On 20 Years Of Gov’t Mule + His ‘Unbelievable’ Time With The Allman Brother
20 years ago, Allman Brothers Band members Warren Haynes and Allen Woody wanted to have some fun outside of their regular day job and they formed Gov’t Mule. As Haynes recalls, they didn’t have any serious goals for the band when things first got rolling.
“It was just a fun side project. We didn’t even have any designs on doing a second record or turning it into a touring band or any of the things that eventually happened,” he says. “Maybe that’s why it worked, because we were just flying by the seat of our pants and taking it one step at a time. Every decision we made was based on what we felt like would be the best for us and in no way second guessing the marketplace or music industry.
“We were just kind of saying, ‘Well, since we are becoming a band, what’s the next step?’ We’d try something and see where it went. The one thing we knew was that we didn’t want to stay where we were. Us starting out as an experimental rock power trio, if you will, was just a fun thing to do in the moment. It was never like, ‘Let’s do that for the rest of our lives,’ it was, ’Let’s do that and see what happens.’ Once it turned into a band, then we had to figure out, ‘Okay, what’s the second record going to be like.’”
Two decades later, Haynes and Gov’t Mule are continuing to explore and find answers to those questions as they come around. They’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of Gov’t Mule with a flurry of releases culled from the band’s legendary Halloween and New Year’s Eve gigs, including the recently released ‘Dark Side of the Mule,’ 90 minutes of Pink Floyd covers recorded live during a 2008 Halloween concert in Boston. (Gov’t Mule will perform their Floyd tribute as one of their two sets at Mountain Jam 2015).
Similarly, the limited edition vinyl release ‘The Stoned Side of the Mule: Volume 1,’ featuring tracks recorded during a 2009 Halloween gig in Philadelphia, captures the band making their way through seven handpicked classics from the Rolling Stones catalog.
They’ll continue to unpack treasures from the archives in early 2015, with ‘Dub Side Of The Mule,’ a set of reggae jams with Toots Hibbert of Toots & The Maytals, taken from a 2006 New Year’s Eve gig in New York City, an evening which also featured guest appearances from Gregg Allman and Blues Traveler’s John Popper. The group also plans to finally release the long-anticipated recordings of their 1999 collaboration with jazz guitarist John Scofield, who teamed up with the group for two shows. Fans can finally hear the results of those shows via a newly mixed and mastered three-hour set called ‘SCO-MULE’ that will be released on double CD and double vinyl in January.
To celebrate the arrival of the ‘SCO-MULE’ album, Scofield and Gov’t Mule will hit the road for a special set of tour dates. We recently had the chance to speak with Haynes and he shared details regarding the upcoming trek and the anniversary releases. He also spoke about some of the new music that he’s working on and the “once in a lifetime opportunity” that he had being a member of the Allman Brothers.
Playing covers for you seems like it’s a way to continue to educate today’s music fans and keep an awareness going of the important songs and cornerstone artists that might otherwise fade away.
That’s definitely part of it. You know, it’s also just having fun and kind of interjecting some freshness into our three-hour shows. Because I think when you play a long show like that, doing something that’s a bit of a curveball kind of rounds out the overall picture. And as I mentioned, it’s fun for us and the audience that we’ve kind of garnered through the years is used to that sort of thing. Because since we’re somewhat lumped in with the other jam bands, a lot of them or all of them take a similar approach. We’re just a little bit more of a rock band, I think.
Are there curveball moments that stick out as far as things you tried out in the moment like that which didn’t work?
Not for the most part. You know, we’re pretty good at picking stuff that we’re confident in and also a lot of preparation and rehearsal goes into it. You know, it’s funny, I guess the audience has changed a bit in our 20 years, because the first time we covered the song ’Tempted’ by Squeeze, I think the audience scratched their head and wondered why we were doing it. Then we didn’t do it for quite a few years and the next time that we did it, everybody thought it was awesome. [Laughs]
I know that when I look at Mule Tracks, sometimes I’ll see a song pop up and I’ll be really curious to hear the spin that you are going to put on it.
I’m sure that there are some that didn’t come off as well as others, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. We’re brave in the way that we’re really going out on a limb and exposing ourselves. Since you brought up Mule Tracks, just the concept of making every show that you play available to the public is kind of guilty of that bravery or stupidity or whatever it is.
You guys and the Allmans started releasing live recordings from every concert really early on. Initially, was it difficult to make that decision to openly document and share everything like you have?
Well, we’ve been allowing people to record the shows and trade the tapes as long as no money changes from the very beginning. When we started Mule Tracks in 2004, it was just an extension of that to offer what we consider a higher quality recording of the shows. It’s turned into a nice business venture for us, you know, we’re approaching three million songs downloaded and for a band like Gov’t Mule that’s largely under the radar, that’s pretty impressive.