12.12.14 Warren Haynes On New Gov’t Mule Live Releases + Life After the Allman Brothers
Warren Haynes is celebrating Gov’t Mule‘s 20th anniversary the right way — by putting out a bunch of great music. The new releases are all either collaborations or covers, all of them live, of course. Out now are ‘Stoned Side of the Mule,’ featuring a set of Rolling Stones covers from Halloween 2009 and ‘Dark Side of the Mule,’ featuring a set of Pink Floyd covers from Halloween 2008. (Gov’t Mule will be performing their Pink Floyd audio and visual tribute only once in 2015, and it’s going to be at Mountain Jam.)
‘Dub Side of the Mule,’ from a live show with Toots Hibbert from New Year’s Eve 2006, is slated for release in early 2015 and ‘Sco-Mule,’ a long-delayed collaboration with John Scofield originally recorded in 1999, is due on Jan. 27. Gov’t Mule are also following up that release with a tour that starts Feb. 8 in Seattle.
Gov’t Mule’s particular strength, like with most jam bands, is taking a good song and opening it up; Haynes in particular has always excelled at adaptation, exploring different voices on the guitar — like, for example, stepping into David Gilmour’s shoes on ‘Dub Side’ — and leading his band, mostly successfully, into new situations.
“It’s cathartic when we tackle another band’s music,” Haynes tells us. “It has a way of inspiring us, collectively and individually.”
We talked to Haynes about the new releases, and also got him to open up on playing the Star-Spangled Banner live for the first time. He also shared his feelings on the Allman Brothers, one month after that band’s final concert.
Tell me about working on David Gilmour’s solos on ‘Dark Side of the Mule.’ What’s it like going through and learning his solos, and putting your own voice into them?
It’s all really just from having heard them so many times through the years, and whatever seeped in through osmosis, because one of Gilmour’s most artful traits is that everything he plays is memorable. And he’s one of those rare musicians who sounds like he’s singing through his instrument, which I love. Every time I listen to him, it makes me want to play fewer notes, because he does it so masterfully. And that stuff stays with you. His phrasing, his note selection, his tone, his touch are all combined into this beautiful picture that I’m a huge fan of.
And you do this somewhat often — you’ll learn a band’s catalog or part of it and then perform it live. Do you come away with a different perspective on your own playing when you do that?
Absolutely. And oddly enough, that’s a question that’s being asked a lot based on people hearing these releases. I think it’s cathartic when we tackle another band’s music. It has a way of inspiring us, collectively and individually. Myself, as a singer and a songwriter and a guitar player — it makes me reexamine my choices. Because a lot of times I think musicians shy away from certain parts of their vocabulary based on whatever music they’re playing at the time. Whenever you embark on something different, you’re going to utilize parts of your musical vocabulary that you haven’t thought about in awhile.
I know you’re probably already preparing for your New Year’s Eve gig with Myles Kennedy, and I understand you guys are going to tackle some AC/DC material. Are you going through the same process with that?
That’s something we’ve been talking about for a few years now. We wanted to do it with Myles whenever he had the availability, and this year worked out, because vocally that stuff is a little bit outside my range. Myles has a higher vocal range than I do, and he’s the right guy for it. So, I’ll be concentrating more on the guitar side of AC/DC, which will be a lot of fun. And again, I’ve never really studied it other than just enjoying it and hearing it. So I’m going to dig into it a little deeper than I ever have. It’ll be a fun challenge.