The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world






MARCH 2014


This year Gov't Mule celebrates 20 years of 'kicking ass' and they're coming Down-Under to kick some serious ass here too! Hot on the back of last year's sensational Shout! album The Mule head over for Byron Bay Bluesfest and a couple of East Coast dates. We caught up with The Mule's legendary vocalist and guitarist Warren Haynes. As a long-time fan I had a million questions and only twenty minutes to ask them in! And yes Warren is just as cool and laid back as you imagine him to be. So if you love real music that delivers a real 'experience' then get out and see The Mule...

Mark: Hi, Warren, it’s Mark from Australia’s Rockpit, I hope you’re well. Gov’t Mule has long been a staple of American festivals, and now you’re heading to Australia’s Blues Fest, why so long?

Warren: Good question! It’s far too long, we’ve been looking forward to coming back, 2000, we were there before Allen Woody passed away, and of course we’ve been through a lot of changes after that, but it has been far too long and we’re excited to be back.

Mark: It’s great to see you over and especially playing a couple of dates in Sydney and Melbourne as well. It must be hard enough picking a festival set, with such a great back catalogue, but how are you going to do that for Australia? Is there going to be anything different, any surprises?

Warren: Well, each one will be different; each set we perform will be different. Even though we’ll be playing shorter shows than we normally play, we still will continue our policy of playing a different show every night.

Mark: That will be something for people to look forward to. This year is a big year for you; you’ve been “Kickin’ ass” for 20 years! How are you going to celebrate that?

Warren: Well we have a new studio album, “Shout” is a nice celebration. It’s kind of a combination of all the influences we’ve adopted from the very beginning up until now. We’d like to do a handful of shows where we invite similar special guests from “Shout” to join us. Twentieth anniversary, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long, it’s a big year. Its 45 years for The Allman Brothers, 25 years since I joined The Allman Brothers, and 20 years with Gov’t Mule.

Mark: It is a big year; you touched on the Allman’s there, with yourself and Derek Trucks leaving this year, it must have been a huge decision to make for you?

Warren: Yeah, it’s something we’ve been talking about for 2 or 3 years now, and to be quite truthful the whole band has been talking about this, the last year. Everybody felt like the 45th anniversary would be a good time to go out on a high note. For some reason we were all on the same page, and then some people got cold feet, and Derek and I had had basically made plans for several years based on this being the last year, and we chose to honour those plans. I think in the long run we’re going to find out if everyone agrees it’s time for The Allman Brothers to stop touring.

Mark: Yeah, a classic band and very influential. Does that mean there’s more time for The Mule, with another solo album? You must have a lot of plans buzzing around?

Warren: Yeah, Gov’t Mule is looking forward to recording more and touring more, I’d like to make another solo record, I’ve got other projects in the works that we’ll talk about when the time is right, there’s definitely a lot of things on the horizon, that I’m very excited about.

Mark: You mentioned around the time of the last solo release, “Man in Motion” that you were looking at a singer/songwriter type record, maybe a jazz project or even some straight blues, I guess we might get to see all of that then?

Warren: Yeah, I mean all three of those things are in the works, but I’m not exactly sure in which order. But, I have a feeling that the next release will be a little more singer/ songwriter influenced, a little more acoustic orientated, but I don’t want to limit it in a certain direction, but I think that will be the overall kind of trajectory of the music, because I have a lot of songs that fall into that category, that I haven’t recorded yet, that I’m very excited about.

Mark: That’s great! We’ve read many interviews with you where you’ve talked about your influences and how you worked backwards, if you like, from bands like Cream and Clapton, and found the greats like that. Are there any unusual influences that you’ve stumbled upon over the years that have inspired you?
Warren: I think there are a lot of influences that some people might think are unusual. For one, I grew up in a household with a lot of music, two older brothers that were record collectors, and force fed a lot of wonderful music, jazz, blues, rock and roll, soul, folk and reggae, so I was kind of listening to everything from an early age. My dad was listening to Hank Williams, Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley, so there’s always been a diverse array of music around for me to check out. I’ve always had an open mind, I think the more music you listen to, the more likely that you will find your own voice. I am also influenced in three different directions, as a guitar player, as a singer and as a songwriter. For some people the fact that I’m a big Joni Mitchell fan, or a big Tom Waits fan and obviously Bob Dylan, everybody’s a Bob Dylan fan, and I’ve also been equally a fan of Cannonball Adderley, and Coltrane and Miles and of and Sonny Rawlins, and equally a fan of Elmore James, Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. So maybe it’s a surprise to some that I listen to Elvis Costello, Ricky Lee Jones.

Mark: That’s very diverse, and of course Elvis was on the new album that we’ll get to in a second. I’ve always seen Gov’t Mule as a band to experience, rather than just to listen to, and sadly I think, especially in Australia, that sort of band is pretty thin on the ground. Do you think the younger generation, especially, are losing that perspective on music?

Warren: I can only judge from what I see firsthand, I think as far as main stream music, yes it’s becoming pretty one dimensional, badly dated, but I think that’s causing this underground movement of a lot of music that’s coming from a more independent direction where people are just doing what’s in their heart, and not paying much attention to the parameters and rules that commercial mainstream gives you. I feel like there’s always going to be a backlash to whatever is going on, I think we’re in a time  now where we’ll see a lot of young musicians that feel like the music they are listening to growing up is not adequate, compared to some of the music from the past. We meet a lot of teenage fans, at Gov’t Mule shows that are just discovering us, and also just discovering Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, and that music is blowing kids away, just like it did with us when we were kids! Rightly so too, as it is that powerful, and so I think that eventually young kids will make that realization that you have to search for music that moves you, and sometimes that takes more than looking back 2 or 3 years, or even 10, 20 years!

Mark: I think you’re right, I think there is a groundswell there that is looking for new music. The last album, “Shout” which was your tenth album, got a great review from us here at The Rockpit last year when it was released. Was it the idea to do two CD’s, one with your vocals, and the other with guest vocalists, an idea you had right from the start?

Warren: No! We went into the studio just thinking we were going to make a regular Gov’t Mule CD, with no guests, and there were three songs in particular that inspired the concept for “Shout”. One was “Funny Little Tragedy”, when I sold it to the band I said it’s maybe not meant to be a Gov’t Mule song, it was a song I had written that was very different to anything we had ever done, it was influenced by bands like The Attractions, and The Clash, and that late 70’s movement. When the band heard it, it was felt we should give it a go and turn it in to our song, so we did, and I consulted Elvis Costello about how to go about recording my vocal to get like an era specific vocal sound that matched the music. He was kind enough to give me a lot of great advice and from that point forward I started thinking of him as a guest. The next song was “Stoop So Low” which when I listened back to our recording, it reminded me of Dr John, I had been hanging out with him and we were planning on doing some touring together, so I thought about him. The third song was “Scared to Live”, I’d got a call from Toots Hibbert about playing and singing on the new Toots and the Maytals record, and so when we recorded that song, it made me think of Toots, and I thought maybe I’ll ask him to join us. They were the first three people we thought of, initially they were just going to come in and make a short cameo appearance, but it seemed a bit of a waste having singers of that stature having a small part in the songs, so we decided to let them sing the whole song, and create an alternate version. Then we thought let’s do that for the entire record.

Mark: There’s some great songs on there, “World Boss” with Ben Harper, and one of my favourites “No Reward” with Glenn Hughes. But getting someone like Steve Winwood on “The World Gets Small” was fantastic. It’s a great Gov’t Mule album, but to get a bonus CD as well, with alternative versions of the songs is wonderful. Did any of them surprise you?

Warren: Well, they all surprised me with the actual performance, but nobody surprised me in a way that, I knew they were all going to be fantastic, just wasn’t sure in what way, until they started singing. Some of the singers came in to the studio with me, and we worked side by side, and some were on the other side of the world and were unable to do that, so they had to record their vocals from afar. In each case, I was very knocked out with their performances; I think the thing I thought the most about “Shout” was each singer sounds like they were meant to sing that song.

Mark: I think you’re right. When people heard we were talking to you this morning, I got a number of questions from guitarists; we know you’re a Gibson man, but what’s your “Go to” guitar?

Warren: Well, I designed a signature model Les Paul for Gibson, which is probably the guitar I play the most, and I recently worked with Gibson, they copied my 1961, ES935, and were making a signature model of that as well, and that guitar I’ve been playing a lot. Every day guitars are ones that I’m familiar with and can navigate in a way that makes me very comfortable. On “Shout” I used several different guitars, I used a baritone guitar, a Firebird, I used a 335. Gibson guitars offer a lot of tonal variation, but I also like to match the sound to the song.

Mark: Are you the sort of songwriter who is constantly writing?

Warren: You know, I’m not someone who writes all the time, I’m not someone who makes myself write, I know some songwriters do that. I generally tend to wait till some sort of inspiration comes along, and what that means, is sometimes I’ll go several months without writing at all. In each case I’ll second guess myself and start wondering if I’ve written my last song, but then at some point a song will come, and then another one and another, and then I’ll realise I’m back in to a writing mode. I consider it an ugly enough situation, where I think my systems on input, and I’m just soaking things up, and then it gets saturated with information and ideas, and them my system is on out load, and it starts thawing out. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, I think every song writer has his way of writing, and that’s what works for me.

Mark: We just have a couple of big questions to finish on. The first one, we ask everyone, and it’s really interesting to get the answer, is, if you could have been a fly on the wall for the recording of any great album, at any point in time, what would it have been for you?

Warren: Oh, wow, that’s so tough! I mean in some ways it has to be ‘Axis Bold as Love’ (the Jimi Hendrix Experience), and then there are records like Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue”, Bob Dylan, “Highway 61”, all those kind of records. Even some more complex records like Steely Dan “The Royal Scam” it would be amazing to just watch what ideas didn’t make it.

Mark: What is the meaning of life?

Warren: I think discovery, having music is one of the things that help us discover and maintain an open mind. I would like to think that happiness is the ultimate goal.

Mark: That is a nice simple sentiment. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us this morning, and I can’t wait to see you over here in Australia very soon.

Warren: Thank you, my pleasure and we’re very excited to be back.









Warren Haynes spoke to Mark Diggins March 28 2014





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