Hi Warren, how are you? Thanks for taking the time to do this interview! Busy day, today? Where are you?
No problem, my pleasure Wim. I am at home, I live 90 minutes from New York City. Not really a busy day, doing a few interviews but that is okay.
You recently released the album ‘Dark Side Of The Mule’, a Gov’t Mule salute to Pink Floyd. The album was recorded in 2008, in Boston. Why did it took you so long to release the album?
Well, I guess the release has to do with our 20th anniversary. Yes, Gov’t Mule has been around for quite some time now. As you know, we record every gig we do and so fans can buy all these live performances online. It was different for this show. So we thought our anniversary would be a good moment to release this special gig.
Was it a real special night, that evening in Boston? And if so, why?
It was the only night we did the Pink Floyd showcase. We have a history of doing shows like that. Not ‘official’ gigs but special, sort of tribute performances on Halloween and on New Years Eve. In the past we did shows like ‘Houses Of The Holy’ by Zeppelin, but also evenings with music from Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, and so on. These special evenings always have the same schedule: 1½ hours of Gov’t Mule music and 1½ hours of music from another band. I guess by doing that we keep it interesting for everybody. Except for our crew, hahaha.
Your crew is not happy with you guys doing a lot of covers songs?
The covers keep everyone inspired. Not just the audience, but also the band and our crew. Every night is a different night. Every show we play different songs. To keep everybody focused. But it also has to do with the way we feel on a particular moment. The audience appreciates the fact that we play different songs all the time, so it is never the same. The crew is not happy all the time because they have to do a hell of a job in things like the tuning of the instruments. Playing Pink Floyd requires a different tuning than the music of Black Sabbath or Gov’t Mule.
So the band is used playing both Mule songs as well as a lot of cover material?
I play in a unique band. I am privileged. But we do so many shows and we always play three or four hour shows so we sometimes need fresh energy. That fresh energy keeps everybody focused. We have perfect chemistry in the band. That chemistry is not about achieving perfection, it is about musical satisfaction. And besides that, we love to improvise. Because of the chemistry we know how to improvise, because we know what we do, both as a band and as an individual. That is also why we love to play the music of Pink Floyd: you can stay close to the original versions but still there is plenty of room to improvise. A great combination.
To put things in perspective, how big is Gov’t Mule in the US?
We do pretty good over here. We do a lot of shows in a year. We play the venues with a capacity of around 3000 people and most of the time these venues are sold out. So not too bad.
I have heard that there is also a new album about to be released, a collaboration with jazz guitarist John Scofield. How did that came about and what can we expect musically?
Yes, you have heard right, I think the album will be released this week! I am a longtime fan of John Scofield. A long time ago I went to see him play live but I was too late: the show had ended before I arrived. So I met him at the bar of the venue and we talked and drank a few beers and there the seed was planted. We said to each other that it would be nice to play together some time. That took some time but now we can release that collaboration: ‘Sco-Mule’. I guess it is more jazz than the music of Gov’Mule and it is more rock and blues than the music of John Scofield. It is an instrumental album. A sort of Wayne Shorter meets James Brown.
So what is next for the band and for Warren Haynes?
The band will go on tour again soon. We also come to Europe later this year but I do not exactly know when and where. And for me personally, I am busy working on a new solo album. It will be a sort of singer/songwriter thing, that is a long time wish I had. I am working with a band named Railroad Earth, they are brilliant, alternative country like music. Check them out!
So you are no longer part of the Allman Brothers and so Derek Trucks quit the band. What is happening with that band?
Yes, Derek and I are no longer in the band. The thing I have heard is that the whole band has stopped. There were one or two guys who wanted to continue but that is not going to happen. I think they made the right decision to stop now, this is the right time to do so.
My last question, I need to ask this one. On your latest Mule studio album you worked with Dr. John. How was that?
O man, that was special. Dr. John of course is special. In my opinion he is one of the last true American characters. He is one of a kind. Unique. He is a nice person and a brilliant musician. He did one hell of a job on the ‘Stoop So Low’ track on our latest album. I also played with him at the New Orleans Jazz festival, at a tribute for Levon Helm. We were joined by Mavis Staples on vocals. A great experience.