Making Progress: Gov’t Mule Continues to Evolve
“Gov’t Mule is more cohesive now then probably ever before,” said Warren Haynes, guitarist and singer for the legendary group of Southern roots rockers.
Although Gov’t Mule is known for their tours with the jam-band circuit as well as their improvisational riffs, their sound is more Lynyrd Skynyrd than Phish. With influences stemming from blues and soul, the music has a visceral feel that hits you straight in the gut.
Haynes’ guitar licks are nothing to sniff at, ranking in on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time at number 23. “Sometimes, maybe I even take music a little too seriously,” he admitted. “I’ve been obsessed with it my entire life. (But), I think there are worse things in the world then making such a big deal about your music.”
With a new album set for August, Gov’t Mule’s release of High & Mighty will represent one more step in their evolution. “As usual, we’re trying to move into some new directions,” said Haynes. Working with an old friend and producer, Gordie Johnson, Haynes hinted that there would be “some reggae influences on the record.”
Allowing fans to track the recording process, Gov’t Mule has offered an insider’s view of making the album on their Web site. Blog updates, as well as photos and even streaming video clips track the album’s progress, providing sneak peeks of the recording sessions in Austin, Texas and Hoboken, New Jersey.
Discussing the new album, Haynes said, “I just feel like some of the grooves and some of the melodic structures are different than anything that we’ve done. It’s a very feel-good record for me. I like cerebral records, but I also like records that make you move. I think this record is a little of both, but it definitely makes you move.”
High & Mighty will be the second album where Haynes and drummer Matt Abts are joined by newer members Danny Louis on keys and Andy Hess on bass. Since the death of Gov’t Mule’s original bassist, Allen Woody, in 2000, the group has been forced to reinvent itself in order to continue. Coping with their loss, Haynes and Abts did recordings and live shows with some of Woody’s favorite musicians as well as some folks who wanted to pay tribute. The set of releases in the Deep End series included collaborations with such stars as Bootsy Collins (P-Funk), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), John Entwistle (the Who), and Les Claypool (Primus).
“Whenever a band looses a member, I think a lot of bands discover this throughout the years, that it’s futile to try to clone that member and try to change that chemistry that’s never going to be there again,” said Haynes. “At the point when something tragic like this happens you have to look for a new chemistry that rivals the old chemistry.”
Bringing in Louis and Hess has changed the dynamic and allowed the group to forward. More complex then changing the trio to a foursome, they each have their own musical personalities. “They both bring a lot to the table,” said Haynes. “I feel like Andy and Danny have made Gov’t Mule a real band again, and it just keeps getting better and better and better. I think the sky’s the limit. (We’re) more of a unit then (at) any time since Alan Woody died. The band has just gelled in a fantastic way that I’m really, really happy with and really proud of.”
Haynes is definitely not known to be a slacker. His reputation often begs the question, “How did he accomplish all of that?” In addition to over a decade of music with Gov’t Mule, Haynes has also released some solo albums, played with the Allman Brothers Band for the past 17 years, worked with Phil Lesh off and on for about 7 years, and toured with The Dead.
“I feel like anytime you go off on a journey like that and come back to your home base, you always bring something fresh, some influence that maybe wasn’t there before,” said Haynes. “We’re subtly influenced by everything around us, so that includes on a very large scale the musicians that you’re hanging out with and performing with.”
When performing with different bands, Haynes notes that, “You get different types of musical satisfaction, or gratification. You learn something from every experience. And I’m very fortunate to have played with a lot of amazing musicians, so each time there’s a collaboration there’s a learning experience. Musicians are students for life.”
Gov’t Mule will be playing Friday, June 9th with jam band, Umphrey’s Mcgee, at Lifestyles Community Pavilion in Columbus. The group will return to the area on August 1st with the Dave Matthews Band to play Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. You can also catch Warren Haynes playing with the Allman Brothers Band at Riverbend on June 16th.