I caught up with Warren Haynes in Cleveland prior to the Gov't Mule show at the Odeon Theater on October 7, 2001. The photos were taken at that show and at the Egyptian Room in Indianapolis on October 4, 2001.
Mir Ali: Where did the idea for the new album come from?
Warren Haynes: Well, after Woody died we were really confused about first off, whether we could continue and secondly, if we continued how we'd go about it. The last thing we wanted to do was audition a big cattle call of bass players to find a permanent replacement for Woody. We started joking around when people would say, "If you guys keep it together have you thought about who would play bass?" and I would say Jack Bruce or Chris Squire or somebody like that. You know like John Entwistle or John Paul Jones.
MA: John Paul Jones? Hadn't heard about him involved in this project.
WH: We're working on John right now, he had confirmed earlier in the year and then he changed his tour plan and had to pull out. We're trying to reschedule if it works.
MA: Are you hoping to do a cover with him or an original?
WH: We have an original song that we'd like to do with him. But just being facetious and then we thought, we probably couldn't get those people to join the band, we probably couldn't get them to do a whole record, but maybe we could get 'em to do one song. So the idea was born, and we made a big long list of our favorite bass players and people we'd like to record with thinking that most of them would be unavailable or uninterested. When everybody started saying yes all of the sudden it turned into a double CD, or two separate CD's. A lot of these people we'd never met before, so we were very shocked when everybody said they love to climb on board. It was an amazing experience and I can't think of a better way to get past the pain and keep moving ahead without being bogged down with trying to find a permanent replacement.
MA: Are you still considering a permanent replacement?
WH: Well, we've been having a blast with Dave and Oteil and I don't know that we're necessarily looking for a permanent replacement but if it works out that way that could be cool. The whole thought this entire time was that this process would lead us to the right path, whatever the right path is. We're not there yet, but working toward it.
MA: Any particular tracks that you just love? I know you're happy with all the tracks but are there any that stick out?
WH: Everybody asks me about whether there were any particular bass players that stand out or tracks and I have to start by saying, as cliché as it might sound, every track, every bass player did an amazing job and I was real pleased that everyone rose to the occasion. All of these guys are legends for a reason and they proved that. Obviously working with Jack Bruce, Entwistle, the Bootsy track is great. Do you have Volume 1, have you heard it?
MA: Yeah I loved it, the Larry Graham track was probably my favorite.
WH: Larry was amazing, definitely one of the highlights for me. But then there were other personal favorites, "Banks of the Deep End" with Mike Gordon I really loved, but Mike and I are old friends, it's not like we just met or anything. Jack Bruce, Entwistle and Tony Levin and some of those guys, you know meeting some of these people for the first time that you're sort of intimidated by.
MA: Were there any bass players you couldn't get to do this?
WH: Wasserman is one of the people we'd love to work with, but we're talking CD number three. There are so many people we'd love to work with. We got calls from a lot of people and their managers saying that they were available and we're like, god, we can't do this for the rest of our lives because there are so many wonderful bass players we'd love to work with, jazz guys like Jerry Jemmott and Chuck Rainey
MA: Another person I was really excited to hear you are working with is
WH: She did an awesome job and it was great working with her. I gotta say, from the experience of working with her and listening to her by herself in the control room she's one of those people that's blessed with the groove. Even when she's playing by herself you can feel the whole groove and that not something you can say about many bass players. The epitome of that was Jaco Pastorius, who, when Jaco played by himself it sounded like a whole band playing, Me'Shell has a lot of that kind of vibe where you hear the punctuation and the syncopation of what the drummer would be playing and it was just really cool.
MA: What's going on with your acoustic album?
WH: The solo acoustic record is basically in the can unless I decide to add something to it between now and when it's released. It's mixed and ready to go. It's two CD's worth of material, and it's really just a matter of putting everything out in it's proper place. Volume 1 is coming out in October, Volume 2 is coming out in April and the documentary is coming out in between and I'm guessing the acoustic thing will probably be after Volume 2.
MA: There was also word about a live show?
WH: With Scofield, we mixed that, the Scofield stuff sounds awesome and we're really dying to put that out. We just need to find a slot for it, so it'll be after the acoustic thing.
MA: Any word on the Christmas Jam?
WH: The Christmas Jam is December 21st at the Asheville Civic Center. We've basically confirmed Phil Lesh and Friends and are in the process of confirming Blues Traveler unless there is some snag that is unforeseen, they're really excited about doing it, and probably Gov't Mule.
MA: With Dave or Oteil?
WH: You know, I'm not sure. Dave wants to do it but since both he and Oteil are in the south maybe they'll both be there, it's hard to say.
MA: Speaking of Phil Lesh, tell me about playing with him.
WH: That group of musicians is a great band and the chemistry is really cool. From the very first show it sounded great and it's just gotten better and better. It's a real pleasure playing with all those guys and working with Phil and just playing that music, the whole vibe is a wonderful experience.
MA: How does the song selection for Phil and friends work, does Phil get to pick most of them? I've often heard people wonder why there aren't more Gov't Mule songs.
WH: Phil writes the setlist, he's always open to input from us, whether we'd like to play a certain song a certain night or if we'd like to work something up. As far as Mule songs becoming part of that repertoire, I felt that "Tastes Like Wine" fit really well. I put on a tape of "Fallen Down" and we could possibly do that and we do "Beautifully Broken" which is on the new cd. Phil's definitely open to doing more Mule songs, he even brought up doing "Bad Little Doggie," but I just really didn't feel like that would be the right song for that band and that I have other songs I'd rather work on. In some ways I'd like to keep them separate so each band isn't doing the same songs, which I think is really cool. Each band has their fortes and I have different songs that fit into each one for different reasons and kind of let them fall as they may.
MA: Now with Phil and Friends, is this lineup going to stay intact?
WH: That's what we're trying to do. We all love playing together, Phil loves the band and we all agree that it's a real cool chemistry and we'd like to keep it going.
MA: How about with the Allman Brothers Band?
WH: Allman Brothers, you know it's a big juggling act for me. I'm trying to do all of these things as we talked about earlier. I had a great time doing Allman Brothers tour this summer, there's talk of a record, Gregg and I have been writing together and there's lots of positive stuff going on. We're just taking it one step at a time.
MA: How do you stay motivated with all of these different projects and no down time?
WH: You know, I'm really grateful for all of the opportunities I have. I wish I had more personal time but I knew this would be one of those years where I wouldn't have much personal time. My wife and I talked about it, we knew it would be hard but we agreed that it should be done and could be done and we just need to get through it. I look forward to a time when I can just take a few weeks and go to Hawaii and do nothing but as of now I'm grateful for the opportunities that I have. Musicians don't have those opportunities in a predictable way, like most people that work a certain job. You never know when the type of music you play is not going to be in vogue anymore.
MA: So you make the most of your opportunities.
WH: Yeah, you take advantage of the times. I know the Allman Brothers felt like one of the reasons they broke up in the 1980's was the climate of music at that time was so much the opposite of where their heads were that they felt they didn't fit, so they backed out and said they didn't want to do this anymore. Then, with Stevie Ray Vaughan coming back and makin' people dig the whole blues thing again and then seeing the Grateful Dead and how well they were doing, I think the Allman Brothers thought "somewhere in between those two things is what we are so maybe there is room or us again."
MA: As far as Phil, any particular songs you just love playing?
WH: Oh there's a ton of 'em. "Terrapin Station," I love singin' "Stella Blue" and all those slow songs like "Comes A Time." They're just so emotional and I love playing "Cumberland Blues," it goes all over the place and you ever know where it's going to go. So much of that stuff, that band is just great to work with. We can take any of those songs, and there are so many of them, we can take and turn into a performance vehicle which is really a blast.
MA: How about the Allman's?
WH: Some of my favorite Allman Brothers songs to play are "Dreams," I just love to play "Dreams" and I love playing "Soulshine" with the Allman Brothers now because people love that song so much, it's not really a jam song but it's fun to see people relating to it. All of the Allman Brothers stuff I grew up so there are some that are closer to the heart, but I love all of that music.
MA: I love the new intro to "Soulshine" that Chuck plays.
WH: There's obviously a version of "Soulshine" on the new record with Willie Weeks playing bass and Chuck playing keyboards and Little Milton, what a great voice Little Milton has and a wonderful player too. I mean, what an honor to play with him and Milton actually loves that song. When we brought up the concept of doing a studio version, 'cause there's never been a Gov't Mule or Warren Haynes studio version of "Soulshine," I did a demo when I first wrote it in '88 but that's the only time I ever recorded it, so when we brought up the possibility of doing it Milton came to mind, and we thought that would be great. Milton's one of the remaining blues legends that's still around and I've got nothing but positive things to say about him.
Well that's all folks. I have to say, much like Warren said about Milton, I have only positive things to say about Warren Haynes and the entire Gov't Mule family. Thanks for reading and feel free to drop me a line.