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Govt Mule interview 

Govt Mule
Submitted by Jörgen Andersen on 2013-09-11 talked to the singer/guitarplayer Warren Haynes on phone regarding the new Goverment Mule album and since I personally am a big fan of his solo music and the group Govt Mule I was really pleased to get this opportunity. Check out what he has to say about his influences, the new album and why they choose to release it on the legendary Bluenote Records!
First of all, how are you doing?

That sounds great! I would like to ask you some questions about your influences before we get to the new album and of course I must start to ask you, since I think you are one of the greatest guitar players today, what guitar playes have influenced you?

   - Well I started singing before I started playing guitar so when I first started singing at a very young age, like 7 or 8,    I was only listening to soul music, like The four Tops, The Temptations, Otis Redding,Wilson Picket and Sam and Dave.
   Eventually my oldest brother brought home a Sly and the family stone record and that sort of gradually led me towards Jimi Hendrix. And then I heard Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter, those were the first three guitar players that I guess wanna make me play guitar.

Have you had the opportunity to jam with many of the guitar players that inspired you?

   - Yeah, I have been very lucky to have jamed, performed, recorded or something with almost everyone I grow up admirering who was still alive, obvisouly I never meet Jimi Hendrix but I played with Eric Clapton, with Johnny Winter and many many others so I just feel very fortunate to have done that.

That is great and I know you often have guest appearances on your shows from other guitarrists, recently I read that Joe Bonamassa was playing with you?

   -Well, I known Joe since he was 16 and I actually wrote some of the material and co-produced the first record that Joe ever played on which was Bloodline. So we go way that far back you know.

Ok, thats cool!  And besides playing guitar you are a also a great singer, who are some of the people that have influenced your singing?

   - Well, the once I mention before, the soul singers I listened to in the beginning and then it was people like B.B King and Ray Charles
   that made me realize that you could be a singer and play your instrument equally well and that was a very enlightening experience.
   That was before I discovered Rock and Roll music and once I discovered that, all my favourite singers at that time became singers who had also been listening to soul music or blues music, people like Little George, Steve Winwood, Gregg Allman, Paul Rodgers and
   other people who were white singers in a rock and roll band.
Yeah, and you have a lot of soul influences in both your own career and with Govt Mule, the latest Warren Haynes album "Man in Motion" really had a lot of soul in it.

  - Yes and I think it´s my earliest roots so it is always gonna be there, you know.

Thats a great album and I think that the soul influences always fits perfect with the blues and the rock that you can find on the Gov´t Mule albums and that´s what makes Gov´t Mule so special in my opinion. It´s a perfect blend between all those styles.

   - Well thank you, we like to blend all our influences together so we are a rock band but we are influenced by soul music and blues and jazz and psychedelic music and folk music and reggae music and all these things that somehow come out but still in the context of rock and roll.

There´s a lot of reggae songs on the earlier Gov´t Mule albums, there is one on the new (Scared To Live) and you actually released a whole reggae album a couple years ago?

   - Yeah, from my perspective that was more like an EP, even though it was very long it was meant to be an EP and in the States we had it very special prized for like 9 dollars. But I think in Europe people kind of got ripped of and paid full prize for it which I did not feel so good about.

Well it was worth every penny anyway so it´s okey!

   - Thank you, I loved that record too and that influence go all the way back when Allen Woody was alive and I think the first reggae song we covered was our version of the Bob Marley song "Lively up yourself" which we do reggae in the verse and rock in the chorus.

Yeah, that really is a great cover by the Mule. Let's talk about the new Gov't Mule album to be released in September, it's called "Shout" and I want to ask you when did this record first started taking shape?

  -Well in februari in 2012 we got together during the Grammy week in Los Angeles cause we were all gonna be in California and we decided that since we had just finished taking a year off that it was important for us to get back together and start writing some songs and we decided to go in to Jorgen Carlssons studio, our bassplayer who has a studio in Los Angeles, and we went in there mostly to write and to do some demos but some of the songs turned out so good that we decided to keep them for the upcoming record.
   And that inspired us to go back to the studio on the East coast and continue the same process. Danny Lewis and myself was writing together and I written a bunch of songs on my own and then we went in to the studio in Conneticut and contiuned recording for "Shout".
   And it came about very quickly up until the time we decided to add a bonus disc, then we knew we had to delay the release and work with everyones schedule.

Yeah, you're doing something really interesting with the bonus disc that's coming along with the new record.
How did you get that idea?

   - It started very gradually and very organicly, in the beginnig we had no intensions of having any guests but as we were listening back to three songs in particular we started getting the idea to maybe have a guest on a small portion of one or two or three songs, starting
   with "Funny little tragedy" where we thought about Elvis Costello and "Scared to live" where we thought about Toots Hibbert and "How could you stoop so low" where we thought about Dr John. In the beginning I think we were only gonna have them sing like a small piece but it didn´t make sence to have someone of that stature sing only a small part of a song so we decide that maybe they should sing the whole song and we would do a alternate version of one, two or three songs.
 Eventually that concept turned into the thought, why not do all 11 songs that way so I made a list of each song and what singer otherthan myself  I would like to hear sing the song and then we started making phone calls.
Its a bit unusual and I think it is a very cool idea.

   -It´s very unique I believe, I don´t recall anyone doing this concept before which is one of the things that makes it a special release.

And did you think it was easy to find the artists for every song?

    -Yeah, it just took a lot of time to reach out to people. Each conversation began the same way, I would say to the singer that I have this song that I would love to hear you sing, I would explain the concept of the recording but I would always say that as a singer I would never want to sing a song if I didn´t feel some sort of connection to it so I want to send you this song
  and you listen to it and tell me if you feel connected, if not no worries but if you do I would love for you to sing it.
  And the response was amazing so it was just a matter of getting everyones schedule coordinated, some of the singers came in to the studio with me and we worked together, others had to do their performances somewhere else and send it to us but it was exciting and in every case each singer took it to another place, you know.
  The thing that I am most proud of is that each singer sound perfect for the song and each singer took the song to another place so there is two different versions, you get to enjoy the songs from two different perspectives because in each case when the other singer interprets the song it takes on a whole other meaning.

My favourites on the new album are the opening track World boss, the beautiful Captured and Bring on the music, well actually the whole album is great and you can really feel "The Mule" in it.

  - Yeah, it shows a lot of our influences, I think every song sounds like us but every song is different from the other.

True, and you have songs like "How could you stoop so low" with clearly influences from Sly and the Family Stone and "Bring On The Music" that has something to do with Free?

   - Yes, "How could you stoop so low"  was written and recorded in honor of the 40th anniversary of 'Fresh' and "Bring on the music" was recorded in honor of the 40th anniversary of the breakup of Free.
We decided to honour that sound and tried to capture as much of that spirit but we wouldn`t want to copy anything, we just wanted to capture the spirit of the music.

I think you got it really great, the solo in that song is great and there is a lot of Paul Kossoff in it.

   -Thank you very much.

Do you have any personal favourite songs that you think are standing out from the rest on the album?

   -Well you know it´s hard for me because I love every song and I think that this is probably my favourite record that we done, even without disc two I am very proud of this music. What I really love is hearing a lot of my favourite singers interpret the music too, hearing Steve Winwood sing "When the world get small" is amazing, hearing Dr John sing "Stoop so low"
and hearing Toots sing "Scared to live" and Glenn Hughes  "No reward", I mean each of these guys really took the song somewhere special and Elvis Costello sounds like perfect for "Funny little tragedy".

You're gonna have your record come out on legendary Bluenote Records, how did that happen?

   -Well, I am a huge jazz fan, as everyone in Goverment Mule and I probably own more Bluenote Records than any other label but we would never chosen to be a bluenote band if it haven´t been for Don Was who is now the new president of Bluenote.  
I spooked to him when I did the blues at the White House thing, with Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, BB King and Buddy Guy and he told me that he was the new president of Bluenote and we started having a conversation but it was a very casual and a social setting. So Goverment Mule financed the record in the same way as we did with "By a thred" and also my solo record
  "Man in Motion". We pay for the recording and when it is finished we make a small list of  labels we would like to consider working with and see whom is most excited of putting out the music.
 In this case Bluenote was very impressive and I really like the entire label and their work etic and their vision of what music should be, I think they share the same vision we do which is that it is important to make the best you music you can make and not the most commercial music, but just make the best statement you can make and they believe that.

I think that folks have been looking forward to that a lot, 4 years since the last mule album.

   - Yeah, it would have come sooner if we had not come up with the idea for the bonus disc but it was worth it, I think.

So whats in the nearest future for you and The Mule?

   -  Well, I am flying to Chicago tonight to do two shows with The Allman Brothers and we have two more weeks of Allman Brothers tour, some with Steve Winwood, some with Grace Potter and then thats the final touring for the Allman Brothers for this year and then Goverment Mule starts to tour in september for a long time.

I saw you perform at Sweden Rock festival at 2007, any plans of touring Sweden again with the Mule or with your band?
   -Yes, we are trying to include Scandinavia in our upcoming touring plans, I know thats a part of Europe we haven´t played very much and we are excited to develop that market. 

Well, time is running out and I know that you are a busy man...

   - It was my pleasure and I look forward to coming back and touring in Sweden and in Scandinavia and all over.

Yeah, I am also looking forward to that, a big thank you from my heart for taking this time, I really appreciate it a lot and I think that you are doing an amazing job and wish you all the best in the future!

   -Thank you!

Warren Haynes is known as one of the busiest and respected men in the music business, when not with the Allmans, he is touring with Gov't Mule, the Warren Haynes Band or working a variety of projects and I was really pleased that I got this opportunity to talk to Warren on phone and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and if you haven´t checked out him or the Mule yet, then do it right now!