Warren Haynes Talks Gov’t Mule New Album, Jerry Garcia’s Guitar

He also considers some more archival Gov't Mule concerts for live releases, and looks ahead to their next album.

By Brian Ives 

Warren Haynes, as always, is a busy guy. He just wrapped up a string of shows where he led local orchestras through performances of Jerry Garcia songs (the tour was dubbed The Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration), and has just kicked off a new tour with his long time band, Gov’t Mule, who are planning to start work on a new album this fall. But they’ve just released The Tel-Star Sessions, recorded in the band’s earliest days, back in 1994. 

Radio.com caught up with Haynes to talk about the Mule, Garcia and another project that he may tour with in the future. 

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The Tel-Star Sessions were recorded twenty-two years ago. Why did you decide to release them now?

Well, we knew when we recorded it, that we really loved what we had captured at that point. The reason that we are putting it out now, goes back to the 20th anniversary. When we were about to celebrate that, we started going through our archival stuff and thinking about releasing live recordings of shows that were special. That’s what prompted us to release Dark Side of the Mule, Sco-Mule, all of those live releases.  And I thought we needed to put out The Tel-Star Sessions as well. So we went back and revisited those tapes and remixed everything and it turned out great. I was really excited when I heard it for the first time in a long, long time.

Your voice sounds really different now, but how do you feel about listening to your singing voice from 1994?

I think my voice is a lot better now than it was then. And when I hear those recordings, I’m reminded that my voice wasn’t in particularly great shape at that point in time, but I didn’t want to re-do the tapes, I wanted to keep them as they were.

Gov’t Mule played Roseland in New York City in 2001 and you were using a number of bass players, including Tony Levin from Peter Gabriel’s band, Mike Gordon of Phish, Stefan Lessard from the Dave Matthews Band, Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane and Oteil Burbridge from the Allmans. In 2002 Jason Newstead joined you; it was his first live appearance since quitting Metallica. Would you ever release those shows?

We’re always considering anything unique and special, there’s a lot of great stuff from that time period. Unfortunately, we didn’t start mutli-tracking everything until 2004. But certain shows were multi-tracked and we have live stereo mixes from all that stuff.  And then, there’s some outtakes from The Deep End studio sessions that I’d like to go look at at some point.

I’m glad you brought that up: we only did that song a couple of times with Tony. I love that song, I probably should bring that back in the set. Tony’s a wonderful player.

Related: Interview: Warren Haynes Talks Gov’t Mule’s Shout

The last new Gov’t Mule studio album, Shout, came out in 2013; are you going to start working on the new one soon?

We’re gonna take Gov’t Mule in the studio in November and start working on the next studio record which we’re very excited about.

When you write a song, is it clear to you if it’s for Gov’t Mule, your solo records or something else?

Sometimes it works out that way. If I’m writing for a specific project, like there’s a Mule record on the horizon, I’m trying to write towards the strengths of the band. But it’s nice just to get the song written and decide later which situation should get it, if any of them.

The Mule has some shows coming up with ZZ Top; Billy Gibbons guested on “Broke Down on the Brazos” (from 2009’s By A Thread). Will you jam with him?

I’m hoping we can make that work. We’ve never played “Broke Down on the Brazos” together with Billy, we talked about it, and I look forward to making it happen.

Related: Warren Haynes Plays Jerry Garcia’s ‘Tiger’ Guitar in New York

So, talk about playing Jerry Garcia’s “Tiger” guitar at your recent Central Park show. Before the show started, one of your roadies put the guitar on the stage and people started applauding; that’s quite a reaction for a guitar. 

I was talking to Mark Allen, who is one of the managers of the Jerry Garcia estate. We were talking about the Red Rocks show and how we were going to film it and record it and since I wasn’t gonna have “Wolf” [another of Garcia’s guitars]  at that show, it would be great to play “Tiger,” and the next thing you know, they worked it out, and I was able to play it at Red Rocks [on August 1]  and then at Central Park. As you mentioned, there are very few instruments on the planet that have that sort of connection with the audience. The audience was so happy to see that instrument and to hear it being played again.

How did it sound when you first picked it up to play it? 

Great, someone had kept it maintained very well, it played well instantly. It’s a beautiful instrument, it plays really good and the sound is wonderful and uniquely Jerry’s sound. Even though I get a little bit of a different sound out of it than he did, and obviously anybody who plays it is going to make it sound a little different. But when you pick it up, it has some sounds that you associate with him.

You’ve done the symphonic Jerry shows for a few summers; is this going to be an annual thing for you? 

We’ll have to see. When I first did it, it was just supposed to be just for that summer, and then we did ten shows this year. It’s a lot of fun, so we’ll have to see how it works out for the future.

Have you seen any of the Dead and Company shows? 

I haven’t seen  any of them, I’d love to hear one at some point, but I haven’t had the opportunity.

In April, you were the musical director for a Last Waltz tribute concert in New Orleans. Is that something you might revisit? 

Well, we all had fun doing it, so there’s a possibility we might take it on the road and do a handful of shows or something. It’d be fun if it happens.

Last question: have you been in touch with Gregg Allman? Do you know how he’s doing? 

He’s doing better, I haven’t actually spoke with him, I might give him a few days and give him a call. I’ve been checking in. I think he’s doing OK.

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