Southern Revolution: Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule

With the imminent release of new Gov’t Mule record Revolution Come… Revolution Go (Spinefarm), Ghost Cult popped down to London to chat to Warren Haynes about the new album, the inspirations behind it, his upcoming UK tour and the unfortunate passing of his friend and fellow bandmate Gregg Allman

Ghost Cult: Congratulations on the new album, what was your aim for the record?

Warren Haynes: This was the first Gov’t Mule record since we celebrated our 20th anniversary as a band, so our goal was to look at it like we’re embarking on a new chapter. I kept telling people in interviews before we starting recording that that meant we were gonna visit our earliest roots but also go some places we have never gone before. The response would always be “Well, what do you mean?” “Well, I won’t know until we get there”. I think we were able to achieve that, about half the record sounds like old school Gov’t Mule, and the other half is exploring our other influences and utilising the chemistry we all have playing music.

There’s quite a healthy amount of funk and soul in there, which works quite well.

Yeah, which we all love and is a big of what our live performances are. It’s important for us to bring to the studio all the different things that come up on stage.

As this album was recorded on election day (November 8th 2016), did it affect it in any way?

It influenced it in the way it influenced the way we felt and the overall attitude. It didn’t really change the songs as they were written before we started recording. The only song that was written after election day was ‘Sarah Surrender’ which in no way is political. The biggest effect that it had on me was that I didn’t pick up a newspaper or watch the news for two weeks; I just buried my head in the music. The fact that we were making a recording. helped because I had something to lose myself in. It did help fire everybody up.

The title track and ‘Stone Cold Rage’ seem quite political in theme.

Yeah. Both of those songs, and a couple others. Most of the political statements on the record are mostly from an observant point of view, I’m not one for preaching or getting on a soapbox. I’ve always written about what’s going on in the world, going back to myself first solo record in ‘93 and the first Mule record in ‘95. This is a little different as more of the audience has focused on it, and the title being Revolution Come… Revolution Go has caused people to think. It’s unavoidable with the way things are right now, you can either examine the elephant in the room or not.

As you say, not all are political, there’s quite a few that are reflective and philosophical like ‘Travelling Tune’ and ‘Dreams and Songs’. Are they homages to anyone in particular or just general reflections on life?

‘Dreams and Songs’ is very autobiographical and very personal to me. ‘Travelling Tune’ is about the connection between the band and our audience and it pays tribute to the people that came before us and people we’ve lost.

Life on the road and all it entails?

Yeah, but more specifically our life on the road. We have a unique relationship with our audience because a lot of them come to multiple shows – in the way that the Grateful Dead starting this whole trend of fans following you around, a large part of our audience does that. I’ll meet people that have seen 200 Gov’t Mule shows, it still freaks me out when that happens but I never expected to be playing hundreds and hundreds of shows and seeing some of the same people every night – it’s very bizarre! A lot of them you wind up meeting, talking to and getting to know and releasing that, it’s a family atmosphere for them as well

You’re doing a UK tour in October, are you looking forward to it? When was the last time you came to these shores?

Yeah, absolutely. We feel like we need to start cultivating the UK audience more because it’s a very important market to us and we want to keep building that. It’s going to be the first time we’ve been to Ireland, Scotland or Wales so we’re excited about that.

Are European audiences different to American ones?

For sure, they’re different from country to country and from city to city in the States – the West Coast is way different from the east coast in the states. Culturally speaking some bands are more popular certain places and some are more popular in other places in the states, it’s very strange that way.  European audiences are more similar to American audiences now than when we first started coming here. I’ve always been impressed by how seriously European audiences take the music, how appreciative they are and well informed of the band’s history they are.

Sorry to hear about Gregg’s passing, where were you when you heard the news?

We were in Illinois and we’d played a festival that night. I got the news that he’d passed about 5 hours before we had to be on stage.

That must have been tough.

Yeah, it was a really hard show to do. One minute I’m thinking ‘What am I doing here’ and the next minute I’m thinking ‘Well, music is the best way to deal with it’ – I was a bit numb that day, so I’m not sure how it went.

Would you do what you did for Allen Woody, do a tribute album with musicians he liked (The Deep End Vol 1 & 2)?

We’ve thought about doing a concert maybe, that’s more likely I think. There’s already a  live DVD/CD of a tribute show including myself, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and others covering Gregg Allman songs. So I could see us doing some sort of show, but there’s nothing in the works yet.

Thank you very much for having me.

My pleasure, it was nice to meet you.

Revolution Come… Revolution Go  was released by Spinefarm on Friday 9th June.

THOMAS THROWER