Inquiring Minds: Gov't Mule's Warren Haynes On Billy Gibbons, Lightnin' Hopkins, Ray LaMontagne And More

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In this week's print edition of the Press, Warren Haynes talks about juggling his membership in the Alpha and Omega of jam bands, the Allman Brothers Band and The Dead, with the musclebound blues-rock engine he started in 1994, Gov't Mule. The Mule pulls into House of Blues Saturday night on the brawny shoulders of last year's By a Thread, which opens with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons guesting on the river-bottom stomp of "Broke Down on the Brazos." Gibbons, Haynes told us, is one of the most laid-back people he's ever met, but "Gregg Allman's a pretty close tie." That's where the print interview left off, but the 23rd greatest guitarist of all time (according to Rolling Stone) had a lot more to say besides. Rocks Off: As a musician, is one of your projects more demanding than the others? Warren Haynes: Well, Gov't Mule is the most demanding, with me being the only singer and being something that kind of depends on us. It was even more demanding when it was a trio. A trio is a very demanding format. Quartet, not quite as much, but everybody's gotta be on their toes at all times. RO: So it's easier if there's more musicians in the band? WH: Than three? Yeah. RO: Or with the Allmans. Is it just that you have to carry less of the weight? WH: Yeah, I guess you can kind of put it that way. RO: When you record, it is pretty much all live or is there a lot of studio work? Or is it the sort of band where you work up the songs and then hit it? WH: We record predominantly live. All the guitar solos for the most part are live on the track. We're all tracking live in the same room looking at each other as the music is being played. I go back and redo the vocals, and if there's anything else we need to add we'll do it after the fact. But for the most part it's pretty much live recording. RO: Do you rehearse much with the group, or do you need to because you play together so often? WH: We rehearse a lot when it's time to make a record. In general, we're not a band that rehearses a lot. RO: How long have you known Billy Gibbons? WH: I guess we've known each other since the early '90s. RO: When you get together, do you swap guitar shop talk? WH: We have a lot of common interests, especially musically speaking. We talk old blues and stuff like that a lot. He's really great to hang out with, and we were honored to have him be part of this. He doesn't do a lot of recording on other people's records. It's such an amazing contribution on this one.

RO: As someone raised on soul music, does anyone in the younger generation measure up to the giants like Otis Redding?

WH: It's hard to compare someone to [people] like Otis Redding and Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and people like that. I love Ray LaMontagne. We're friends, but I'm a fan of his work as well. That's more in a whole singer-songwriter package. I love his voice, but I love his music. But speaking of the old stuff like that, when I get saturated, that's what I do, is go back and listen to the timeless stuff that for the most part, nobody has competed with in a long time.

RO: I heard that you found out about Lightnin' Hopkins from playing with David Allan Coe.

WH: Nah, I knew Lightnin's music from my older brothers. I had two older brothers, and they had some Lightnin' Hopkins records growing up, so I discovered that stuff as a teenager. But when I played with Coe, he was a huge Lightnin' Hopkins fan and a huge Jimmy Reed fan. Those two blues artists made a bigger impression on him than any two others. I was well aware of that stuff way before then, but it was kind of a meeting place for us. I didn't realize he was a blues fan. He was also a Freddie King fan.

RO: Lightnin's about to get his own state historical marker here.

WH: That's what I heard. That's awesome.

RO: I know you're from North Carolina. What would you say are the major differences between Texas blues and North Carolina blues?

WH: That's a good question. I think the North Carolina blues has got more of the Appalachian mountain-music kind of seeding into it. It's all regional. The influences come from the regions. Texas music always was affected by the fact that it was close to the border. It's fun to study all the different types of blues, because they're all similar but they all have some regionality that makes them different. Even what they call country blues is different.

RO: Last question. It looks like this is the second tour of yours in a row, after the Allmans' 40th anniversary tour, that ends in Houston. How did that happen?

WH: Coincidence.

With Carney, 7 p.m. Saturday, February 20, at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837 or www.hob.com/houston.

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