Warren Haynes: Truckin'
GUITAR WORLD This is a different band. How would you describe the changes?
WARREN HAYNES The fact that it’s now a quartet makes everything different. When Woody was alive, whenever a fourth musician walked onstage to play with us, he would automatically change his approach—make it less aggressive and less bendy. The same was true for me and Matt. These days, we’re doing that more regularly. Andy’s style is very much suited to a quartet, so we’re trying to establish a chemistry that’s different but on par with what we had.
GW Is there any way to achieve that other than playing a lot of shows together?
HAYNES Ultimately, no. We’re starting over, but we can’t compare this experience to when the group originally formed. We have to pick up where we left off with Woody. In that respect, we are competing with our peak, when we knew not only what each other was thinking but also more than 400 songs. It’s a lot to ask someone new to learn that many tunes, but we’re about halfway there, and I’m really pleasantly surprised by how damn good the band sounds right now.
GW After playing with so many people, was choosing Andy an easy or difficult decision?
HAYNES We played with some amazing players, and guys like [Widespread Panic bassist] Dave Schools, [Allman Brothers bassist] Oteil Burbridge, [Meters bassist] George Porter, Jason Newsted and [former Black Crowes bassist] Greg Rzab all took their time to keep Mule alive, for which we will be forever grateful. All of them are great players, and we created some great music with all of them. But when we played with Andy, it just seemed like a real band again, and I think it was obvious to all of us.
GW The new songs sound different from your previous material. Did you write them in a different fashion, or is the change due to having four members in the group?
HAYNES “Yes” to both questions. Instead of writing for a trio, I’m now writing music that requires an ensemble. That’s more the norm, really; writing for a trio was abnormal. [laughs] You really have to be careful when writing for a trio, because lots of things just won’t work.
We started making some adjustments in that regard on Life Before Insanity [2000, Woody’s final recording], where we had four or five songs with keyboards. That allowed us to record some of the material I didn’t feel worked as a trio, and it let our audience experience us as we expanded our sound. Woody and I both were conscientious of doing different things to allow the sound to grow and have different textures. I used seven tunings, and Woody played dulcimer and a Brazilian stringed instrument on that album, so we were headed that way anyhow. Then, of course, Woody passed, and the Deep End albums were just us trying to not lose momentum and play great music during a time when we didn’t quite know what to do. We were just playing with all these great musicians and big influences, and doing that showed us new directions we could follow.
GW You usually take your songs on the road before you record them. You didn’t do that for Déjà Voodoo. Why?
HAYNES I felt it was more important that the audience not know the songs before they were released. We’ve performed at least half of each record in front of an audience before recording it. But with the new album, there was so much anticipation amongst our fan base and it had been such a long time since we did a real-band studio recording; it made me feel that it was important for the entire fan base to experience the material together.
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