When Warren Haynes plays his guitar, the ghosts begin seeping out of the
woodwork, ghosts like Duane Allman, and Jerry Garcia, and maybe even the ghost
of Jimi Hendrix stopping by for a listen.
Despite embodying the
exploratory vision and visceral power of those six-string masters, though, by
the time the album track – or the live show – reaches its end, the ghosts have
all returned to their murky netherworld, leaving only Haynes and his earthly
musical delights in the spotlight.
It’s a wonder, then, that the
50-year-old Haynes, who was ranked 23 on Rolling Stone’s
100 Greatest Guitarists
of All Time list in 2003, doesn’t possess a split personality. As the
rock guitarist still channeling the free-form 1960s jamming vibe – which
since morphed into the 21st-century-required compartmentalized genre of
music” – the Asheville, North Carolina native is in constant demand.
addition to his steady role as primary singer, guitarist, and songwriter
band Gov’t Mule, which is making its Israeli debut Friday night at
Reading 3 in
Tel Aviv, Haynes long ago became the go-to man for legends like the
Brothers Band and the various offshoots of the Grateful Dead to fill the
of their late respective guitarists, Allman and Garcia.
“I think the
adjustment to playing in different bands is more automatic than people
expect,” said the amiable Haynes, talking with a slight Southern drawl
phone conversation with The Jerusalem
from New York last week. “I really
enjoy the challenge of doing several different things musically – it
fresh and prevents me from getting bogged down.
“The biggest challenge, I
find, is the selection of the right sound and approaches for each band.
requires different equipment, guitar effects. The various situations
allow me to
express myself in different ways and expose different sides of my
personality. A lot of musicians, if they have one complaint, it’s that
don’t have a wide array of music to play. I don’t have that complaint,”
Haynes doesn’t even complain when he comes off the road with one
band and goes back out a day or two later with another. Or when the
fans of the Allmans and the Dead come to their shows expecting to hear
replica of “Whipping Post” or “Scarlet Begonias.”
“I know the reasons I’m
chosen to be in these positions, but I try not to think about it too
Haynes. “When I first joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1998, I had the
unenviable position of stepping into Duane’s spot. Fortunately, the band
fans never made me think that I had to sound like him; I was always
sound like myself, and how much of his influence I should bring in was
up to me.
Likewise, the Dead didn’t want me to sound like Jerry Garcia.
whose roles I’m stepping into are revered by fans, myself included, and
to pay the utmost respect. At the same time, I know they would want me
AND THAT would be someone who’s played the guitar for 38 years,
who as a child fell in love with the power-trio blues rock of Cream and
Hearing the Allman Brothers for the first time led him to discover blues
King, Albert King and Howlin’ Wolf. But he remained a disciple
of Duane Allman’s, learning to play the slide and even adopting Allman’s
favorite guitar – a Gibson Les Paul ’58 – as his own axe of choice.
the time he was 20, Haynes was a working musician, playing guitar in
country-rocker David Allan Coe’s band. Eventually he met Allman’s former
guitarist Dicky Betts and joined his band.
And when the Allmans decided
to get back together in 1989, Betts brought in Haynes, along with a new
player, Allen Woody.
In 1994, during another lull in the Allmans’ career,
the always-itching-to-play Haynes and Woody decided to form their own
project. Thus Gov’t Mule was born. They quickly gained a reputation for
scorching live shows and, by 1997, they left the Allmans to focus on
full time. Within three years, though, Woody was dead of a suspected
overdose and Haynes was shattered.
“When Allen died, my first reaction
was to end the band,” he said. “It took me several months to get my head
the concept to continue. But I received a lot of encouragement from
other musicians to keep the music going. A lot of musicians reached out
like [the Grateful Dead’s] Phil Lesh and [Blues Travelers’] John Popper;
friends who had been in similar positions of losing key bandmembers,
Hetfield of Metallica and Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, were all
encouraging and supportive.”
Haynes and drummer Matt Abts decided to keep
the band going. In addition, he rejoined the Allmans and heeded to a
from Lesh to play lead guitar and sing for his project Phil Lesh and
which began a decade-long association with the past members of the
icons. Among the most daunting tasks hoisted upon Haynes was learning
“Of course, we were reinterpreting everything – the
mission with Phil was to not play the songs the way the Dead played
said. “When I went out with the Dead in 2004, we learned something like
songs; there were lots of rehearsals involved, but they also wanted to
things differently – it was a chance for them to reinvent
Haynes admitted that while he thought he was an open-minded,
free-form kind of musician, he was given a crash course in musical
through his association with the Dead – especially Lesh.
“When I started
playing with Phil, I witnessed another level of open-mindedness that I
tapped into yet,” he said. “He has a beautiful sense of music, which
pressure on the musician – there are no mistakes or wrong notes, only
opportunities. The key is the ultimate encouragement to explore at all
it’s all about the journey, and there are different stops along the way,
are magical and others meandering on the way to find the magic. It opens
most of us have never opened before.”
TODAY, HAYNES still keeps the doors
open, heading out on the road with the Allmans, Lesh or the Dead, as
long as it
doesn’t conflict with his Gov’t Mule responsibilities.
“Gov’t Mule is my
main laboratory – with the Allmans winding down and the future of the
uncertain, I feel like we’ll be recording and touring with Gov’t Mule
to come,” he said.
The band, featuring Haynes, Abts, bassist Jorgan
Carlsson and keyboardist Danny Louis, has become somewhat of a magnet
musicians, with friends like Les Claypool, Phish’s Mike Gordon, Dave
ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and a slew of others sharing stages with Haynes
company over the years. While Haynes appreciates the recognition, he
want it to take precedence over the music.
“On the one hand, it’s the
kiss of death to be labeled a musician’s musician, because that means
that in a
lot of the cases the average person isn’t drawn to it,” he said. “I’ve
wide circle of musician friends and collaborators, but I hope that
us from connecting with the average listener.
“In our case, we make
pretty palatable music for anyone who takes his music seriously.
we’re really making music for ourselves, and our audience grows out of
you make yourself happy artistically, people who are like-minded will
That’s why you’re likely to see those ghosts of Allman, Garcia and
Hendrix hovering over whenever Gov’t Mule performs.