Brothers of The Road: Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes
Gregg, comment on the state of The Allman Brothers Band as you head into the long annual Beacon run.
Gregg Allman: There’s interplay between all of us. Anytime you get a new person and/or new songs — Warren and I wrote some new ones and they came off real good — it physically gives you a youthful-type feeling. There’s nothing like change. What do they say? Without change there wouldn’t be any progress? It’s just really good. But we’ve been on the road now for about 10 years and we really need to stop for a year or two and just create a bunch of stuff. We’re doing pretty good with the next of order of business, which is to get into the studio. That’s something the Allman Brothers haven’t had in a while. Hell, our last studio album was the one we did in Florida.
‘Where It All Begins’ in ’94.
Allman: Yeah, we’re past due for a studio record.
How long have you been writing with Warren since he left the band to pursue Gov’t Mule fulltime?
Allman: We’ve been writing together two or three years. We wrote together all the time he was there, and then we just kind of picked up where he left off. And Woody wrote some. But Warren and I have written a bunch of tunes with other people and just the two of us. But the stuff we just wrote, he came over my house and spent about a week. It was just the two of us and we had nothing to do but that because it was cold outside. We couldn’t ride the motorcycles or go out fishin’ (laughs). And we had a really good, no-bullshit rehearsal with two breaks a night, three counting dinner. We got so much more done. We used to went the rehearsal hall for two weeks and then still be really steppin’ at the end. But we went through everything and re-arranged most of the songs and tightened up a bunch of loose ends. Over time things can get lax. People start drifting off certain parts. Not that we rely on parts. This is more a jam band but a rehearsed band. I can’t really tell ya’, but I can show ya’ (laughs).
I can’t wait to see it. I’ve been into the Allman Brothers for 26 years. Every time I see you, you’re better and better and better. Most — for lack of a better word — classic rock bands have to rest on their laurels and just don’t keep up. But the young bands can’t keep up with you. Perhaps that partly because you have these young players in the band.
Allman: Yeah, there’s nothing like young, new blood. It’s really good.
The March Madness run is a little shorter this year and you mentioned that you’re itching to get into the studio? Will there be an extensive spring and summer tour this year or no?
Allman: I hope so. There again, we hope to get in the damn studio sometime this year. I think it will be as soon after the Beacon as we can make it. I think we’ll have to go in and out two or three different times between now and the fall. But there’s nothing better than to see us make a record in the studio.
Do you have anything in the can? Have you been in the studio at all since ’94?
Allman: Oh yeah. We’ve got stuff from a lot of sessions. We always say we’re going to hold onto this stuff in case we ever need it, but we’ve never gone back and used anything.
Will Warren be involved in the studio recording?
Allman: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
To what extent is he now an Allman Brother again? Is that up in the air?
Allman: I can’t really answer that question for you right now. After the Beacon, maybe. If it’s anything like rehearsal, hey, there ain’t no problem.
Warren’s being in the band is the result of two sad situations: the death of Allen Woody, which has freed up time from what was Warren’s busy tour schedule, and Dickey parting ways with the band. Comment on how you’ve been able to make those negative situations a positive.
Allman: There’s a negative situation that happened, but Warren’s in the band because he’s got some lightnin’ chops. As for Dickey, Dickey has left the building, I mean the band. What can I say about him? You know? He’s gone. He’s gone. I haven’t seen him or talked to him and I have to say thought about him really.
But he’s not coming back in the band.
Allman: This is a fact.
To what extent do you think the work with Warren could end up being a joint thing between what’s left of Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers in the future? Could it almost be like a collective so that everybody can continue to work together?
Allman: I don’t know. We’re just kind of taking it one deal at a time.
Out of the new songs that you have, what ones are you going to play at March Madness?
Allman: We’re going to play all of them. There’s about six. They have to take shape. They’re there and they’re good. They’re at the point now where you say this song’s got real good potential. You wake up in the morning and the song’s still in your head or it gets rehearsed and it just comes about like that: bang! But you don’t really know until you’ve played it a bunch of times and it kind of, like a house, settles after you build it before it gets just right. Just like you have to fine tune machinery. Things will definitely change between now and the time it’s on a disc.
Cool. So we’ll get to see a work in progress.
Allman: Yeah and that’s why it’s good to play them live. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be published and all of that. So if anybody at Napster thinks they’re going to steal those songs (laughs). It’s over for them guys, isn’t it?
Pretty damn close.
Allman: Hallelujah, brother. It’s like walking into a fine art store, picking up a piece, puttin’ it under your coat and walkin’ out. Wouldn’t you say that?
Definitely. It’s a shame too because now that they’ve opened up Pandora’s Box, it may be difficult to tape things to cassette, like songs and movies. Of course, there’ll always be taping at Allmans shows, so we don’t have to worry about that.
Allman: Oh yeah.
Derek and Oteil are both obviously enjoying being in the Allman Brothers band and I’m wondering to what extent they may contribute to the writing of the next studio record.
Allman: Oteil writes a little bit.
Does Derek mainly write for his own band?
Allman: I think so. He writes mainly instrumentals anyway. At least he hasn’t come forth with anything. We don’t put the pressure on anybody or any thing like that. But Oteil’s got a couple of nice things I’ve heard. We’ll take a look at his songs also.
From what I understand, Woody and Warren left to do Gov’t Mule fulltime because they kind of felt like sidemen in a way. With Dickey not there anymore, you seem more willing to let people have their creative expression.
Allman: Absolutely. I always was. That whole thing came about because of feelings that Dickey had. I hate the word sidemen. We’re all in this together. I would not work with sidemen at all. That’s something the last generation did and it still doesn’t work (laughs). Good God. A sideman is when you blow into, call the musicians union and say, ‘Hey, I need a bass player and a trumpet player. Get them over here quick.’
Having spoken to Warren a couple of days ago, it seems the band’s a bit more Brotherly like it was in the very early days.
Allman: Absolutely. There’s no kind of intimidation tactics or any of that underlying bullshit. There’s no vibe like that at all. All that’s gone now, man. The Allman Brothers camp is a very happy place to be. A very warm, loving, happy place like it used to be.
Bob Makin has been a New Jersey-based music writer for 20 years.