Warren Haynes’ Windows of Improvisation (Jambands.com Reader Interview)
“What’s it like as an artist when you step out on stage these days and face a bunch of people holding up phones? That’s quite different than a discreet mic stands in the back. Does it get distracting? Would you prefer that people just to sit back and enjoy the show or does it not bother you?” Steve B .
Well, I think we were ahead of the curve a little bit along with many other bands mostly in the jamband scene, because we allowed people to record the shows anyway. And we play a different show every night and most of the people that follow our music know that and understand that. It’s a little disconcerting for there to be constant representations of the show available on the internet with very questionable quality. But that’s one of the things that we were trying to avoid in the first place when we allowed people to record the shows and especially when we enacted Mule Tracks, where we offer a high quality audio version of every show we’ve done since 2004. It is a little bizarre now that it’s become so easy for anyone to hold up their cell phone and video or audio record an experience but often times when you play it back, it’s not very representative of the actual experience. So it probably is less of a concern to us than it is to bands who don’t allow people to tape because we’ve been dealing with that on some level since ’94. And we’re a little bit used to the fact that every note we play is going to wind up somewhere in different degrees of quality. And again I think it makes it even more important that we offer Mule Tracks as a high quality alternative to that. It means you have to live with the fact that if you have a bad night or a bad performance that it’s out there for the world to hear or see, but I think we’re much more comfortable with that than the average commercial pop band would be because we improvise for a living and when you do that, you take the bad with the good.
Do you find that audiences are becoming more disengaged up front? Particularly at g.a. shows where people want to get a good video and perhaps they’re not as responsive as those fans who would otherwise be there?
Well, I don’t think we experience that as much as some bands or artists may. My personal take on it is that it’s usually the more casual fans that are going to do that. It’s not the fans that see you five, ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred times, it’s the fans that see you once that tend to want to put in on their cell phone. And so I think a lot of times it’s the fans that don’t get out much and don’t get to very many shows that want to preserve the moment because it’s not the norm for them. And a lot of our fans, going to live music is the norm for them. [Laughs.]
”You’re coming out with the first stretch of dates with Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers. How familiar are you with them and assuming there are guest appearances, how and when do those decisions come to be?” Chris W.
Usually when we pick an opener, one or more of the members of the band are familiar with their music to the extent that they think, along with people in our office and management and booking agency, that this would be a good fit. In the case with Nicki Bluhm, I had heard her music and their music but didn’t actually meet them face to face until the other night at The Hangout Festival. And I won’t actually be able to have seen them perform live until they’re on stage opening for us.
Sometimes that’s the case and sometimes it’s not. When Grace Potter first started opening for Gov’t Mule, we knew about Grace and the buzz and all the reaction people were having to the Nocturnals’ music, and we said, “Well, why don’t we add them for a couple of shows and see how it goes?” And I think we did two shows or three shows or something and I got to experience them live and we were like, “Oh, this is great. We should do more of this.” So sometimes that’s the way it happens.
Now as far as people sitting it, it’s a little more complex in that if there’s a band on tour with us, then the first few days we’re doing a lot of listening to see like what would be the right first song to play together, and how the chemistries are going to work together, and see how the bands are going to relate to each other and the different musicians are going to relate to each other on stage, because that’s another issue. And we’re not one of those bands that wants to just get up and play some simple song with people just to have them on stage, we want there to be some real collaboration and some real merit to the experience and so in order to do that, sometimes it takes a little more work and research. But it always pays off and it always adds another dimension to the show and leads usually to some great collaborations which will lead to future relationships and it’s a big positive experience.
Earlier you mentioned listening to older Mule. Someone wanted to know how often, if ever, you listen to past live shows?
I only listen to them if I’m looking for something for Classic Mule Tracks. If we talk about a certain tour or a certain era or a certain special guest that it would be nice to capture something from that time period for Classic Mule Tracks, then I’ll go back and specifically listen to a bunch of shows with that in mind. But otherwise, I don’t really listen to the old shows.
When you’ve listened back to the original trio, what if anything has struck you or surprised you?
As an example, when we put out the Georgia Bootleg Box Set recently, a friend of mine had forwarded me the original mixes Doug Oade did back in ’96 of those shows and reminded me that they were really good and that even though there was a lot of repeats because we didn’t have a very large repertoire at that point, that there was a lot of excitement and you can see the band in growth spurts. When I listened to it, it reminded me how fresh and exciting those songs were. And it brought back a lot of really fond memories and that’s why I chose to just put those original mixes out, make the price point as cheap as possible and just turn people on to that. If they hadn’t heard that version of Mule, it’s captured a nice little snapshot, and if they had, then they were probably longing for it anyway.