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Warren Haynes: The Timeline of Sco-Mule and Beyond

Doug Collette By

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AAJ: It's remarkable when I listen to it how obviously you guys were winging it, but how obviously too you complemented each other, able to anticipate what each other was doing and always stay right in step and in tune with each other.

WH: I think it was like that 'first date' thing, ya know? (laughs) Everyone's awareness is heightened. I feel confident that combination of talents is going to work anytime you put it together, to varying degrees, but for some reason, it just fell into place, everything lined up and the music was able to play itself and we were able to get out of the way, which is the important thing. Anytime you're playing, improvisational music especially, the best thing you can hope for is to forget what you're doing.

AAJ: I've heard John Scofield say the same thing.

WH: The more you think about it, the more cerebral and analytical you become and that's your enemy at that point.

AAJ: That's one of the great virtues of the Sco-Mule recordings as I hear them too: it never seems to reach a point where anyone was afraid to step on anyone's toes or anyone being too careful. It was like you felt you could afford to risk making mistakes because the payoff's going to be even greater if you do. Not that I heard any mistakes, but the music certainly exceeded my expectations. And I was really looking forward to it, so that's a rare occurrence in and of itself.

WH: Disc one stood out for me immediately after we did the shows. I went back and listened to the tapes and the eighty minutes of music on disc one chronologically sounded like a live record to me. And originally it was going to be one disc; all the time in between has allowed it to evolve into "Well, there's more music there-Let's go back and look at it!... And all this other stuff's great too! (laughs).

AAJ: You just anticipated a question. I happened to notice with web preorders of Sco-Mule there is a bonus disc with some other material on it including Little Feat's "Spanish Moon" and "Freeway Jam" by Jeff Beck; does that CD plus the double set constitute everything you recorded with Scofield at the time?

WH: No, because we did two nights and most of the instrumental songs were played both nights. I only wanted to include two versions of "Kind of Bird" and "Hottentot" because they were very different from each other and very special. With the rest of the stuff, one was obviously better than the other.

AAJ: Let me ask you what may be an unfair question. When you decided to release this stuff and you went back to listen to it, did your reaction change from your first listening post-show back in 1999?

WH: It virtually feels the same to me. I can still recall the feeling we had that night and smiling how comfortable and vibey it was. There's always the chance when you go back to it years later, "Oh it's not as good as I thought it was?!" but it doesn't feel that way to me. It feels the opposite: so many of those passages are embedded in my brain now in a permanent way. That's what happens with live recordings sometimes: especially early on you create some versions that are kind of definitive-until that changes! And I feel that way about these: it was like cramming for an exam: we put so much time, energy and thought into what we were doing, in such a short amount of time, it was like, from a preparations standpoint, it was very compressed. So when we actually got on stage, it was opening up and coming together the way it was supposed to. Those are the things you're thankful for when that happens. That's really something to be grateful for.

AAJ: Right...Is there something to be said for not over-preparing something like this? Or like you said, prepping for it in a really compressed period of time, so you never fall prey to overthinking it?

WH: I sure hope so because that's the lifeblood of Gov't Mule! (laughs) Everything we've ever done, we've bitten off more than we could chew. Every project, New Year's, Halloween, special guests, there's not quite enough time to prepare, we choose more songs than we can possible learn...The whole flying by the seat of your pants approach is so much a part of what we do that we've convinced ourselves that it's normal.

AAJ: There's a lot to be said for that. I just watched the DVD of Dark Side of the Mule and it was remarkable how smoothly that all came across: (laser) lights-wise, sound-wise and otherwise. You really pulled that off and looked very satisfied with every successive song as you moved through the setlist.

WH: Part of the gratification is hearing the results. That is inspiration in itself. When you put all this energy into preparing for something and then you're actually out on stage in the moment doing it and it's all working, then that inspires you. Again, we had put so much concentration into that and we're actually out on stage in front of an audience doing it, it's opening up in the way it's supposed to. And a large part of that is the audience because the audience forces you not to analyze and to get out of rehearsal mode. It's an extra ingredient that inspires performance as opposed to going through the motions.

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