This past May, Govt Mule staged a truly historic event in New Orleans. On May 3rd, some of the planets most legendary musicians assembled at the Saenger Theater for The Deepest End concert, which served as a tribute to original bassist Allen Woody, who passed away in August of 2000. The show featured countless special guests, many of whom appear on the bands two recent albums The Deep End Volume 1 and Volume 2 [see page 3]. Over the course of the six-hour marathon concert, collaborators included everyone from Jason Newsted (Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne) to Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane) to Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and The Flecktones) to Les Claypool (Primus, Frog Brigade).
It was one of the most amazing nights of music that Ive ever been a part of or witnessed, says Haynes. Technically, I think it came off about as good as it possibly could. We were all flying by the seat of our pants. We were coordinating all these different musicians who had all these places to be and other schedules and shows. I cant imagine it running much smoother. I kind of felt like the whole night there was this big wave of energy and I was just being dragged along by it.
There's no pretending in Gov't Mule, says Newsted. The music that Warren Haynes and Matt Abts and Allen Woody made together is a certain form of blueprint for a style of music that really is an original and unique formula. When you have that type of chemistry and one of the people is taken away, that's never gonna go away and it takes 25 of the greatest bass players to fill his shoes, but they're still not filled. It just speaks huge amounts for the respect that these guys have for him. He's looking down right now and going, "Holy crap!" He probably never would have imagined that he would have gotten so much respect.
Jaws dropped around the globe as the set list circulated on the internet, but there is hope for those who missed the star-studded six-hour gala. The magic was documented on one DVD and two CD's, which will be packaged together as The Deepest End, due in stores Tuesday, October 7, on ATO Records.
On a night like this, it's fun because there's no real time to rehearse so it gives you an extra adrenaline boost," said Victor Wooten. When you have to improvise like that, most of the time you end up playing some of your best things because you don't get to work on it.
The bands most recent albums, The Deep End Volume 1 and Volume 2, honor Woody in a unique way. Instead of making a traditional tribute record, Haynes and Abts invited many of Woodys heroes to appear on the records and play almost entirely new material. The response was overwhelming. Volume 1 features guests such as Gregg Allman (Allman Brothers Band), Jack Bruce (Cream), Bootsy Collins (P-Funk), John Entwistle (The Who), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Stefan Lessard (Dave Matthews Band) to name a few.
Because nearly everyone on Govt Mules wish list was interested in participating in the project, it became clear that all of this talent would not fit on one disc. Thus Volume 2 was released and features an equally impressive roster of players: Chris Squire (Yes), Tony Levin (King Crimson), Rocco Prestia (Tower of Power), John Scofield, David Grisman and Billy Cox (Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys). All of the recording sessions were filmed by Phish bassist Mike Gordon for inclusion in his documentary, Rising Low. The movie serves as both a tribute to Woody and a behind-the-scenes look at the powerful recording sessions.
Meanwhile, Mule continued its relentless touring schedule, welcoming a range of guest bassists on the road. Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band), Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), George Porter Jr. (The Meters) , Greg Rzab (Jimmy Page, Buddy Guy), as well as Jason Newsted and the talented Andy Hess (The Black Crowes, Joan Osborne, John Scofield), all played several dates with the band over the last two years. The fan base grew exponentially during this period, as diehards traded live recordings of the group and discussed musical minutia on the E-MULE listserve. There was so much support for the band that its anthem Soulshine was voted Song of the Year at the 2002 Jammys.
Govt Mules funk number, Sco-Mule, which features guitarist John Scofield, was nominated for a Grammy Award this year. Haynes of course is no stranger to the Grammys, he has accepted an award with the Allman Brothers Band in 1995 for the live version of Jessica (the band was also nominated for three other Grammys). Since rejoining the ABB in 2001, Warren has reinvigorated the group yet again. Along with Gregg Allman, Haynes wrote the material for the heralded new album, Hittin the Note, which band members and critics alike are calling the best release since 1972s epic Eat A Peach. Haynes co- produced the album with Michael Barbiero (Guns and Roses, Blues Traveler).
The Mule formed in 1994 when Haynes and bassist Allen Woody were touring as members of the Allman Brothers Band and wanted another creative outlet. After joining forces with Abts, the trio immediately noticed an intense chemistry and began touring relentlessly. Haynes estimates that the band played upwards of seven hundred shows in just a few years. We just bonded completely, recalls Warren. Musically and personally we became an entity. Govt Mule did so many shows in such a short period of time, at least six or seven hundred. We shared hotel rooms, tour buses, our whole world, our whole life.
Govt Mule will announce a new permanent bassist in September and will move into a new phase of its illustrious career. The Deepest End concert in New Orleans signified the end of the rotating bass status for the band and closure for the Deep End project that celebrated Woodys life. But no one had any idea it would be as historic and legendary as it turned out.
"We were just on a mission at the Saenger," said Matt Abts. We got a killer performance. We opened the show with "Bad Little Doggie" and it just kicked ass. I think some of the songs are definitive versions. I thought Lay of the Sunflower beat the record, totally. The Voodoo Chile with Jack Casady and Ivan Neville was killer.
Matt had his work cut out for him, adds Warren. There were fourteen bass players and each new bass player that steps on stage, the drummer has to readapt to a new chemistry, a new pocket thats being created between the bass player and the drummer. Youre talking about someone who is one of my all time favorite drummers, so my expectation level of Matt is really high anyway. For him to go above and beyond that was amazing. I dont know where he gets the energy and the focus to do that.
One source of inspiration is likely Haynes, who is a rare breed. Very few musicians in history have been so well-rounded that they are guitar virtuosos, powerful vocalists and gifted songwriters. Similar to predecessors such as Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, Warren is at the forefront of todays musical trailblazers.
People turn out for Warren because everyone has absolute confidence that if he is involved, the music is going to be great," says Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, who has performed alongside Warren on many occasions. "He is the only player of our generation who has his history completely together; and it is clear the minute you play with him. He is just the sickest guitarist and the most together guy you can share a stage with."