Q&A: Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule talks newest album ‘Revolution Come … Revolution Go’
By Kevin Fitzpatrick
The jam rock giants Gov’t Mule will be back in Syracuse for an April 20 show at the Landmark Theater. The band is on tour with new music from their latest album “Revolution Come… Revolution Go,” which is the most eclectic and dynamic of their considerable discography. Inspired in no small part by the current political climate, the album taps into the anger, the tension, and the ridiculousness of discourse in America.
Warren Haynes, front man of Gov’t Mule and an accomplished guitarist, having been a member of the Allman Brothers Bands, the Dickey Betts Band, and the Dead, took some time out of touring with me to speak to the CNY audience that he’ll be visiting soon.
How’s the scene in Central New York?
It’s always been great. I’ve always found the Syracuse audiences and that part of the world are big music lovers, big music supporters. They really connect with what we do and it’s always been great.
One thing you’ve said you really like about Gov’t Mule is that it’s yours and the other guys’ playgrounds, and that this album is one of the most diverse. What are some things Syracuse audiences might be seeing for the first time from you with this tour?
When you think about songs like the title track “Revolution Come… Revolution Go” which explores a lot of territory on its own, goes in some kind of jazzy, improvisational directions. Then there’s songs like “Traveling Tune.” That’s the closest to the southern rock side of what we do, probably, than we’ve ever come as far as the country side of southern rock. Songs like “Dreams and Songs” that are a personal reflection, a very intimate personal song for myself is coming from a soul music direction, probably could have been in my “Man in Motion” record, but I love the interpretation that Gov’t Mule gave the song.
Songs like “Sarah, Surrender.” That’s another soul song. I feel like we went all over the map in terms of influences for this record. And we kind of always do, but this was the first record after celebrating our twentieth anniversary.
So the previous record “Shout” which is the record where we brought in guest vocalists and created a bonus disk with guest singers interpreting the same 11 songs that we had done on disk one, that was kind of the culmination of 20 years. So “Revolution Come… Revolution Go” is kind of the beginning of the next chapter, so to speak, and we were in some ways starting over, feeling like let’s go back to the very beginning and revisit our earliest roots. Let’s also go some places we’ve never gone before, and so that’s really exciting to us.
The band took a lot of inspiration from the 2016 political climate. Over a year into the Trump presidency, have some of the things that were on your mind changed?
I think it’s just progressed really, for example the song “Stone Cold Rage” was addressing the divide that’s in our nation right now that’s more intense than it’s ever been in my life or at least my adult lifetime, and that’s not going to change for a while, it’s something that we need to change ourselves as people. And I think that wasn’t going to change regardless of who was elected president either. It’s more of an observation of what’s occurred over a gradual period of time and where we are as a nation right now.
And then there’s songs like “Pressure Under Fire” which is more like a 60’s mantra of how we can change this together. It’s up to us. You know, it’s not up to politicians because they’re not gonna. It’s up to people to change it.
Is the album meant to be revolutionary? Or counter-revolutionary or even anti-revolutionary?
It was meant to be tongue and cheek. The artwork represented a toy soldier facing backwards shouting at people in the wrong direction, and the majority of the songs on the record are not political. The majority are just dealing with everyday life. But the ones that are seem to fit in in a way that is timely and probably timeless at the same time because these are situations that don’t go away quickly and tend to repeat themselves. So it’s, you know, whenever I’m writing for a record I’m writing about what’s going on around me and what’s going on in my life and life in general, and it was a pretty intense time period and still is, you know.
I think the title might suggest that there’s more political commentary on the album than there actually is, but the few that are political do tend to kind of speak out about what’s happening, and I think rock n’ roll music has always done that and should always do that.
I want to ask about the lyrics of the song “The Man I want to Be” In the first verse, they go “When someone wins, someone has to lose. I’m afraid I’ve been the winner too much.” Could you tell us what you meant by that?
In a relationship it’s give and take, you know. You have to be each other’s support system. A lot of times in a situation like mine when I’m gone as much as I am then there’s too much take and not enough give.
Tell us about touring with Black Stone Cherry?
We’re excited to do it! It’s the first time we’ll have done a tour together. I played and sang on a song on their new record which is really cool. We’ve been talking about it for several years now and so it’s finally coming together and I’m excited. I think it’s going to bring new fans to each bands camp, so to speak.
Do you think the sounds of the two of your bands complement each other well?
Yeah I think, similar enough to work and different enough to work as well. You don’t want two bands to be too much of either one of those things.
Is there anything you would you like your Syracuse audience to know?
Well, it’s been too long. We’re psyched to get back up there and play and looking forward to a great show.
Who: Gov’t Mule | Black Stone Cherry
When and where: 7:30 p.m., April 20, 2018, at the Landmark Theater, Syracuse.
Cost: Range is $32 to $43. Available here.