The New School of Gov’t Mule (Relix Revisited)
As Gov’t Mule opens their Fall tour in Colorado, we look back to the February/March 2005 issue of Relix and this cover story on the group.
Warren Haynes isn’t like the rest of us. And that’s even before you consider his guitar playing. He sees and hears things that the rest of us don’t. Things that go bump in the night, inhabiting his dreams, or impelling him to write songs that foretell his very future. Blame it on growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, smack in the middle of Appalachian country. The western North Carolina town, known to tourists as “The Land of the Sky,” is just as famous for its long extinguished textile industry as it is for the disembodied ghosts that roam fitfully through its streets. Spirits like the Grove Park Inn’s Pink Lady, who hovers over the old stone hotel that overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains, or the restless shade of shipping heir George Vanderbilt, who is regularly spotted pacing over the worn steps of the sumptuous Biltmore House that he built after the Civil War, or the chilling apparitions that eerily congregate at Helen’s Bridge at the edge of town. Even the Clyde A. Erwin High School has its own not-so-friendly ghosts that spook students and faculty alike. In fact, there are so many agitated spirits here that three paranormal research agencies are located in this high mountain town just to keep track of them all.
Things that Haynes takes for granted— or perhaps considers normal—would chill lesser mortals to the bone. Like the death of his beloved friend and conspirator, Gov’t Mule bassist Allen Woody. “I don’t want to say it wasn’t one of the worst things that ever happened—because it was. But I really believed that I dreamed it was going to happen before it did, and that that helped prepare me for it,” explains Haynes, leaning forward from his perch on an elegantly neutral no-color sofa in San Francisco’s Miyako Hotel, in the very same austere suite of rooms that John Lennon and Yoko Ono set up housekeeping for an entire month back in August 1972. Haynes and his manager/wife Stefani Scamardo have been ensconced here the past two days—and have made the place their own, creating their own elegant chaos—Chanel make-up sharing counter space with empty Starbucks Frappuccino bottles (which Haynes bolts down with uncanny regularity) and wrappers from half-eaten 24-inch Philly cheesesteaks, lays check-to-jowl with the guitarist’s brimming case of CDs, which he uses to lull himself to sleep on the band’s tour bus.
“I try to get him to clean up,” bemoans Scamardo half-seriously, tossing her magnificent yet strangely aggressive tangle of black curls, giving her husband a bemused look.
“She just never gets that I make order out of chaos. I can’t clean up because it would change the inner dynamic,” jokes the guitarist, who tends to write most of his lyrics in the middle of the night. “I’m usually writing at 4 a.m., too. Everybody else is asleep and I’m half asleep and my brain starts—it’s that in between asleep and awake thing.
“But to continue about Woody, I don’t believe that dream was an isolated circumstance. I believe that not only have I had those kinds of dreams a lot in my life, but I think that people in general have them. In Appalachia a lot of the old folks will tell you that your dreams prepare you for what’s going to happen, especially for the negative things. That if you dream that something was going to happen, and when it finally does happen, you don’t even make the connection but you’re subconsciously more prepared than you would’ve been. There was some weird connection. There was a moment where like, oh, yeah, I knew that. I knew that was going to happen. Dreams are so much heavier than we realize. And I think that we only ever get a glimpse of what they really mean,” says Haynes, his face frozen/caught somewhere between a painful grimace and a lopsided smile, strangely echoing the pained and bittersweet lyrics of “Smile at Half Mast,” the poetic epitaph he composed after Woody perished in that New York hotel room on that hot, muggy August night in 2000.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
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Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
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The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
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