The New School of Gov’t Mule (Relix Revisited)
“We had played with Andy off and on a few times, and always loved playing with him. He had become unavailable at one point because he was playing with John Scofield, and prior to playing with Scofield he was in The Black Crowes. So that’s somewhat indicative of how versatile he is,” explains Haynes. “He plays jazz, he plays rock and roll, and he plays blues, all these different things very convincingly, which is something Gov’t Mule kind of demands. And Andy is an amazing player. He’s similar to Woody in a lot of ways, but very different in other ways, and he’s a great human being, someone you want to be on the road with.”
This is an important consideration, given how long this band stays out on the road. Perhaps the person who sums it up best is Woody and Warren’s guitar tech, Brian Farmer who has worked with Haynes since 1999. Fans might know him as the Farminator, as he is often called, or as the guitar tech often sporting the “I’m Not Him” T-shirt onstage. Why? Because he uncannily resembles Haynes, down to the grizzled ginger-color hair and the girth of his body. While Farmer insists neither man recognized the resemblance when he interviewed for the job, they’re not above goofing on fans, like last Halloween, when Warren insisted the duo swap identities for Mule’s show in New Orleans. “Warren walked up to me and said, ‘Hey, would you go shave?’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean, shave?’ Because I mean I’ll shave once a month or something, then I let it grow out. I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘Well, I want to dress up like you. Go get me your ‘I’m Not Him’ shirt and your camouflage pants,’ because I used to wear nothing but camouflage pants all the time. I shaved, and put on one of his dress shirts. He walked out onstage wearing my shirt, but nobody really got it until we were standing side by side. It was pretty funny.”
What’s funnier is after working for Gov’t Mule for about six months, Farmer found out that he and Warren share the same birthday—a birthday they also share with Harry Houdini, which might go far to explain the Halloween slight-of-hand. “We went up to Canada and I was looking on the manifest and I notice the date, April the 6th, 1960. I say, to the official, ‘You’ve got the right birthday but the year is wrong, because I was born in 1961.’ So I’m at the border arguing with somebody that they have the wrong birth year for me, and the guys says to me, ‘Well, is your name Warren Haynes?’ I take a look at the list and my name is right above his, April 6th, 1960. But it gets weirder. I look at where it says “place of birth.” I looked at his and it says Asheville, North Carolina, and mine says Nashville, Tennessee. And that was even more bizarre. So it starts getting even weirder. And he’s one of three boys. He’s the youngest of three boys and I’m the middle of three boys. So there’s a lot of weird things there.”
But nothing so unsettling as losing Allen Woody. “I guess the biggest difference is that with Allen, it felt like a roller coaster going around a corner, careening up on two wheels,” laughs Farmer. “It was so dangerous. It always felt like at any given moment something was going to just blow apart. So it was a real dangerous thing, when Allen was in the band. It was just so exciting but you never could let your guard down. I was constantly turning, constantly running around, I was constantly checking on both guys. It was very, very adventurous, which it still is. It’s a little bit safer now. And I hate to use the term but for me it’s a little bit more mature. Because you know, I mean you’ve got Danny over there who kind of veers off in leftfield sometimes, and Warren still doing that same thing where Warren still gets dangerous, but it’s just such a thicker sound. Andy’s such a groove machine. It’s so swampy and dirty feeling now. It’s different but it’s strangely very familiar.”
But even though Haynes has replaced his friend in the band, he hasn’t in his heart. “We played together for 12 years, that’s a lifetime in musical years. I still dream about him even now. In fact I just had a dream about him the other day. I dreamt that he was still alive, that we were somewhere in some jam session, and he showed up and wanted to play. Usually if I dream about Woody it’s about him still being alive for some unknown reason. And it’s funny because I talk to Gregg [Allman] about that, and he just says, almost nonchalantly, ‘Well, you’ll always have those.’” Gregg Allman should know.
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