Influenced by jazz, blues, and rock music, Gov't Mule blends these styles into their own version of an improvisational power trio. Drummer Matt Abts, singer/guitarist Warren Haynes, and bassist Allen Woody formed the group in 1994, while the latter two were still in the Allman Brothers Band. After three years, the trio decided to dedicate all of their time to Gov't Mule. After Woody died in August of 2000, Gov't Mule continued to record and tour with guest bass players.
By the time they formed Gov't Mule, each of the members brought years of rock 'n' roll experience to the recording studio, as well as to the stage. Haynes, a native of Asheville, North Carolina, previously played with David Allen Coe and the Dickey Betts Band. He joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1989 and recorded five albums with the group. He also released a solo album, called Tales of Ordinary Madness, in 1993. Woody was born and raised in the musical city of Nashville, Tennessee. In the mid-1980s, he performed with the Artimus Pyle Band and then joined the Allman Brothers Band, where he met Haynes. Born in Oklahoma, Abts grew used to traveling at a young age, when he and his family moved to various military bases around the world. At the age of 16, Abts settled down in Virginia. He played with groups like Montrose and with Mick Taylor, former guitarist for the Rolling Stones. He met Haynes when they played together in the Dickey Betts Band.
The birth of Gov't Mule began with a conversation between Haynes and Woody while they were on tour with the Allman Brothers Band in 1994. They started talking about the extinction of the improvisational power trio in music and their interest in bringing it back. Woody decided that all they needed was a drummer to make it happen, and Haynes knew just the person. Haynes told Woody about Abts.
The duo decided to get together with Abts for a jam session in a Los Angeles club after an Allman Brothers show. The chemistry worked immediately. "It was pretty exciting," Haynes recalled in the band's biography on the Gov't Mule official website. "As we played together more and more, we got to thinking that maybe we should put the time and effort into making it a real band." The group's name was found during a conversation between Woody and Allman Brothers Band drummer Jai Johanny Johanson. Johanson had used the phrase in the conversation, and Woody liked it so much that he suggested it to Abts and Haynes. "It can mean different things to different people," Haynes explained in the Gov't Mule official website biography. "Besides, the name kind of describes us: we're a slow, hard-working, non-glorious animal."
With their name in place, the trio headed into the recording studio to produce their debut, Gov't Mule, which was released on Relativity Records in 1995. Following a tour, they put out a live album, titled Live at Roseland Ballroom, in 1996. Gov't Mule quickly developed a growing fan base, and in April of 1997, Haynes and Woody left the Allman Brothers Band to pursue the power trio full time. That year, they toured with the Black Crowes and Widespread Panic, giving them even more exposure to new audiences.
In 1998 Gov't Mule released Dose, their first CD with Capricorn Records. Michael Barbiero, who had previously worked with Soundgarden, Blues Traveler, and Guns 'n' Roses, produced it. After Dose hit the stores, Gov't Mule returned to the road for a lengthy tour that included a spot on the H.O.R.D.E. tour. With a large performance schedule to draw from, they decided to put together a live double CD in 1999 called Live ... with a Little Help from Our Friends. The recording included several long, improvisational performances and was also released as a limited-edition box set with the same title.
Gov't Mule continued their nonstop schedule by heading back into the studio for their next effort, Life before Insanity. For this recording, the trio decided to take their sound in a slightly different direction from the long, improvisational pieces that were found on their previous releases. "This time around, we thought, 'Let's turn around and do the opposite; let's make it a real song-oriented album and explore that side of things,'" Haynes told Russell Hall at CDNOW. Their summer 2000 tour, in support of Life before Insanity, included an opening slot on the Steve Miller Band tour.
On August 26, 2000, tragedy struck the members and fans of Gov't Mule. Woody was found dead in a hotel in Queens, New York. The cause of death was unknown. The future of Gov't Mule became questionable, but Haynes and Abts decided to carry on. Instead of replacing the bassist, they recorded two CDs, which included contributions from a total of 25 renowned bass players. The guest list included Bootsy Collins, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jon Entwistle from the Who, Stefan Lessard from the Dave Mathews Band, Mike Gorden from Phish, and Les Claypool from Primus. The first CD, Gov't Mule: The Deep End, Vol. I was released in the fall of 2001. The second, Gov't Mule: The Deep End, Vol. II, was scheduled for release in the spring of 2002. The project also included a documentary film with interviews and footage from the studio recordings. Haynes and Abts also continued to tour with the new incarnation of Gov't Mule, which included Chuck Leavell on keyboards and a rotating schedule of bass players, such as Oteil Burbridge of the Allman Brothers Band and Dave Schools of Widespread Panic.
From the beginning, Gov't Mule has maintained a dedication to musical creativity through exploration and improvisation, which they found lacking in most modern rock music. "Our music is more like a lot of music from the past," Haynes explained to Ted Drozdowski in the Boston Phoenix. "It's not all on the surface. The more you listen to it, the more you get from it. The problem is that pop music has redesigned itself so many times that the fat's been trimmed down to the point where there is no meat left. We give you plenty of meat ... with all the fat and the rough edges."
by Sonya Shelton
Warren Haynes / Guitar
Matt Abts / Drums
Danny Louis / Keyboard
Jorgen Carlsson / Bass
Gov't Mule @ Mule.net - Gov't Mule's By A Thread In Stores Now
The Mule performing in 2008: L to R, Haynes, Abts, Hess, Louis. Photo by NJLP's
October 3 1955 / August 26 2000
Warren Haynes, Matt Abts and Allen Woody