Part Three (of four parts)
Lockn’ Festival: LOCKN’ Festival celebrates its fifth year in 2017. Located in Central Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the festival site is halfway between Charlottesville and Lynchburg. According to their website, “We’re a group of dedicated music fans who began this journey in 2013, aspiring to provide the ultimate atmosphere for live music and community to flourish.” It has a reputation for jamming bands, but their roster reflects a wide variety of contemporary musical expression. The festival has been singularly successful in attracting major musical artists to perform year-after-year, in addition to up-and-comers. They have also sought to effect unexpected musical collaborations such as this year’s highly entertaining performance by Gov’t Mule and Ann Wilson.
Profiles in 21st Century Music: More In-Depth looks at some of the artists of LOCKN’ 2017
Please see PARTS ONE AND TWO if you haven’t already; Part THREE is the first of several portraits (following the snapshots in Part Two) of artists I had the opportunity to have conversations with at Lockn’:
WARREN HAYNES AND GOV’T MULE
A very soft spot for Warren who was gracious enough to invite me to his tour bus for a very special interview with this American legend of guitar and voice, who has played with virtually all major guitar artists, from Greg Allman to Phil Lesh. Haynes has played solo, and in other configurations, but is now back “home,” you might say, with his historic band, Gov’t Mule.
Ron: How many times have you played here (Lockn’)?
Warren: I think, not every time, but the first one. Almost every year.
R: Did you play Peter’s club in New York?
W: Wetlands? Yeah, I played Wetlands back before Peter had it. Larry Block then. Maybe 89-90, I played there before Gov’t Mule. I think we played at least one as Gov’t Mule.
R: Was it solo back then?
W: Yes, and then Al, and Woody, and myself started Gov’t Mule in 94. After I did my first solo album.
A: So, you’ll be performing with Ann Wilson tonight? How long have you known her?
W: Well, I just met her today? (R: Really ?!) W: Yeah, we met today and rehearsed. We’d been rehearsing in her absence, and we finally got together today. We’re doing five songs together, should be a lot of fun.
R: Where do you rehearse in a situation like that? On site?
W: Yeah, there’s a place nearby. A couple of years ago when I played with Phil Lesh and Santana, we rehearsed there.
R: Was that the first time you and Santana had worked together?
W: No, but that was the first time we’d played a whole set together, which was fun.
R: Your association playing with the Dead. How far back does that go?
W: Well, I started playing with Phil. That started in the late ‘90s. And I did the Dead tour in 2003 and 2009. And, then played with all the guys in different little factions, but my relationship came about through Phil, and he’s the one I’ve played with most.
R: So, did all of that come about after Jerry’s passing?
W: Yes, I got a call from Phil saying that he’d made a list of guitar players he’d like to play with, and would I like to come to California and do some experimenting. And, we’ve forged a relationship that has lasted ever since.
R: Great. Off the subject, but I told him I would tell you. Marcus King (also performing at Lockn’) said to tell you, that you use possum grease in your hair, or something like that.
R: I take it that means … you understand what he’s saying? W: Yeah, yeah.
R: Who would you say was your largest influence on your playing and your career?
W: Well, that’s a tough one. In that I started out in singing before guitar playing. And, my influences were in singing, like Otis Redding, the Four Tops, and the Temptations, Wilson Picket. James Brown was my first hero. And then when I started playing guitar, my main influences were Eric Clapton and Jimmy Hendrix and Johnny Winter.
But, when I started reading who they listened to, I started going back and listening to the old blues guys and the old jazz guys. I think the person who’s most influenced my career and, I think, my open-mindedness, or at least I like to think my open-mindedness, is Miles Davis.
R: How so?
W: I just tried to take a cue as to never get stuck in one thing. Always movin’ on to something else and not always hangin’ on to just one kind of music.
R: Did you ever meet him?
W: No, never even heard him live. Just listened to hundreds and hundreds of hours.
R: Is there anybody you’re listening to a lot right now?
W: Well, you just mentioned Marcus King. He’s my current favorite.
R: He has a wonderful voice, doesn’t he? W: Yeah!
R: Where are you based now, are you in Nashville?
W: I’m in New York. Well, I’m in Westchester, about an hour north of the city.
R: I talked to Blackberry Smoke this afternoon. They’d been on Colbert just recently. You must have done those shows. What’s it like for you, the millions watching you, and all, like Blackberry Smoke spoke of?
W: Well, you know it goes by so fast. The classic hurry up and wait. You’re waiting around all day. And, then it’s over, and you don’t have another chance. It’s not kin to what we do normally. But, it serves its purpose, that’s for sure.
R: It started with the three of you?
W: Well, the original bass player passed away in 2000. We added Danny shortly after that, so we became a quartet, not too long after Allen passed.
Drummer, Danny Louis, had just walked into the room (middle section of the bus, which had tan leather couches and an elevated desk area, where Warren was seated.) Louis was getting something from the refrigerator, which was in the mini-kitchen across from me and Warren.
Danny: We were a three-piece for a year. It was like a revolving door for a year, with revolving bass players. It was like a bull pen.
W: Yeah, oh yeah, there were several bass players.
D: Yeah, call up the leftie, call up the rightie
W: Yeah. And then the organ, what nine years ago? D: Yeah, between 2007 and 2009.
W: Yeah, we’re celebrating our 23rd year right now.
R: And, are you on tour right now?
W: Yeah we are, and we’re on tour with Blackberry Smoke. R: Oh, you are!
Ron then asked Warren about festivals this summer besides Lockn’. Warren mentioned a few others they’d done, and then said:
W: We have a new record out, so we’re trying to spread the word. And, a festival like this allows us to get the word out to some people who might not know us otherwise.
R: Do you see any changes in the directions your work is taking?
W: Yeah, we’re always trying to bring influences to the surface that we’ve always loved, but maybe we’ve never explored before. So with each record, we try to do that a little bit. With each tour, we try to do that a little bit. The perspective just gets wider. We don’t eliminate anything, we just add to.
R: I see. Any quick example”
W: Well, it seems like anytime we work with any guest artist, that influences where we’re going to go next. And, it probably started when we played with John Scofield in 1999. We started pursuing more of our jazzy influences. We’d always done that a bit, but it seemed to give us a little bit of license to do that. We’re a rock band. But, we all love so many types of music, that if it’s something we love, why not add it to the overall picture, you know? We kind of take a jazz approach even to rock music, you know?