"In the last five-to-ten years I’ve seen more promising new bands and artists than in a very long time": Gov't Mule's Warren Haynes is hopeful about the future of rock music

Warren Haynes onstage
(Image credit: Scott Legato)

Formed in 1994 by guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody (the latter died six years later) – both members of the Allman Brothers Band – American southern rock jam group Gov’t Mule have carved out a successful career while flying beneath the radar. Haynes sets the scene for their visit to the UK to promote their thirteenth studio album, Peace… Like A River.


For a hard-gigging band like the Mule, lockdown must have been a living hell. 

We were going crazy sitting at home, so I wrote lots and lots of material, which is why we made two albums at once [2021’s Heavy Load Blues was recorded concurrently with Peace… Like A River]. It was the only way to be creative. 

The tour you are currently playing in the States combines The Dark Side Of The Mule, the band’s interpretation of Pink Floyd classics, with a set of your own material. 

It’s a two-and-a-half-hour show, sixty minutes of our songs and an hour and a half of our interpretations of those Floyd greats. Some are performed faithfully, though we stretch out and improvise upon the longer pieces. It’s a concept we’re about to retire, unfortunately, so it’s unlikely to be seen by British audiences. 

Your set-list changes each night. With 178 songs to choose from, no two Gov’t Mule shows are completely alike. 

We do that mostly for ourselves, to keep from becoming bored, but through the years our audience has really grown around that concept. It all started with the Grateful Dead, of course. 

At your upcoming show in London, presumably the audience will get to hear a large chunk of Peace… Like A River? 

Yeah, we’re adding more and more of it as we go along, and by the time we get to London we’ll be playing quite a few of those songs. Eventually we aim to play everything from the album.

How did Billy Bob Thornton come to sing a song, The River Only Flows One Way, on the album? 

He and I have been friends for quite a few years. Billy has a career as a musician as well as being an actor. When I wrote that song it was the first one I’ve done in which the verses needed to be spoken and not sung. What he did was perfect for the song. 

Another track, Shake Our Way Out, which features Billy Gibbons, is a nice, groovy moment, but also a bit edgy. 

I agree. The song has a ZZ Top influence, which is why I wanted Billy on it. He and I have worked together a lot and known each other since the early nineties. Having his voice on it really adds to the song’s sense of humour. 

How familiar with the London Palladium are you? 

I’ve never played there but it’s a legendary venue. Getting to play there will be a dream come true. 

Amusingly, VIP tickets enable holders to be greeted and hosted by their very own Red Coat Butler.

I didn’t know that. It’s kind of the antithesis of rock‘n’roll, isn’t it? But kinda interesting. 

Grateful Dead offshoot Dead & Company recently retired from touring after a final concert in San Francisco. Should we be fearful for the future of rock music? 

I’m quite hopeful, actually. In the last five-to-ten years I’ve seen more promising new bands and artists than in a very long time. If I’m right, then acts such as Marcus King, Larkin Poe and Celisse Henderson can all carry this style of music into the future.

Gov't Mule play London Palladium on November 6. Get tickets.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.