Gov't Mule sees live performance as community property. However, the swamp groove quartet, whose 'By a Thread' features equal measures elastic rock ('Any Open Window') and syrupy blues ('Railroad Boy'), pragmatically polices its policy.
'We allow fans to tape and download (shows),' singer-guitarist Warren Haynes says. 'But we intentionally didn't play any new songs live before recording this record. We didn't want fans to (already) have all the new material.'
Gov't Mule performs Friday at Stubb's, following a signing at Waterloo Records.
American-Statesman: There are a couple direct Texas connections on 'By a Thread.' Start with its opening track ('Broke Down on the Brazos').
Warren Haynes: That was the last song that we wrote when we were at (Willie Nelson's) Pedernales Studios. When we listened back to it, we thought it had an early ZZ Top vibe. So, I called (ZZ Top guitarist) Billy Gibbons, who I've been friends with for a long time. A couple days later, we went into the studio and sat across from each other with two Les Pauls trading guitar licks. He did an amazing job.
What did Billy add to the song's dynamic?
His contribution brought it to a whole other level. Billy's one of those guys -- when he starts playing, you know who it is. He just brought his personality. Trading licks through that song just exceeded our expectations.
There's a lot of history at Pedernales Studios.
Yeah, I love working there. We did our last record ('High and Mighty') there, too. There's great equipment, especially for someone like us, who likes old-school analog recording with two microphones. We're not a modern recording type band. I also love the vibe of the place, and the fact that it's away from town a bit. You feel like you're sequestered to make music.
How much in-studio improvising did you do while recording?
We're one of those bands that never plays the same way twice. Each song will be completely different. It's nice to experiment on songs like 'Monday Mourning Meltdown.' We tried that several different ways before we settled on that one. Some of the up-tempo stuff like 'Broke Down on the Brazos,' 'Any Open Window' and 'Stepping Lightly' was written from the ground floor up in the studio.
As a player, what do you bring from your work with the Allman Brothers to Mule?
Well, each allows me to express myself differently to utilize different aspects of my own musical personality. With each group, I'm using different sounds, instruments and amplifiers. It's a different approach and mindset. Probably most importantly, I'm responding to different musicians.
In either case, you have to consider Live Nation's recently approved merger with Ticketmaster. How do you think that will affect ticket prices?
That's a good question. We've been making a concerted effort to keep the ticket prices down on this tour more than ever. The economy is what it is, and we're all in this together. I think people need music now as much or more than ever. This tour has had record attendance, and I think it's partially due to the fact that we're not gouging fans for ticket prices.