Warren Haynes Explains the Most Challenging Aspect of Playing David Gilmour’s Solos

While appearing on a recent episode of the “Dipped in Tone” podcast, Gov’t Mule frontman and leader Warren Haynes reflected on the band’s famous covers of Pink Floyd songs. Dubbed as The Dark Side of the Mule, they’re currently doing live shows covering these classics from the 1970s.

Discussing these shows and how this whole idea came to be in the first place, which even resulted in one live album in 2008, Haynes said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“Yeah, this will be the first time we’ve done it in a long time and it’ll be the last time we ever do it. I’m really excited to do it again. This will be the most dates that we’ve ever done as Dark Side of the Mule.”

Gov't Mule - Time - Dark Side Of The Mule DVD

As Haynes further points out, their goal isn’t to play Pink Floyd songs note-for-note but rather give them a bit of a personal touch:

“The Dark Side of the Mule, for us, is not playing the record ‘The Dark Side of the Moon,’ it’s us doing whatever Pink Floyd we want to do. But it does include a lot of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ as well.”

He continued:

“It started out in 2008. For Halloween, we were faced with the challenge of what our thematic crazy Halloween show was going to be because we do a different theme every Halloween.”

Dark Side of the Mule - Gov’t Mule Hard Rock AC 7/22/23

“We’ve done Hendrix Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Neil Young, The Who… We’ve done a lot of different Halloween themes, but we did Floyd in 2008 and we brought in a laser show and surround sound and the whole bit at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston.”

“And the crowd really responded and kind of demanded that we do it again. So we did it again. And it kind of turned into something that none of us really expected. So we released that show as an official release, which was kind of a weird choice to make, but there was a lot of demand to do it.”

And since the fans loved it so much, Gov’t Mule had no choice but to bring it back on the road:

“And then, there was this constant pressure to bring back The Dark Side of the Mule. So when we were aware that this was the 50th anniversary of ‘The Dark Side of the Moon,’ we decided this would be a good time to do it.”

Dark Side of the Mule

Explaining how these shows work, Haynes said:

“We do a set of Gov’t Mule, and then, if we have time, we take a short break. If we don’t have time, we just segue right into a long set of Floyd. And it’s really fun. We don’t copy what they did, but we pay a lot of respect to it.”

As he adds, the whole idea is to be “very respectful” of Pink Floyd’s classics while not just covering the songs as one of those “real tribute” bands:

“And we make it our own song by song, some cases more than others. We’re very respectful of that music, but we’re not here to be a karaoke. But at the same time, we probably pay more homage to those versions than we do with just about anything we would cover, just because it’s the appropriate thing to do. But I love when we stretch out and get completely away from them as well.”

Warren Haynes on the Art of the Sit-In

Now, we should also address the obvious. Playing David Gilmour’s lead parts can be a real challenge. And although these solos aren’t fast and flashy, it’s exactly that which makes them so difficult to perform. When reminded of how there’s a lot of “space” in these solos, Haynes said:

“That’s a challenge, to play with that much punctuation. For someone like myself, who… I’m not an over-animated player, but compared to Gilmour, possibly. But to play with that much punctuation, it takes so much restraint. I feel like I’m stuck in third gear.”

“But that’s what he does so well. That’s why all those solos and hooks are embedded in our heads like they are because his sense of melody and his sense of space is just fantastic.”

Gov't Mule - Columbus 7/26/23 Shine On You Crazy Diamond

When asked how he approaches these solos and whether he gives them a “Warren Haynes touch,” he replied:

“For the shorter ones, I just kind of caught the essence of the solos. For the longer ones, the same thing but more of my own take on it. Like, in ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ and ‘Echoes’ and stuff like that where the solos are really long, I take the liberty of just playing with Gilmour influence but not copying any of the actual phrases. Where in something like ‘Money’ or ‘Time’ or something like that, I’ll play a little closer to what I remember.”

“But I never did go and learn them. That’s kind of not not my thing. But I’m very influenced by that stuff. So it comes out in a way that at least I think is appropriate.”

Warren Haynes nearly brought to tears "Wish You Were Here" 11/8/20 Morris, CT

Discussing this further, Haynes also reflected on how most of his lead parts live are improvised. That’s what he did with The Allman Brothers Band and that’s what he does now:

“I would say, 85% of the solos that I play on stage, in The Allman Brothers and in Gov’t Mule, were improvised every night. Some closer to the originals than others.”

However, as he adds, there are still some solos that he just has to perform the way they are on the official recording:

“But there were a few solos like the slide solo in the middle of ‘End of the Line,’ I wouldn’t even play my own solo because it sounds like a part, it sounds like part of the song. And there are some songs like ‘Banks of the Deep End’ with Gov’t Mule where I still kind of do that, I play something similar to what’s on the record, just because I think that that’s what people are hearing in their heads.”

Allman Brothers Band - End of the Line

“But for the most part, my job is to kind of take it somewhere different every night and I’m lucky to have that job.”

Photos: pitpony.photography (Warren Haynes 2016 (12 von 14)), Jimmy Baikovicius (David Gilmour Rattle That Rock World Tour – Buenos Aires (23745209342))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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