The latest project from rock photographer and filmmaker Danny Clinch sees the veteran storyteller focusing in on the wild world surrounding Gov’t Mule, the improvisational rock outfit co-founded by guitarist Warren Haynes in 1994. The band celebrates its 25th-anniversary in 2019 with an ongoing world tour and a new concert film/live album, Bring On The Music – Live From The Capitol Theatre, which showcases the band’s two performances at the historic New York theater in April 2018.
On Wednesday, an early screening of the film was held at at The Landmark at 57 West in New York City, where media and select fans were welcomed to experience a shortened version of the forthcoming film, which is scheduled for release on July 19th (the live album on June 28th) via Provogue/Mascot Label Group. Following the screening, Haynes and Clinch set up their seats at the front of the intimate viewing room to discuss the project and the impact of Gov’t Mule as a whole within both of their lives.
See below for a transcript of the conversation between the Haynes and Clinch.
When discussing the origins of how the film came to be
WH: We’ve probably been talking about this for three or four years, maybe more. I think between the fact that our 25th-anniversary was coming up and us feeling like the band’s in a really good place right now, we should be documenting where we are. Having hung out with Dan a lot of times over the last couple of years, it just kind of made its way front and center.
DC: Warren and I go way back to the very first record, and I remember taking the Mule out to Central Park and into Times Square when you could actually do something like that. We’ve just continued that relationship for so long and [Warren] always said ‘We’re going to make a concert film and I’d love for you to be a part of it.’ Of course, I was honored and it was a great opportunity to catch the band, a legendary band at this point, in a place like The Capitol Theatre which we all love. It is a concert film, but what I love about it is we talk about the band and its history, where it has been and where it’s going.
When discussing what makes for a quality concert film and how they approached putting together ‘Bring On The Music’
DC: I feel like a concert film should be a portrait of a band at that moment in their life. For me, knowing Warren for so long and knowing the bands he talks about who influenced them and who he loves, whether it be Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, these are bands that were very artful. When I make films, I feel like I’m a documentary filmmaker, I feel like I’m a documentary photographer, so I’m capturing history in a way. I also like to include a certain artfulness in there that I might have seen in a Pink Floyd visual or moment like that. That’s why we had so much fun when cutting the [film’s] opening before the concert starts as they laid down that crazy intro from an audio standpoint. I said ‘How can we match that from a visual standpoint?’ It was really fun to do that. We had a couple of different editors but one of them cut the concert film while my friend Gabe cut the interstitial stuff and the opening to this film because his style is so out there.
WH: I felt like our job was to forget that the camera was rolling and just try to play music and do the best performance we can do. Part of working with Danny and feeling comfortable and relaxed in knowing we can place our trust in him, as we’re both looking for the same thing, that was a big part of it. Doing two nights [at The Capitol Theatre] was also a big part of it because the second night we were a little more relaxed than the first. Now having said that, night one and night two are about equal in the film, but a lot of the stuff in night two, I felt like we’d done our job and forgot the cameras were rolling. He also mentioned there’s something about nervous energy, excitement, and anxiety that all the decisions we made going in turned out the be the right ones.
When Discussing Gov’t Mule’s legacy as one of the few remaining power trios in music today
WH: There were a lot of great trios, and there were some who were more traditional. ZZ Top was more song-oriented and more traditional. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble had a rhythm section that was just laying it down for Stevie to float over top. When you listen to Cream or [Jimi] Hendrix Experience, or Band Of Gypsies, everybody is doing something exciting all the time and it has to be that, everyone has to be 110% at every moment, and that’s what we were trying to bring back, that improvisational trio where it sounds like more than three people playing because there’s so much going on. A big part of that is the bass playing, and [late bassist] Alan Woody‘s bass playing was perfect for that so finding the right drummer in Matt Abts was the other missing link. Both of those guys took such a nontraditional role because they loved what came before in that brief time period when the power trio was acceptable.
When discussing the different viewpoints and dynamic cinematography techniques in the film
WH: Seeing the light show on the walls when they pull back for those distant shots showcases one of the cool parts about The Capitol, since that’s going on all night long. So we were very cognizant about making sure we caught a lot of that.
DC: I like to put [a cameraman] in the audience too where they’re actually in the crowd maybe 20 rows back and there are people in front of them. They’re shooting through them and the hands are up and someone raises their beer to get in the way of the show, then you really feel like you’re a part of the story.
WH: So you had a camera way in the back all night, right?
DC: Well we had one that was mounted just to give us a wide shot for any time we wanted to cut to that angle to showcase the light show and everything that was happening on the walls. Everybody has their assignments but the one who’s the loosest is the guy who I told to just go out there, find a unique spot so that when we cut to it, it allows everything to feel fresh like you’re seeing a completely different point of view. He might go up to the balcony and shoot, he may get up close and shoot, he might shoot just the crowd or even through the crowd. It’s fun to have all those different angles.
When discussing putting together the non-performance parts of the film and interview footage
WH: The scene where we’re rehearsing “Pressure Under Fire”, we’re doing so with no P.A. and no microphones so you can’t really hear the vocals, which I was worried about at first but when I saw it back I thought ‘No that’s very intimate because that’s what was really happening.’ Instead of trying to correct that, let’s just let it be what it was. The same with the scene showcasing my son Hudson where he was playing with the slide on the guitar–that was a real thing and none of that was planned! I was in the stairwell trying to film what was supposed to be an acoustic performance and interview, then we just hear this racket coming from up the stairs…
DC: We sent someone up there saying, ‘Go film that!’
WH: They sent a camera to go capture it, but they also captured me going [shows puzzled face]. What they didn’t capture is me saying [to my son], ‘Hey man I’m really sorry but you gotta turn it down.’ And as I was doing that it just reminded me of when I was his age and how many times I was told to turn the volume down.
When discussing putting together the setlists for the two April 2018 performances
WH: I wanted to include something from each studio record, something from each era of the band, and also pull out some songs that we haven’t played in a long time and ones that have not been on our previous live releases. We tried to make some of the staples like “Blind Men In The Dark”, which has been on a few [live projects], I only wanted to include that if it was a completely different version than we’d ever done before, and it worked out well in that way. We didn’t repeat any songs over the two nights and that was the intent. The first night we played both “Traveling Tune” and “Revolution Come, Revolution Go”, and I thought, ‘Well, it’d be nice to take one more stab at those two,’ so we repeated those the second night and did a different version. After checking them out we decided they were both good so we included both versions. Other than that, we intentionally wanted to have as many choices as possible but also for the fans who came two nights, would virtually see one show.
DC: We talked about it beforehand and [Warren] had a good idea of what he wanted to do and how he wanted to present it. I think it is interesting coming in to make a major concert film at this point in your career, it is a tough choice. The idea of including everything and what are you gonna leave out, I think Warren did a great job in guiding that.
Fans can click here to preorder Bring On The Music – Live From The Capitol Theatre ahead of its June 28th release on CD and vinyl, and July 19th on DVD and Blu-Ray.