John Scofield on Gov't Mule and Sco-Mule
The shows and guitars
“I gotta hand it to Warren Haynes. He thought this could work – and it did. I’d already met him in New York at a club gig, and in 1999, he invited me to come play with Gov’t Mule.
"So I flew down to Georgia for a rehearsal, and it was wonderful. It was never competitive, except in the way that you want, when musicians put you on your toes and you gotta throw down. I had no problem rocking out with Warren. It was taking me out of my element a bit, but it’s not like I’m Joe Pass.
"I started out with rock ’n’ roll and blues, too, so it was fun for me to go into that bag. Y’know, those guys have a fanatic following, so it was a change for me going into this big rock ’n’ roll hall. It was like a rowdy Southern rock concert, a lot of fun.”
“I played my same old 1982 Ibanez AS-200. It’s like a copy of the ES-335, and it’s a certain animal that’s in between a solidbody and a real big jazz guitar.
"On the tour that I’m about to do with those guys, I’ll probably bring that one, plus a Telecaster. Warren switched between his Gibson 335 Dot and some sort of solidbody, maybe even an Explorer [most likely a Firebird – Ed].
"I thought our guitars worked well together. If I’d played a big fat jazz guitar, it would have been harder, because of the volume. I think a solidbody might actually have worked a little better, but then, I listen back to the record now – and it sounds fine, y’know?”
Tones and mix
“I’d have used the same amp that I’ve been using for years, which is a British-made Vox AC30. It’s just different from Fender-style amps. In a way, it’s maybe not as big a sound, but I like the way it’s compressed. It just gives it an evenness all over that I really like.
"And I love the way it breaks up; you don’t have to use a distortion pedal, you just turn it up. There’s one track on the bonus disc called Afro Blue, where I used my DigiTech Whammy to take it up an octave, and then I had my Boss CE-3 that I put on for an organ sound.
"There’s a song called Kind Of Bird, and it was a thrill to be involved in that sort of sound, with two wailing melody guitars, y’know?”
“To tell you the truth, the record probably sounds better than it did to me on stage. It was a big hall, and on stage, there were a lot of weird overtones that make it hard to hear when you’re playing that loud.
" There may be some editing on there, but there are no fixes. I don’t think you can do that, because it was live. Y’know, you can’t really go in and change your part, because your sound bleeds into all the other mics.
"So if you change your part, then it would come through all the other instruments’ microphones, and you’d hear the old parts, too. It’s pretty much just the concert that we played, y’know?”
Lessons and verdict
“Any time that I put myself outside of the straight-ahead jazz idiom and play with guys that are artistic but are basically rockers, singers or R&B players, I learn something, because it’s a slightly different form of expression.
"The thing about Warren and Gov’t Mule is that there’s a certain directness to the music, where they just throw down. Those guys play with a certain force all the time. They’ve just developed those muscles. It was a little different for me, and I really liked that.
"So I found myself incorporating that, and playing a little harder. Because, y’know, those guys play loud…”
“When Warren said he wanted to put this out, he sent me a copy to revisit while they were mastering it. So I listened to it, and I thought it was great. I was surprised that it was as good as it was. I just really enjoy hearing their beautiful, direct, rock ’n’ roll approach.
"It’s not like I have any aspirations at all for this thing going into big sales – it’s such weird time in the industry for that, anyway. But I think there’s a larger market for rock ’n’ roll, rock-blues and Southern rock than there is for jazz, so it’ll certainly make people hear about me that haven’t heard about me, and so that’s good.
"But mainly, I’m not thinking about that. Because we did it for a musical reason. We really did.”
Gov’t Mule & John Scofield’s Sco-Mule is out now on Mascot/Provogue