Allen Woody Introduction
By Graham Fieldhouse I first came across Gov't Mule about ten years ago; a friend of mine introduced me to the self-titled debut and for me, as a bass player, it was a massive influence because of bass player, Allen Woody's playing and tone. I was quite excited when I opened the cover on the first record and there was a picture of the band in the studio, with Allen playing a Gibson EB2. That was a bass I hadn't seen used by any of the bass players I was listening to at the time. Like many bassists he had a collection of different basses - but unlike most, his collection numbered several hundred instruments. Sadly Allan died in 2000, and his collection was sold. I asked friend and bandmate Warren Haynes about Allen, his basses and his playing.
GibsonBass Can you tell us a little bit about the rationale behind Gov't Mule, particularly with respect to Allens bass sound
Warren Haynes When we first started Gov't Mule part of the concept was to bring back that very big, massive bass sound that nobody seemed to be using any more. Not only the really big booming bass tone but bass tones in general that were a little dirtier. We were talking about how when you listen to old rock n roll records whether it was the Beatles or Jethro Tull or Yes or almost any rock records from the 60's and early 70's the bass tone was dirtier than people remember. It wasn't until the late 70's people started cleaning up the bass sound and he and I both felt like that was kind of a mistake, that rock n roll's dirty music so if everything else is going to be dirty why not the bass too and so we acknowledged that going in to the inception of Gov't Mule and so when he wanted a brighter bass sound but still big he would use a Thunderbird and eventually a Rickenbacker on the Life Before Insanity sessions, he used a Rickenbacker on a couple of songs but still very dirtyFor anything prior to that and 90 per cent of everything he ever recorded with Gov't Mule was Gibson basses. When he wanted the big boomy sound it was the EB's and again in a trio format there's a lot of space to fill so that big sound fills it up. You can hear all the notes because there's not as many instruments to cover up the sound
GibsonBass What do you think Allen liked particularly about the EB2
Warren Haynes He liked all the EB's, he collected EB's, he had EBO, EB1, EB2, EB3 and he used them all in recording especially in the context of Gov't Mule. On the first record it was predominantly the EB2, it had an acoustic quality about it that was designed to kind of sound like a stand up bass and then of course if you run that through an Ampeg SVT or something then you have this massive electric sound as well. He would actually even utilise the feedback of it sometimes, hit certain notes that would kind of feedback and utilise it like a guitar player
GibsonBass You mention that Allen used quite a few different basses, I've heard that he owned around four hundred instruments - you mentioned the Rickenbacker on the Life Before Insanity record
Warren Haynes Yeah and he used the Hofner Beatle bass on a couple of things too. Like Lay Burden Down was the Hofner tuned down a half step, Wandering Child was a Rickenbacker, even Blindman In The Dark on Dose was a Rickenbacker. I would say probably somewhere between 400 or 500, probably around 450 or something
GibsonBass I'm quite surprised because I thought from listening to Blindman In The Dark that it was actually a Gibson. On Dose the bass sound was different to the first record, it was very big still but quite an aggressive sort of tone
Warren Haynes Yeah it was still mostly Gibsons but Blindman In The Dark and Thorazine Shuffle were both Rickenbacker
GibsonBass In the demonstration video, Allen indicated that he liked Thunderbirds as his sort of base bass; a bass that he would always go back to as a point, do you know why it was that he particularly favoured the Thunderbird?
Warren Haynes You know, it's hard to say because I think he looked at The Thunderbird as being somewhere between a Gibson and a Fender. Cause Woody also loved the sound that the Fender bass makes and all the people that have been famous for playing Fender basses but he just liked doing something different. He would go through phases where he really loved playing the Thunderbirds a lot. One thing he liked about the thunderbird was that it seemed to work in The Allman Brothers and Gov't Mule both where as he never used the EB's in the Allman Brothers because they took up too much room
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