GibsonBass So you joined Gov't Mule as a member in September 2003, how did you get that job?
Andy Hess In a way it was through Audley (Freed), cause he and Warren had been friends for a long time. When Warren and Matt were doing the revolving door thing and had various bass players after they did those deep end records, they started going on tour and I think they got to the point where they wanted to be a band again. I think they grew tired of having the revolving door thing and they got to the point where Danny (Louis) was in the mix as a keyboard player and I think they just wanted to have a solid unit. Audley suggested to Warren that he should check me out because Warren didn't really know about me or have any idea of how I played and he contacted me I think on Audley's recommendation. Then I started doing some one off gigs with them and there was one particular gig that we did where the chemistry just clicked. In the interim though I had gotten a gig with John Schofield the guitarist for a year and had committed to him. When Warren approached me about maybe doing some more like "hey can you do this tour" I was like "well I'm really busy with John and not really available right now" but we stayed in touch for almost a year. Then Warren finally came out and said hey you know we wanna be a band again and we decided that we want you to be part of this. That's kinda how that all happened and then I joined up with them in 2003.
GibsonBass I certainly think you're like a breath of fresh air to the band because they could have perhaps been expected to go and find someone similar to Woody?
Andy Hess They just didn't want to do that. They wanted it to be something different and I think someone that played exactly like Woody would have not really been a step forward. Also it wasn't a power trio anymore with the keyboards becoming a significant and important part, it became a different band and that's why I fit. I can get very busy and play all the real busy stuff but I'm more of a rhythm section groove player. Not that Woody wasn't, he was too. He had a tremendous groove but it's just a different, it's just gone in to a different direction and I think that's why I fit in and I think maybe Warren had that vision.
GibsonBass Was it daunting with the legacy that Woody had created?
Andy Hess I felt a lot of pressure as you can well imagine, I was like Oh My God, all these bass players and now there's all these expectations and no one knows who the hell I am. The reason I was able to put it aside was because Warren was like hey man we picked you cause we wanted you. That was good enough for me I was like well I'm here cause they want me to be here you know. That was enough for me to just go well I'm just going to be myself and make this my own and the bands really grown tremendously since I've joined. I've gotten a lot better in the three years within this band than I was in the beginning cause in the beginning it was pressure and there was a lot of music to learn. They have a huge repertoire and memorising all that stuff and then going out and playing it was very demanding and kind of challenging.
GibsonBass There is all the bands own material and then the covers you do.
Andy Hess Warren will just pull something out of the hat like last minute and go hey let's try this. Then all of sudden your performing it for 2,000 people and you barely know the song but it's exciting and keeps things fresh.
GibsonBass When I spoke to Warren back in April, he said that he thought High & Mighty, your second record with Gov't Mule really captures the spirit of the new band and that you and Danny (Louis) were coming more in to your own?
Andy Hess I agree, yes that's definitely true. I think that's because of all the live playing and touring we've done and things we've been able to work out on stage just by playing together. I'm much more comfortable than I was even like a year and a half ago. It really took a while to get comfortable. It was in spurts, it was a slow growing thing but you know Warren really had a great vision, in a way he just kind of let that happen. We all still to this day will make mistakes cause we're a band that take chances and goes out on a limb. Music that's very improvisational can be hit or miss so some nights everything comes together, some nights just some things come together and some don't as well. We've really grown because of that process and because of listening to each other. Matt (Abts) I think has changed a lot and I've really grown and learnt from those guys and I think everyone's learnt from everyone in the band. Danny's brought in some incredible textures and sounds and really has a good sense of the music and I think is the perfect keyboard player. I think you hear that in the record which is kind of the result, you can just hear how we play together. It's just completely different from Deja Voodoo where Danny and I were still pretty new, not to say that that record isn't good. I think there's some really great moments but this record is much more solid.
GibsonBass I think High & Mighty to me sounds dynamically brighter and all of the instruments sound less distant, everything's there in the mix. How did the recording and mixing of the two differ?
The 2004 Gov't Mule album, Deja Voodoo was the first to feature Andy Hess on bass
Andy Hess They differ to a huge extent because we had a different producer, You know we had Michael Barbiero who did all the previous Mule stuff including Deja Voodoo and then we got this guy Geordie Johnson who was in a Canadian band by the name of Big Sugar. A super talented guy, a really cool person and just amazing. He really challenged us and kicked our arses in the studio and was really I think a big part of that record sounding the way it does. He engineered it and produced it so I think that's the biggest difference right there, a different approach.
GibsonBass Do you think Deja Voodoo was a case of it's a new band coming together and the songs are there but you're all still finding your feet with each other?
Andy Hess Yeah totally, I was still walking on shaky ground but I don't think you hear that on the record. There's a huge difference between those two records and you hear it just coming to a show, coming to see us live it's different now than it was three years ago when I first started. Like how my playing influenced Matt maybe or Warren plays differently because now there's keyboards. There's so many elements you know that come in to play I think.
GibsonBass I agree and going back to what you were saying about the band taking chances I think that's something that I find very exciting about the band. Was there any particular reason you didn't use Michael Barbiero for this record?
Andy Hess I think it just came to the point where Warren was feeling like we owe it to ourselves to try a different approach with a different producer to see what happens. Even Michael was very supportive and said we should go do it with someone else just to try something different. There was that hunger to do something, to try someone else and Michael's part of the family we all love him, he's great. I definitely forsee we'll probably end up doing something with him again down the line.
part 3 - Andy's basses
Other cool links:
Warren Haynes on Allen Woody | Other GibsonBass interviews
Andy Hess website | Gov't Mule website