from the Dublin Event Guide, November 2001
Mark Lanegan operates on the fringes of folk, blues, soul and other forms of Americana. A specialist in hard-bitten male vulnerability and tales of good times gone astray, Lanegan first came to prominence as vocalist with The Screaming Trees. His solo career began during a hiatus from the notoriously unstable outfit and he has since released a total of five albums under his name as well as appearing as touring singer for Queens of the Stone Age. These forthcoming dates will mark his first visit to the land of his parental roots and, he deadpans down the phone line, "I'm hoping some of my family don't come round and ask me for money."
Currently on the road to promote his excellent 'Field Songs' album, Lanegan likes to keep his studio sessions loose. Preferring to work with friends and at each other's mutual convenience rather than to a rigidly imposed arrangement, on his latest recording Lanegan collaborated with a total of fourteen musicians over an extended period of time. "When I'm in a heavily structured situation I don't feel like I thrive in it. I'd rather do stuff at my own pace, at what feels like the right time."
One of the highlights of the album is a song called 'Kimiko's Dream House'. A psychedelic country-waltz tinged with opiates andregret, it was co-written a close friend and an important influence on Lanegan, the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce, formerly of the Gun Club. "It was something he already had the music for and some of the words. He showed it to me in December of 1995 and asked me to finish it and we were going to record it. Then he passed away a few moths after that and I never did do it. So I figured I better finish it. It was a gift from him and a tribute to him."
It was through Pierce that Lanegan was first introduced to the sounds of Son House, the great Mississippi blues artist. The beautiful and primal music that emanated from the Delta has since become essential to Lanegan, as he explains. "There was a Son House song on the first Gun Club album called 'Preaching The Blues' and that's where I first heard of him. I saw a video of him playing - the intensity is just out of control. I prefer his Sixties recordings just because you can hear him better and there is nothing like that voice. To me, that stuff is not dark - it somehow makes me feel uplifted, which is good. All that stuff seems so real and feels like a part of you as well. You're drawn to stuff that you can relate to the power of."
In the mid-eighties, for Lanegan and his friends, that meant the music on SST Records. The label that brought the world some of the finest American guitar music of the post-punk period, SST was also where The Screaming Trees first found a permanent home, after some self-released records and a brief alliance with Calvin Johnson's K label. "For us, that was the pinnacle of success," he recalls. "We were guys whom listened to Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Husker Du and especially Black Flag. That was the one band we all revered. When we became associated with those guys, that was unheard of. There were no northwest bands on SST. For us, growing up in this little town and revering Black Flag - it was completely outside our realm that they would want to do something with us. We thought we'd died and gone to heaven."
"I remember the day that I was working and i got a phone call from Greg Ginn saying they wanted to put out our records. I didn't believe that it was him. I thought, 'Who's fucking with me here ?'! They put us on the road, which gave us a reason to get out of town. We learned through that process. Our first couple of really long, big tours were with Mike Watt and Firehose. That's how we served our apprenticeship. I learned a ton from him, learned a lot from Greg Sage and Calvin Johnson. Thatwas a really great time for us."
Though Lanegan has moved on from his days with The Screaming Trees, his former band often comes up in conversation. It's a situation with which he is comfortable. "It's the nature of things. I am somebody who likes to stay in today as much as possible but part of this deal is talking about what you've done and the thing about that band is the fact that we even began is a huge triumph ! I'm very proud of it and proud of the music we made and that we didn't go some other way. It's nothing but a good memory for me and I love those guys."
His songs may deal with the darker side of the human experience, but in conversation, Lanegan is humorous, open and ultimately upbeat. "I'm overjoyed with the life that I have had," he concludes. "Music has given me a life that I never expected. I never expected so much out of it, I fell into it and I found that it suited me. It was socially acceptable and not a lot of things that I did previous to that were ! I've always been grateful that people have given me the opportunity to make music. My own personal goals are to make music that interests me; to play with the people who are my friends; to have a good time; to continue to see a bit of the world with it and to hopefully make a good record before I'm gone. That's what keeps me doing it and it's a great life."