Hot Press 2004

Lanegan's call

Former Screaming Trees frontman and part-time Queens of the Stone Ager, Mark Lanegan considers even his solo work to be collaborating.
Words: Hannah Hamilton

Although he'd likely balk at the phrase, Mark Lanegan is one of modern rock music' most exciting fraternities. A key player in the Josh Homme / Nick Oliveri-led Queens of the Stone Age / Desert Sessions assembly, his curren toccupation as part-time vocalist with QOTSA has lead to a bolstered interest in the one time Screaming Trees fromntman - a fact any one of the sardines in The Village tonight would undoubtedly endorse.

However, tonight's gig will centre on Lanegan's solo back catoalogue. The release this month of his sixth album will add to a wealth of material including the incredible Field Songs from which a vast portion of this set is gleaned.

The music is a far cry from the ego-pandering frontman-gone-solo blueprint, a fact the washed out-looking Lanegan duly notes, and owes as much to the colloaborative spirit in which it was nurtured as to the musical instincts of the man himself. Adding further props to this theory at our pre-gig interview, Lanegan bemonas his discomfort with the 'Mark Lanegan' tag, insiting that his solo status is more an enforced technicality than an artistic statement.

"The only reason I have my name on it in the first place is because the record company insisted on it when I started," he says. "They are all collaborative efforts. If I'm writing by myself, I'll just go grab aguitar and sit outside and when I'm done, I hand it over to the guys who can really play instruments and they'll make it into a real song. On the EP (Here Comes That Weird Chill), a lot of the material is co-writes, where the guys had just music. Josh (Homme) and Nick (Oliveri) had music for the song 'Skeletal History' which is on the EP and another friend of mine had piano music that he'd written, and I made up the singing part for it."

The recording of the EP (and forthcoming album Bubblegum) largely took place at Rancho De La Luna, a studio located in America's Joshua Tree, an area of sprawling savannah and cacti. The location has undoubtedly had on effect on his music's imagery; Lanegan's tales of writing songs outside with an acoustic guitar and a blank horizon seem entirely apt, while the music's dark lullabies and charged outbursts form the soundtrack.

"I just do what feels correct when I start singing," says Lanegan, of his writing technique. "First I make a sound and then the words come along, really, just a couple of words, then they tell me what the next couple are; like that."

Vocally, Lanegan's tone is hypnotic, deep and powerful despite his at-least-40-a-day-non-filtered-Camels habit, while his lyrics smack of the tortured poet - although he claims he can't write poetry.

"No, I'm not a poetry fan. I tried a couple of times when I was young and I just found it really difficult to do. I actually got in trouble when I was really young, in grade school, maybe eight years old, the teached was sick and the substitute teacher asked us to write a get well card or a poem, and so I wrote a poem," he explains.

"Next thing I knew, I was in the principal's office and my dad was there and they were wondering if there was something wrong with me. I'd written a kind of black little poem that was really inappropriate." He laughs, then recites "'Roses are red, violets are black, you'd look a lot better with a knife in your back'. I think I though the teacher would think it was funny, but they were going to send me to a psychiatrist or something."

Such early backfirings have thankfully not deterred Lanegan - his lyrics (and indeed music) are now more likelt to incite rapturous applause than shrink recommendations.

As the night's two extended encores happily confirm.