MTV News , June 14, 2004
Ex-Queens Singer Mark Lanegan Spits Out Dark Bubblegum
For more than 20 years, Mark Lanegan has drawn inspiration
from the darker side of human nature, whether fronting the psychedelic
rock band Screaming Trees; crafting bleak, soulful solo albums; or singing
with Queens of the Stone Age on their last two records. So it's no surprise
that Lanegan hit a creative peak with his new record, Bubblegum,
last Christmas, at a time when he was feeling pretty low.
After spending 18 months sharing laughs and jamming in California, North
Carolina and Texas with PJ Harvey, dudes from Queens of the Stone Age,
ex-Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli, ex-Guns N' Roses members Duff McKagan
and Izzy Stradlin and others, Lanegan was alone in the studio, stressed
out and unsure where to go with the record.
"Everyone had deserted me to go home to be with their families," he recalled.
"I decided I had to get it finished right then and there or the momentum
would be lost. I kind of lost my mind, because the equipment at the studio
all broke down and I was in Joshua Tree [in the California desert], miles
away from everything, so I threw a bit of a rock-star fit and stomped
around in the cacti for a while. But when things were fixed, I got a lot
The ironically titled Bubblegum is a little lighter than Lanegan's
previous solo outings, but it's far from sunny, as song titles like "When
Your Number Is Up," "Methamphetamine Blues" and "Morning Glory Wine" suggest.
Musically, the disc is a hodgepodge of dusky dirges, gloomy country-folk
numbers, keyboard ballads and staggering blues romps. But whatever the
musical mood, Lanegan's vibrato-laden baritone resonates with the too-depressed-to-get-out-of-bed
ache of someone who has loved and lost again and again.
"I think that kind of darkness will always be one aspect of my personality,
but not the whole thing," he said. "In real life, I'm far more lighthearted
than I come across on the records. I like to stand in the light and enjoy
myself, but I do frequently, unconsciously, go back to [dark] places when
it comes to writing songs."
There was a time when Lanegan sought comfort in his despair. He was moody
and morose, fell into drug abuse and was arrested several times. Now,
however, he saves his volatility and self-destructive expression for his
records. "I think I've just matured over the years," he said. "The guys
who spend their time brooding in their younger years either lighten up
or go away. You just realize that you don't know everything there is to
know. The older I get the less I know, and that's a good thing. When I
was young, I knew everything, and everything wasn't necessarily good."
Working with a diverse assortment of guest musicians helped make the creation
of Bubblegum more enjoyable for Lanegan than his other solo albums
had been. One highlight was having McKagan and Stradlin sing backup on
"It was like having Keith Richards and Johnny Thunders both singing on
your song," Lanegan said. "They looked at the words once and did it, and
it was perfect. Then they spent a couple hours telling stories."
Working with PJ Harvey was just as rewarding. "That was like a dream come
true," he said. "She came in with 20 ideas, where usually somebody might
have one. And all her ideas were great, and she just did them bang, bang,
bang. She was totally focused."
Lanegan also dug working with his former Queens bandmates — guitarists
Josh Homme and Troy Van Leeuwen and bassist Nick Oliveri — though
he abdicated his Queens throne in February to focus on supporting his
Lanegan said he'd hoped to leave the band more than 18 months ago, but
promotional opportunities and endless touring kept him roped in. Even
so, he has remained close with everyone in the band and contributed to
Oliveri's upcoming acoustic solo LP.
"It was always a bit of a tightrope walk for those guys to get along when
they lived in such close proximity to each other," Lanegan said. "These
are guys who have been friends since they were 12 years old, and they're
from different ends of the spectrum. It made for a wonderful creative
atmosphere at times, and it definitely made for some ruffled feathers
at times." --Jon Wiederhorn