MTV ITALY INTERVIEW WITH MARK LANEGAN
He was the lead singer of the Screaming Trees, one of the more influential bands during the grunge movement, and at the same time the most underrated by the general public. Since the Trees, Mr Lanegan has been concentrating on his solo direction, arriving at two incredible gems, the covers album "I'll Take Care Of You" and his most recent, "Field Songs". As he was preparing to go on stage at MTV Supersonic, I was lucky enough to meet him...
In the past we a lot of the times we just made up the songs in the studio, and this time I think we rehearsed them a little bit, and had more of the music when we went in. So maybe that's why it seems a little more cohesive, you know.
Would you agree if I said that it seems that you have tried to get close to writing more well-formed songs after recording the album of covers "I'll Take Care of You"?
Mmm, yeah, I mean, there is sort of a feeling like they're real songs from us, you know what I mean, as opposed, like I said, just sort of flinging it, kind of tossed off without thinking about it. But that's it, there still wasn't a lot of intense preparation or anything, because the guys who play with me wouldn't stand for it.
It seems like today they talk about you like a you are some kind ofcontemporary crooner?
What do you mean by "crooner"? Perry Como? Andy Williams?
What about Hank Williams...?
Now that's interesting, even if the things that people say don't interest me much, even if they are talking about me.
With regard to the lyrics, to be honest, there is a lot of use of the first person, like a lot of American folk and blues. How much do the songs reflect your personality?
Not that I'm aware of. In my opinion, the songs should always be personal. But in my lyrics the protagonist, I, is not necessarily 100% me. That's a difficult question.
Reading the album credits, the first name that stood out was the name of Jeffrey Lee Pierce, co-author with you of "Kimiko's Dream House". When was this song written and how did it come about?
He showed it to me in 1995, and we've been talking for a long time about doing something together and we just both happened to be in Los Angeles, and he showed me that song, and he had that song and the words, and he said 'Finish these words. When I come back from vacation we record it.' And he went on holiday to Japan, and when he came back, shortly thereafter he passed away. So we never did get a chance to do it, so I just finished the words and a few years later recorded it.
Besides the presence of Pierce, also noted in the writing credits are Mike Johnson (Pill Hill Serenade) and Ben Sheperd (Blues For D), and both play also on some other tracks. How much real exchange of ideas and music do you have with these guys?
Really, I just have my friends play on these records, cos they're the only guys I can talk into it. Most of'em happen to be guys who're in other bands, or were in famous bands, that kind of thing. But the two guys you mentioned are the guys I mostly collaborate with, especially on the last coupla records, so they're very important to it, you know. They bring a whole different element to the whole thing. Did I answer the question right?
You are often involved in very interesting side-projects, and lately are been involved particularly with Josh Homme. The splendour of "Hanging Tree" on the recent "Desert Session", gives us an idea about what's to come on the imminent "Songs For The Deaf". What should we expcet of you next?
I've heard a lot of the record and it's really great. I sang on some of them, just a little bit more than on the previous Queens-record, so. For me it's just something that's kinda fun to do, that they want me to do, so, it's not much deeper than that. But I've heard most of the record and I think it's great. It should be out next April I think.
Staying with rock, how you deal with the inevitabile combination of your name with what I imagine that has changed the course of the story of the contemporary rock?
Well, you know, that's something that's inevitable I guess. To be honest with you, I don't ever think about it. I pretty much think about whatever it is I'm doing today, and I will only think about it in the same way that occassionally I might think about, you know, what it was like in High School or something too. You know what I mean? So, again, what people's perceptions are, or ideas about something, or if I'm forever linked with that in some people's minds, then that's fine, you know, it's really beyond my control. I was in a band, I was there, I did sell some records a long time when that was a popular thing, and I'd also made records for many years before that happened and I've been doing it for a long time since. So I'm neither unhappy about it nor is it something that I really care about, you know what I mean. It's just kinda tough to answer.
Tonight you begin your Italian tour with an appearance on 'MTV Supersonic'. How you believe that your music can introduce itself in an industrythat seems predominantly filled with the products of easy consumption aimed at the teenage market?
I love it because it's just weird. I mean, the same way I wouldn't mind playing at a wedding or at somebody's bachelorhood party. I see it the same way. Lou Reed said, many people have peculiar tastes and I'm one of them. So the idea of playing at a MTV show for kids somehow appeals to me in a perverse way.
Staying with the tour, what is it that has brought you to us? Who are your travelling companions?
Well, Mike Johnson is here, a guy named Brett Netson who in the States has a band called Caustic Resin, he's also been on several Built to Spill records, you might have heard of them. The drummer is Gene Trautman, ex-Queens of The Stone Age, and the bassplayer is Dave Catching, also ex-Queens of The Stone Age.
Quite a few of them were in Queens Of The Stone Age then...
Yes, and also Mike Johnson, for a short period, years ago. Therefore three of my musicians played in that one band.
I understand you may play a Screaming Trees song? Is
The concerts are always different every night, and my memory is a bad one, but every so often, yes, we play also some Screaming Trees.
Over the years in the course of interviewing, I have asked questions of the industry and artists about the matter of free exchange of music on the Net, particularly with software like Napster out there. What are your thoughts on this?
I don't, personally I see nothing wrong with it. I've never gone on the internet and found music, but as soon, if I did and I found something that I hadn't heard of that I liked, I would probably go out and buy the record anyway. I think that's what music fans do, you would want to own the record, you know what I mean. So unless somebody could prove to me that I was somehow losing, you know, all this money and I couldn't feed my kids or something, then I might sing a different tune. But I see nothing wrong with it. I look at it as a great way for people who might not hear your music otherwise to figure something.