Pagina 12 (Argentina)

by Roque Casciero

TRANSLATION by Stephanie on forum

It's always the journalist's fault

The collaboration between Mark Lanegan (ex Screaming Trees) and Greg Dulli (ex Afghan Whigs) began as a joke during an interview and finally became a reality. In a while they are coming over here.

When a band involves an encounter between musicians who already have an extensive and well known body of work, there is often much planning and calculation behind the project (think, for example, of Velvet Revolver or Audioslave). However, The Gutter Twins, the collaboration between Mark Lanegan (ex Screaming Trees) and Greg Dulli (ex Afghan Whigs) originated as a joke between them: "I had an encounter with a journalist who lives in Rome and whom I suppose had interviewed Mark, who called me asking about the Gutter Twins," recalls Dulli in a telephone conversation with NO. "I responded that I did not know what this was, because the truth was I had no idea, and he told me that it was my band with Mark Lanegan. Then I responded, 'Oh, that sounds interesting, I need to ask Mark.' The joke is that Mark made up the name and everything. And in addition it was a name that had a lot of meaning."

Los Gemelos del Zanjón had individually had their moments of fame and infamy in the 90s: their bands had been successful during the reign of "alternative" rock and there had been moments during their addictions (Greg to cocaine, Mark to heroin and crack), that they had survived, in part, thanks to their friendship. Lanegan and Dulli had even lived together and collaborated on each other's projects, but had never even considered forming a band together until Lanegan made the joke in the Italian press. It was fortunate they did, because Saturnalia, the disc that united them as The Gutter Twins, was a creative peak: a dense album, a journey through profound feelings with death lurking in the background.

The tour for the album ended in November 2008, but then some friends of the pair asked a favor: as Harlem (?) celebrated a twenty year anniversary, a request was made for an acoustic show with Lanegan and Dulli. This inspired a small tour of the West Coast of the United States, and, the next month, a visit to South America.

But, surely, the history of the Gutter Twins will not end here, even as both Twins are involved in multiple other projects: Lanegan will record and tour with Soulsavers, is ready for a third album with Isobel Campbell (ex Belle and Sebastian) and plans a solo record; Dulli is working on the next Twilight Singers album. "It is obvious that the next Gutter Twins record will not be the next thing that we do," says Lanegan, always direct and to the point. "But we are friends and enjoy playing together, so there is no reason to think that we will not end up making another record together."

-Is it difficult to translate the atmosphere of the record to an acoustic setting?

Mark: You will have to judge when you come see us play. I don't think that it was that difficult, to make it work. It's different, but no less powerful.

Greg: If the song is good, you can play it on a kazoo and it will still be good (laughs). Look: two guitars, a piano, and three voices (they are touring with the singer and guitarist Dave Rosser) can make a lot of noise. This has surprised me. Mark prefers to do acoustic shows, while I like to play with the band.

Mark: In reality I like both things. But it is a major challenge to play acoustically. It is a little more intimate and a little more uncomfortable, therefore a little more [personal (?)]

-Why are you involved in so many projects? Is one channel for your music no longer enough?

Mark: The opportunities are there and I am able to work with musicians that I like and respect, and this helps maintain my interest in making music.

Greg: I don't believe that you should only have one channel. If you're in a group that is so successful that you have to play every two years, like U2 or something like that, I can understand; but I'm not in that situation. I have a lot of things I want to do and I simply do them. I've played with three or four different groups in the last three years, and all of them were fantastic, different, and worth the effort to me.

-In these days a lot of bands from the 90s are reuniting, but you are looking toward the future. What inspires you to make new music?

Mark: It's not that I'm not proud of the music that the Screaming Trees made, but we were together fifteen years and that was enough time for that band. I prefer to stay in the here and now. I simply make music and enjoy being involved in different projects.

Greg: Honestly, what inspires me now is the same thing that has always inspired me. I've written songs since I was a teenager and it is what I like to do. When the Afghan Whigs came to an end, I took some time off and then began to put out more records than I had made with the band.

Mark: It's fine to me for bands to reunite if that works for them. Anyone should be able to create what they wish to create musically, I'm not the one to say if it's good or bad. I simply know that, as much as I like to play Screaming Trees songs, I would not like to go back to playing with the band.

Greg: I have nothing against the bands that reunite, I just am against reuniting with my band.

-If you were to reform the Afghan Whigs, you would leave on tour and not have time to compose.

Greg: For that reason I would not do it. It has been proposed to me many times, but the music is more important to me than the money. I saved up my money during those years and now own three bars, therefore my money comes from that and I can continue doing what I want to do, without having to depend on it to eat. Because none of us are going to get rich playing rock and roll (laughs).

-How was it you had the idea to save and how was it you succeeded? Because the 90s were intense times for you two...

Greg: In reality, I'm sharper than I look (laughs). I know that the image of the gutter suits both Mark and I well, for that reason he gave the band this name. We are both aware of how people think about us, and, honestly, we created much of this perception ourselves. All that I can say is that I lived my life and have no regrets because I cannot [recover anything (?)], but I can assure you that my life now is nothing like the life I lived twelve years ago. I have seen a lot of things that I have no desire to see again.

-It must be funny, and sometimes sad, when you are asked to recall old times...

Greg: Each of us knows almost everything about the other, as much the sad things as the happy things. At times bad things have happened, we have lost some friends along the way, but this is what happens in life.

Mark: We never brood on the bad times in each other's past. In fact, we almost never talk about the past, but when we do, it is about the positive aspects.

-Many of your projects are actually collaborations with other artists. What is appealing to you about working this way?

Mark: It gives me the opportunity to see music from another point of view and is also always more interesting than working alone.

Greg: When you work alone all the time, sometimes you end up isolated because you don't have anyone with whom you can exchange ideas. The process of collaboration is, sometimes, the best thing one can do, because two or three different minds can create something together that none of them could have created alone. It is a combination of the personalities that have united.

-Is this how it is between you two?

Greg: As we know each other well and listen to the same music, we don't have to say anything to each other about the music we want to play, but instead simply play. Mark is a very musical guy and probably is the only one with whom I've collaborated on lyrics. This was fantastic because he is a great writer and one of my favorite singers in the world.

-What have you learned from each other?

Mark: I learned different ways of looking at the same thing.

Greg: With Mark I discovered that I can sing harmony vocals, and put this in practice with other people. Mark does not sing harmony--he doesn't sing with anyone, they have to sing with him.

Mark: (laughs) What Greg is saying is that I cannot sing harmony. And that is very true.