The Portable Infinite
Interview by alexander laurence
Soulsavers are a UK production team that started out in
2000. They are Rich
Machin and Ian Glover. Over the years they have worked heavily with Mark
Lanegan, that he is often thought of as a third member of the band. The
album was Tough Guys Don’t Dance (2003). The second one, with Lanegan,
It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land (2007). Since
have become pretty well known, and Rich Machin has DJ-ed around the world.
have also worked as film composers.
There is much excitement around their third album, Broken
(2009). Not only
is Mark Lanegan the lead vocalist on most of these tracks, there are
appearances from many special guests. There are contributions from Gibby
(Butthole Surfers), Mike Patton (Faith No More), Jason Pierce (Spiritualized),
Red Ghost, Martyn LeNoble, Richard Hawley, and Rich Warren. Will Oldham
on one song “Sunrise” and Soulsavers cover a Palace Brothers
Will Miss Me When I Burn.” It’s a very complex, dark, mysterious
one hell of a journey.
I got to talk to Mark Lanegan and Rich Machin in Hollywood.
Glover was not there, and will not be touring with the band.
AL: Is Soulsavers a band or a studio project?
Rich: It’s a little bit of both. It’s a studio
project and then it’s also
a live band thing, which is a separate entity. The touring band are coming
to the studio all the time. The studio thing is what it is: we are making
these records without any limitations. The live thing is like an interpretation
of what we originally did in the studio.
AL: Are you involved in the DJ culture?
Rich: Not anymore. I used to. It’s something that
I don’t want to be
involved in anymore. It doesn’t excite me.
Mark: The dough! (laughter).
AL: Yeah. Flying around in planes to wherever to DJ for
Rich: That was exactly the problem. At the end, I was just
doing it for the
money. It got to the point where I didn’t look forward to the weekend
coming up. Oh god, I have to do this! As great as the money is for doing
and dumb as I am, for not doing it, it’s not something I want to
do with my
life at the moment.
AL: Many of the people I first interviewed were bands like
Brothers and Death In Vegas. They were these DJs who had a live show.
I am not
sure what they were doing.
Rich: The Chemical Brothers were incredible live. To take
what they were
playing and play to these stadiums was great. They always put on a great
show. It was very much like Kraftwerk. They took that, and took it into
AL: Have you seen Massive Attack?
Rich: I have seen them a couple of times. They had Horace
Andy with them
the last time I saw them. They sounded really good. The guys in the band,
and Grant, did most of the vocals. Dot Allison also sang with them.
AL: Is Soulsavers going to be like that, where there are
many people who
come and go?
Rich: I think that there will always be fresh faces around.
We are very
different from Massive Attack. They have their thing and it’s cool,
don’t see any similarities.
AL: In the world of Soulsavers, there are collaborations,
but really on
this new album Mark Lanegan is the lead singer, Red Ghost sings a few
and most of these other guests are there in supporting roles.
Rich: There is a big difference there. No disrespect to
the people you just
mentioned. We are making a different record. I am not interested in making
record with loads of guests on it. I don’t want to make a record
are individual tracks. I want to make an album that has a continuity,
flows, with maybe one or two lead singers. I want it to feel like an album
from beginning to end. That is important to me.
AL: Was that how the previous one was?
Rich: That is how I have done every record. We have our
friends and guests,
and they do little bits, here and there. It’s very different type
from those other guys.
AL: Also you do soundtrack stuff. Is that a separate thing
Rich: Not really. I do incorporate some instrument tracks.
I see that as
part of what this whole thing is. Soundtrack music is a big influence
from Ennio Morricone to Bruno Nicoli. I listen to a lot of instrumental
from now like Mogwai, and Explosions In The Sky. Instrumental music is
something that I really enjoy.
AL: How do you write the music when you and Rich are working
Mark: Rich and Ian generate the music. They send it to me.
I listen to it.
AL: So the music is mostly done already?
Rich: I usually come up with basic ideas, and pass them
on to Mark. Then
the decisions that Mark makes dictate the direction the tracks continue
musically. It’s almost like a three stage process. There are the
loops of music. Mark will put his vocals to them. The third stage will
completing the track.
AL: Is this how you like to work on music?
Mark: I would say the results are different for me. My part
of the process
is, even if I am writing the song myself, and I have a guitar in my hand,
there is always a beginning, and working through it, till the end. If
else is doing the music, and I am adding vocals, my part is essentially
same. The difference here is someone else is doing the music. This music
that Rich makes, and I am part of, is a unique experience.
AL: How do you usually write songs yourself?
Mark: When I am writing the music? I usually have a guitar
in my hand.
Usually the lyrics come to me. I will make a sound with my voice. The
tell me what the word is supposed to be. That word will tell me, what
rest of them will be, if that makes any sense? If someone else wrote the
music: I am initially listening to the music and making sounds, in my
out loud. It’s the same thing.
AL: You are just making sound effects?
Mark: Oftentimes there is an odd word here and there. Maybe
don’t make it to the finished lyric. It’s not brain surgery.
You are just
mapping things out and filling in the blanks.
AL: Then with Greg Dulli, you are writing together? How
does that work?
Mark: Yeah. When I am writing lyrics with someone else it
is a bit
different. It’s like high comedy. One of us will have a guitar.
We will just make
each other laugh.
AL: Since there are two of you, you would be more critical.
Point out a
line that is stupid.
Mark: Yeah, but I wouldn’t say it like that. You have
to have a certain
amount of trust to write together. It hasn’t happened much in Soulsavers.
Rich came up to me and said “That line is not working for me”
I would have to
be thick-skinned enough to take it into consideration. And try something
else. If you are writing the words together, you have to be pretty good
AL: Sometimes people would want to collaborate with someone
or Greg Dulli, and when they collaborate, they see how this specific person
writes a song. That is how they do it! They are seeing how another person
approaches writing a song.
Mark: Are you saying that they are not going to be critical
if they want
AL: (laughter) No. I think they are inspired by the collaboration,
have first hand knowledge of those processes.
Rich: There is nothing better than finding someone that
Plugging into their mind to find out how they work. Sucking that dry,
everything you can from them. It always feels good to drain someone
AL: Do you feel that other people have sucked Mark Lanegan
Mark: I have sucked myself dry.
Rich: It’s good. The more people you work with, the
better it is for
everyone. It’s usually a very positive experience. It’s very
rare that someone
who I hugely respect turns in something that sucks.
AL: Some bands today seem like they are referencing a few
adding a twist. They are saying that here are the four or five records
like, and here you go. What do you think of that?
Rich: It’s how I start off all music. I figure what
I am going to rip off.
I take it from there. I have always been influenced by great music. That
what music is: getting off on other music, and motivating yourself to
AL: There are some bands that made some weird sound. That
sounds different and original. That is the sound of that band. Don’t
the spirit of trying to do something original is still valid?
Rich: Of course.
Mark: Everyone that I know that does music started out because
fans of music.
AL: But maybe on your first album you were heavily influenced?
Mark: Sure. On the 50th one you don’t give a damn
Rich: There is a difference between being influenced and
being, as you say,
a tribute act. There is more money to be made being a good tribute act.
should just go for that, straight off the bat.
Mark: I think David Bowie said this. He said, “I don’t
think I have
written a lot of good songs, but I have found a lot of them.” I
think he said
that. The trick is if you are going to borrow from places, just make it
AL: On the new album, there is a lot of this bad ass guitar
like, hey, what’s up with this, and how did these English guys pull
Rich: What the fuck are these guys up to?
AL: It’s like a Guns and Roses thing?
Rich: You are the first person who said that it sounds like
Guns and Roses.
I end up getting into a lot of music conversations. I really enjoy talking
about other people’s music. When you make music, people have a pre-conceived
idea what you must be into. Some of my favorite bands that I have always
liked are boogie bands like AC/DC, ZZ Top, and the Rolling Stones. I love
those bands. People look at me, and go “I wouldn’t think you
would be into
that shit.” Those three bands are in my top ten across the board
Mark: When you are making records, sometimes you want to
you have musically. Crank the guitar up.
AL: Who played all those bad ass guitar licks on the record?
Rich: There are a couple of guitar players on there. The
stuff that you are
referencing is Rich Warren. He played most of the really inspired guitar
playing. He is an awesome guitar player. He is one of the best that I
ever seen. He was in fine form.
AL: How did you get Gibby Haynes, Richard Hawley, or Jason
Pierce to play
Rich: They are friends. It is great to call up friends and
have them come
in. It’s a great pleasure and a compliment that they would say “yes”
Mark: It’s great to work with people who you like
their tunes, and having
there in the context of your music. It’s one of those whims to indulge.
AL: How many records have you done now?
Mark: Too many. But there are a shitload of people who I
with, who I would like to.
AL: Who are some those people?
Mark: Jimmy Page. (laughter)
AL: Let’s make the call right now.
Mark: Joe Perry. Joe Perry has been having problems with
AL: So you are on vocals, with Jimmy Page and Joe Perry
on guitars. Who
else is in this band?
Rich: Fucking Billy Gibbons. I am already envious of Mark,
because he has
already done something with Billy Gibbons.
AL: How do you know when someone is not interested?
Mark: The people who are not interested just don’t
get back to you. Have
you heard anything? That happens. You would be surprised.
AL: What happened with Isobel Campbell? There was a tour,
and then you
canceled it. What happened there?
Mark: I was working on Soulsavers at that time. We were
supposed to do a
tour in Spring 2009, but they had visa issues. She changed management.
didn’t happen. I have finished another record with her in the meantime.
AL: A third one?
Mark: Yeah. That will come out sometime soon. They just
haven’t made it
over here yet.
AL: So you have been working on some band or project for
over twenty years?
Did you ever take a break?
Mark: There was some time off in 1996.
AL: You are not the vacationing type?
Mark: I just had four months off this year. I get recharged
Motivation is paying the bills.
AL: So when does the tour start?
Rich: We are going back to England. We are playing a few
shows and a few
festivals in August 2009. We are playing Reading and Leeds. Then we come
the US in September.
AL: How many people are in the band?
Rich: Six. It’s stripped back for us. Times are hard.
AL: You will play the new album. Any old songs?
Rich: About half and half. We will throw some new things
to keep things
interesting. Touring is like out of my comfort zone. I like being in the
studio. It’s a gradual thing.
1. The Seventh Proof
2. Death Bells
3. Unbalanced Pieces
4. You Will Miss Me When I Burn
5. Some Misunderstanding
6. All the Way Down
7. Shadows Fall
8. Can't Catch the Train
9. Pharaoh's Chariot
10. Praying Ground
11. Rolling Sky
12. Wise Blood
13. By My Side
2009 US Tour
09.06.09 - Portland, OR - Wonder Ballroom
09.07.09 - Seattle, WA - Bumbershoot Festival
09.09.09 - San Francisco, CA - The Independent
09.10.09 - Los Angeles, CA - Troubadour
09.12.09 - San Diego, CA - Casbah
09.15.09 - Austin, TX - Stubb's
09.16.09 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues
09.18.09 - New Orleans, LA - One Eyed Jacks
09.19.09 - Atlanta, GA - The Loft
09.21.09 - Washington, DC - Rock and Roll Hotel
09.22.09 - New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
09.23.09 - Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
09.25.09 - Toronto, ON - Mod Club
09.26.09 - Cleveland, OH - Grog Shop
09.27.09 - Chicago, IL - Double Door