Prefix Magazine, http://www.prefixmag.com/features/mark-lanegan-and-isobel-campbell/interview/23088/
4 December, 2008
Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell: Interview
By: Mike Burr
Whether fronting a band, performing solo, or pairing with
a collaborator, Mark Lanegan’s voice can be counted on to add a
little weight to the proceedings. The seriousness isn’t an act by
a long shot, either. Interviewing Lanegan is like trying to have a deep
conversation with Hellboy. Not Ron Perlman, the actor who plays him, but
the actual phlegmatic, taciturn, constantly hungry, gravelly voiced demon.
Lanegan tends to give one-sentence answers and makes no bones about questions
that he considers normal journalistic bullshit. He also apparently likes
crunchy food, which he consumed between giving answers and erupting in
throaty coughs. We spoke over the phone, and I never asked Lanegan exactly
what he was eating -- it took enough guts to ask him whether the Screaming
Trees would ever get back together.
Tell me something exciting about Sunday at Devil Dirt, which
you recorded with Isobel Campbell.
Dude, I don’t know how to answer a question like that. The album
is a guy singing and a girl singing. It’s nothing more, nothing
less. If you’re into that sort of thing, then buy the album. If
not, then buy something else.
How did you end up collaborating with Isobel Campbell in
the first place?
She sent me some songs in the mail and asked if I wanted to sing them.
Was there anything different this time around?
I was actually in the same room with Isobel this time. That was a different
experience than the first time.
Do you approach singing your own songs differently than
songs written by someone else?
I just try to find my place in the song and get comfortable singing it.
It’s something that just happens naturally. It’s hard to explain,
but sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. I wish there
was something magical to tell you about. There’s not. You go in
and sing the song. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve
been lucky enough to have it work more often than not.
In addition to fronting two bands, you’ve also worked
with Campbell and Greg Dulli. Which collaboration worked the best for
You can’t really compare the experiences. It’s like apples
and oranges. I will say that working with Greg and Isobel has been great,
but each of them has their own good points. The important thing is that
it’s easy to do. After I finished up with Screaming Trees, I said
I wasn’t going to do anything that wasn’t easy for me.
Is there a chance that you’ll call the Conners up
and get the old band back together?
They are both good guys. I love those guys and played music with them
for fifteen years. I think that whatever that band had to say was said,
and the process got to be too grueling. Does that mean that if a promoter
called me up and offered me a million dollars for a reunion concert, that
I wouldn’t take it? No. But a promoter isn’t going to call
with that kind of offer, so I don’t have to worry about it. But
since I was in that band, there will always be that question out there.
Will you ever get out from under being part of the grunge
movement and Seattle sound?
I can’t change what I’ve done. I don’t think I would
if I had the chance. Elsewhere around the world I’m better known
for my work on other projects. In Europe they know me for my work with
Isobel and an album I did with Soulsavers. I don’t consider myself
a part of the Seattle thing. That became mainstream really quickly, and
anytime anything in my career has headed anywhere near the mainstream,
I’ve taken a hard left. There were places where I could have gone
all in, but I wasn’t ready to do that kind of thing. I’m pretty
lucky to have worked as long as I have in this business.
You don’t have any regrets, then?
I always consider myself to be a pretty good breakfast cook that ended
up as a singer. If you told me when I started in 1984 that I would still
be singing in 2008, let alone have somebody asking me about it, I would
have laughed. I’m sure there are things I missed somewhere along
the line, but I don’t think about it. When I wanted to make music
the opportunity has been there. There were times when I didn’t want
to make music and I did other things.
What other things have you done?
I worked construction. I was painting houses for a while. The music thing
wasn’t happening. I did something else.
Did anybody know that you were a musician?
Nobody cared. There was a job to be done.
Your artistic persona seems pretty intense. Do you ever
just kick back and bowl or something?
I do normal shit. I spend time with family and friends. I’ve bowled
on occasion. I listen to a lot of music. I follow basketball pretty closely.
I have season tickets for the Clippers, which is the only economically
feasible way to follow the sport in my town.
What do you think about the Sonics heading to Oklahoma City?
It’s a bummer, man. That was my team, you know, the one that I followed.
It sucks that they’re gone. There’s no hard feelings, though.
You can’t be angry that a city wants to have a team, you know.
What kind of music do you listen to when you’re kicking
I listen to anything but the kind of music that I play. I need something
other than all that darkness. There are lots of things, you know?
Are we talking the Carpenters?
No. I just can’t think of specifics without having my iPod out in
front of me. I just sort of plug in and let in go. Definitely not the
Carpenters, though: It doesn’t get any darker than that.
November 15, 2008