Rockol, November 1998
translated from Italian by Guido Lanzoni
(backstage...) Mr. Lanegan sits down, holding a cup of hot tea; outside
is dead cold, he wears a thick navy blue coat and wollen hat. He has this
intense but kinda lost stare, like having the impression of facing a plagued
and purely honest musician - totally plunged into his art. His latest
work "Scraps at Midnight" scores a collection of unique songs, nocturnal
and inspired, that appear just dashed off and recorded right away by the
leader of Screaming Trees. What follows is a dialogue with one of the
most intriguing/fascinating personalities in American rock music.
Q - first of all congratulations for this album, it
is truly great and touching.
A - .... thanks.... indeed
Q - it has a very intimate atmosphere, seems like
you recorded it totally alone in an empty room... it makes me think at
some solo parts by Keith Richards... was this work conceived under such
A - actually some of these songs were really released
this way, on the other hand for others we worked more as a band, giving
a different sound. Anyways it all came out very fast, we wrote and recorded
all in few days.
Q - How fast?
A - 2 weeks, thats all.
Q - wow, are you a really able to write an album is
such a short time?
A - well, this time we really had to do so, it was
a good challenge since the previous records took way much longer...
Q - do you agree on the word "intimate" for this album?
A - yeah, as well for the others too. It refers
to the kind of music I love to listen to besides rock, thus these tunes
reflect this atmosphere. Besides as I was saying many songs were born
acoustic, they could be actually played easily this way.
Q - what do you mean when you refer to rock? what
are you listening to these days?
A - stuff that has come from England in the past
2 years - like Paul Weller's last record or the one by the Spiritualized.
I don't listen to bands that have necessarily the same sound, it doesn't
matter to me...
Q - many musicians from Seattle, when questioned about
their influences, always end up on some impredictable bands such as Kiss.
A - personally haven't listened to Kiss in a looooong
time, but I must confess that they were the very first gig I ever went
to. Everyone my age liked 'em way back then, not only from Seattle. It
was a super famous rock band, so this explains why we all had their poster
up on the wall. Personally they never really get me, I was for the Who,
and historical punk bands such as Damned, The Jam, or the Stranglers...
Q - any opinions of brit-pop?
A - I like the Verve, Oasis actually write good
tunes but ain't my kind, I prefer Radiohead's record, despite it is something
completely different.. I listen to what everybody listens to.
Q - what do you think "Scraps" has in comparison to
the former records?
A - different production, in the same place and
much faster. "Whiskey" was recorded in different spots and in long amount
of time; as I was saying for "Scraps" we all stayed always at the the
Joshua Tree Studios, east California., by the desert... it is a unique
feature to me, and besides it is the most "direct and naked" record I
Q - what do you seek into music?
A - THE MUSIC, a sequence of chords that makes me
open my mouth and sing over a melody; melody hints me to words, and words
bring me emotions, it works this way for me.
Q - where this process starts from? just emotions
or you indulge with the guitar and something comes out?
A - there are reallly millions of different ways
for writing songs, couldn't say which one I go for, 'cause it truly changes
from time to time.
Q - do you play every day?
A - naaaaa, actually I grab a guitar only when I
write for a new album.
Q - well - you do not "have to", or at least we thought
you had a reputation in this sense...
A - .........laughing..... don't shoot on me, lets
put it this way: I am a lazy butt that needs to be stimulated, otherwise
I will never release records...
Q - you always said you started to play music because
you didn't want a real job, and even now - don't you still enjoy yourself
with music ???.
A - naa, kidding, I am truly lucky to be doing music,
and I will keep continuing this way as long as a chance will be given
to me. Couldn't think at me doing something else than this in life, I
love rock music.
Q - do you like the music you recorded with the Trees?
Does it still represents you?
A - yes, absolutely!. Still very very bound to what
we achieved, and I will continue to put out stuff of the Screaming Trees
for as long as possible. No matter many years have gone by since the early
days, I personally find these records still VERY relevant. I now have
the fortune to release "quiet" records on my own and others, more powerful
and rock oriented with the Trees; besides these guys are really my family,
with whom I have the closest confidence in the world.
Q - ok, Seattle a.k.a. grunge: how much was to be
considered good and true on the magazines' headlines of the time?.
A - think there were many grrrreat bands, musicians,
and singers, such.......
Q - such as?
A - someone else should actually answer to this
question... think Nirvana was a cool band, Kurt an outstanding singer/author,
Chris Cornell, Layne Stanley... many bands in our area became very famous
at the same time, but in reality has always had a "rich" tradition of
Q - do you still live there?
A - no, California.
Q - the right place for a lazy man?
A - let's say I love the sun... anyways I still
currently spend a good amount of time in Seattle with the other member
of the band...
Q - when do you consider an album really finished?
A - .... when the stuff I listen to gets close to
what I have in mind... I am not the one that says "hey, greeeat, thats
the way I want this!", I ain't the technical kinda guy.
Q - any favourite tracks among "Scraps"?
A - Bell Black Ocean, it reminds me of a lullaby
I listened to when was a little kid; a song for children.
Q - do you think all of your songs have something
A - yeah, they all have a precisely built personality,
and never talk specific; I can actually start from something specific,
but - at last - words that I choose describe moods and move away from
the original idea, ... thats what binds'em all.
Q - your next solo project?
A - I am about to complete an album of cover songs,
tunes that have been an inspirations to my former works. Ain't a precise
clue yet of the exact songs that will be put in, since we have already
been recording a good bunch...