Rolling Stone Magazine (Argentina),
17 June, 2009
Mark Lanegan Talks
By: Juan Andrade

translation by Melina

Before his show on Buenos Aires, along with Greg Dulli as The Gutter Twins, the ex Screaming Trees had a talk with RS

Once upon a time when grunge was at its peak and Kurt Cobain hadn't yet decided to put an end to his own history, Mark Lanegan served in The Screaming Trees, a band that was part of the movement with its epicenter in Seattle. As old acquaintances as they were, Lanegan, Cobain and his partner in Nirvana, Chris Novoselic, got together to "break the vice" and shape up a blues EP. They recorded Ledbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" but the project never flourished. Lanegan included it in his solo debut (The Winding Sheet, 1990) and years later, Nirvana made its own version of the song at the end of their MTV Unplugged.

"I remember him as a very good person, always with an open heart. I still miss him very much", says Lanegan at the other end of the telephone line. Going through Cobain's Diaries it’s clear that respect and affection went both ways.

The truth is, since then a lot of water has gone by under the bridge. And Lanegan comes to the country for the first time to play a show on the 7th of July with The Gutter Twins, the duo he shares with Greg Dulli, another veteran of the 90's "alternative" scene fronting the Afghan Wings. Can we see you as two icons of the undergrunge?

"We're just two guys who have been playing music for a long time and are still doing it. But it's not up to us how people can see us", he remarks. Though they knew each other from long before, the origin of the duo can be traced back to his part in -Dulli's new band- The Twilight Singers' Blackberry Belle (2003). A year later, Dulli was part of Lanegan's Bubblegum and went with him on tour, playing keyboards. "We're good friends and got together sometimes to write songs. At the beginning, the project wasn't at all serious. But, eventually, we realized we had material for a record and wanted to finish it. That's what we did on Saturnalia" he describes.

How does The Gutter Twins sound live?
The show we're taking to Argentina is an acoustic one. It's Greg, me and another guitar player. We're playing songs from Saturnalia but also others from my solo records, of The Screaming Trees, The Twilight Singers and some covers. Also some new songs, unreleased. It's a whole challenge for us to play this way, without a rock band at our backs. It's gonna be a night of challenges.

Is the challenge to play with less electricity?
That's one of them. The other one is, when you play this way, the audience is really close to you (he laughs). It's a different performance than the usual, a lot more intimate.

Someone described Saturnalia as a record about "saints and sinners, about good and evil". Do you agree?
Well, in a way all the music I've made throughout my career would fit into that category. Saturnalia included

In Screaming Trees' "Winter Song", you sung "Jesus knocking on my door". And the Bible's expression "Until Kingdom Come" can be found on Bubblegum and on -the first record you did with (Belle & Sebastian's singer) Isobel Campbell- Ballad of the Broken Seas as well. Do you consider yourself to be a religious person?
I read a lot of books but not the Bible (he laughs) There's a lot of experiences that I didn't live myself but appear all the same on my songs. I don't consider myself a religious person. With luck I'm a spiritual person.

Throughout your career you've worked with very different people, from Cobain to the English electropop band Soulsavers, to Campbell and the Queens of the Stone Age. Do you have to do some sort of "mental switch" to go from one project to the next as a collaborator?
I was blessed with the opportunity to collaborate with very different people. And it's something that I definitely enjoy very much. Luckily in every one of the cases I felt like I was able to do it. It's something I do but I'm not sure I consider myself a "collaborator". Every situation involves a different point of view. And, so far, I believe it has worked correctly in the different levels I took part of.

Besides recording with QOTSA there were speculations that you might become their singer for good. Did you though about it seriously?
No. I was involved in some of their records, I played a lot of shows with them and I had a very good time. I loved the band, the boys and the music. But it was what it was.

In Bubblegum you had Josh Homme and Nick Olivieri from QOTSA, PJ Harvey, Dulli, Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan from the Guns N' Roses as collaborators. How did you do to get them all together in a record?
What I do in my records is to ask my friends to come and play. And they were the people who were around me at the time I was making Bubblegum. That's it.

What side of you did you get to explore while working with Isobel Campbell?
There's a lot of sweetness in her music. And I really enjoyed it being able to share it with her. It's the same reason why we're trying to do an acoustic show with Greg: because for me it's a challenge to do things from the point of view of someone else. Maybe I wouldn't do it out of my own initiative. I mean, I wouldn't sing a song written from a woman's perspective. And there's something really sweet being able to do that. It may seem naive but they turn out to be satisfactory experiences to me.