This article reprinted with permission from Piero
Scaruffi at Scaruffi.com
MARK LANEGAN : SERENADING THE UNIVERSE
by Piero Scaruffi
A brief summary of Mark Lanegan's career. His band, the
Screaming Trees, was a pioneer of the Seattle sound of the 1990s. Since
1985, they played a sophisticated combination of acid-rock, hard-rock
and garage-rock that would be influential on everybody from Nirvana to
Built To Spill. Their second album, Even If And Especially When , is probably
the best document of those early years. The band's sound became almost
baroque towards the end, when Sweet Oblivion and Dust were released to
general critical acclaim.
Lanegan had already begun his solo career. The first three albums introduced
a highly original artist: Winding Sheet, Whiskey For The Holy Ghost and
Scraps At Midnight rank among the most inspired albums by singer songwriters
in the 1990s. The second is probably one of the best albums of the decade.
Lanegan followed that trilogy with a collection of covers, I'll Take Care
Of You, and now with the recent Field Songs.
What were you as a child?
I was born and raised in Washington State. Nothing special. A little bit
of a troublemaker, but nothing serious.
How did you become a musician?
By accident. Somebody asks me to. Just family friends. One day they needed
a drummer and they asked me to give it a try. I was a terrible drummer
and soon the guitarist, Gary Lee Conner, replaced me with a real drummer
and asked me to switch to singing. Unfortunately, I had never sung a song
in my life, so he had to literally teach me how to sing, line by line.
Did anybody influence your style of singing?
Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Few people knew him, but I was a fan of Gun Club.
Then, of course, many others, but he was a main influence.
Outside of music, what has been the main influence on your
Why did you relocate to L.A.?
I've been living here on and off for years. I think I like Los Angeles,
and I still like Washington State. Each place has its appeal. I don't
particularly consider myself a citizen of Los Angeles or anywhere else.
Who is Mark Lanegan today?
I don't like to get into details of my personal life, but I have a life
just like everybody else. There are things I like to do by myself, things
I like to do with others, and there are things I have to do to take care
How does music relate to your private life?
First of all, it's something very spontaneous. When I write a song, most
of the time I just sit down and play the guitar. It is not something I
have to plan in my mind. Sometimes it doesn't appeal to me and I won't
recognize it as a song for weeks. Sometimes it strikes me right away and
I continue it. It is a very automatic process.
Secondly, of course, events in my private life have an influence on my
music, which is part of my life, but I wouldn't consider my music as a
direct expression of what goes on in my life. In fact, I often leave this
world when I compose a song. It's like having another life: I let my mind
go and live another life and I find music in this other life. So my music
is only partially, rather indirectly, related to my private life. Mostly,
it is something that exists outside the practical occurrences of life.
My girlfriend says I have three lives, and I guess music is one of the
Now, that is my inner life, that is not necessarily yours or someone else.
So when you ask me the meaning of a song, I always refuse to explain it.
I leave it up to the listener to find whatever meaning there is. And often
I do not know myself. Even if I wanted to answer the question. I always
prefer the listener to draw their own conclusion.
Are your records all the same life, or is each record a
I, as the creator, see them as a whole. I could not separate one from
the other. They form just one unity in my mind. I'm not sure if they flow
temporally, or if they are one fixed instant in time, but to me they constitute
Of course, the listener can have a completely different perception and
see both a sequence and a discontinuity, because the style may appear
to be changing or because the themes are different. These are practical
differences that do not matter that much to me. It is still the same life.
Technically, do you see your music as being folk, rock,
jazz, country...? How do you see the difference in style between the Screaming
Trees albums and your solo albums? Recently it even sounds like you are
using classical arrangements...
I consider everything I've done to be rock records. I don't feel there
is a difference between what I did within Screaming Trees and on the solo
records. And I know next to nothing about classical music.
In retrospect, which of the Screaming Trees and your solo
albums you like best?
I'm glad all of them exist.