From the gutter to the bars
by Patrick Donovan.
Mark Lanegan's latest project makes a play on his perceived
misfit past, writes Patrick Donovan.
MARK Lanegan has one of the most in-demand voices in music. Since his
band Screaming Trees disbanded in 2000, he has collaborated with Queens
of the Stone Age, Creature with the Atom Brain, Bomb the Bass and Soulsavers.
Belle and Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell, Melissa Auf der Maur and Martina
Topley Bird are some of the female singers who have weaved their voices
with his deep caramel baritone.
His most recent muse has been his old friend Greg Dulli from the Afghan
Whigs. Lanegan has appeared on three albums with Dulli's recent band,
Twilight Singers, and Dulli returned the favour on two Lanegan albums.
The pair have formed their own band, the Gutter Twins (a low-rent take
on Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' "Glimmer Twins"). In 2007,
they released an album, Saturnalia, which they are currently playing in
their show, An Acoustic Evening with Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan, alongside
tracks from the Twilight Singers, Afghan Whigs, Screaming Trees and Mark
Lanegan solo songbooks.
"It took quite a while because when we first started, we didn't have
plans to make a record," Lanegan says of the Gutter Twins.
"We wrote a couple of songs here and there and then we decided to
get serious and got the bulk of it done in a pretty short time. I enjoyed
the process and we're really good friends. I'm sure we'll make another
Gutter Twins record."
The pair, whose relationship goes back to when they used to play Hank
Williams songs in the kitchen of the house they shared in Los Angeles,
have been known to burn the candle at both ends. But Dulli has said that
the name refers more to how the two are perceived, rather than their current
"We're pretty old guys, we take it pretty easy these days,"
confirms Lanegan, 44.
It's not as if Lanegan needed any help. Between 1990 and 2004, he released
six brilliant solo albums. But he says he enjoys the challenge of collaborations
and discovering how his voice can blend with others.
He says he receives "quite a few" requests from musicians wanting
to work with him and he has declined many. So what does he look for?
"I've got to have an appreciation of what they do without me. Then
I've got to see if there is a place for me in what they do, like a meeting
point. If they're cool people — that's pretty high on the list.
And it's important to be challenged by someone's point of view. I look
to other people to be challenged."
Lanegan's next project is a second album and tour
with Soulsavers, which will be followed by a third collaboration with
British singer Campbell. Although it is easier to collaborate in the digital
age, when you can email vocal parts, early recordings between Lanegan
and Campbell suffered from the tyranny of distance.
But for their new album they will sing face-to-face in the studio, a la
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, to improve the chemistry.
"Obviously, I prefer being in the same studio," Lanegan says.
"It's always nice when you have the real thing in front of you.
"Singing with her is one of the great joys of my music life."
Not many people would have the nerve to leave a revered rock band like
Queens of the Stone Age but that's what Lanegan did. However, he is keen
to work with them again.
"They're great friends … I just went out and had lunch with
Josh [Homme] a couple of weeks ago."
And when will he get that wonderful solo career back on track? "That's
a good question," he says. "I've been so busy with other things
I haven't really gotten into it yet but at some point I will."