The Sun,
17 August, 2007
Grunge raver to Soulsavers,
By: Simon Cosyns
SOULSAVERS - Kingdom of Rain (single)
Rating ****1/2
GRUNGE survivor Mark Lanegan has lent his magnificent earthy rumble to many a fine album.
He forged his reputation as singer with Screaming Trees. The first of his excellent solo albums, 1990’s The Winding Sheet, featured one Kurdt Cobain before he dropped the “d”.
He’s given ragged glory to desert rockers Queens Of The Stone Age. He’s been night to Isobel Campbell’s day on their Mercury-nominated Ballad Of The Broken Seas.
But rarely has the voice for hire been set among such grand musical designs as those created by Soulsavers.
It’s the brainchild of Brit production and remix team Rich Machin and Ian Glover who make full use of Lanegan on their second album It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land.
A widescreen fusion of electronics, rock, gospel, country and even hip-hop, the songs are infused with an otherworldly atmosphere and a deep emotional tug. It’s an overused expression but Soulsavers’ music is genuinely food for the soul.
Here Rich tells how he hooked up with Lanegan to make one of the year’s most impressive albums:
HOW did you manage to get Mark Lanegan involved?
I’d been into his records since the early Nineties. Around 2004, it turned out we had a mutual friend and he mentioned that Mark was into our first record. So I put a few ideas together and passed them on to see if he’d be into working with us on them. Mark was over here promoting his 2004 album Bubblegum, so we got together to talk it through and see if it was something that would work.
The new single Kingdoms Of Rain sounds perfect for the album yet Mark wrote that song many years ago. What’s so special about it?
It was a track that I’d always thought about covering with someone else.
I had an idea for it and it came up in conversation with Mark. He really liked it and said he wanted to do it. His original is great but I think there is something really special in his vocal on this version. It’s like his voice has grown into the track even more over the years. His voice gets better the older he gets and I think that track suits a voice with that much character in it.
I gather you self-financed the project. How nerve-wracking was that?
Yeah, it was pretty stressful at times. I’ve done it a few times in the past, but this ended up taking three years to finish, which was not something I’d planned on.
But I’m glad we did it the way we did, no matter how hard it was. I don’t think we’d have got what we did if we had the comfort of a bigger budget. It also meant we had nobody interfering with what we were doing. We did everything on our terms. But if I had to do it all over, I’d work a hell of a lot faster!
Where did the sessions take place? They were split. We’d work on a lot of the basic ideas at home, then I’d head over to LA to work with Mark on his parts. After that I’d bring them back here and kick them back into shape. I probably repeated that cycle three or four times.
You must be thrilled that Rick Rubin has signed you to Columbia? The man has pretty good taste!
Of course, to be the first thing that he brought in since taking the helm is cool. He has a great ear and he’s probably the most respected producer around at the moment.
I was a big fan of the Beastie Boys when I was at school, all the way through to his work with the last Johnny Cash recordings (which were a big influence on the sound of this record). I’ve got a lot of respect for the fella and hope to learn a lot from him.
What’s the story behind the wonderful Revival, complete with gospel choir?
That track came together as an accident, really. I was driving down to a session with the choir for something else. En route I was listening back to some of the rough cuts I had of the track and it hit me that, lyrically, that track had a strong gospel feel to it.
So I asked them while I was there if they’d mind just singing along with the track in the hope that I could cut something good from it afterwards. I ended up just leaving it the way it was when I left there. It captured the soul of the track.
Why did you decide to cover The Stones song No Expectations?
During the sessions we were listening a lot to the Stones. We said it felt right to throw a Stones track into the mix due to that. I go through phases of over-listening to their records. During one of the sessions I was hammering Beggars Banquet and Exile On Main St (I’m currently doing the same thing with Goat’s Head Soup and Aftermath). No Expectations just felt like the right choice.
And the beautiful Through My Sails by Neil Young?
A similar thing, really. I’d headed out to the ocean one night to relax. I had his album Zuma on in the car and it came on at the end. For some reason, I’d never really picked up on the track before, but it really struck me that night. It was probably the perfect environment to listen to it.