| The following is the transcript of the chat which
took place on Yahoo! and Sonicnet on Monday, 17 August, 1998. The first
half hour of the chat was conducted by Gil Kaufman, the second was opened
to questions from the web 'gallery'.
The transcript of this chat appeared originally on Sonicnet - visit them!
Members of the saplings email list and the many other who were in attendance that evening would like to thank Mr. Lanegan for his time, his sense of humor, and his patience! And of course, for the music.
SonicNetHost: Gil: This is Gil Kaufman, Senior Writer for Addicted to Noise/SonicNet, we'd like to welcome Mark to the chat this week. His third solo album, "Scraps At Midnight" has just been released. Mark has charted a stellar career as leader of the Screaming Trees, one of the longest-lived bands to come out of the late '80s/early '90s Seattle grunge scene.
Mark Lanegan: Hello everyone, good to be here!
SonicNetHost: Gil: Since this is your third solo album, why don't you let people understand what it is that inspired you to go off on your own?
Mark Lanegan: It was the drummer in the Screaming Trees that suggested it to me - we were working on stuff outside of the Trees and the idea was brought up to me. At first I thought it was a little weird, but that's how the first album came about. I never really had the idea to make solo albums.
SonicNetHost: Gil: What did you feel weird about? Is there a difference between Trees albums and your solo ones? That is, in how you approach them?
Mark Lanegan: The nature of it is different in that the setting is much quieter and more stripped down when I'm doing these records, whereas the Trees are a much louder rock band. It's also a little more free to be able to do what I want, it's a different process of selection.
SonicNetHost: Gil: It shows. The albums definitely have a haunted, introspective feel to them. Do you physically record them in a different place?
Mark Lanegan: With both things I've recorded all over the place. With this new record I recorded it all in Joshua Tree, Rancho De La Luna. More than the other records, I feel the place had a big influence on how this album sounded.
SonicNetHost: Gil: What kind of influence?
Mark Lanegan: Most of the songs were written right before we went into the studio, and I've been living down in California. Because it was so condensed to one place, to me it has the feel of the place, of the desert.
SonicNetHost: Gil: So, it's not that you're just more morose when you work alone?
Mark Lanegan: Oh, I'm morose regardless. [laughter].
SonicNetHost: Gil: "Hospital Roll Call" definitely has the feel of a dusty old western movie or something. Explain the inspiration behind that one.
Mark Lanegan: I wanted it to sound like Link Wray.
SonicNetHost: Gil: What exactly does the refrain, "16," which is repeated over and over, mean?
Mark Lanegan: It means that I wanted to sound like Link Wray, but my contract called for a song with vocals.
SonicNetHost: Gil: You assemble a pretty impressive group of friend for "Wheels," J Mascis and Mike Johnson from Dinosaur Jr. and Tad from Tad, yet it's a pretty spare song. Why all the guests?
Mark Lanegan: Well, that song and other called "Day and Night" are exceptions. Those two were recorded during the two or three years I was working on the second solo album. And the reason for the guests is that during the first two records as well as the new one, I just liked to have whichever of my friends were around play on the albums, on whichever instruments were around. Nobody traveled around the world to get on these.
SonicNetHost: Gil: I'm pretty sure there aren't any Screaming Trees songs with saxophone. Was it fun for you to try and use instruments you don't normally have on your records?
Mark Lanegan: Sure! The Trees have used horns before. Whatever a song calls for it what we use.
SonicNetHost: Gil: "Bell Black Ocean" has a real organic, acoustic feel to it. Is it safe to say that it's the kind of song the Trees could never really do?
Mark Lanegan: Certainly. The Trees have always had quieter songs their records, it's just that these records are kind of reversed. Maybe 75% percent quiet on the solo albums, the opposite on the Trees.
SonicNetHost: Gil: The album, due mostly to your black bottom vocals, has a sort of modern blues feel to it. Do you consider yourself a blues artist in any fashion, or are you squarely in the rock world?
Mark Lanegan: I consider myself a rock singer.
SonicNetHost: Gil: You don't think there's a blues, or in some cases, even a jazz aspect to what you do?
Mark Lanegan: I don't know - I'm a cook, basically. I don't know much about jazz, I listen to the blues, but really it's rock music. The blues to me is real, as is what I do, maybe that's the connection.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Is there any difference to how you approach writing your solo material versus the Trees stuff? It's the blues, man, I don't care what you say.
Mark Lanegan: The Trees is fully collaborative, with everyone's input. The solo are generally me, or me and Mike Johnson, writing the songs.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Are you able to explore more personal matters in the solo stuff, such as "Hotel," which seems like a very personal, introspective song?
Mark Lanegan: No, it's really the same thing to me. It's just in a different setting.
SonicNetHost: Gil: You mentioned that working in Joshua Tree inspired you, what about the desert did you find inspiring?
Mark Lanegan: Just the space, the solitude. The absence of distraction.
SonicNetHost: Gil: The Trees are one of the last remaining so-called "Grunge" bands, do you agree?
Mark Lanegan: We never called ourselves a grunge band.
SonicNetHost: Gil: And regardless, why do you think that is? Aside from the obvious (drugs, Kurt's suicide, etc.).
Mark Lanegan: We made quite a few records before we ever heard that term. There's not a lot of them left - the guys are either in different bands or not around. We've definitely been around a long time, though.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Exactly my point. You guys kind of pioneered that sound and you're still standing. To what do you attribute that?
Mark Lanegan: God's grace.
SonicNetHost: Gil: The Trees will be playing at Bumbershoot, but I understand that you're currently looking for a label. What happened with the Epic deal?
Mark Lanegan: We parted as friends. Most of the people we worked with along the way in the 8 years or so we were there are no longer around, and we just wanted to explore other avenues.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Okay.... will you be looking for another deal with a major or do you think you might try life on an indie again?
Mark Lanegan: I think we'd go with whatever situation seemed like the best for the band. I don't think we ever really cared who we were making records with, as long as they cared what the band was about.
SonicNetHost: Gil: In addition your new solo album, I understand you also have an EP of covers done as well. Tell us about that?
Mark Lanegan: It's not completely done, and maybe it'll be a full LP, but I was doing some covers for British b-sides, and I liked how it was going, so we kept recording. It's easier than writing your own songs.
SonicNetHost: Gil: I heard that it was mostly old blues stuff (there's that word again). Give me an example, if you can, of what songs you've recorded.
Mark Lanegan: None of it was old blues, really. Lots of folk, Tim Harden songs, some late-60's soul songs. But it's not fully shaped, so we don't know what will end up being on it.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Hey, blame Cece not me. Is that the kind of stuff that inspired you early on, or maybe still does, if you listen to a song like "stay"?
Mark Lanegan: Actually, "Stay" was inspired by the Bee Gees.
SonicNetHost: Gil: C'mon. Really?
Mark Lanegan: I guess that's kind of soulful. Barry Gibb was great, very soulful. Absolutely, no bullshit!
SonicNetHost: Gil: I don't see you as a Bee Gees kind of guy.
Mark Lanegan: Early Bee Gees, pre-disco. Late 60's, early 70's.
SonicNetHost: Gil: I just can't imagine Maurice singing a line like "living ain't hard/ it's just not easy."
Mark Lanegan: I don't know about the lyrical content, but the feel of early Bee Gees is what inspired that song. The words are just my own twisted little fantasies. And like I said, Barry was the great one.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Is it also true that you have a whole album's worth of new solo material that you plan to record next year?
Mark Lanegan: I'm recording it right now. I hope it'll be a double-album - it's like 20-some songs. But most of the music's recorded.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Tell me a bit about your work with Tuatara, the world music band that features Peter Buck of REM and Barrett Martin from the Trees?
Mark Lanegan: I haven't actually done any work with those guys yet, though Peter and Barrett and I have written some songs together. We've talked a little about recording, but at this point I don't think there will be a Tuatara album with me on it.
SonicNetHost: Gil: What are your plans, since up until now, Tuatara has been an instrumental band? So, you haven't done any recording with them yet? And, are the songs you wrote instrumental?
Mark Lanegan: No, it really wasn't with Tuatara, just with Peter and Barrett. I'm a singer. Those guys were writing music for me to write words on. I don't know what it'll be called when it comes out, but it won't be Tuatara. At some point those guys talked about making records with a singer, but that isn't how it's going to come out.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Gotcha.
This section is where questions were taken from the net
lapechequi : You seem to be a really private person. So why are you doing this chat thing?
Mark Lanegan: Well, I don't have to look anybody in the eyes.
lapechequi : Do you get recognized in public? How would you prefer to be treated? ignored, treated like a regular person, fawned over, besieged with offers to bear your love child...
Mark Lanegan: The latter, of course! And no, I'm rarely recognized in public.
nirvana_35121 : Did the Screaming Trees break-up?
Mark Lanegan: No, not at all.
nirvana_35121 : What are some of your favorite new bands?
Mark Lanegan: The bands I like aren't really new. I like Spiritualized, the Tinder Sticks.
theymightbegiantboy : Mark how did you like working with mad season and Kurt Cobain?
Mark Lanegan: Those guys were my friends, so of course I enjoyed it. Kurt was like a brother to me, and that's why I make music. I do it with people I care about and care about me, so it can only be positive. We always had a good time.
baa_emp : You said you wrote the lyrics for Scraps literally at the mic while recording--do you generally write material that way?
Mark Lanegan: There's always some fucking around right up until the last minute. These songs were written right up to two weeks before we went into the studio. Some of the early Trees records were written right on the spot, while we recorded them. And it was cool to make a solo record this way, but it was more circumstance than anything else.
SonicNetHost: Gil: You are also involved with Disinformation, which used to be called Mad Season. Does that mean Layne Staley (singer for Alice in Chains) is not in the band anymore. If so, why, and why the name change?
Mark Lanegan: I think it's a different band entirely. But when it'll happen I don't know. It's something I agreed to be part of, if it happens, but it's really Mike and Barrett's thing.
theymightbegiantboy : How did you get on Sub Pop?
Mark Lanegan: The original drummer in the Trees, Mark Pickerel, was working there. Making the record at all was largely his idea. And the Trees had made an EP for them.
baa_emp : Mike Johnson seems to be an integral part of your creative process--could you make a record without him?
Mark Lanegan: Well, I made a lot of Trees records without him. He's definitely my co-conspirator on the solo records. I could, but I wouldn't want to.
lapechequi : What can you tell us about your upcoming solo tour?
Mark Lanegan: I have a tour planned in October for Europe. I don't know when I'll be touring the States. I certainly try to be there.
potatospy : Mark, it is great to see you doing so well. Was Scraps part of the healing process?
Mark Lanegan: I make records regardless of what's happening in my personal life. It's what I do. It's a journey. But thank you!
Alchemy76 : Mark, your music has helped me through so many rough times, thank you. Can you pick one, or a small handful of songs that mean the most to you?
Mark Lanegan: That's tough to say. I think about the records as a whole, as opposed to particular songs. They all mean something to me, but if somebody else can relate to a part of what they're hearing, that's wonderful. Again, thank you.
lapechequi : How do you feel about Seattle?
Mark Lanegan: Well, I'm sitting in a house in Seattle right now, and I'm feeling fine about it! I love Seattle. It's my town, you know?
SonicNetHost: Gil: Before you started doing this album you had some problems with drugs an arrest in San Francisco on drug charges, is it safe to assume that songs like "Hotel" and "Stay" are a means of dealing with your struggles?
SonicNetHost: Gil: Specifically, a line like "happy murdering my mind" from "Hotel."
Mark Lanegan: I don't know. I guess the process of writing songs for me, all the way along, has been a way for me to relate to life.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Was there anything in particular that helped you straighten up, since I hear your doing much better these days?
Mark Lanegan: I'd say that taking them apart like that is somebody else's job. Yours, perhaps.
Alchemy76 : In past interviews and articles I've heard a million of your musical influences. If you had to pick one artist who you've drawn the most from, who would it be?
Mark Lanegan: Big Jeffrey Lee Pierce, The Gun Club.
baa_emp : Who would you like to record with in the future?
Mark Lanegan: Oh, man! Anybody who'd take me!
SalomeLeSecq : Do you prefer recording in California to Seattle all together, or just for certain projects?
Mark Lanegan: I guess it just depends - a cool place is a cool place. I've made records in New York, California, here... It just depends on what's happening with the music and the people involved. Though I really enjoyed this last record, it was a beautiful place to record.
SalomeLeSecq : Might you record with Layne Stayley again sometime?
Mark Lanegan: If he ever wanted to, I would.
noshamey : How do you feel about touring & playing your solo stuff live?
Mark Lanegan: I feel fine about touring. I love to travel. It's just the playing part that I have trouble with sometimes!
Mark Lanegan: [laughter] Just kidding. I love it.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Have you started writing songs with the Trees for the next album yet? If so, do they feel like they have a different feel to them in light of your solo albums, or are they similar to the Trees stuff fans know and love?
Mark Lanegan: Well, with us there's always a progression. We have a lot of new songs. To me they always feel like a step in a new direction. I don't think the solo albums have a bearing on that.
SonicNetHost: Gil: Any titles you might debut at Bumbershoot?
Mark Lanegan: I'm looking forward to recording. Yeah, we might do a couple new songs.
SonicNetHost: Gil: When are you going to start recording the new Trees album? Any titles you want to share?
Mark Lanegan: No titles. We'll start recording as soon as we find a home for it.
guitarman6866 : what was it like working with Kurt Cobain?
Mark Lanegan: It was always great.
lapechequi : How do you feel about playing in public?
Mark Lanegan: It's what I do, from time to time. I feel good about it.
AICJunkie : Will the Screaming Trees be touring nationally as well?
Mark Lanegan: I'm sure we will, once the new record is made!
nirvana_35121 : Do you miss grunge?
Mark Lanegan: No, not really.
SonicNetHost: Gil: How do you feel about the idea of ratings concerts like movies are rated? Some states are trying to pass such laws right now.
Mark Lanegan: I think it sounds fascist.
SonicNetHost: Gil: What, to date, has been your biggest (legal) "rock star extravagance?"
Mark Lanegan: I think I bought some new boxers, once. Thanks to everyone for showing up! Enjoy the new album!
SonicNetHost: Gil: Wow, you are out of control! Must be nice. We'd like to thank Mark for being our guest this week. Come back next week for a chat with former Crowded House leader Neil Finn, who has just released his solo debut, "Try Whistling This."