Chatting with the brooding force of nature that is Mark Lanegan from his hotel in Barcelona ahead of landing down under, Tone Deaf took a deep breath to pry into the world of the man that Josh Homme owes so much of his career to.
Touring and recording under different guises in recent years with The Gutter Twins (with Afghan Wigs frontman Greg Duli) as well as his acclaimed collaboration with Isobel Campbell, Lanegan has proved to be a beast of his own kind. His vast body of work spanning over two decades with Seattle band The Screaming Trees, intermittent membership of Queens Of The Stoneage entwined with numerous solo and collaborative guises has garnered praise from all and sundry. Now in 2012 he returns to our shores on the back of his much heralded new release Blues Funeral. Having been a regular visitor, we pried a few glints of reflection from the dark one.
Breaking away politely (for a change) from his recent outputs spawned out of writing with other people, things have settled back to the base mode of control for Lanegan as he explains, “When I sit down to make a record I just try to enjoy myself and make something that speaks to me start to finish. When I think about songs I think about how they go on a whole as a record. At the same time I’ve trying to do different things that might be new for me from time to time just to keep up the interest. Where that ends up…I’m not too concerned with that. I just try to enjoy myself.”
“Nuts and bolts: I’m usually writing on the guitar. With this record I wrote just a few of the songs like that. Here I was starting with keyboards and drum machines. Mixing things up to keep it interesting for me. When you’re writing and recording a record I try to rely on instinct and the chips fall where they may. If I don’t like the result or it doesn’t turn out the way I envisaged it then I might move on from that.”
Find that bin. There will be sullen, unloved, baritone gold in there.
Putting together yet another touring band of trusted heads, old and new, the coming together of ideas of others or his own, the mix of it all continues to drive the man. “I enjoy all the collaborations. My solo records are not really so different. They’re all collaborations in another form. They aren’t really strictly my own vision. When I’m with The Gutter Twins I’m there to add to a vision whereas with Isobel Campbell I’m there to support her.”
Seemingly driving forward with all the gruff, understated hunger for writing and producing he held in his formative years with The Screaming Trees, where does the finished product sit with such an artist? Has there ever been a battle plan drawn for world domination? To date, it would hardly seem so and as Lanegan groans further, there’s little to draw him out of his world. “I don’t ever pay attention to anything about my records beyond making them. The business side of things or whatever happens to be ‘big’ in the world, no. Outside influences? I’ve never been influenced by that. I can only do things the way I do them. They only involvement that I might have outside the studio is talking to guys like you.”
Feeling oddly special in whichever way you wish to interpret, the impending possibility of another collaboration being added to the bow is looming again. Australian rock luminary Ron S. Peno will be joining several legs of Mark’s Australian tour along with his band The Superstitions and Lanegan perks up at the thought of working together. “I love [Ron’s former band] Died Pretty. I’ve always loved Ron’s singing. I think that the new record [Future Universe, 2011] he did is just fantastic. It’s my favourite record of the last year. I wanted to have him on all the dates but sadly he couldn’t do them all. He’s a fantastic talent. That would be a dream come true but we’ll see how it goes.”
Under a cover of darkness, watch this space.