Name: Mark Lanegan
Progress Report: The songwriter talks about Blues Funeral, his first solo album in nearly 8 years.
It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his music that Mark Lanegan is a man of relatively few words. Whether it be with his work as the frontman of Screaming Trees, his work with the Twilight Singers and Queens of the Stone Age, his duet albums with Isobel Campbell, or his arresting solo work, Lanegan brings a certain intensity and creative gravitas to anything he happens to be involved with. This month he will release Blues Funeral, his first solo outing since 2004’s Bubblegum. Not surprisingly, the record is perfectly produced and an expectedly heavy listening experience (his growly voice has never sounded better). Perhaps more surprisingly, speaking to Mark Lanegan is a refreshingly un-heavy experience.
STEREOGUM Hi, how are ya?
LANEGAN: I’m good man how are you?
STEREOGUM I’m pretty good. Where in the world are you now?
LANEGAN: I’m in Antwerp, Belgium.
STEREOGUM I know you’re in the middle of a pretty long string of tour dates in Europe, right?
LANEGAN: Doesn’t really start until February.
STEREOGUM I was just listening to Bubblegum the other day and thinking about doing this interview. It’s hard to believe that record came out in 2004. Why do you think it took so long for you to make another solo record?
LANEGAN: I never intended for it to take so many years. I just got busy doing other things and enjoyed them and just got tied up in these other projects and before I knew it, a lot of time had gone by.
STEREOGUM What was the impetus? Was there a conscious decision of “Alright, I’m gonna start working on this record of my own” or did you sort of realize, “Oh I have these songs, maybe this should be a new album”?
LANEGAN: Well I didn’t have anything else going on for this year. I had a couple of tours but I didn’t have any records coming out for anybody and I just knew it was past due.
STEREOGUM The record was made in L.A. right?
STEREOGUM How did the record come together and who did you work with?
LANEGAN: I worked with Alain Johannes, a guy who did about half of Bubblegum with me, was in the Queens with me, working at his place in Hollywood. He played most everything and recorded it, produced it, mixed it. Did you ask who I was playing with?
LANEGAN: Jack Irons played most of the drums and I had a lot of people come in and play on one, two, three songs. Greg Dulli, Josh Homme.
STEREOGUM How long did it take to record?
LANEGAN: Started in January and really only worked a couple days a week and usually no more than four hours a day. Finished in I think May or early June. But in that time I also had a couple of tours so we weren’t working every week.
STEREOGUM That’s a good pace to be able to work at. I’ve heard the first song from the record of course but what can you say about the rest of it? Now that it’s done, what’s your feeling about it?
LANEGAN: I like it. I don’t know what else to say about it. The songs were all written specifically for this record. That’s also why it took a while because when it started I wrote a couple of songs, we recorded them while they were getting finished, I wrote another one … the leisurely pace was really so I could generate material. All the songs were written for this record right before they were recorded. Usually I’m working with stuff — or starting a record with something that was generated beforehand — but this time we started totally fresh and because of that, I don’t know, I guess it was more immediate for me. It’s a true song cycle, and I’m fond of the result. Maybe I’ll get that way again.
STEREOGUM Do you have a sense of all these songs coming from the same place thematically?
LANEGAN: Thematically? I guess that’s for someone like you to tell me.
STEREOGUM Oh. I feel like I’d need to go away with the record for a few days to unpack it all. Preferably while sitting next to a campfire or something. How do you anticipate touring this record? What will your band situation be like?
LANEGAN: I’m here in rehearsal with my band right now, so, you know, me and four other guys playing these songs and some other ones. Nothing more mysterious than that, I guess.
STEREOGUM It’s funny, I was thinking about the Bubblegum record and about the different times I’ve seen you play over the years. And actually the first time I ever saw you play live was at a Screaming Trees show live in Oklahoma City next to a zoo. I had not thought about that show or that place for a really, really long time.
LANEGAN: What’s surprising is that the Trees weren’t the ones inside that cage.
STEREOGUM I took a friend with me to that show and it was the first rock concert she’d ever been allowed to go to because her parents were really strict. We went to the very front and there was the chain link fence separating the band from the crowd. You guys came on and someone jumped on her shoulders to crowd surf and she got her face mangled on the fence. We had to figure out a lie to explain it to her parents.
LANEGAN: I just remember it was very windy.
STEREOGUM Your solo material is, in most ways, a very marked departure from your work with the Trees or the stuff you’ve done with other bands. Regarding the Screaming Trees, how do you feel when you look back at that band? Are you nostalgic at all?
LANEGAN: For the Trees? No man, not at all. Personally I don’t ever think about it. if there’s an interview someone’s bound to ask, but other than that it never crosses my mind. And even when I have interaction with the other guys — because I’m still friendly with those guys still, we exchange emails and texts from time to time — but even while doing that it’s not like I’m thinking back to the band. It’s like I’m staying in the here and now.
STEREOGUM That’s good. That’s ideal, I suppose. Nostalgia can be a such weird bad thing. Sometimes it’s cool to see bands get back together but there’s something to be said for letting it be what it was and moving forward.
LANEGAN: I appreciate when other people reform their bands. You know, I might get nostalgic about Kraftwerk, but I’m not about the Trees. I get it when people reform the band because they have unfinished business, or a love for each other and the music and all that stuff. It’s just not something I’m interested in for us.
STEREOGUM I’m also such a fan of the records you made with Isobel Campbell. Do you anticipate working with her again?
LANEGAN: No plans to, but I’ll never say never. I’m really fond of those records, and very fond of her, so I don’t know what the future’s gonna bring but no, no plans to right now.
STEREOGUM So what will 2012 be like for you? Just be playing lots and lots of shows?
LANEGAN: Yeah, I’m just gonna tour as much as I can and live life.
STEREOGUM Do you have any other projects on the horizon with other people that you can talk about?
LANEGAN: I just finished a quieter, more acoustic based record with a British artist named Duke Garwood. We just collaborated on the record and wrote some songs together, just finished that, but no real plans for release for that now or even a home for it, but that’s something that will definitely come out.
Mark Lanegan’s Blues Funeral is out tomorrow on 4AD.