Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on May 29th 2012 1:00PM by Ian Gormely
The ensuing years have found Lanegan busier than ever, collaborating with a diverse range of musicians from former Afghan Wigs singer Greg Dulli, to electronic rockers Soulsavers, to former Belle and Sebastian member Isobel Campbell.
"I'm like the Michael Caine of rock without the talent," Lanegan tells Spinner. "I'll take any job."
Yet many of those collaborators repaid the favor, popping up to contribute to the singer's latest, Blues Funeral, which came out earlier this year.
Lanegan spoke to Spinner in detail about creating the album.
You've credited producer Alain Johannes with being a big part of this record coming together. What exactly did he bring to the project?
I did about half of my previous record with Al. More than anybody that I've ever worked with, he gets what I'm trying to do and can make it happen. He brings tons of enthusiasm and creativity to the job.
There's more electronic percussion on the album. Whose idea was that?
I wrote some of these songs starting with a drum machine and a couple with a keyboard and a couple with a synthesizer. They were things I had acquired in the years between the last record and this one. So that sort of dictated the way that it would sound. I started messing around with that stuff to change it up and make it interesting for myself.
Did you pick up an ear for that kind of equipment working with Soulsavers?
Yeah. And also I did a fair amount of stuff on previous records, but in a different way. I'd use it for noisy background texture, where with this one, since it started at the basis, it got moved to the forefront. Soulsavers, I was initially into working with those guys because of the electronic elements. But then they revealed themselves to be wannabe rockers quickly. But they're fantastic.
You said the record came about because you had nothing going on. Do you get restless when you don't have anything to do?
I enjoy playing music because it doesn't feel like a job. After all these years its still what I enjoy doing. I'm always trying to be creative and have an outlet for that creativity. Between the last record and this one I did a lot of touring with other projects, did multiple records. I was enjoying all of it, but I never intended for it to take so long between records. I just got busy doing that stuff.
And you invited a lot of those people to work with you on this record, too.
Yeah. When I'm making a record I don't need to look beyond my own circle of friends, guys that are not only great musicians, but my friends. It's tough for them to say no. They work a bit cheaper than they normally would.
The projects you've been involved with are incredibly varied. Do you have a favorite album or collaboration?
There are some records that I play more of the song in the live setting, and there are some that I think are better than other. But it has to do with the experience of making it more than the result. I can't really say what the result is and I haven't listened to any of them in their entirety for so long. If I'm getting ready to tour and I haven't heard a song for a while I might listen to the recording to familiarize myself with it. But I haven't listened to any of those records since they were made. So I can't really say. It's the memory of the experience that makes me like it. And this one was actually the most fun I've had making a record.
Is it strange to listen to those songs and think about where you were 10 years ago?
It's only weird if I suddenly thought it might be a good idea to do a song that when I hear it I realize I don't want to do that song 'cause it sucks. I guess I've reconciled myself with hearing my voice after all these years. But for a long time it was always weird.
Over the course of your career you've incorporated a lot of different types of music into your work, but the blues seem to have been a constant throughout. How did you first start listening to the blues?
My father gave me a couple of records when I was pretty young. He was a school teacher and he found a box of records and there was a Lightnin' Hopkins and a Leadbelly record, so I'd heard that stuff. But it wasn't until I heard the Gun Club's first record and I really connected with that. It sounds strange now -- it's a great, great record -- but it's jagged serial killer music. I don't know what that says about me.
It wasn't as evident in your work with Screaming Trees. Was that something you purposefully kept on the side?
Well, all the Screaming Trees music that I made in the '80s and up until the last couple of records I was primarily singing songs written by somebody else. I didn't have a lot of creative input there. The guys generating the music were coming from a certain place. And also to make something with a rock band that incorporates blues music is tricky -- sometimes it's bar band, generic sounding crap. When I started making solo records it was with the intent that it would have the spirit of that kind of music.
Are you surprised that you've been able to sustain such a successful solo career?
Sometimes I think about the guys that were doing it when I started, the first label that I was on; there aren't a lot of them around doing it anymore. So I just think I've been really lucky. I've not been able to do anything else besides this. I don't know why things panned out that way -- I'm glad it has. Like I said, I really enjoy doing this. It's a blessing.