Dulli finally lets ‘Headlights’ shine

By C.E. Hanifin
Enquirer contributor

Former Afghan Whig Greg Dulli goes solo for the first time with “Amber Headlights.”

For more than three years, Greg Dulli kept the songs he wrote for his new release, “Amber Headlights,” in the dark.

In the spring of 2001, Dulli began working on a riotous record that bridged the swaggering sound of his former band, the Afghan Whigs, and the more introspective mood of his then-new project, the Twilight Singers.

Then, Dulli’s good friend, movie director Ted Demme, died in early 2002.

The stunned musician shelved the songs he’d been recording.

“I wasn’t really feeling that record, so I put it away,” Dulli says. “I was really sad, and ‘Amber Headlights’ is a celebratory record, so it seemed kind of insincere to put it out at that particular time.”

Dulli, who moved to Los Angeles prior to the Afghan Whigs’ breakup in 2001, moved on to the Twilight Singers’ darkly majestic second release, 2003’s “Blackberry Belle.” In 2004, the Twilight Singers issued “She Loves You,” an eclectic, inspired collection of covers that ranges from songs originally recorded by Marvin Gaye and Billie Holiday to Mary J. Blige to Bjork.

But fans kept asking about the set of songs Dulli had set aside, so he decided to put out “Amber Headlights” as his first solo project. The album, out Tuesday, marks the inaugural release on his Infernal Recordings imprint.

Although Dulli recently branched out into production work for albums by Italian rock group After Hours and his singer-songwriter protégé, Jeff Klein, he’s not gunning for a career as an industry mogul.

“I write a lot of songs and I have a bunch of different projects, but running a record label is not something that I’m particularly interested in,” he says.

During the past several years, Dulli has racked up experience running a different kind of business. Four years ago, he and three friends bought an L.A. bar called the Short Stop. Two years later, Dulli added a tavern named Footsie’s.

“Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t always pay the bills, and I’ve been interested in bars – obviously – for a long time,” says Dulli, whose penchant for epic partying was well-known among his peers on the Cincinnati music scene.

“Of course I hang out at my bars,” Dulli laughs. “Why would I go to a bar to pay for drinks when I could go get drinks for free at my own place?”

Dulli currently is on the road in Europe with After Hours, and says that a planned Twilight Singers tour likely will bring him back to the Cincinnati area in February or March.

One thing that’s not on Dulli’s agenda, though, is an Afghan Whigs reunion.

Bassist John Curley, who lives in Mount Lookout, appears on an “Amber Headlights” track. Guitarist Rick McCollum, who moved to Minneapolis, contributed to “Powder Burns.”

“I love them. They’re my brothers,” Dulli says. “I think if we were all in the same town we would all play together like we used to, but as far as playing as the Afghan Whigs, I doubt that.”

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