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CiN Weekly – Powder burns

CiN Weekly – Powder burns
Greg Dulli talks about music, the Reds and recording in New Orleans

On the other end of a long distance call to Los Angeles sits Greg Dulli, tugging on cigarettes and opining about his beloved Cincinnati Reds. He has lots to say.

The Reds need another starter, or they’ll be done by August. Kearns is on the brink of greatness, and Griffey’s the odd man out in the outfield. He has contemplated picking up Brandon Phillips for his fantasy team, but he can’t see keeping a second baseman on the bench.

Then, baseball talk segues awkwardly into a line of questioning about Powder Burns, the latest album by Dulli’s Twilight Singers. The CD has been met with an initial round of press focused on provocative topics, which Dulli isn’t in the mood to discuss this day.

Powder Burns refers to cocaine and other drugs, doesn’t it?

The album is about Dulli’s drug addictions, isn’t it?

Suddenly, the ex-Afghan Whigs bandleader chooses to smoke and not talk. “No comment,says.

He’s asked again. “Can you confirm what has been written?”

“No.” He’s asked again; it sort of works this time. “I’ll say this. I came to a crossroads in my life, and if you ever come to one you better make the correct turn or the woods can get very spooky. I think I made the correct turn.”


Dulli says his crossroads experience took place 2 1/2 years ago, and Powder Burns plays like traveling music for the journey there.

Recalling classic Afghan Whigs albums such as Congregation, Gentlemen and Black Love, Dulli wrings catchy, compelling rock music out of unsavory topics. Two examples are the songs “Bonnie Brae” and “Forty Dollars.”

“(Bonnie Brae) is near MacArthur Park (in L.A.),” Dulli says. “There are a couple areas on Bonnie Brae where you go at a certain time of day and people will emerge from behind buildings to do business with you.”

He’s a little more explicit about “Forty Dollars,” in which he plays the role of a real-life New Orleans drug dealer. “I’m gonna get played on the radio in New Orleans, bro, and he listens to the radio, and he knows who I am because I used to be one of his customers, so I’m sure he’s gonna be eminently interested.”


New Orleans has long been a musically inspiring location to Dulli. Most of Powder Burns was made there. Work began a month after Hurricane Katrina wrecked the city last August. It wasn’t an ideal situation. Recording sessions were scheduled around curfews and were interrupted by rolling blackouts, sometimes in the middle of a take.

Dulli, a Hamilton native who lives in both Los Angeles and New Orleans, was in California at the time of the hurricane but was no less devastated by its impact.

“I don’t think you could see what I saw and not be affected by the magnitude of the destruction and its aftermath. On a visual and emotional level, I think I was changed forever. I was changed before I even got there, watching what happened on television,” he says.

“I think the cultural diversity has been irreparably damaged. New Orleans will rise again, of course, but like any city that’s been destroyed like that, it will have to shed a skin and begin a new life. Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Dresden, Beirut, any city that’s had destruction like that, something is taken away, but I think there’s an indomitable spirit in New Orleans that will transcend what happened.”

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