The Big (un)Easy
The Twilight Singers’ Greg Dulli ain’t about to do the lazy rockstar thing
By Mark Sanders
Greg Dulli doesn’t take too well to the easy life.
At least, this would seem to be the case, if Dulli’s songs bear even the slightest resemblance to his own past. The 41-year-old vocalist who first gained notoriety as the cigarette-stained voice of the Afghan Whigs, and later as the Twilight Singers’ main man, slathers his latest album (the Twilight Singers’ Powder Burns ) in the kind of self-effacing rhetoric fans have come to expect. Sleaziness, sexiness, copious drug use and a nod or two to ’60s R&B (and, curiously, arena-ready cock rock) frequently decorate–or some would say, mar–his albums, making you wonder whether this guy is for real, or whether it’s all a big satire.
Dulli’s not telling. During a recent phone interview, Dulli said simply, “I don’t equate drug and alcohol intake with creativity,” despite Powder Burns ’ frequent references to and glorifications of his personal demons. If he’s full of bravado on record, he sure doesn’t let on in conversation.
Yet the Hamilton, Ohio, native’s aversion to the easy life is also evidenced by his inability to sit still for long. Just look at what he’s been doing this year. Currently on the road with the Twilight Singers, he’s also working on an album with former Screaming Tree/current tourmate Mark Lanegan. Add to that Dulli’s production work with Italian rock group Afterhours, Powder Burns ’ relatively recent release (last summer) and–much to the delight of old-school Dulli fans–an Afghan Whigs reunion of sorts.
The “of sorts” part is something of a caveat, since the ’90s alt-rock group (best remembered for their breakthrough album Gentlemen ) is only reuniting to record two songs, slated to appear on a best-of collection called Unbreakable . Nevertheless, resurrecting his beloved old band is testimony to the guy’s work ethic.
As for the Gutter Twins project, Dulli says, “It’s something that’s been going on for three years. I think [Lanegan] has joined us now to expedite the process.” An album date hasn’t been announced yet, though Dulli notes that their combined catalogs allow them to perform, at their whim, completely different sets night after night, depending on their mood. (Notably, they’ve each recorded cover albums. Lanegan’s solo album I’ll Take Care of You was a folksy, blues-influenced outing; the Twilight Singers’ She Loves You featured covers by artists as diverse as Fleetwood Mac and Mary J. Blige.)
Lastly, in terms of Dulli’s hard-lived lifestyle, there was the recording of Powder Burns . The album is at some points more orchestral and at others more testosterone-fueled than its predecessors, possibly due to the drama involved with piecing the thing together. Dulli recorded it in his current home of New Orleans (he also lives in Los Angeles), partly before Hurricane Katrina, but also in the weeks afterward. In a story that sounds like the stuff of urban legend, Dulli recorded some of Powder Burns in a studio being run on a generator, between rolling blackouts and without running water.
So, if you run into Greg Dulli at his show this week at the Launchpad, be kind to him. Self-imposed or not, the guy doesn’t have it easy.