60 SECONDS: Greg Dulli
Singer Greg Dulli was frontman with 1990s grunge rockers The Afghan Whigs when he would famously leave the stage for a 20-minute fag break. He is now lead singer with The Twilight Singers, whose last album detailed Dulli’s drug addiction. The band release a new EP, A Stitch In Time, online next Monday and in shops on December 4. They start a tour in Dublin on November 18.
How would you compare The Twilight Singers to The Afghan Whigs?
Similar but different. There’s more of a reliance on backing vocals, loops, samples and keyboards than there was in the Whigs.
Is there a grunge revival going on? Pearl Jam headlined the Reading Festival.
Any musical movement has a revival. I consider what Pearl Jam does to be rock ‘n’ roll. I never liked the word ‘grunge’. To me, it’s all rock ‘n’ roll.
How did the grunge scene change the musical landscape of the 1990s?
At the time, there was sh*t music all over the place. It came along and shined a light on how bad that sh*t was. There’s good and bad in any movement and the imitators were just as bad as anyone who imitates anything. The good bands that came out of it had a refreshing honesty that hadn’t been around since the early 1980s. You can see the hair metal scene coming back in Los Angeles, though. People pine for it.
Is it a bit depressing to see it come back after all you did to stamp it out?
Nah. I loved Mötley Crüe, I really did.
Did grunge have any long-term effects on the music industry?
Life is a constant state of evolution; it rises and falls like the tide. When I was a kid, I saw bands like Sonic Youth, Husker Du and The Replacements. To me, a group like Nirvana was the logical successor to that. The scene had an enormous underground popularity and it just needed someone to come along and put a face on it – and that was Nirvana with Smells Like Teen Spirit.
A few months after I stopped doing drugs, I got myself checked out to see how much permanent damage I’d done and I hadn’t done any
You’ve done a Massive Attack cover on the new EP – are you a fan of British trip hop?
Sure. Blue Lines changed my life when it came out in 1991. I love good music wherever it comes from. I’ve been a fan of Terry Callier since I was 20 and that song Live With Me was one of the best I’ve heard him sing. Those words were ripe for reinterpretation.
Are there any other surprise covers you’ll be doing?
We’re doing a Justin Timberlake cover – it’s called Lovestoned. We’ve got another one but I’m keeping it secret. It’s a good one, though. I want to keep the element of surprise.
You reunited with the rest of The Afghan Whigs for two songs on the retrospective album – what was that like?
It was like a family reunion picnic for a week. It was fun. We all stayed friends but a week just allowed us to enjoy our friendship while reminding us that we’d made the right decision by splitting up.
You recorded your last album, Powder Burns, in New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit. Why didn’t you record it somewhere less chaotic?
Because I have a home there and my friends needed me. If you bail on your friends in their time of need, you’re not much of a friend. I stayed there and persevered with everyone else.
What’s New Orleans like now?
It’s ugly. The crime is out of control. There are murders every day. There’s a creeping sense of the unknown but I remain staunchly aligned with the city. I’ve lived there for nine years. I’ve been all over the world but it’s by far one of the most unique cities I’ve been to. I really like the village aspect of it. I can walk everywhere.
Has enough been done to sort out the problems?
George Bush hasn’t done anything. The inaction in New Orleans is another in a long line of that guy’s ineptitudes. The fact people sat on roofs five days after the hurricane with no food or water says everything you need to know about what a piece of sh*t that guy and his administration is. All the help that’s coming to New Orleans is coming from within. It’s the people in the city that are doing the work. That’s why I won’t leave.
You came off drugs shortly before you wrote Powder Burns. How has your life changed?
I don’t and never have equated drugs or alcohol with creativity. I wasn’t on drugs when I was nine and began to notice the creative side of my personality. I stopped doing drugs because I was dying. It was a survival instinct. Now, I’m a more productive human being in all walks of life.
You were attacked at one of your gigs and put in a coma. Has that left you with any problems?
No. A few months after I stopped doing drugs, I got myself checked out to see how much permanent damage I’d done and I hadn’t done any. I don’t have any issues from that assault. I went on tour when I was kicking drugs and that was painful, ha ha ha. I’ve never cancelled shows even when I was f**ked up. I’m a man of my word and had 25 shows to do and I did them but I was sick every day. No one knew apart from the group.
Do you still go for cigarette breaks during a gig?
I smoke on stage now. The cigarette breaks were largely apocryphal. I only did three or four but they were well reviewed. I was 22 and a snotty little brat. I did those gigs in Cincinnati where people needed an attitude adjustment more than anywhere else I’ve ever been. It’s my home town, I love it, but I don’t live there any more, if you know what I mean.
You own several bars. What’s the best way of handling a brawl?
Hire security meaner than anyone else in there. We’ve never had a bad situation. Create an environment where fighting is an abomination and you are clearly the arsehole if you start a fight.
Are they celebrity hang-outs?
Kirsten Dunst and Penelope Cruz came in last week. I’ll have to check how drunk they got but I think they had a good time. The bars aren’t celebrity places – we don’t charge an entrance. If you just buy drinks and want a good time, you’re allowed in.