EYE WEEKLY – The Gutter Twins

EYE WEEKLY – The Gutter Twins
BY Stuart Berman

The Gutter Twins is the latest project from two guys hardly lacking for extracurricular activities: former Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli, now leader of R&B-noir ensemble The Twilight Singers and a successful bar proprietor; and former Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan, who, on top of his own solo career, moonlights with everyone from ex-Belle and Sebastian siren Isobel Campbell to Queens of the Stone Age. But an official union between these two black-lunged belters — both of whom weathered the ’90s alt-rock gold-rush and subsequent, substance-abuse-fuelled fallouts — was too good a prospect to pass up, and the resulting, four-years-in-the-­making album, Saturnalia (Sub Pop), sounds even better than the idea looks on paper, expertly fusing Lanegan’s grim-reaper growl with Dulli’s widescreen soul vision. On the phone from his Chicago hotel room, Dulli discusses the company to his misery.

A lot of Gutter Twins press so far highlights the parallels between your lives and careers — how would you say you and Mark differ as people? Well, if you were doing this interview with Mark right now, it’d be over already. I know him differently, but I’ve watched him with people he doesn’t know and he’s reticent, introspective, reserved, shy even. I am not afflicted with any of those personality defects [laughs].

You like hanging out so much, you opened a bar. I own three bars now: I’ve had the Short Stop [in LA] for seven years, Footsies [also in LA] for four, and then I just bought a bar/hotel in New Orleans.

Are things getting better down there now? Yeah. It’s going to take a while. I’ve lived there now for 10 years. It’s always been a strange place, but half the people are still gone and I don’t know when or if they’re coming back. But nature hates a vacuum and there are a lot of empty buildings down there. It was always an inexpensive town to live in, but for artist types and people who are looking to do creative things — and, as most people know, to do creative things, you have to live on a shoestring — it’s the ideal place. The renaissance will come from that vacuum. It’s only been two and a half years since the hurricane, and you’ll probably start seeing it turn the corner in about five. But I’m noticing things all the time, and the great thing is the Hispanic population has begun to build up there — the people who came to rebuild and tear down are staying. That’s been encouraging — it’s like Nuevo Orleans.

Back when they were your age, The Rolling Stones were making albums like Dirty Work, and even then they seemed like a spent force. But now, it feels like being in a band in your forties is less of a strike against you. How do you feel staring down a crowd of 25-year-old grad students? I’m kind of psyched to see young people at the show. I’m psyched to look behind me at a 23-year-old drummer and a 29-year-old keyboard player. They keep you young. I’ve never really wrapped my head around being 30 or 40 — I still feel forever 18. I will turn 43 on May 11, but I am the youngest Gutter Twin — that’s all I’m going to say.

But you and Mark have always worked with different collaborators and always exposed yourself to new music, which is what keeps artists relevant, as opposed to turning into Paul McCartney. Well, he’s got a young band, but when you’ve got a billion dollars and your one-legged wife is trying to take half of it, that’s a whole different ball game. But here’s the example I’ll give: Nick Cave is 50 years old. When he did that Grinderman album [last year], I was like, “Who’s playing guitar?” And it was him! And he didn’t know how to play guitar; he taught himself how to play, and when he did, he was like, “I want to play guitar in my new band,” so he made up a new band. That guy is the measuring stick that I use. That he did that, I was like, “Fuck yeah, man — maybe I will learn how to play trumpet!”

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