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Dulli And Lanegan Are Total Music BFFs

The Gutter Twins sound like every Gen-Xer’s wet dream: Two perennial ’90s favourites, Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan and The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli, coming together to create a project to provide an intersection between northwestern grunge and midwestern college rock while recalling the late ’80s-early ’90s heydays of both — and, of course, released on Sub Pop.

But while most of those things happen to be true about The Gutter Twins and their recently released Saturnalia full-length debut, Lanegan and Dulli’s brainchild isn’t nearly as nostalgic — nor as calculated — as that. Both musicians have plenty of projects to keep them busy. Serial collaborator Lanegan’s an occasional member of Queens Of The Stone Age and has a fruitful solo career, while Dulli fronts The Twilight Singers. The Gutter Twins were simply a friendly pet project between two guys who wanted to make music together whenever possible.

“We wrote and recorded the first songs around Christmas in 2003,” Dulli explains over the phone from his Chicago hotel room. “Then, I was playing piano in Mark’s band on the first leg of the Bubblegum tour.

“Then we didn’t do anything in 2005 because I had moved to Italy to play with an Italian band. Then we did a little bit here and there until, finally, the record was finished between March and September of 2007. But, of the four years, it only really took 40 days to make it.”

Although the album was recorded over a lengthy period of time, which raised continuity questions, Dulli insists that Saturnalia didn’t suffer from occasional abandonment.

“The first four songs, because we didn’t let them get out, they stayed kind of holy. They were very timeless songs. We just had to go back and react with them. I don’t even like telling people which songs they are, because you can’t tell.”

Saturnalia, which finally made its debut in early March, is a nod to teamwork. While the record has its roots fixed firmly in the scenes that birthed Dulli and Lanegan’s careers, Saturnalia isn’t quite the grunge revival some might expect. Dark, gritty and unafraid to get experimental with genre and sound, this is a truly alternative alt.rock record helmed by two of the genre’s most iconic voices. It also sounds completely genuine, which is another nod to the pair’s creative process.

“We have a very natural way of working,” Dulli says. “It’s different from my past work because it’s a collaboration with my friend.

“I’ve had the final say on everything else I’ve done. This is a partnership. To be able to write songs for him to sing, and to have him write songs for me to sing — he’s like my brother. It’s a true thrill to make a record with him. The Gutter Twins is not a one-off. As long as I know Mark, we’ll make records together. It’s never not been a good experience knowing Mark Lanegan.”

Considering that these two guys forged their careers under the DIY ethical code of ’90s grunge culture, it may seem surprising that Lanegan and Dulli were more than happy to use technology to their advantage on Saturnalia.

“Making music is a lot easier now,” explains Dulli. “We did a lot of this record in houses and living rooms.

“A lot of times, Mark and I don’t live in the same town. He’s in L.A. and I’m in New Orleans. It’s fantastic to just be able to email tracks to each other.”

That said, Dulli thinks the record’s musical evolution recalled the old days.

“It was very organic. Somebody would have a lick and he’d play it, and if the other person liked it, then it was built on. There was no, ‘Let’s make it sound like this.’ It went back to the days when we’d play together on my front porch.”

—Jen Zoratti

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