Melody Maker 8.98

Interview with Greg Dulli
Melody Maker August 1998

The Afghan Whigs return to action with a new album and a Main Stage appearance at the Reading festival.

The album, ‘1965’, is released by Columbia in October, and the Whigs play Reading on August 28. Mainman (and leading alternative pin-up) Greg Dulli got on the blower from his home in Seattle to tell the Maker where he’s been, where he’s going and why he’s named the new Whigs release after the year he was born…

Welcome back, Greg. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you, but Reading is nearly upon us. Are you looking forward to it?
“Any time I get to play music is a good day! If I wasn’t going to Reading, I’d probably be playing in my garage! I just remember it being massive. Biblical! People just spilling out into the distance, like Moses is feeding the people or something. I don’t know that they do festivals that big over here, unless it’s the stadiums. In Europe, they seem to care about everyone who plays a festival. Over here, it’s just like, ‘Play your hit and get off.’ And you know what? We don’t have a hit!”

The new album begins with some of the poppiest songs we’ve ever heard from you. Is this your big bid for mainstream glory?
“Oh, please don’t say that! But I’m a big Motown fan and Berry Gordy (the legendary Sixties soul label’s founder) said: ‘Hey, load all your catchy ones up at the start!’ So I did that!”

That probably helps explain the title, as well…
“Absolutely! Right away, we’re telling you how old we are! We ain’t spring chickens any more! Once you get out of your twenties, you don’t suddenly go ‘Rock’n’Roll, f*** it!’ This is probably the most rock’n’roll album we’ve ever done! For me, nobody ever does a real rock record any more. We wanted to do a short album, stripped down, and I think it works.” You could, of course, be criticised for being retro and backward- looking.

What would you say to that (potential) criticism?
“Erm….f*** you, motherf***er! We used real instruments and backing singers, but we’re following a time-honoured tradition of rock’n’roll! You show me a record that sounds more rock’n’roll, and I’ll suck your dick in Leicester Square, man! If I was a better singer, I wouldn’t write songs any more. Interpretation is much more fulfilling to me than actually writing songs, because I’m lazy! Maybe in my twilight years, I’ll get me a piano player and a cocktail bar job.”

Would you say that there are any new lyrical themes on this album? You have a bit of a reputation as a chronicler of dysfunctional relationships…
“No. When I look back on my ouevre, I can see that it leans pretty heavily towards masochism. This time around, I can tell you that there was no romantic distress in my life – which was great! I was going to a lot of parties and having a great time.”

Is it true that you’re planning a new career in the cinema?
“Yep! I did this movie called ‘Monument Avenue’ that’s coming out in October in America. I played a coke-dealing hit-man! I did all the songs for it as well!”

Blimey! Is it a big role?
“No, although I had to take acting lessons…Let’s just say that certain storylines turn on my character.”

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