Greg Dulli Faster Louder Interview
“Sometimes I forget that I was in another band,” says Greg Dulli, discussing the legacy of his years as the frontman for The Afghan Whigs. The band released a string of albums through the ‘90s that earned Dulli a reputation as a dark and complex character. The Ohio band successfully melded rock, soul and RnB at a time when grunge was king. Since their breakup in 2001, Dulli has continued to explore the shadows of the soul in various guises.
A man who thrives on collaboration, Dulli’s focus of the last few years has been The Gutter Twins, with fellow prince of darkness Mark Lanegan. Like his partner, Lanegan has built a post Screaming Trees career as a singer for hire, following his muse through Queens Of The Stone Age, Isobel Campbell, The Twilight Singers and his own solo records. With their drama-soaked voices, both men gravitate towards angst and heartache – so working together seemed a logical step.
Dulli rates Lanegan’s voice as one of the best. “Aside from being my friend and collaborator he truly is one of my favourite singers that I’ve ever heard,” he states with conviction. The attraction to working together seems to be a mutual one built on respect for each other’s voices.
“When I heard his first solo record I was like, ‘my god’, I can’t really compare him to anyone,” says Dulli. “I can tell you as someone who has learned to sing with Mark over the years, his phrasing is utterly unique and unto himself. It’s almost like learning algebra. The song will bend to Mark and that’s to the song’s benefit.”
After releasing their debut album Saturnalia in 2008, The Gutter Twins toured as a full band, exploring their blues and soul-inflected rock at full volume. Then came phase two in January, with a USA and European tour dubbed ‘An Evening With Greg Dulli & Mark Lanegan’. Now expanded to Australia and South America, the idea was to strip away the musical layers from a variety of songs from both of their back catalogues, leaving just the duo’s voices to carry the performance.
Originally the idea was to tour the whole band, but logistically the stripped-down show proved to be more practical. “The full band costs a lot of money. Being asked to do this tour mean it makes more sense to do it acoustically. Plus we would have to re-rehearse the whole thing,” explains Dulli. The two singers are joined by an additional guitarist and Dulli is keen to point out the enjoyment he gets from the format. “I love playing this show, the interplay between me and Mark and Dave Rosser, I’ve never really had that in any other form so I’m totally looking forward to it.”
For the first time the Twins will also be looking back to their former bands and breathing new life into some of their favourite songs. “I’m playing a couple of Whigs songs in this show we are doing,” Dulli says. “I really hadn’t done any Whig songs in ten years so it’s been fun to revisit them – in a new way. People sure do like them.”
Rather than just singing their own songs, Dulli and Lanegan mix up their roles to give the audience a different perspective. “We’re both singing all the songs, whether as the lead singer or harmony singer or a straight-up duet. One of us pipes up at some point during the other one’s songs. It’s cool, I sing a couple of lines from his songs and he sings a couple of lines from my songs too, so it’s cool,” he enthuses.
Reinterpreting other people’s songs has always been a big part of Dulli’s live shows, where he has been inspired to tackle everything from Prince, to old soul classics, to Fat Freddy’s Drop. Recently the tables have been turned with the imminent release of Summer’s Kiss, A Tribute To The Afghan Whigs, featuring the likes of Lanegan and Joseph Arthur. Dulli is flattered by the tribute and is looking forward to hearing the different versions – though one key song is missing. “I used to say I wished Whitney Houston would cover one of mine just to make some money,” he jokes.
Dulli is currently recording the next Twilight Singers album and is taking time out from that for the upcoming tour. Though it interrupts that project, there is still some continuity as both his travel mates are involved with the new record. “Rosser is in the Twilight Singers so we can work on things in hotel rooms, it’ll be good. Mark is singing on the Twilight record as well.”
As for future plans, Dulli is confident that the Gutter Twins will reappear at some point. “I’m certain we’ll do another Gutter Twins record some day; there’s no reason why we won’t. I’ve been lucky to be able to do things when I want to do them and that worked for me. I’m not going to fuck with the situation.”
The Gutter Twins land this month for Splendour In The Grass and two ‘acoustic evenings’ presented by FasterLouder.