Dulli Takes a Break
Whigged Out Greg Dulli’s Taking a Break From The Afghan Whigs With His Side-project, Twilight
“I always liked High Times” claims Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers frontman Greg Dulli. “They’re a big fuck-you to the establishment.” A native of Cincinnati and now a resident of Los Angeles, Dulli grew up listening to his parents’ Motown, Stax and Philadelphia soul records. “When I was a kid, I sold marijuana” he reveals, “but didn’t smoke it. Don’t get high on your own supply. I bought a car with the money.” While majoring in history and film at the University of Cincinnati, Dulli decided to play drums in a few local bands. “I didn’t like staring at the singers ass, he quips. So, at the height of the grunge explosion, he assembled the Afghan Whigs, a highly respected underground band that skirted typical indie-rock fare for a more soulful, lyrically expressive style. Seattle based indie Sub-pop released three Whigs albums before the band moved on to major label Elektra. “When we signed up with Sub-pop around 1990, we knew we were never gong to be the Mudhoney or Nirvana,” recalls Dulli. We weren’t from Seattle. We were from Cincinnati, where a lot of funk bands started. Bootsy Collins is from there and the Ohio Players, Zapp and Lakeside are from just up the road.
During the recording of the Afghan Whigs celebratory 1965 album in ’98, Dulli also wrote what he describes as “a downtempo mood piece to rock yourself to sleep to.” At the time he was temporarily living in New Orleans’ French Quarter with only a bicycle for transportation. The result, TWILIGHT AS PLAYED BY THE TWILIGHT SINGERS (Colombia) is a lovelorn, despair ridden record enhanced by the electronica /acid jazz remix duo Fila Brazillia. Two of Dulli’s longtime friends, Shawn Smith of Pigeonhed and Harold Chichester of Howlin’ Maggie, provide background harmonies throughout. A warm hypnotic aphrodesiac Twilight compares favorably to Van Morrisson’s symphonic masterpiece Astral Weeks and Roxy Musics’ Avalon. Though most of Twilght’s moody reflections depict the loneliness and sorrow Dulli felt after a courtship painfully concluded, the softly flowing acoustic ballad “Clyde” finds him seeking bohemian-style relief as he coos, Baby doll,why you leaving?/Come upstairs and get high with me /The time is nigh, for us to fly”. “Twilight is my version of New Orleans,” Dulli observes. I’d already used a big brass section, boogie-woogie piano and steel drums on 1965. Twilight is more inspired by the ancient atmosphere of literary New Orleans, rather than it’s musical one.”
Though the Cresent City may be the birthplace of marijuana-smoking in America, it’s still a long way from Amsterdam. Dulli declares, “To me, it’s a fucking joke that you can’t smoke pot freely in America. Look no further than Holland. They have one of the lowest crime rates in the world and prostitution is legal. They’re legally allowed to grow marijuana. And it’s a harmonious society.”
The tobacco and alcohol industries lobby against it,” he continues as he puffs on a joint. “They don’t want anyone impeding thier turf. I’ve never seen anyone get into a fight who was stoned. But you see a lot of drunk people start fights. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather smoke a joint than drink a beer.” Dulli usually refrains from getting stoned during the day. “I want to make sure I have a productive day,” he says, “if I have to meet people for business, I don’t want to get stoned; I don’t want to be distracted and concentrate on something else. The sun has to be down..”
However, he does make a few concessins. “If I’m on a day off, I’ll wake and bake, especially if I’m on the beach.” Dulli admits, “I play in a six foot and under basketball league. We all smoke a joint before we play. We went eight and two last year. I’m an outside shooter, I see the hole like it’s a bucket and get into a zone.”
By John Fortunato