FHM Sept 03
As frontman for Cincinnatiís Afghan Whigs, Greg Dulli personified the soulful storyteller with an undercurrent of dark humor. Six albums worth of stylish debonair rock led to an altogether friendly break up, with Dulli regrouping and collaborating with various musicians to create the Twilight Singers, whose new album Blackberry Belle serves as a lush extension of the Whigs’ end direction. Greg sat down with Kris Chen to discuss favorite records, cover songs, and the definitive statement on Tupac.
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You’re known to have a love of Motown/Stax soul and R&B records. What was the first record you remember really moving you?
The first record I ever bought was I Want You Back by the Jackson 5. To this day, I won’t play in a band unless they know how to play it. If you can’t play the bass line, you can’t play with me. It’s the greatest song I’ve ever heard, hands down.
Have records like that shaped your own songwriting?
Well, first of all, I’m not that good a musician. I could never copy soul music just because it would come off all minstrel-like. But I can take the idea and feel and create my own sloppy weird arrangement and go into a studio, where you get an engineer and make them make you sound good.
Do you keep in touch with the rest of the Afghan Whigs? Any chance of a reunion?
Oh yeah- I still talk to those guys. They’re always going to be my friends. When we broke up, it was probably the most amicable split ever! We sat around a table and talked and said “Remember how we said we’d stop when this isn’t fun anymore? It’s not fun anymore.” Then we made fun of each other and got drunk. But we’re spread out all across the country – I don’t think a reunion is going to happen. I never go back to Ohio either – it makes my stomach hurt.
Tell me about this bar you opened in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles.
Yeah – it’s called the Shortstop and has been around since 1966. Joseph Wambaugh wrote about it in The Choirboys… it was a cop bar that was the hangout for the Rampart Division of the LAPD. Let’s just say it was a morally ambiguous squad over there. I came in as an owner at the last minute, and was a bartender there for the first 4 or 5 months. Now I still jump back there every once in a while if I can’t wait for someone to pour me a drink
I remember you and Donal Logue hosting MTVís 120 Minutes and it was one of the funniest things I ever saw. Ever given thought to ditching music for stand up comedy or acting?
In December, when we get a break, I’m doing this record with (ex-Screaming Trees) Mark Lanegan but after that I’m doing a public access talk show. I’ve already assumed my character and let me just say that Andy Kaufman can suck my dick.
Um, Greg – Andy Kaufman is dead.
No he isn’t. He’s alive.
You mean like Tupac is alive?
No, Tupac is dead.
Anyway, for this talk show, I’m going to rein in some of my famous friends and guilt them into it. We’ll ditch it right before it becomes uncool. As for acting, I’m not a trained actor so… it means nothing to me. Movie making is too hurry up and wait, a-pain-in-the-ass-drag. The one guy I’d act for is gone now… Ted Demme. I loved watching him.
The Afghan Whigs were famous for throwing cover songs into the middle of a set or even in the middle of another song. Will you be doing any on the Twilight Singers tour?
I think it’s sort of like Tourette’s for me. I couldn’t help it if I tried. It’s like when you throw a ball to a dog. So two of the songs we’re doing are “Black is the color of my true love’s hair” and also “Cloudbusting” by Kate Bush, which is a real head bopper. I’m going into the studio to record that one.
Can you hit the high notes like Kate?
Are you kidding? Hell no. I’m talking Kate major, Dulli minor. We use the black keys.
The Twilight Singerís newest release, Blackberry Belle, comes out October 14th.