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Carpe Diem

The Twilight Singers’ Greg Dulli puts his hand in the inferno just to check he’s still alive.

Lianne Steinberg
Citylife – Manchester Weekly
Jan 28-Feb 5 2004 Issue

To lose yourself in an album – have it soundtrack a snapshot of your life – is one hell of a good feeling. To have a band’s career of albums do such a thing is nothing short of fantastically good luck. For those raised on the grungey Sub Pop era of the mid-90s, Cincinnati’s Afghan Whigs managed to have such an effect. Their leader, Greg Dulli, had the devil on his shoulders and a pocketful of lust. When the Whigs finally came to their natural conclusion, Dulli delved deeper into his Motown roots and assembled the Twilight Singers, a loose collective of musicians who would take his demons to greater heights.

Unsurprisingly, in person Dulli is charming, attentive and witty, injecting his tales of endless touring with self-effacement as he insists he doesn’t party quite as hard these days. “I opened my second bar in LA on New Year’s Eve. It got so out of control that I left, I was in bed by 2am. Grandpa Dulli,” he says with an infectious laugh.

The Twilight Singers’ second album, Blackberry Belle, throbs with widescreen energy. But prior to its release, Dulli had an entirely different album ready to launch – until his life was crucially altered.

“I almost had a record done and then my best friend [film director Ted Demme] died, and I was devastated. I canned the record that I had done and LA reminded me of Teddy, so I moved back to New Orleans to record and then to Memphis and finished it in LA,” he pauses, “I’m a functional schizophrenic.”

Does that mean you’re healthy at the moment?

“Oh yeah, I’m healthy. Schizophrenia has nothing to do with vice or intake.”

If Dulli is functional despite his idiosyncrasies, his enthusiasm for touring remains in perspective: “I’ve been to Europe 15 times and, er, whoop-de-doo…” But with new, less wordly-wise musicians in tow, he’s sure that their excitement will rub off. As long as it doesn’t turn Dulli from the Devil’s pimp into a fluffy goofball…

“I’m sorry I’m not LIam Gallagher, darling,” he howls. “I’m very excited about coming to Manchester. Johnny Marr had better come. One night him and Bernard Sumner took me to some club and we walked in there and I felt like I was walking in with the two kings of Manchester. Bernard had a goddamn whistle blowing all night which got on my nerves,” he roars.

Dulli’s knowledge of Manchester is impressive, his anecdoetes peppered with humor. “we played the University in 1996 and Johnny Marr was backstage and so was Evan Dando and he brought these two una-brow cats with him who drank all our beer, and I was like ‘who the fuck are these guys?’ Some journalist said ‘that’s Noel and Liam Gallagher – they’re going to be the biggest band in the world’ and I’m like ‘fuck off! They drank all our fucking beer…’ And I got home and two weeks later Oasis were the biggest band in the world.”

Mancunian tales aside, Dulli has made a strong case for Blackberry Belle drawing inspiration from the classic Jack London novel, Martin Eden. It’s a testament to Dulli’s desire to raise the temperature of life’s expectations rather than dwell on mortality. And you can hear it in the strains of songs like ‘Teenage Wristband’ where he’s beckoned to drive into the night, broke and counting down the hours before the adventure is all over. The songs run into each another, grabbing life by the throat and seizing the day.

“You know what, dark is an easy badge to hang on me. Literally this album is about one day. It begins with a suicide, and from song two to song ten it’s the flashback that brought you there.”

“Granted, the death of my friend colours this record, but my understanding of death is the moment you are satisfied – that is the moment that you die mortally, figuratively. That’s not going to happen to me. I’m never satisfied with anything – with myself, with the world,” he laughs. Restlessness never sounded so sweet.

— Thanks, Lianne

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