Dude, Where’s Greg Dulli’s Car?
By Richard O Jones
Bulter County, Hamilton, Ohio – Journal News
It’s 2 p.m., a beautiful sunny afternoon in California — Malibu, maybe — and Greg Dulli can’t find his car.
Dulli, a 1983 graduate of Ross High School, first hit the national rock spotlight with the band Afghan Whigs.
Since the break-up of the Whigs in 1997, Dulli has been performing with a revolving cadre of musicians he has dubbed the Twilight Singers, which will be performing Saturday at the Southgate House in Newport, Ky., in support of his latest album, “Blackberry Belle.”
Tickets are $12 advance, $15 at the door, which open at 7:30 p.m., concert at 9 p.m. Tickets are on sale at Musictoday, Shake It Records in Northside, or at the Southgate House. The Wolverton Brothers will open. Call (859) 431-2201 for more information.
“I went to a party last night,” he said. “Now my car is gone.”
Are you sure you drove there?
“Yeah, but I don’t know where it is. Where I am. They were all very nice, though. How’s the weather in Hamilton?”
It’s a beautiful day. I wish I were outside looking for my car.
When you going back on the road?
“The 27th. In Orlando.”
What’s the band like? Who you got going out?
“It’s the same band as before. We played there once already.”
I know. You blew off the interview we had scheduled to preview that show.
“We’ve played like 60 shows already. We’re a very seasoned unit. Where is my (expletive) car?”
So what do you want to talk about?
“That’s a pretty vague question, Richard.”
Yes, it is. I’d rather talk about something other than you losing your car.
“(Expletive). I don’t know where I parked it. Well, look, if this is just another bump in the road in your day, if you don’t have some deep, probing, insightful questions to ask, my advice to you would be to just make up a story, attribute whatever quotes to me you want. You can make me look like a superstar or a clown or a demon or a philosopher or whatever you want. Today my benevolence is at a high and I want to help.”
Well, the fact of the matter is that it’s 5 p.m. here, I’m on deadline with two stories to write, a copy editor waiting for me to get those finished, we had this interview scheduled, you’ve lost your car, and I’m not particularly impressed by the mundane trials and tribulations of a rock star.
“If this is just a bump in your day, I free you up to express yourself in whatever way you want. Write your existentialist epic. Be Sartre. I’ve got to figure out where my car is. (Expletive)! I don’t even know where I am. It looks like Malibu.”
So tell me what happened at the party last night.
“I had a pretty good time. I think. You know how I can tell? I’ve got somebody else’s shoes on — and they fit! And they’re way cooler than the shoes I had on.”
Is this what it’s like to be a big rock star?
“Well, I’m a bit more multi-dimensional than this. You just got me at a weird time. If it were a Sunday afternoon, you might have caught me coming out of church.”
I’m sure that happens on a regular basis.
“No (expletive). I used to be an altar boy at St. Fredrick or St. Stephen or whatever it was. It has a girl’s name now.”
St. Julie Billiart?
“Yeah, that’s the one. My mom took me there every Sunday. I grew up going to church. I was an altar boy. Are you going to come to the show?”
I might, if I don’t have anything else to do.
“Don’t you like to rock? It’ll change your life, Richard.”
My life has had enough changes, Greg. And I like to rock as much as the next guy, but —
“What was the last record you bought, Richard?”
I don’t know. I don’t buy that many records. I get enough here at work to keep me busy. The last one I actually bought — when I buy records it’s usually old stuff — is the “Let It Be — Naked” record.
“What a (expletive) rip-off that is. Phil Spector — he’s about to become a convicted murderer out here, you know — was (expletive) genius. I’m getting really sick of Paul McCartney lately, wanting to change the credits around on all the songs and everything. He’s been getting on my nerves. He’s becoming what they call ‘a tosser.’
“Hey, have you seen a black Jetta with tinted windows? … A Jetta … The windows are all tinted black … A Dr. Dre-ish kind of thing, if Dr. Dre would drive a Jetta… I’m not sure.”
Who are you talking to?
“I don’t know. She might be a crack head. Are you a crack head?… No, but you look like you might be a crack head… No. I like reefer.
“I’m just trying to find my (expletive) car. I don’t know where it is. These shoes are the bomb though. So are you from Hamilton, Richard?”
Born and raised. We actually grew up in the same neighborhood.
“No (expletive)? Hold on. Hold on… Hello?”
“(Expletive). Hold on.”
(There’s a long silence while he takes call waiting.)
“I’ve got Millville on the other line. Hold on. Hello?”
“(Expletive Deleted). Hold on … Hello?”
“(Expletive Deleted). I lost him. That was Tim Huxel.”
I knew some Huxels.
“Well, he lives in Phoenix now. Did you go to Hamilton High School?”
No, I went to Ross, like you. We grew up in the same neighborhood. I’m a (Sharon) Park boy, too.
“No (expletive). How far behind me were you?”
I’m ahead of you. I was the class of ’77.
“So you went to school with Paul Roberts and those dudes?”
Yeah, I know Paul. We were in the same class.
“So you know Hochie and all those guys, too.”
I didn’t know Hochie very well, but I know who he is. So tell me about growing up in Sharon Park. What was your first band?
“My first band was called Helen Highwater. It was run by a guy named — ”
Mike Estes. I know Mike pretty well.
“He went on to be in Lynyrd Skynyrd for a while. He sat next to me in biology and gave me 20 bucks one time to eat a squid that was in formaldehyde. I took his (expletive) money and puked the next period without telling anyone. He’s a NASCAR man now.”
Yeah. He had a band called Drivin’ Sideways or something like that. So what happened with you and Helen Highwater? Couldn’t learn all the Skynyrd riffs?
“We were a rock cover band and Mike wanted to turn it into Lynyrd Skynyrd. We had a gig at a battle of the bands thing and we had a long break so were out checking out the other bands. Mike saw a guy in one of the other bands that looked like Ronnie Van Zant and started talking to him. So he kicked me out of the band because I didn’t look enough like Ronnie Van Zant. That was OK. He wanted to be in Lynyrd Skynyrd and I wanted to be in the Rolling Stones.”
When was the last time you talked to him?
“Like 20 years or something.”
Oh. It sounded like you keep up.
“Nah. I just hear (expletive) about him. I wish him well. He’s a talented guy and a funny guy. Living well is the best revenge.”
When did you leave Hamilton?
“I left to go to college when I was 17 and never looked back.”
Where did you go to college?
“University of Cincinnati.”
What did you study?
Is that when you hooked up with the guys in the Afghan Whigs?
“No. I’ve lived all over the (expletive) country. My life has been so weird. Not as weird as it is right now. If I don’t find my car soon, I’m going to have to steal one. Hochie taught me how to hot wire a car. I can hot wire any car in the lot. I haven’t picked one out yet, but I can guarantee you it’s going to be a convertible. So where do you live now, Richard? What part of town?”
I live in Millville, near the Queen of Peace school.
“I know where that is.”
I’ve got two kids going to Ross School, too. What do you remember about Ross High School? When did you graduate?
“I graduated in 1983
“(My mom) still lives in Hamilton. She lives in Lindenwald. The gateway to the south.”
The gateway to Fairfield, maybe.
“I had some great teachers in that school. I could name them off if you want me to.”
“My first great teacher was Mrs. Shelton in the second grade at Elda Elementary. Then there was Mrs. Iams in the fifth grade. Mr. Gross in the sixth grade. But the greatest of all was Ms. Ganz at the high school. Ms. Ganz was my favorite teacher.”
I know her quite well. Still see her all the time. I was one of her drama darlings.
“She tried to get me to do drama. I said if she’d ever do ‘Dracula’ I’d like to play Dracula. But she never did it, so I didn’t either.”
So tell me about the Twilight Singers. What’s the idea behind that?
“If it’s me singing and your grandma playing bongos, that’s the Twilight Singers. The Twilight Singers is me and whoever I invite along for the ride. I was in a band for 14 years and except that we had three drummers, the rest of us were faithful. So it’s like anybody that’s been in a marriage, no matter how good or bad it was, once you get out, it’s party time. I guess I’m uncovering my shallowness now. Hubris doesn’t work when you wear black. Johnny Cash said that. They’ll (expletive) when I drive into that demolition derby in this T-Bird.”
Are you breaking into a Thunderbird?
“No. The top’s down, the ignition wires are showing. This car is going to be mine. For a while. Then it’ll be in the demolition derby in West Covina.”
So do you have anything special planned for the Southgate House?
Are you going to tell me about it?
“It wouldn’t be special then, would it, tiger?”
Sure it would.
“I’m also incredibly delusional. I’m stealing this (expletive) car. I shouldn’t be telling you all this, but what the (expletive)? By the time this runs, it won’t matter. I’ve got good lawyers, I’m an upstanding citizen and I own several properties in Los Angeles County. It won’t hurt. So ask me another question.”
Do you really expect people to get all the literary references, all the Jack London references in your new record? (The first song is titled “Martin Eden,” after a Jack London novel.)
“There’s only one thing that it’s important to, and your talking to it. I’ve never pandered to the public’s stupidity and lack of education and I’m not about to start now. It’s personal to me, but I hope someone will pick up the book and read it.”
Do you read a lot? What was the last book you read?
“The last book I read was ‘Weathercock’ by Glen Duncan. The protagonist so resembled me that it freaked me out. So read it and get ready for the nightmares to ensue. This is a big parking lot and my car is not out here.”
So you’re really just wandering around a parking lot in what may or may not be Malibu, getting ready to steal a car?
“No. Right now, I’m sitting under a cabana plotting my next move.”
And you really have no idea where you were, who’s party you were at? Did they know you?
“I prefer not to know people. It makes it too complicated. I like to be a fly on the wall. I saw things I shouldn’t have seen and heard things I shouldn’t have heard last night. I’ll be enacting some blackmail in the next few days — if I ever get out of here. That’s how you make your mortgage payments.”
Well, we’ve been talking for a half-hour now. I guess I better let you go and find your way home.
“OK. Well, come out to the Southgate House. We’ll rock.”
Cool. I’ll see if I can make it. It’s April 6, right?
“Something like that.”
OK. So good luck with the demolition derby, dude.