The Greg Dulli interview | by Neil Rhodes
It was a little intimidating, interviewing the frontman for one of rock n rollís greatest outfits. Greg Dulliís career is nothing if not amazing. Fronting the Afghan Whigs for some 15 years, and now fronting the aptly named Twilight Singers, Dulli has worked tirelessley to create some really great rock n roll. That sentence falls short of how truly wonderful his career has been, but it is hard to put words on things that can only be experienced. Needless to say, I hold this man in high regard. But his ease of manner set me to rest and we flowed with this interview tao-like and easy.
NR: Hi, Mr. Dulli. How are you?
GD: Fine. I have been doing so many interviews with different magazines. I got so bored, I started lying to entertain myself. I told this woman from Italy that I had multiple personalities and that my parents had me exorcised when I was a child. Let me just say that I think that it is so cool that you are in Jacksonville. I love Lynyrd Skynyrd. When I was in high school, I was in this band. We wanted to call ourselves The Allen Collins Band. We actually got a phone book and called him to ask his permission. He said no, but gave us the name we used, Hell and Highwater. They actually kicked me out of the band and the guy they got to replace me looked almost exactly like Ronnie van Zandt. I am a disciple of Ronnie van Zandt.
NR: Well, hopefully soon I will moving to Chicago and then on to New York.
GD: Good luck. I hate New York. New York is like jacking coke. Itís fun for a little while, but then youíre out of money and the fun stops. You know what I really hate about [New York]? You can see the most beautiful woman you have ever seen, the one you know you will marryÖthen, a block later you will forget all about her when you see a woman even more beautiful than the first oneÖbut good luck.
NR: Well, I bet they are all kicking themselves in the butt now. Youíve had some real success.
GD: Yeah, but those guys werenít really into it. I wish them well, though. That was high school.
NR: How did you come by the name “Twilight Singers”?
GD: Twilight is a powerful word for two reasons. One, itís a nether region. In a balanced world, there is a scale. Twilight is the balance. Any way you wanna take it: loose, tight, shoobie-doobie. [Laughs] Itís ghostly. Secondly, thereís this town called Twilight. Itís outside Charleston in the hills. I drove through it one night and on a piece of notebook paper, I saw a sign that said, “Tonight: The Twilight Singers”. I just thought how beautiful that soundsÖ
NR: And how did you come by the new albumís title, Blackberry Belle?
GD: It came from Number Nine, the last song on the album. [Sweet talkinífly on the wall/Blackberry Belle of the ball] Itís a conversation between a man and the person he had to settle with. [Itís like Mark] Lanegan (formerly of Screaming Trees) was Gilmore and I was Waters. Blackberry Belle is the motherfucking devil. [laughs]
NR: There are quite a few artists appearing in one form or another both on the first record and on this one. Was there anyone with whom you wanted to record, but were unable to for some reason?
GD: I got everyone I wanted on Blackberry Belle. Cyril Neville (of the Neville Brothers) was supposed to play and one time we thought he was outside the door, but New Orleans people are…I would like to record with Prince, but between him telling me to put out the cigarettes and me sayiní “What the fuckís up with Jehovaís Witness?”ÖI wanna Jam with Jimmy Page.
NR: Did you set about making this record with the intent to make it so beautiful it broke someoneís heart?
GD: If youíre saying that about it, thatís one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. I think itís vicarious catharsis. When I was writing Gentleman, I did it just to keep my mind off [things]. And the record I played the whole time I was writing it was “Blood On the Tracks” [Bob Dylan] But your definition is correct, what you take away from it.
NR: Do you feel as at home with your new project as you did with the Whigs?
GD: Yes. #1 because I stepped away & did other things and Iíve been doing this since I was a teen. You have to wait out the blocks. Sometimes I write three songs in a week and others I couldnít write “Once upon a time” if you put a gun in my mouth. There are people who are just genius with lyrics. Andre 3000 [Outkast] is channeling some serious Saturn. “Shake it like a Polaroid picture.” Who else writes shit like that? You know, the chord progression for “Hey Ya” is the same as “66” from the last Whigs record.
NR: Is the songwriting process the same?
GD: Well, I build the house and then I bring in the interior decorators. Hold onÖ
[goes to other line, then returns]
Thatís my next interview.
NR: Well, one quick one. What scares you?
NR: Thanks for your time, I didnít get to ask you everythingÖ
GD: Make it up. Thanks a lot. Later.
I just didnít have the cajones to presume to answer for Dulli. The man is otherworldly.
He is seriously on some other script. Andre 3000 ainít the only one channelling SaturnÖ