Twilight Singer leaves dark period behind
Special to the Mercury News
Published: Friday, April 16, 2004
Seven years ago, vocalist and producer Greg Dulli was diagnosed as clinically depressed. Two years ago, he was told he also suffered from an anxiety disorder. During his lowest period, “I was unable to leave my house or open my curtains,” he says.
Despite these illnesses, the leader of the soul-rock outfit the Twilight Singers has managed to keep his career on track. He came up with the financing for his last three albums — the final disc from his former group, the Afghan Wigs, and the first two by the Twilight Singers. Dulli also owns a home with a studio in Los Angeles.
Now he and the Twilight Singers are making their second U.S. tour in support of their 2003 album, “Blackberry Belle.” They perform Saturday at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
After not having worked onstage with the band for about three years, Dulli says it’s a pleasure performing again. “As soon as the lights come up and you walk the boards to the stage, the familiarity of it comes back, and my need for attention returns with it,” he says. “Then I’m just as insufferable as I’ve always been.”
For three years before the release of “Blackberry Belle,” Dulli was busy writing and recording tracks for his album and working as a support musician for former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs and the Lo-Fidelity Allstars, among others. During this period, his best friend, filmmaker Ted Demme, died suddenly. Dulli immediately stopped work on the 13 songs he had planned for his next album and composed more somber tunes for an entirely new album, which became “Blackberry Belle.” On this tour, Dulli is unveiling what he ranks as the two best tracks from the disc he scrapped. He also will perform some Afghan Wigs songs.
His colleagues from the Afghan Wigs are still good friends, he says. The band broke up because of geography and lifestyle changes. No two members lived in the same city, and several wanted to devote time to new families.
“I’m not John Fogerty, who for years wouldn’t play his Creedence Clearwater Revival songs on stage,” says Dulli. “These are songs that I’ve written and that I enjoy. My history in the Wigs is something I’ll be eternally proud of. I wrote some great songs there, and there’s nothing wrong with playing them. But if you’re there to see the Wigs, that’s not what it says on the ticket.”
This summer, the Twilight Singers will release an album of covers — songs popularized by Chaka Khan, Billie Holliday and Björk, among others. And Dulli and Lanegan are also recording an album for their new band, the Gutter Twins. The next time “we tour, we will perform songs from the Gutter Twins, the Twilight Singers, Mark’s solo stuff, the Screaming Trees, the Afghan Wigs — and any other covers that we’ve done along the way,” says Dulli. “We’ll be able to pick from a couple hundred songs.”