STORY WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER / For 21st Century Media
Later this month, Mark Lanegan turns 50. At this point in his storied career, one would think he’d be content to rest on his laurels, content being considered an alternative rock legend for his time in Seattle’s Screaming Trees, a more recent partnership with Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins, and collaborations with artists from Moby to Slash.
One would be mistaken.
Last month saw the release of Phantom Radio, his second album under the moniker Mark Lanegan Band. The first, Blues Funeral, came out in 2012. And in the year between, he put out Imitations, a covers album where Lanegan took on songs by Bobby Darin, The Twilight Singers, Nick Cave and Frank Sinatra. So much for slowing down.
“There was eight years between (2004 solo album) Bubblegum and Blues Funeral,” Lanegan said via phone from Seattle where he just kicked off a tour that comes to the Wolf Building at Underground Arts Friday night. “But in those eight years I made three albums with Isobel Campbell (Belle and Sebastian), two albums with Soulsavers, a Gutter Twins record, a Twilight Singers record – and I toured for all of them; so I really wasn’t any less busy, I just wasn’t making “Mark Lanegan” records.”
At the casual mention of so many high profile ventures, it would seem not as if coming up with material would be an issue, but where does it fit in. In other words, how does Lanegan decide what gets earmarked for a solo effort, a group effort or a one off?
“Generally these days when I’m writing, I’m writing for a specific project,” he says. “If I’m making a Mark Lanegan record, I’m writing for it. Right now, I’m writing and I know it’s going to be for a Mark Lanegan record, even though I know there’s going to be another Gutter Twins record, this is what I’m writing for right now, this is what the songs are indicating to me.”
One thing he won’t be writing in the vein of is another Screaming Trees album. Calling it a day in 2000, 15 years after forming and having gotten caught up in the early 90s grunge frenzy, Lanegan is content to leave it sit in the past despite fans still hoping for a reunion.
“I’m not aware of anybody calling for it – nobody’s calling me about it!” Lanegan laughs. “Frankly, as much as I love those guys, it’s something that we all have different lives now and it’s not something that we want to revisit. It’s nothing that I’m ashamed of, I’m proud; that’s how I learned to make music. But, I have a band now, and it’s a band that doesn’t … fight.”
IF YOU GO: Mark Lanegan performs Friday at Wolf Building at Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St., Philadelphia. For ticket information, check undergroundarts.org/