Having released album Blues Funeral under his own name last year, and Black Pudding with British instrumentalist Duke Garwood this year - not to mention a guest appearance on Queens Of The Stone Age's new effort ...Like Clockwork - it seems like Mark Lanegan has lived in the studio for the last 12 months. Well the former Screaming Trees man and perennial collaborator is hitting the road this summer, and will be making a UK stop at the Latitude Festival on 20 July. He spoke to Q about his touring plans, his record with Garwood... oh and the new "crooner" album he already finished for release this autumn.
How the devil are you? "I'm alright, man."
What was the attraction of making a record with Duke Garwood? "I'm a really big fan of his records and what he does, so at some point I thought, Hey man maybe I can sing-a-long with that, and he though so too. It worked out. I'm a big fan. His next record, which is just getting finished now, is going to be mind blowing!"
When you suggested doing the album together, were you clear on how you'd divide things up? People might assume you'd do the words, he'd do the music, or were the lines more blurred? "That is how it worked out. I assumed the same thing! [laughs] He sent me a ton of stuff. He might write something on clarinet, or he might write something on an out of tune piano, or he might write something on a one string guitar... he's fairly avant-garde compared with what I normally do. So I got a ton of stuff and it was just figuring out a way to sing over some of it. Some of it, even though I loved it, I couldn't find a way to make it a song with singing on it, but there was so much stuff that we found a record's worth. And more. It's not like we used everything we had. He's very prolific, there was a lot to choose from."
So he'd send you these fragments of music via email... "He sent me a lot of stuff via email, but also during the time while we were writing the record we did a lot of touring together, so we'd see each other quite often. But he did give me a reason to get excited about looking at my emails. Usually I'm not too psyched to open up the computer, but I was anxious to see what he'd sent me. It was Christmas Day, every day."
Other than the album, what do you feel you got out of collaborating with Duke? "Every collaborative thing you do is unique, and even though I couldn't tell you exactly, I know that I've learnt something from it. There will be something I can carry with me and use in the next thing I do. I guess the main thing though, was I got to hang out with a good friend of mine. He's an excellent, excellent guy with a particularly good vibe, for want of a better word. We had some laughs, which was the best part of it."
You called the album Black Pudding, as an American are you aware of the breakfast 'treat'? Congealed probably doesn't crop up on too many menus where you're from... "Dude, I practically live in Britain. I'm there every time I turn around [laughs]. I started eating that stuff in the 80s, back when Dinosaurs walked the Earth! We actually wanted to call a band Black Pudding, but we found out there's a German comedy band who have the name already, so we used it for the record. Have I tried a black pudding? I'll eat anything, I'm not finicky, but that's not to say it takes any courage to eat back puddings because I find them delicious."
Looking at collaborations more generally, you've done a far few in your time, what is it that you enjoy about working with different people? "I wouldn't have any friends otherwise. No one would hang out with me if I didn't have music to make [laughs]. No, it keeps music interesting for me, I just enjoy seeing things from someone else's point of view. To have them add to what I'm doing, and them allowing me to participate in the music they're making."
Do you have a criteria for picking your collaborators? "Well with someone like Queens, I've being friends with Josh [Homme] for over 20 years. The music is secondary to our friendship, and it's that way with a lot of the guys I work with. Greg Dulli is a friend of mine, the music is small afterthought, really."
Yet you don't always play it safe, your album with Soulsavers for example was not necessarily something people would have expected you to do. "I'd wear nice clothes and brush my teeth more often, if I cared about what people thought [laughs]. What's exciting about music is there's so many different ways of doing it. It's not like I've ever reinvented the wheel, I've done the next thing that seemed appropriate and that's why I'm still making music after 30 years."
Is there anything left you've been yearning to do? "I wanted to make a record with a crooner-ish type of song, for want of a better term. You know, orchestrated, stuff like Andy Williams or Perry Como would do. I ended-up recording a record like that in February, it's going to be out in the fall. That was something I wanted to do for years and years. I'm sure there's a lot of other stuff, too."
Mark Lanegan Sings The American Songbook? [laughs] "Not really, I do a John Cale song, a Nick Cave song but in that style. It's called Imitations."
You'll have to smarten up and wear a bow-tie when you perform that live with an orchestra. "I may have to! [laughs]"
You're also playing Latitude Festival in July, it's your only UK slot this summer. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm totally psyched to see Kraftwerk. I'll be sticking around to see that."
They're doing it in 3D, will you wear the glasses? "I usually I can't stand doing that, but for them I'll make an exception!"
Any idea what your set will be? "I have not thought about it yet. My Belgium cohort [touring band member] Aldo Struyf was harassing me yesterday about it so he can get ready, but I haven't given it too much thought yet. Probably a lot of stuff off the last record, and a few others we haven't played in a while."
Can you play any of the stuff with Duke, or does he need to be there? "You know what, Duke is so idiosyncratic I can't imagine playing it with anybody else. There are some guys you can never imagine covering because it's so much of them, if that makes any sense? It would be so tough to do it without him, and I wouldn't want to anyway. I'll be doing a tour in October, I think, and he's on the bill so we'll be doing that stuff with him then."
Finally what's next for you? "Well my crooner record is out in the fall and every day right now I'm writing songs for the next Mark Lanegan band record. That's really all I have on the docket, as it were. I'm just trying to get ready for that. I don't really take time off between records, it's a compulsion for me. Plus it doesn't really seem like work when I'm sat around my house every day, playing guitar. It's not too hard of a job." Paul Stokes @Stokesie