Interview with Greg Dulli for VooDooFest (Gambit Weekly. Oct. 2008)


CLICK HERE TO READ my brief Gambit Weekly piece about the Gutter Twins’ performance at VooDoo Fest 2008. Below is the full, un-published Q&A with Greg Dulli. Below that is a video of Gutter Twins playing at VooDoo Fest.

MPW: Greg, it’s Michael Patrick Welch.

GD: Hey man. Haven’t we spoken before?

MPW: Yes, I’ve interviewed you before. I think I’ve actually been put on the Dulli beat here, as a journalist in New Orleans.

GD: It’s a good beat. It’s a four-on-the-floor beat, bro. Aren’t you also an author?

MPW: Wow. Yes. And I like that you differentiated that I am an author and not a mere writer. I get a real kick when people do that.

GD: (laughs) Well hey, I am just getting in my car. Can you call me back in two minutes?

MPW: Of course.

(Two minutes elapse. I call back.)

GD: Hello, Donkey Show. Can I help you?

MPW: Oh man. That’s awesome. So, you know you’re on the cover of AntiGravity Magazine here in New Orleans this month.

GD: No I haven’t seen it. I hope I get the cover of Langiappe too.

MPW: REM will probably get that.

GD: Yeah. Not a fan.

MPW: I definitely loved them at some point in life, big time. Back when I was a kid learning guitar they really taught me how to play songs. But interviewing them yesterday, I had an amazing lack of curiosity about them. I mean, usually I can muster curiosity about just about anything. I almost always have at least one or two questions for any famous musician. But with REM… But anyway, you now have a completely different band with all new songs, what else has changed since last we spoke? What’s changed about your musical mind?

GD: Well, my mind hasn’t changed. All that’s changed is that I was writing song by myself and then I had to write songs with someone else. Luckily that person was my dear friend. I do love to collaborate, but finding someone to do that with is easier said than done. Since we were both doing it for the first time, we decided to create a whole new vehicle for that experience.

MPW: How about the weight? It seems like this might be a little more fun for you in some way because you’re sharing the weight, like, it would be lighter no matter what.

GD: It is lighter. Performing-wise, when you’re singing, your voice doesn’t get all worn and ragged out. I love writing songs for Mark to sing because I love writing for his voice, which is one of my favorites of all time. And this experience has made me a better harmonizer because Lanegan doesn’t do harmonies, Lanegan only does Lanegan. Any harmonies on that album are me, my friend. And I didn’t mean to call you “my friend” like John McCain…

MPW: Don’t let him spoil that phrase. He doesn’t own it.

GD: It just grossed me out.

MPW: Yeah, I used to like McCain enough to not hate him, but after this… You just never know how shitty a person is until they run for president. But anyway. To quote a famous New Orleans phrase: “Where are you at, currently?”

GD: I’m in Silverlake, in Los Angeles, the neighborhood I live in.

MPW:  But so Gutter Twins. Do you like sharing the duties for right now better than you would having your own solo show, which is what the Twilight Singers has seemed like the times I’ve seen you all.

GD: As soon as this is done I’m going to do a new Twilight record.

MPW: Well, how will it be different, now that you’ve had this whole other band.

GD: Well, this whole other band was essentially just Twilight Singers with Mark Lanegan. I’ll probably change out a couple members, but my guitar player will stay and the rhythm section will stay.

MPW: I haven’t seen Gutter Twins at all, so I don’t even know what it looks like onstage.

GD: Well, we play the album, plus a few covers, it’s a cool show. This VoDoo Fest show will be our 81st show this year. When we’re done we will have played 85 shows. So we’ve been at it all year long, mostly in Europe. We did 50 gigs in Europe alone. I played Istanbul for the first time.

MPW: That’s not a bad way to spend your time. Are there any of those places you have little roots in, like you have in New Orleans, like, in Europe or anything?

GD: I would say in Italy, and Sicily.

MPW: That’s where your people are from too, no?

GD: My people are from Greece.

MPW: Oh god I went to Greece last summer, an island off of Corfu, holy shit. So amazing. The people there are very intense though, and in your face.

GD: It is amazing, especially the islands. When I first toured there eleven years ago I had relatives there I’d never met. They met me at the airport. One gave me some hash, the other some pastry, and another some Uzo, and then they informed me that I was having dinner with them the next day before my show and that it was non-negotiable. They ended up being really cool people. I’m not sure what any of them do for a living but I suspect something “organized” is going down. My second cousin Yanu especially is my bro, and whenever I go there he hooks up everything for me.

 MPW: So with Gutter Twins, are you playing more mellow stuff than any band you’ve ever been in?

GD: Yes, definitely. Lanegand likes it a little more mellow. I like it more driving. We meet in the middle.

MPW:  Why does he like it more mellow?

GD: Cause he’s a old man.

MPW: But I mean, is it because he just likes softer music styles, or because he doesn’t like loud stuff anymore?

GD: It’s the volume thing that turns him off, I think.

MPW: Does volume bother you?

GD: No, I love it man. Fuck yeah.

MPW: Do you have hearing problems by now?

GD: No.

MPW: Do you wear earplugs?

GD: Nope.

MPW: How the fuck do you not have hearing damage then?

GD: Man, I don’t ask why. But I make audiences pay for it all the time.

MPW: I have probably played a tenth of the shows as you and I have bad hearing. I am always asking people to repeat what they just said. Maybe I have a different kind of amp than yours or something.

GD: Man, as a kid and even later in life I would put headphones on and just fucking blast it. If that didn’t scorch my ears, then they will never be scorched.

MPW: Maybe you have a toughness in your eardrums like what we get on our fingers from playing guitar.

GD: I do think I may have ear calluses.

MPW:  But anyway, how is it playing the mellow stuff? I’ve seen you a lot before, and there’s never been an acoustic break.

GD: It’s not acoustic. The quieter stuff is performed with two guys on keyboards, some slide guitar.  It’s still electric it’s just a little more subdued. And that’s usually Lanegan singing lead on that, though he also sings lead on the loudest song we have.

MPW: You have anything special planned for VooDoo?

GD: We’re gonna rehearse out in Fat City the night before, and I think we’re gonna play a song we’ve never played before. When we played One Eyed Jacks last time, we learned “St. James Infirmary” the night before and played that, and ended up recording that. Not sure if we’ll play that at VooDoo, but I really love that fucking song. We’ll tip our hats to New Orleans somehow though; we always do.

MPW: Last time Twilight Singers played here, you had Rio Hackford video the set.

GD: Rio also directed our Gutter Twins video too called “All Misery”. It on youtube. It looks good. You’ll recognize most of it. Oh, and after our VooDoo Fest set, we’re having an afterparty at the R Bar. I’m sure you know I’m proprietor of the R Bar now.

MPW: Yes, I do.

GD: I’m coming in for the show, having a big bash at the bar, then I’m staying there for five weeks.

MPW: Now is the time, man, after the heat lifts and the breeze comes in after a summer of oppression, it’s fucking intense man. Inverted spring fever. It’ll make you ask people to marry you and shit.

GD: It’s my favorite time.

MPW: Are their any New Orleanians in Gutter Twins’ touring band?

GD: Dave Rosser our guitarist lives above Checkpoint Charlie’s.

MPW:  Though he was probably previously familiar with New Orleans, Mark Lanegan has probably been here a lot more since he hooked up with you. Does ol Lanegan love the place the way you do?

GD: He does love it. We wrote and recorded a bunch of the record down there. But he doesn’t have to have a house there because last year I bought a house in the Marigny, just barely north of the railroad tracks.

MPW: It’s not in the St Roch area is it? That’s been the heaviest in the city. That and Central City Uptown. St. Roch is a mini warzone like a Brazilian ghetto, with little kids getting into gun trouble and whatnot.

GD: I hear it from where I am but… Trains and guns, that’s what I hear from my house.

MPW: So hey, where did you get the name for your band?

GD: Well, Lanegan told this Italian journalist that he was doing a band with me and the guy asked the name and Mark said “Gutter Twins”. This same journalist later calls me and says, “So tell me about the Gutter Twins.” And I’m like, “What’s that?”

MPW: “Isn’t that the dudes from Aerosmith?”

GD: (laughs) Right. So he says, “It’s the band you’re in with Mark Lanegan.” I said, “I didn’t know that. That sounds great. I’ll let you know how it is when I get in it.”

MPW: Did Lanegan later explain to you what it meant. Or was it just obvious?

GD: I think it’s just, yeah, the reputations precede the men.

MPW: Cool, well, I think I have enough. It was good talking to you again, and I’ll probably see you when I’m in town. Oh also, since the last time we spoke, I put out an album and I wanted to give that to you also. I do that band called White Bitch.

GD: I haven’t heard White Bitch, but that is a killer name.

MPW: Thank you.

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