An Interview with Mark Lanegan

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In a world where many have chosen to sit back and wait, Mark Lanegan has remained busier than ever.

After what amounted to one of the most critically successful years of his long and established career, Mark not only released the sensational Straight Sons of Sorrow, but he also released the in-depth memoir Sing Backwards and Weep, garnering him both critical and commercial success.

With not one but two recent triumphs under his belt, one would assume that any artists would finally sit back and soak in their well-earned praise, but not Mark Lanegan.

This time around, Mark is teamed with long-time friend Joe Cardamone (Icarus Line) for their new collaborative project Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe. This coming June, they’ve got their new 12″ ep ready for release, so stay tuned for that.

Today, I’ve got Mark Lanegan aboard for a chat. Among other things, we discuss his early musical learnings, which have shaped his musical stylings in the present day, his new project with Joe Cardamone, working with Queens of the Stone Age, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Mark Lanegan, you head over to his website and dig into the latest news. If you would like to grab your copy of Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe, you head here and grab one today. Once you’ve done that, dig into this interview with the one and only Mark Lanegan. Cheers.

Andrew:
Mark, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?

Mark:
It’s been a challenging time for everyone this last year due to the pandemic. I left Los Angeles in August after 23 years there, picked up, and moved to Ireland. I’m living in the southwest, County Kerry. The physical beauty of the landscape and the kindness of the people is unparalleled.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on music?

Mark:
As a young kid living in rural Washington state, I wasn’t exposed to too much music I connected with, but I stole an eight-track of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” out of a car at the restaurant where I worked, and that sparked my interest. After that, I discovered the Sex Pistols, Stooges, Ramones, Stranglers, etc., and that sort of headed me in the direction I’m still on.

Andrew:
Specifically, who were some of your early influences? How did singing come into the picture for you? How did you develop your signature sound?

Mark:
When I heard the first Gun Club record and Jeffrey Lee Pierce singing, I knew for the first time that was what I wanted to do. Beyond that, Son House, Leadbelly, Iggy, of course, Johansen and Thunders, Gordon Lightfoot, Hugh Cornwell, Paul Rodgers, Falling James, Roky Erickson, and local northwest heroes Chris Newman and Greg Sage were all guys whose singing I loved, and all were an influence on me.

Image credit: Ivia Jaffee

Andrew:
I wanted to talk about your new project called Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe. You’ve got the debut coming out on 12” vinyl, right? Tell us how it all came together?

Mark:
I’ve known Joe since he was a kid, loved the Icarus Line, and toured with them. His solo thing he does now is next level, in my opinion, and he just asked me one day if I wanted to do something outside the box, and of course, I said, “Yes.” He started flooding me with these amazing tracks, and I fell right in.

Andrew:
I’ve also been told that we can expect a full-length in the fall. Is that right? Tell us more about the recording and inspiration. What was it like putting this album together during COVID? How much of a wrench did the pandemic throw into the process?

Mark:
To be honest, we weren’t really concerned with the COVID while making the record. We didn’t know anyone who had caught it yet and just went about our business. Inspiration is all over the map, fucked up Dance Music, Dark Drone, and some I would describe as catchy Pop songs even.

Andrew:
On the subject of COVID, it has really made things difficult and more or less decimated the industry to a certain degree. What are your thoughts and feeling regarding how music and industry will bounce back? Should artists be scared? Hopeful? Both?

Mark:
For those of us who mainly make our living on the road, it presents a problem, but I’ve found alternate ways to pay the bills and am continuing to make records, obviously. I have no idea what the future holds regarding COVID, music, or anything else, but I’m assuming that at some point, the live music business will come back.

Image credit: Ivia Jaffee

Andrew:
In 2020, despite COVID-19 more or less arresting the nation, you had a busy year. You put a new record with Straight Songs of Sorrow and a memoir with Sing Backwards and Weep. How satisfying was it to get those out there into ether during a year like 2020? You don’t seem to one to rest for too long, so considering all this downtime, can we hope for some new music from you on the solo side of things?

Mark:
Yeah, life is funny like that. My most successful year, and no way to take advantage of it. That said, it was gratifying to receive notice for my efforts, but that doesn’t turn into coin when you can’t travel—story of my life.

Andrew:
You’ve got a longstanding relationship with Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age but haven’t appeared on a record with them since 2013’s …Like Clockwork. You’ve been a part of some incredible music with the band. Do you see yourself collaborating with QOTSA again in the future?

Mark:
I love Josh like a brother, and I love the band. After the success of …Like Clockwork, I think he wanted to get outside his comfort zone, which is totally natural for an artist. When he needs me, I’m there and vice versa.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Mark:
I do a lot of writing these days, poetry, non-fiction, novels. I also enjoy drawing fucked up primitive charcoal on canvas images. I usually bury myself in something until I’m tired of it and then move on to something else. Life informs my music.

Andrew:
Last one. We seem to be nearing a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of COVID-19 restrictions. That said, what’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the pos-COVID world?

Mark:
Traveling. This has been the longest stretch I’ve had not played live in thirty years. I look forward to that.

Interested in learning more about Mark Lanegan’s & Joe Cardmone’s Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

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