Greg Dulli’s a busy man these days. From French Quarter bar owner to record producer, along with anchoring the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, he’s surely made the most of his post-’90s Afghan Whigs days. And we’re probably not going to see that Whigs reunion tour anytime soon. Dulli’s quite content with how he’s living, a Bukowski-esque come-on artist of the aging indie set, a dirty old man work-in-progress.
The Twilight Singers’ new record, Dynamite Steps, is an intense cycle of explosive, dark rock anthems and a worthy addition to Dulli’s storied catalog of hymns to drunks, scam artists and the people who love them. Hive recently spoke with Dulli about this lecherous persona he’s cultivated, whether or not that jives with frequent collaborator Ani DiFranco and his thoughts on a Whigs reunion.
At this point in your career, it seems like you’ve done a lot and have a lot of freedom. Are there things that you haven’t done yet in music that you’ve wanted to?
Make an album with Jimmy Page. I don’t know him, but I feel like if I keep saying it enough, he’ll ask someone who I am.
I heard about that. Was there more than one Low cover?
Yeah, he did two. You’ve got a pretty good array of star collaborators on the new Twilight Singers record, though. Ani DiFranco, Mark Lanegan and Nick McCabe from the Verve. How does working with Lanegan in the Twilight Singers differ from working with him in the Gutter Twins?
The Gutter Twins is mostly us in a room, hammering out ideas. We work in tandem pretty closely. [For Dynamite Steps,] if you’re making a painting and you have a color in your palette that’s Mark Lanegan, you’d be a fool not to deploy it. Mark actually sang on another song that’s unreleased so far – I’ve been lucky to have worked with him as much as I have, and to be his friend.
I think a lot of fans of both you and Ani DiFranco were surprised when you started working together on Powder Burns, and then again on Dynamite Steps. You’ve cultivated a persona on your records as a come-on artist, and she’s a beloved feminist icon.
Ani gives it as good as she gets. She’s a saucy lady, and certainly a feminist icon who is also very much a lady — very much a playful and incredibly open-minded and funny human being. We get along great. When she appeared on Powder Burns, I read something a feminist wrote about, how could Ani be associated with the likes of me? And I thought, “Well, perhaps her mind is a bit more open than yours, ma’am.” She’s a great lady and I hope to continue to work with her in the future.
The first Twilight Singers album had a lot of electronic influences, with Fila Brazilia’s production. Is that something you’ve ever considered revisiting?
[Pause] Yeah … and I do in different ways on this record. The electronic drums that were a big part of that first record. As much as I like that record, there’s a visceral punch that I tend to think I need a little more than that can give me.
The Twilight Singers seem like more of a band these days then in the earlier incarnations.
Every boat needs a captain, and I know my way up and down the river. I’ve been playing with Scott for nine years, Greg for nine, Scott for six — they’re more friends. I trust them and they’re amazing musicians. Their instincts and their motivation is similar to mine.
There’s a bit on one of Henry Rollins‘ comedy records where he talks about hitting on a woman by using a line from “John the Baptist,” and she calls him out for putting the moves on her with an Afghan Whigs lyric. What’s the appeal for you of using all of these come-ons in your songs?
Did Henry Rollins really say that? That’s fantastic. The way people use language in situations always fascinates me – listening to lines at a party, and delivering lines at a party. I enjoy stretching the vernacular whenever I can.
You’ve also been very attentive to what you use as the opening line on your records. What’s your goal when you write the first line of the first song?
It’s the first scene of the movie. I like to set the mood right away. I think it’s important to introduce yourself correctly. What’s the saying? You never get a second chance to make first impression, so I like to make it stick.
Do you ever miss playing music with the Afghan Whigs?
I played with John in October and November. He got up and played four or five of the shows with me. I haven’t seen Rick in a couple of years. Whenever I play Minneapolis, Rick usually comes and jumps up on stage. If you’re asking if I miss playing in the Afghan Whigs, no. It was a great thing … I loved it, and I loved the guys and we had a great time. But we laid that sword down a long time ago.
The Twilight Singers are on tour throughout the U.S. in May and June 2011. Dynamite Steps is out now on Sub Pop.